Yamaha RX-V3900 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Review

Introduction To The Yamaha RX-V3900

Yamaha RX-V3900 Home Theater Receiver - Front View with Accessories
Yamaha RX-V3900 Home Theater Receiver - Front View with Accessories. Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Yamaha RX-V3900 is a high-end home theater receiver designed to be a complete centerpiece for your home theater system. Having had a chance to use the Yamaha RX-V3900, I can say that it just about does everything except make the popcorn and pour the soft drinks. With features such as extensive audio decoding options, HDMI upscaling and switching, iPod connectivity and control (via USB or Dock), XM/Sirius Satellite and Internet radio, and also built-in Networking and Bluetooth capability, this receiver can perform just about any audio or video task required now, and in the foreseeable future.

Product Overview

The RX-V3900 has an abundance of features:

1. 7 channel amplification delivering 140 Watts into each full channel at .04% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion). .1 channel Subwoofer line output for a powered subwoofer.

2. The RX-V3900 has extensive surround sound processing options, including: Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24. Also, DTS Neo:6 and Dolby ProLogic IIx processing enables the RX-V3900 to extract 7.1-channel audio from any stereo or multichannel source. The RX-V3900 also decodes DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks on Blu-ray Discs and HD-DVDs via its HDMI 1.3a compatible inputs. The RX-V3900 also features XM-HD Surround and SRS Circle Surround II processing.

3. Parametric Equalizer for each channel.

4. Automatic speaker setup via YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer). This system uses a provided microphone and built-in equalizer to automatically set the speaker level for each channel. The YPAO first checks to see that each speaker is wired correctly to the receiver. Then, using a built-in test tone generator room acoustics are analyzed and the receiver is set to a variety of parameters, such as the speaker size, the distance of the speakers from the listening position, and sound pressure levels. In addition to using the YPAO, a user can also manually set personal preferences for speaker level, distance, and low frequency crossover settings for each channel.

5. Speaker connectivity provided for 7.1 or 5.1 channels, 5.1 channels in combination with a two channel 2nd Zone, Bi-amping, or Front Presence configurations.

6. Audio inputs: Six stereo analog, Five digital optical, Three digital coaxial. Also included: one set of eight channel analog audio inputs: Front (Left, Center, Right), Rear (Surround Left & Right, Surround Back Left & Right) and Subwoofer. These inputs can be used for accessing SACD, DVD-Audio, or external decoder (self-decoding Blu-ray Disc Player).

7. Second zone preamp outputs. Silent Cinema headphone output.

8. Two HDMI outputs, Two Digital Audio outputs, Two VCR/DVR/DVD Recorder In/Out connection loops, as well as RS232 connection and 12 volt triggers for custom installation control needs.

9. Video Inputs: Four HDMI, Three Component, Six S-video, Six Composite.

10. XM/Sirius Satellite Radio (optional antenna/tuners and subscription required). AM/FM Tuner with 40 presets. Internet Radio and Rhapsody access via Ethernet connection.

11. iPod Connectivity and control via optional Docking Station.

12. Audio Delay for adjusting lip-sync (0–240 ms)

13. On-board crossover (9 frequency bands) and phase control for Subwoofer. The crossover control sets the point at which you want the subwoofer to produce low frequency sounds, against the ability of the satellite speakers to reproduce low frequency sounds.

14. Two Wireless remote controls are included. One remote is provided strictly for main system, a smaller remote can also be used for the main system, or can be set for Zone 2 or 3 operation.

15. An on-screen GUI (Graphical User Interface) display makes operating the receiver easy and intuitive. It is compatible with iPod, internet radio, PC and USB displays.

16. Video Processing: Analog to HDMI video conversion and 1080p video upscaling via built-in ABT2010 Video Scaler/Processor.

For an additional close-up look at the features and connections provided on RX-V3900, also check out my Photo Gallery.

Hardware Used

Home Theater Receivers used for comparison included, the Onkyo TX-SR705, Harman Kardon AVR147.

Blu-ray Disc and CD Source Components: Sony BD-PS350 Blu-ray Disc player and OPPO DV-983H DVD Player (used for standard DVD upscaling comparison).

CD-only Player sources included: Technics SL-PD888 and Denon DCM-370 5-disc CD Changers.

Loudspeakers used in different setups included:

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Cobalt, and AR Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used.

Level checks made using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: 300, Across The Universe, Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian, Hairspray, I am Legend, Iron Man, Quarantine, Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, Sunshine, The Dark Knight, and Wall-E.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Moulin Rouge, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

In addition, music content on CD-R/RWs was also used.

The Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD video test disc was also used for more precise video performance measurements.

The YPAO Results

Although no automatic system can be perfect, or account for personal taste, the YPAO function did a credible job of setting up speaker levels properly, in relation to the room characteristics. Speaker distances were calculated accurately, and automatic adjustments to the audio level and equalization were made to compensate.

After the YPAO procedure was complete, the speaker balance was very good between the Surround and Main channels, but I further manually increased the Center Channel speaker level by 2db for my own personal taste.

Audio Performance

Using both analog and digital audio sources, I found the audio quality of the RX-V3900, in both 5.1 and 7.1 channel configurations, delivered an excellent surround image. The opening battle scene from Master and Commander and the helicopters flying outside and overhead of the hotel in Quarantine provided an excellent test for the surround sound quality of the RX-V3900. Also, the RXV-3900 produced excellent surround results with Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon (multi-channel SACD version).

This receiver provided a very clean signal via the direct 5.1 analog audio inputs from both HD-DVD/Blu-ray disc sources, in addition to the Blu-ray/HD-DVD HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial audio connection options.

The RX-V3900 showed no signs of strain during very dynamic audio tracks and delivered a sustained output over long periods of time without eliciting listening fatigue.

In addition, another aspect of the RX-V3900 was its multi-zone flexibility. Running the receiver in the 5.1 channel mode for the main room and using the two spare channels (normally devoted to the surround back speakers), and using the provided second zone remote control, I was easily able to run two separate systems. I was able to access DVD/Blu-ray/HD-DVD in the main 5.1 channel setup and easily access XM or Internet Radio or CDs in the two channel setup in another room using the RX-V3900 as the main control for both sources. Also, I could run the same music source in both rooms simultaneously, one using the 5.1 channel configuration and second using the 2 channel configuration.

The RX-V3900 can run second and/or third zones using its internal amplifiers or via external amplifiers (via Zone 2 and/or Zone 3 preamp output). Specific details on Zone options are outlined in the RX-V3900 user manual.

Video Performance

Using the Silicon Optix HQV DVD  Benchmark DVD, the scaler in the RX-V3900 does a better job than many other receivers with built-in scalers. The Video Performance Test Results are on par with both the OPPO DV983H Upscaling DVD player and DVDO EDGE Video Scaler/Processor, which also use Anchor Bay Video Processing technology.

The RX-V3900 can pass a native 1080p source through to a 1080p television or monitor, or upscale any input resolution to 1080p. The image on a Westinghouse LVM-37w3 1080p monitor showed no visible difference, whether the signal came directly from one of the 1080p source players or was routed through the RX-V3900 before reaching the monitor.

What I Liked

1. Sound quality excellent in stereo and surround modes.

2. Analog to HDMI Video conversion and 1080p Video Upscaling via built-in ABT2010 Video Scaler/Processor.

3. iPod connectivity and control via either front USB port or accessory docking station.

4. Extensive speaker setup and adjustment options. The RX-V3900 offers both automatic and manual speaker setup as well as provisions for connection and setup of 2nd or 3rd Zone speaker systems.

5. Well designed front panel controls. If you have misplaced or lost either remote, you can still access the the main functions of the receiver using the front panel controls, hidden behind a flip-down door.

6. Network/Internet Radio capability built-in. The RX-V3900 can connect to a wired DSL/Cable Modem router via Ethernet and access internet radio stations.

7. Second Remote Control provided that can be used with main system or for 2nd and 3rd Zone operation. The second remote is very convenient; very compact and only has most used functions; it is not cluttered with lesser-used functions.

What I Didn't Like

1. Heavy - Use caution when lifting or moving (more of a cautionary note than a negative).

2. Only one Subwoofer output. Although one Sub output is standard, it would be very convenient, especially in a receiver in this price class, to include a second Sub line output.

3. No front mounted HDMI or Component Video Inputs. Despite limited front panel space, it would be great to add component and/or HDMI connections to accommodate game systems and high-definition camcorders.

4. Speaker connections too close together. This is my pet-peeve with Yamaha Receivers. When using bare-wire end speaker cables, it is sometimes difficult to get the lead into the speaker terminals; another 1/32 or 1/16-inch distance between terminals would help.

5. Main remote not the easiest to use; very small buttons.

Added Note: The RX-V3900 is not for the bargain hunter and those who ignore user manuals.

Final Take

The RX-V3900 delivers more-than-enough power for most rooms and provides exceptional sound with its high-current amplifier design. Practical features that worked well: 7.1 channel surround processing, analog-to-HDMI video conversion, video upscaling, and Multi-zone operation.

Several additional innovative features of the RX-V3900 are the inclusion of built-in networking with a PC, internet radio access (including Rhapsody), Bluetooth capability (via optional accessory), and both speaker connections or preamp outputs (your choice) provided for 2nd and/or 3rd zone operation. Also of note: Bi-amping and Presence speaker options are included.

A high quality receiver should have the ability to perform well in both stereo and surround modes. The audio quality of the RX-V3900 in both stereo and surround modes was excellent, making it great for extensive music listening and home theater use. There was no sign of amplifier or listening fatigue.

I also found the analog to digital video conversion and upscaling functions to be excellent for a home theater receiver. Check out some video performance test results. Also, providing analog to HDMI conversion and upscaling simplifies connection of older components to today's HDMI-equipped HDTVs.

The RX-V3900 definitely has a lot of setup and connection options, making reading the user manual a must before using with your system.

The RX-V3900 packs in a lot of features and delivers great audio and video performance, but is pricey; definitely not for the bargain hunter. One the other hand, if you are looking for a high-end home theater receiver that can function as a complete centerpiece for your home theater system, consider the RX-V3900 as a possible choice. I give it a solid 4.5 Stars out of 5.

For more details on the Yamaha RX-V3900, also check out my Photo Gallery and some Video Performance Test Results.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.