Yamaha CX-A5100 AV Preamp - Processor Review

DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
edited June 5 in Electronics
Introduction

I recently selected a Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100 ($3,000) preamp/processor to replace the Sony TA-E9000ES ($1,850)/Sony TA-P9000ES ($750) digital and analog preamplifiers used in my 5.1 channel home theater system since 2006. Other AV processors considered were the Onkyo SC-5509 ($2,400), Marantz AV-8802a ($3,999), Cary Audio Cinema 12 ($4,000) and Bryston SP-3 ($9,500). For my requirements, the CX-A5100 offered the best combination of features, build quality, value, and reputation for reliability.

I found a demo unit, in absolutely like new condition, at an authorized dealer with full 3 year warranty for less than the gray marketeers on eBay were selling units for with "iffy" store warranties. I have owned quite a bit of Yamaha electronics over the years. Their reliability and the company's customer service have always been top notch.

Build Quality

CX-A5100%20Front-Kit-s_zpsxsqioqzw.jpg
Figure 1. Heavy construction with internal cross bracing.

I appreciated the attention that Yamaha paid to electrical noise abatement and mechanical vibration abatement. The unit weighs 29.5 pounds and includes internal cross bracing, a potted transformer and a "fifth foot" on the chassis bottom under the transformer. The CX-A5100 is a little larger than the Adcom GFA-5500 power amps in the HT system.

Control

There are several options for configuring and controlling the CX-A5100:

1. Cell phone app.
2. Web interface.
3. Universal remote control that came with the unit.
4. Logitech Harmony One universal remote control.

I mostly use the web interface via the docked tablet computer that sits on the coffee table in front of the HT system.

CX-A5100%20Web%20Intf-s_zpshlgoxuou.jpg
Figure 2. The CX-A5100's web control interface.

CX-A5100%20Rem-Harm1-s_zpsbceypawi.jpg
Figure 3. My Logitech Harmony One remote on the right makes the CX-A5100's remote look small. :)

The CX-A5100's remote is the largest of any of my audio and video component remotes, measuring 9-7/8" long by 2-1/4" wide by 1" thick. I used it for initial setup and then put it away.

Some Housekeeping

HT-Rewire-s_zpsiedoysly.jpg
Figure 4. Prior to installing the CX-A5100, I needed to do some long overdue component removal and wire management.

Years of cable and component changes had resulted in the cabling behind the cabinet becoming a nasty rat's nest of jumbled wire.

In addition to removing the two Sony preamps, I also removed two other components that I no longer used: A Yamaha CDX-1110U CD player and an Onkyo TA-2800 cassette player. The CD player was used for its A-B repeat feature when doing musical transcriptions. The cassette player was used for recording practice sessions (saxophone).

HT%20Equip%20Cab%20Elec-CR-s_zpsdltvcgjk.jpg
Figure 5. CX-A5100 installation complete and ready for setup and run-in.

Setup

Prior to running setup procedures, the CX-A5100 "warmed up" the over a four day period with 48 hours of music, via the Bryston BDP-1 music server, and 48 hours of repeat blu-ray movie play (with TV off, of course).

YPAO%20Mic%20Setup-s_zps939acfw9.jpg
Figure 6. The CX-A5100's YPAO (Yamaha Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer) automatic loudspeaker calibration system resulted in much better results than my manual methods using only a sound level meter.

The YPAO system measured speaker distances exactly to the inch. I only tweaked two of the automatic speaker level settings. I increased the center channel level from +7.5 dB to +9.5 dB. YPAO also turned my subwoofer almost all the way down (-10 dB). I changed that setting to -5 dB. YPAO also said my front and center speakers were wired out of phase (they were not). Internet searches indicated that other people had the same experiences with YPAO turning their subwoofer levels way down and with YPAO saying one or more speakers were out of phase.

The manual said the "speaker wired out of phase" warning can occur due to the type of speakers or the room acoustics and to ignore it if the speakers are wired properly.

The CX-A5100's remote functions and onscreen menus were mostly intuitive and easy to use. I only needed to consult the owners manual for two things:

1. How to rename inputs.
2. How to use the YPAO automatic setup system.

The manual was only available on the supplied CD or by Internet download.

Comments

  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    edited June 5
    The Sound

    Right out of the box, the CX-5100's sound quality for movies was a significant improvement over the former Sony preamps. Two channel music took two days to get rid of a hardness and smearing of detail in the upper frequencies. After that time passed, two channel music playback had more clarity, detail, articulation, and tactile sensation than with the Sony preamps (I do not use the subwoofer with two channel music playback). The lateral sound stage extended to two feet beyond the outer edges of the speakers, whereas before it was confined between the outer edges of the speakers. Sound stage height and depth remained the same. The solidity and weight of images, particularly in the center, was substantially increased. I initially put my ear to the center channel speaker to make sure it wasn't playing. I had not heard that level of center image solidity from the LSiM 705s previously.

    The Bryston BDP-1 digital player is connected to the CX-A5100 by a Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy Cryo digital coaxial cable. This cable was the best sounding of the three auditioned. The CX-A5100 also accepted music streamed over wireless and wired Ethernet from the Bryston BDP-2 in my two channel audio system. However, this option sounded cold, harsh, and veiled and was practically unusable. I was surprised by that result because music streamed wirelessly from the BDP-2 to the Bluesound Node 2 digital player/DAC in my master bedroom system sounds very good. The CX-A5100 can also play digital music files from a USB stick, but the same files played back via USB stick didn't sound as clear, detailed, and articulate, particularly in the bass, as the same file played via the BDP-1.

    Movie watching was a much more immersive experience with improved clarity, detail, and tactile sensation. Several times during the initial 48 hour multi-channel run-in process, I would be drawn into the media room by the sound, then turn the TV on and watch a few minutes of Mission Impossible 5. One time I came in near the beginning and watched MI5 in its entirety.

    The two video sources, a Tivo HDXL DVR and a Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD blu-ray player, were previously connected directly to the Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-151FD plasma TV via HDMI cables. I did not notice any difference in video quality with the sources being connected to the CX-A5100 via HDMI cables and their outputs being switched and fed from the CX-A5100 to the TV.

    011%20LSiM%20Front%20Stage-Sub-s_zpsudvxrjpq.jpg
    Figure 7. Such Good Sound!

    Nitpicks

    Two things I don't like about the CX-A5100:

    1. Switching between HDMI sources takes a long time, 9 seconds.
    2. I wish there was AES/EBU digital input.

    Associated Equipment

    Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-151FD 60" Plasma TV
    Pioneer Elite BDP-09FD Blu-ray Player
    Tivo HD XL Digital Video Recorder
    Bryston BDP-1 digital player with external Samsung EVO 840 500 GB solid state drive.
    Adcom GFA-5500 power amp (200 wpc 8 ohms)/Front Speakers
    Adcom GFA-5500 power amp (200 wpc 8 ohms)/Center Channel Speaker
    Adcom GFA-5500 power amp (200 wpc 8 ohms)/Surround Speakers
    Polk Audio LSiM 706C Center Channel Speaker
    Polk Audio LSiM 705 Front Speakers
    Polk Audio LSiM 702 F/X Surround Speakers
    SVS PB12 Ultra/2 Subwoofer
    PS Audio P5 AC Regenerator
    PS Audio P10 AC Regenerator
    PS Audio AC-5 power cord for AC Regenerators
    PS Audio Statement SC power cords for all electronics
    Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy Cryo-Silver Digital Coaxial Cable
    SecureOMax HDMI Cables
    Monster Cable Z3 Reference Speaker Cables, Front, Right, Center
    DSR Silverline (Out Of Wall) And Monster UL/CL3 (In-Wall) Speaker Cables, Surround
    Blue Jeans LC-1 In-Wall Subwoofer Cable
    Monster Cable Z200i Interconnects
    Two PS Audio Soloist SE In-Wall Passive Power Conditioners
    Two Dedicated 20 amp AC Circuits
    Salamander Synergy Quad 30 Audio Cabinet
    Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 Tablet Computer For System Control
  • rednedtugentrednedtugent Posts: 9,896
    Nice review.

    "I initially put my ear to the center channel speaker to make sure it wasn't playing."
    love when that happens!

    "I would be drawn into the media room by the sound, then turn the TV on and watch a few minutes of Mission Impossible 5. One time I came in near the beginning and watched MI5 in its entirety."
    love when this happens too!

    Does the it have the Yamaha smooth sound to it or is it harsher?
    I've shied away from their A/V components...

  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 6,612
    Nice review Ray. One would think Yamaha would figure out that out of phase thing, it has been going on for years with their auto calibration stuff.
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 6,859
    edited June 5
    Do all of those units take that long to switch HDMI inputs? Mine takes like 2 seconds, 3 tops.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 14,208
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Nice review Ray. One would think Yamaha would figure out that out of phase thing, it has been going on for years with their auto calibration stuff.

    Same issue with Audyssey XT32 and all other versions as it saw my SR LSi F/x as out of phase.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,218
    Nice review as always Ray. One area that confirms my thoughts is using receivers and in your case a pre/pro for wireless music. Though I must admit, I expected a pre/pro to be better at everything than a receiver. Sound quality is top notch though for it's intended purpose so that's a gold star in my book.
  • EmlynEmlyn Posts: 1,777
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Nice review Ray. One would think Yamaha would figure out that out of phase thing, it has been going on for years with their auto calibration stuff.

    Same thing with Pioneer Elite's calibration system.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 6,612
    Emlyn wrote: »
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Nice review Ray. One would think Yamaha would figure out that out of phase thing, it has been going on for years with their auto calibration stuff.

    Same thing with Pioneer Elite's calibration system.

    interesting
  • EmlynEmlyn Posts: 1,777
    I just assume it is a ploy to get users to check their wiring. :)
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    Does the it have the Yamaha smooth sound to it or is it harsher?
    I've shied away from their A/V components...

    Music sounded harsh initially, but became very smooth and detailed over two days.
    Nightfall wrote: »
    Do all of those units take that long to switch HDMI inputs? Mine takes like 2 seconds, 3 tops.

    I already knew about the slow HDMI switching. Sound and Vision's 12/30/15 review mentioned that it took 10-15 seconds to switch between the reviewer's disc player and Tivo.
    Emlyn wrote: »
    I just assume it is a ploy to get users to check their wiring. :)

    Their ploy worked on me. :)

  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 6,859
    It's going to take Yamaha a while to ditch the bright moniker after making cheap weak AVRs for so long. Like their vintage stuff I think the Aventage and their new integrated amps are more neutral.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    I was not aware that Yamaha had attained a reputation for bright sounding electronics. I once owned the CX-1000 pre, CX-1 pre, MX-1000 amp, and MX-1 amp and they were all on the warm side of neutral. I sold them all in 2003 after I had switched to Adcom.
  • sgmsmgsgmsmg Posts: 129
    Emlyn wrote: »
    Same thing with Pioneer Elite's calibration system.

    Both of my Pioneers have never had this problem? Like someone mentioned maybe it has to do with room acoustic interaction.
  • FTGVFTGV Posts: 3,500
    edited June 5
    sgmsmg wrote: »

    Both of my Pioneers have never had this problem? Like someone mentioned maybe it has to do with room acoustic interaction.
    Or the woofers in the speakers themselves are wired in reverse phase in comparison to midrange and or tweeters giving a phase error reading? Having drivers in a speaker connected in reverse phase is very common. Depending upon the specific design phase reversal might be necessary to compensate for phase relationships in the crossover, driver offsets(time delay) etc.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 6,612
    edited June 5
    I can say with 100% certainty that mine were not wired out of phase anywhere in the chain inside or outside of the speakers. I did however wire them out if phase to see if it changed the outcome, it did not.
  • rooftop59rooftop59 Posts: 3,416
    edited June 6
    Nightfall wrote: »
    It's going to take Yamaha a while to ditch the bright moniker after making cheap weak AVRs for so long. Like their vintage stuff I think the Aventage and their new integrated amps are more neutral.

    Their higher end AVRs have not been bright for at least 10 years. I have owned a couple more entry level products, HTR series and rx v661, and those were thinner sounding for sure. But the four digit models, e.g. rx v1500 or 2500 had great bass and were slightly warm.

    Most people own the cheap stuff and pair it with other cheap gear, and the cumulative result is bright and difficult to listen to.
  • EmlynEmlyn Posts: 1,777
    sgmsmg wrote: »
    Both of my Pioneers have never had this problem? Like someone mentioned maybe it has to do with room acoustic interaction.

    In my case, it's the LSiM703s as stand mounted surrounds that read as being out of phase. From what I understand, if speakers produce output that is more diffuse than the microphone and setup software can interpret correctly it gives the out of phase message as a check for the user. The speakers are on 45" stands. I place the setup microphone on a stand on my couch so it is at seated ear height. It's possible that if my surround speakers were mounted a foot higher than they are the out of phase message would not come on. Since it does not appear to make a difference in the system setup, the message doesn't bother me enough to try and change anything in the way the speakers are set.

  • sgmsmgsgmsmg Posts: 129
    @Emlyn my surrounds are a little farther back than optimal so you are probably onto something. Same speakers and stand heights. By the way how do you like the JC2 with the A21? I have been keeping an eye out for a deal on one. They are hard to come by especially in black.
  • sandwormssandworms Posts: 1,040
    Can you say why the Marantz didn't make the cut. I am looking at investing in a new pre pro and have been going back and forth over the 8802a and the 7703, or the Anthem MRX 720
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,044
    sandworms wrote: »
    Can you say why the Marantz didn't make the cut. I am looking at investing in a new pre pro and have been going back and forth over the 8802a and the 7703, or the Anthem MRX 720

    The 8802a was the closest competitor to the CX-5100. The Marantz AV8802a and Yamaha CX-A5100 were very similar in terms of aesthetics, feature set and types and amount of inputs and outputs.

    However, compared to the Yamaha CX-A5100, the Marantz AV-8802a:

    1. Had an MSRP 25% greater, with commensurately higher street price.

    2. Had a tiny circular display, which I didn't like, with the main display behind a large pull down panel.

    3. Did not have as good build quality with regard to mechanical and electrical noise abatement.

    4. Uses consumer grade AK4490 DACs compared to the Yamaha's professional (recording studio) grade ES9016S DACs.

    In addition to the above, I have had decades of positive experiences with Yamaha audio electronics and musical instruments.

    In case someone is wondering why the other candidates didn't make the cut:

    Bryston SP3 -

    1. Stiff $9,500 MSRP.
    2. No auto room calibration. Bryston does not offer auto room calibration because they regard it as a non-essential gimmick.

    Onkyo PR-SC5509 -

    1. Concerns about customer service.
    2. Concerns about build quality, numerous complaints about HDMI issues.
    3. Outdated music file playback capability, no FLAC or DSD playback capability.
    4. Outdated HDMI technology.
    5. Outdated surround sound decoding technology.

    Cary Cinema 12 -

    1. 25% higher MSRP.
    2. Significantly lower build quality than the CX-A5100.
    3. Fewer HDMI inputs and outputs.
    4. Outdated HDMI technology.
    5. Outdated surround sound decoding technology.

  • sgmsmgsgmsmg Posts: 129
    Thanks for posting this very informative and detailed thread. Your info is always top notch!
  • sandwormssandworms Posts: 1,040
    sandworms wrote: »
    Can you say why the Marantz didn't make the cut. I am looking at investing in a new pre pro and have been going back and forth over the 8802a and the 7703, or the Anthem MRX 720

    The 8802a was the closest competitor to the CX-5100. The Marantz AV8802a and Yamaha CX-A5100 were very similar in terms of aesthetics, feature set and types and amount of inputs and outputs.

    However, compared to the Yamaha CX-A5100, the Marantz AV-8802a:

    1. Had an MSRP 25% greater, with commensurately higher street price.

    2. Had a tiny circular display, which I didn't like, with the main display behind a large pull down panel.

    3. Did not have as good build quality with regard to mechanical and electrical noise abatement.

    4. Uses consumer grade AK4490 DACs compared to the Yamaha's professional (recording studio) grade ES9016S DACs.

    In addition to the above, I have had decades of positive experiences with Yamaha audio electronics and musical instruments.

    In case someone is wondering why the other candidates didn't make the cut:

    Bryston SP3 -

    1. Stiff $9,500 MSRP.
    2. No auto room calibration. Bryston does not offer auto room calibration because they regard it as a non-essential gimmick.

    Onkyo PR-SC5509 -

    1. Concerns about customer service.
    2. Concerns about build quality, numerous complaints about HDMI issues.
    3. Outdated music file playback capability, no FLAC or DSD playback capability.
    4. Outdated HDMI technology.
    5. Outdated surround sound decoding technology.

    Cary Cinema 12 -

    1. 25% higher MSRP.
    2. Significantly lower build quality than the CX-A5100.
    3. Fewer HDMI inputs and outputs.
    4. Outdated HDMI technology.
    5. Outdated surround sound decoding technology.

    Nuff said!
  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 13,913
    I like the room!
  • jeremymarcinkojeremymarcinko Posts: 2,598
    I find it odd that the lag time for HDMI switching is so long. I have the Yamaha AVENTAGE 1010 that is several years old now, it switches in only a couple of seconds.

    YPAO initially showed my mains were out of phase, but I figure this was do to room acoustics. Turning the speakers in slightly, perhaps to reduce reflection from the side walls, and re-running showed them as normal.

    My 1010 has been a very reliable unit. I have removed the amp that was added to drive the mains (RTI 12's) and am now letting the 1010 power all 5 RTI's crossed over at 80hz for a more seamless sound experience. Movies are quite impressive, and sounds extremely real or life like, using the "FLAT" YPAO setting.
  • BlueFoxBlueFox Posts: 8,967
    I have been using the Onkyo SC5509 for two to three years now, and, for its purpose, I love it. It replaced a Sony 7100ES used a preamp, and the sound quality was much better.

    Granted, it is older, but none of your concerns listed above have been applicable to me. I use it now with an Oppo 203 UHD 4K Blue Ray player with no issues. The HDMI simply passes the signal through to the TV. The Oppo decodes the audio and sends it 5509. Excellent picture and sound

    However, some day when I am more into audio than I am now I will get the Bryston SP3, or its replacement. :)

    HT

    Oppo 203 BRP
    Onkyo 5509 pre/pro
    Bryston BDP-1 file player
    Auralic Vega DAC
    Cambridge Audio 840W (2) amps for front
    Sunfire TGA-5400 amp for center and rear
    Xbox One
    Sony XBR-75Z9D 75" UHD/4K TV

    Aerial Acoustics 7T front speakers
    PSB Synchrony One Center
    PSB Synchrony One towers rear
    Polk LSiW sub (very rarely used)

    Shunyata Triton v3 power conditioner for electronics
    Shunyata Denali 2000 power conditioner for TV
    All Shunyata power cords

    MIT Shotgun S1.3 XLR for all 5 channels
    Shunyata Anaconda AES (XLR) digital cable
    Shunyata Venom speaker cables.

    Pangea HDMI to TV
    Shunyata HDMI for audio between Oppo/Onkyo

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