Introduction to the Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Universal Blu-ray Player
Last year, Yamaha released the Aventage product line, which included first several A/V receivers, then also a Blu-ray player. The Aventage product line is Yamaha’s new premiere brand, similar to Sony’s “ES”, and Pioneer’s “Elite.” Last year I reviewed the Aventage RX-A2000 A/V receiver, and was impressed. Now I have in-house the new Blu-ray player from the 2011 Aventage line-up, the BD-A1010. This is a full-featured universal Blu-ray player. In addition to playback of DVD, Blu-ray, 3-D Blu-ray, CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio, it also includes Internet apps like Netflix, Blockbuster on Demand, FilmFresh, and YouTube.
Will this Aventage Blu-ray player wow me as much as the receiver did? Will it integrate with my Aventage receiver better than my reference Oppo BDP-93? Only one way to find out – let’s get started!
YAMAHA BD-A1010 UNIVERSAL BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Universal Player
- Codecs: All, Including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and 3D
- DACs: 24/192 PCM/DSD DAC
- Streaming Content: Netflix, Blockbuster on Demand, FilmFresh, YouTube
- Connections: HDMI 1.4a, Component Video, Composite Video, Optical Audio, Coaxial Audio, 7.1 RCA Audio, Stereo RCA Audio, USB, Ethernet, RS-232
- Dimensions: 3.75″ H x 17.1″ W x 12.5″ D
- Weight: 8.9 Pounds
- MSRP: $500 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Blu-Ray, Universal Players, Yamaha, 3 D
Design of the Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Blu-ray Player
This player is priced at $499.95, virtually the same as the Oppo BDP-93. They are both true universal players, marketed as premiere (albeit not boutique) products. A comparison is unavoidable, so right off the bat, the Aventage player has a lot to live up to. Upon opening my Oppo a few months ago, I was very impressed with the high-end packaging design inside the cardboard box. The player was wrapped in a nice black reusable nylon handbag, and the parts (cables, remote, manual, etc.) were packaged separately in nice-looking black boxes. The Oppo also included a 6-foot HDMI cable, which is an incomprehensible rarity (cost for a generic basic 6 ft. HDMI cable is on the order of a few dollars) among Blu-ray players. One might say these niceties were a little over the top, but it really made you feel like you had just purchased a truly high-end product.
This was not so much the case upon opening the Aventage Blu-ray box. It was packaged the same way nearly every other A/V product is packaged: white Styrofoam held a black product wrapped in “foam paper”, with the parts wedged into cut-outs in the Styrofoam, and no HDMI cable was included. There really isn’t anything wrong with this, and had I not ever owned nor seen an Oppo player I might not have commented on it. But, given this player is priced the same, and offers very similar features and functionality as the Oppo, I was hoping / wondering if Yamaha might have tried to follow suit. That they didn’t just means that I’m already thinking, “Okay this thing better perform really well!”
The BD-A1010 itself is nicely designed. It carries the same styling as the Aventage receivers, so that they will match nicely on your component shelf. Currently the Aventage line consists only of receivers and Blu-ray players, I don’t know if Yamaha has plans to expand the brand to other products or not. Like the Aventage receivers, the BD-A1010 also seems very well-built: much heftier than most big-brand mass-market Blu-ray players available at big-box stores for anywhere from $60 to $250. It has a sturdy steel cover, and weighs almost as much as my Oppo. Given Yamaha claims to have completely re-designed not only the electronics in their Aventage products, but also the physical chassis to optimize audio performance, it was good to feel a solidly-built product.
Setup of the Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Blu-ray Player
Setup was quick and painless. I connected the player to my receiver via HDMI, to my router via Ethernet, and to power via the included power cord. Navigating the built-in setup routine was simple enough, and network setup was automatic. Soon I was off and running with the BD-A1010’s setup menu. The A1010 includes allows you to select from four different color spaces: 4:4:4, 4:2:2, RGB, and “full RGB” (presumably PC mode). This option is very important for achieving an optimal picture in concert with your specific system, and we in the review industry are always happy to see this option available.
The Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Blu-ray Disc Player In Use
The first feature we made use of with the A1010 was the Netflix streaming. This may seem odd given it’s a high-end Blu-ray player – why not pop in a Blu-ray and really see what this thing can do, right? Well, the first evening after setting it up my wife and I wanted to continue watching “The Tudors” which we have just recently finished. We started the series using the Netflix feature in my Samsung PN-58C7000 plasma TV. There was a striking difference between watching Netflix via my Samsung TV versus watching it on the Yamaha BD-A1010. The picture on the A1010 was noticeably dimmer. My Samsung is properly calibrated; however, that’s no guarantee that the Netflix function is also calibrated. I only calibrated those modes and inputs available when playing back a Blu-ray disc. Currently there is no way that I know of to calibrate a display from within the Netflix application. So I compared the Netflix and Blockbuster apps on my Oppo BDP-93 to the Yamaha and Samsung as well. The Oppo is also less bright than the Samsung for both apps, but not so much so as the Yamaha. When comparing the A1010 to the BDP-93, the Oppo was brighter, but only slightly. In fact, the image on the Samsung TV was a little too bright, compared to the Oppo and Yamaha. However the Oppo and Samsung seemed to deal better with some resolution-related artifacts in the streamed videos. Other than that, the Netflix experience was virtually identical to that on my other devices (Oppo BDP-93 and Samsung TV). I did not notice this difference in brightness on Blu-ray disc content, when comparing to the Oppo. Navigation of both Netflix and Blockbuster was a little snappier on my Samsung TV than on the Yamaha BD-A1010.
On to some Blu-rays: For Christmas I received the new box-set of the Star Wars saga, so those have become my new favorite Blu-rays. While Episode 3 is not my favorite of the saga, it is one of my new references for video comparison. Overall image quality of the Yamaha BD-A1010 was fantastic, and the DTS-HD audio was as expected, amazing.
I tested the 3D capabilities of the A1010 with my Samsung 3D demo discs of “How to Train Your Dragon” and Galapagos IMAX. Both movies were rendered in 3D nicely. There were no discernible differences between 3D performances on the BD-A1010 vs. my reference Oppo BDP-93.
On the HD audio side, I dropped in my DVD-A of Chanticleer’s Magnificat. I’m quite familiar with this disc, which I adore, and the sound was as usual: stunning. I listened to this disc both over HDMI and over analog RCA stereo. It was difficult to A/B with a DVD-A disc since I couldn’t have it playing in both at the same time. Also, the disc would go to the menu first, where I’d have to select the right track. So there was always a delay between comparisons. That said, there was hardly any difference at all between the Oppo and the BD-A1010. If I had to find a difference, I’d say that the Yamaha had an ever so slightly more open sound. But it was subtle, and given the delay in A/B comparisons I hesitate to bring it up. The Yamaha did at least match my Oppo for DVD-A high-def music sound quality, and might have surpassed it.
Finally, I brought out my Telarc recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Telarc CD 429 861-2). A/B’ing this was a bit easier, as I could make a copy and play both simultaneously. For comparison, I focused on the first several bars of the second movement, the Molto vivace. I love listening for the overtones of timpani and they get a nice (if brief) solo here. Again, there was almost no difference between the Yamaha and my reference Oppo player. I did again detect the slightest sense of a more open sound with the Yamaha. Highs were just ever so slightly clearer, and there was a feeling of a more substantial mid-range.
Last year Yamaha published an Android app for their A/V products. I’ve been using this app to control my receiver from anywhere in my house (within Wi-Fi range of my router). The Android app also works to control the Aventage Blu-ray player, and it works quite flawlessly. As with any touch-screen tab/smart-phone app, you lose all tactile feedback that you would have with a remote. But for controlling my system remotely, it’s a God-send.
The Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Blu-ray Player On The Bench
The Yamaha A1010 didn’t perform too well on our Standard Definition tests. It almost failed all four of our Chroma Upsampling Error tests. I did end up giving it a pass, but it was borderline. The CUE artifacts I saw were on test patterns, and when I looked at real-world video samples it was much more difficult to see any deficiencies. The A1010 also failed a few of our SD video and film, including 2-2 Cadence and 3-2 Cadence with mixed flags. The BD-A1010 also failed our noise reduction HD test. While there was a noise reduction function available, even when set to the maximum it couldn’t fully eliminate either video noise or block compression artifacts.
This is the first player to use our updated HDMI Benchmark Analysis. We can now process all the HDMI data, and with different dE formulas (1976 and 1994) to give better results for all colorspaces and picture modes. We also have some color bars that I will explain a bit later. First, let’s look at the new results table.
Here you can see all three picture modes run in all three colorspaces. As you can see, the Standard mode is nearly perfect. In fact, the RGB errors are so small that I would just prefer to ignore them, as you will never see a difference with them. If you want reference quality, use the Yamaha in standard. Vivid mode isn’t quite as good, with errors across the spectrum. Though barely past the visible line, they were still bad. The Luma is almost untouched, but the Chroma channel can vary by a little bit, though not much. Really this mode is doing so little processing, I don’t understand why it’s in here.
The big issue is the Cinema mode. In this case the Luma (Y) channel is very manipulated. Your normal dynamic range is from 16-235 in the Luma channel, but on the Yamaha in Cinema mode it’s really from 40-230. The shadow detail is crushed so much that a value of 40 is output as 16, so all shadow detail below 40 won’t be visible on a calibrated display. I hope you enjoy your shadow areas just being a big, black blob if you select this mode. It also never hits peak white, and when you should be putting out 235, you instead get 210, so your whites will be dull, and your shadows gone.
To show this off, there are some bars below that are split into two sections. The top is the reference values, and what you should expect to see. The bottom is what the Yamaha is putting out in Cinema mode. I could have done these for Standard mode as well, but the bars would have been identical, which is what we want to see. Hopefully this helps to bring across the issues of poor HDMI conversions, or poor scene modes in players and how they destroy an image.
The Yamaha does what we want from a player over HDMI: Perfect decoding when the right mode is selected.
Of course the Yamaha is a universal player as well, so we want to see how it performs as an audio player.
With a 1 kHz test tone, the THD+N was low with around 100 dB of headroom. When being fed a high bitrate DVD-A signal the performance was similar, though the larger spectrum wasn’t visible due to a software issue
With 10 kHz test signals, the results are virtually identical, with the same amount of THD+N and the same noise floor. This is good as THD+N can often rise on this test when compared to the 1 kHz test.
IMD was very low, and the noise floor dead flat, with the 60 Hz and 7 kHz test tones. There were no side peaks or anything else visible in the data.
19 kHz and 20 kHz was outstanding as well, with no side peaks or anything else visible in the spectrum. The audio bench tests for the Yamaha were remarkably low, a very impressive performance on the bench for it!
Conclusions About the Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage Blu-ray Player
The Yamaha BD-A1010 is a fine, full-featured Blu-ray player, with most of the options one would want. Picture quality is good to excellent, especially for HD material, and navigation speed and design was quite good. However, for the same suggested retail price you can get an Oppo BDP-93. The Oppo has as close to perfect picture quality as we’ve seen, and virtually the same complement of features, slightly better build quality and a much better remote. At full retail, it’s hard to recommend the Yamaha given this obvious comparison. However, the price of the Yamaha will fall much more quickly than the Oppo (which likely won’t fall at all until it is replaced). In fact as I write this the A1010 is easily found for $400. This definitely makes the decision between the two less clear. Personally, I feel that $400 for the Yamaha BD-A1010 is still too high; at that price I would recommend spending up for the Oppo. But there aren’t many other Universal players on the market, so if you’re in the market for a true universal player, competition is sparse. Given that the Oppo defends the $500 price point quite easily, I’d say the Yamaha BD-A1010 would be a good buy at around $350, assuming you primarily watch Blu-rays, and won’t do much SD DVD watching. Also, if you are one who likes to have matching components, and you have an Aventage receiver, the Yamaha BD-A1010 is a great choice.