Taking Aventage

Richard Stevenson test drives Yamaha’s new range-topping universal 3D Blu-ray player – and ends up watching more of Avatar than he ever wanted to

Yamaha’s new Aventage series is a crop of top-flight AV components that the blurb says is a dramatic and inspired leap forward. They are clearly not talking cosmetically, because the flagship BD-A1010 networked Blu-ray player is a chunky and traditional-looking beast. I quite like it.

Under the hood is where it counts, though, and here Yamaha’s engineers have given this player something of an audio-visual design flourish. 3D Blu-ray playback and a pair of simultaneous v1.4 HDMI outputs are the headline video features, but DVD-Audio and SACD playback will appeal to true audiophiles as will the player’s 192kHz/24bit DACs and Pure Direct mode.

The BD-A1010 also sports USB inputs front and rear, and Ethernet for full network functionality. Like the growing range of Smart TVs there is a ‘home’ screen that gives seamless access to your DLNA servers and YouTube. I’m guessing the number of services appearing on this home page will increase as Yamaha does deals with other service providers.

Operation and control are super-slick using the new Yamaha GUI. The menus are logical and scroll seamlessly through the pages.

Performance

One of the occasional problems with review samples is that you end up being the bug swat. The BD-A1010’s power-up routine occasionally took about a minute, other times it would boot up in seconds and the DLNA functionality had issues. The deck found all three DLNA servers on my network and displayed all music titles in each, but simply refused to actually play anything. I am sure these bugs will get squelched in fi rmware updates, possibly before you read this, but it is something to look out for if you get a demo.

BD playback, straight out of the box with no picture modifications, is nicely balanced. The image is not as overtly punchy or dynamic as some but the black levels and shadow details are excellent, while tones are rich and deep. There is very little in the way of processing noise, either, even without the noise filter engaged.

What lets the Yamaha’s 2D image down is its less than stellar scrolling ability. Diagonal pans over complex scenes are the most difficult for any player and the BD-A1010 struggles to maintain a smooth scanning image. In the final scene from Star Trek XI, where the camera pans down through the ranks of Star Fleet officers, the picture stumbles and judders. Straight left-right pans are smoother but a slight judder remains that will be visible on larger screens.

Strangely, the juddering is less noticeable with 3D content played on a 46in TV. The picture maintains its sumptuous film-like dynamic, and the TV’s extra brightness over my projector means that none of the Yamaha’s detailing is lost in the glasses. There is not massive user control over 3D imaging built into the BD-A1010, but as I managed to sit through nearly 30 minutes of Avatar I can only salute this player’s ability to make 3D highly watchable.


HCC VERDICT

Yamaha BD-A1010 Aventage
Price:
£400 Approx

Highs: Universal disc playback; networked; film-like picture; twin HDMI outs
Lows: Noticeable panning judder on a projector screen; bugs need fixing

Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 5/5
Overall 4/5

 


Specifications

3D: YES Upscaling: YES 1080p
Multiregion: NO Region B BD/R2 DVD
HDMI: YES 2 x HDMI v1.4 outputs
Component: YES 1 x output
Multichannel analogue: YES 7.1 phono
Digital audio: YES optical and coaxial outputs
SACD/DVD-A: YES both
Dolby True HD/DTS HD decoding: YES
Dolby True HD/DTS HD bitstream: YES
Profile 2.0: YES with 1GB storage
Dimensions: 435(w) x 96(h) x 316(d)mm
Weight: 4kg
Features: Ethernet; DLNA support; online portal including YouTube; 2 x USB; 194/24bit DACs; iPhone App control; Android App (on the way); RS232 port