Yamaha Aventage CX-A5200 Preamplifier & MX-A5200 Amplifier Review
Sitting firmly at the top of Yamaha's AV range is its statement piece, or pieces in this case. The CX-A5200 is an 11 channel pre-amplifier and AV processor, while the MX-A5200 is an 11 channel power amplifier, together commanding an asking price of $7,998 RRP.
CX-A5200 & MX-A5200
11.2 Channel Preamplifier & 11 Channel Power Amplifier
For many, the prospect of having two separate components when compared to a traditional, all-in-one AV Receiver isn't an option. But Yamaha knows that die-hard enthusiasts will take the route of performance over convenience. The benefits of having separate boxes for amplification and processing being many, including a cleaner signal path and more power.
The 'brains' of the duo, the CX-A5200 is an 11.2 channel AV pre-amplifier equipped with dual studio-grade ESS DAC's. The MX-A5200 brings the 'muscle', its toroidal transformer and 27,000 uF custom block capacitors having a power rating of 170 W (two channels driven at 8 ohms, 0.9% THD).
Together, the duo can cater for speaker layouts of up to 7.2.4 channels (front, centre, surround, surround-back and four overhead speakers). The MX-A5200's amplifiers can also be bridged for extra power in smaller configurations.
The CX-A5200 can decode a plethora of surround formats, including Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Surround, DTS-X and DTS-HD. It's also equipped with Yamaha's proprietary AI surround technology, which uses the onboard DSP to analyse and create optimal surround effects with the most significant impact.
Although often frowned upon by home theatre purists and audiophiles alike, the CX-A5200's DSP can produce a range of simulated environments should you desire. With a list of modes catering for everything from Spectacle, Drama and Sci-Fi, there's more than enough to keep you busy.
The CX-A5200 will also playback a range of audio file formats, including MP3 / WMA / MPEG-4 AAC: up to 48 kHz / 16-bit, ALAC: up to 96 kHz / 24-bit, FLAC: up to 384 kHz / 24-bit, WAV / AIFF: up to 384 kHz / 32-bit, DSD: up to 11.2 MHz.
If like most, you plan on routing the video signal via your AVR, the CX-A5200 offers 4K pass-through and upscaling (4K/60p, 4:4:4) via its HDMI inputs. In addition to ARC, it also supports HDMI E-ARC (via a firmware update) and 3D pass-through.
The CX-A5200 offers a range of multi-room audio features, including Yamaha Music Cast, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming. Its feature list is rounded out with an AM/FM tuner, Alexa compatibility and DAB radio.
Adding to its multi-room audio capabilities, it can support up to four zones of audio, including the main zone.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Neither the CX-A5200 or MX-A5200 are components to be trifled with. At 15.2 and 26.4 kg respectively, it's wise to recruit help placing them in your AV rack. Likewise, make sure your rack is capable of supporting their weight.
If I had to choose a word to describe the build quality of either unit, it would be 'uncompromising'. The mere act of unboxing the MX-A5200 was enough to assure me that I was in for something special.
From it's beautifully crafted aluminium faceplate, to its substantial toroidal transformer and capacitors which dominate its internal architecture, the MX-A5200 oozes quality. And power. Like the MX-A5200, the CX-A520s is also a beautifully crafted component.
The back of the MX-A5200 offers the choice of using either balanced or unbalanced connections, with a switch to activate either option. Interestingly, its gold-plated speaker terminals are located either side of the unit to correspond with the matching speakers. While a little unorthodox, it works rather nicely and there's plenty of room between its binding posts.
While there's a definite step-up in terms of build quality, the CX-A5200's design shares more than a little in common with the RX-A3080 AV Receiver we've also reviewed. Featuring the same two-tone styling, the bottom half of the unit's fascia is finished in matt black, with its top half dominated by a gloss black LCD display.
And just like the RX-A3080, you're either going to love or hate the CX-A5200's design. While I'm not a big fan, I imagine many are going to warm to it. Either way, it's not that much of a statement that it's going to be bothersome regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself.
Located either side of the fascia are two large dials for volume and input selection. There's also a sizeable drop-down flap on the lower half of the CX-A5200, which opens to a USB jack, headphone jack, YPAO mic input, two analogue audio inputs and a range of controls to navigate the RX-A3080's extensive input menus. Arguably somewhat of an omission is the lack of any front-facing HDMI inputs.
On the other hand, the back of the CX-A5200 offers an extensive range of inputs, including: 7 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs (HDCP2.3, HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG and BT.2020 compatible), 3 optical audio inputs, 3 coaxial audio inputs, 10 analogue audio inputs (1x XLR Balanced and 9 X RCA unbalanced), phono input, 2 component video inputs, 4 composite video inputs, 11.2 channel pre-out (balanced and unbalanced) and network input (dual-band, 2.4/5.0 GHz WIFI, is also supported).
The CX-A5200's remote is hands-down, the best AVR remote I have used. Finished in matt black, the long remote has a rubbery feel. Its buttons are easy to find with plenty of room between them. Picking up the remote will activate the backlit buttons, a welcome feature for those whose home theatre resides in a 'bat-cave'.
The review unit also shipped with a power cable, YPAO microphone, plastic microphone stand, quick start guide and an Amazon Echo Dot.
Yamaha's AV setup app made hook-up a breeze. After asking a series of questions regarding my speaker layout and source components, the app guided me through the installation process both logically and quickly.
The CX-A5200 was connected to a Panasonic UB-9000 UHD player and Sony VPL-VW270ES projector. The MX-A5200 was connected to the CX-A5200 via its unbalanced inputs, which in turn was connected to VAF i91 front and centre speakers, i90 surround and presence speakers, and custom 10” Gravitas subwoofers.
It's essential that you run YPAO at this point. As I discovered, YPAO not only applies room correction, delays and distance measurements, but also tells the CX-A5200 where your speakers are located.
The CX-A5200 will correctly map the overhead speakers in a 5.2.4 or 7.2.4 setup, in systems with only two overhead Atmos speakers (such as mine), it will assign the speakers as front-presence. While it sounds simple enough to apply the correct speaker template and select rear-presence, the CX-A5200 will not let you allocate rear-presence speakers without front-presence speakers.
Fortunately, it's merely a case of selecting a 5.2.2 speaker configuration, noting that the rear presence speakers will be listed as fronts with YPAO taking care of the rest.
YPAO gives you the option of either running the audio calibration from a single listening position or multi-listening positions. The latter is recommended for calibration of multiple listening positions.
Being the only 'critical-listener' for the period of the review, I opted to calibrate from a single listening position. Doing so also allowed me to make use of the YPAO's ability to measure both the height and angle of my speakers.
YPAO correctly identified both of my subwoofers and applied both separate channel levels and distances to each sub. As with a lot of other room correction systems I've used, save for ARC and perhaps Dirac, YPAO incorrectly set both the size and crossovers of my front speakers. Although, it was simple enough to change in the CX-A5200's on-screen menu.
Say what you will about DC's recent box office efforts, but 2013's Man of Steel was a masterpiece. And like the film, both the Blu-ray DTS-HD and 4K Ultra-HD Dolby Atmos soundtracks are of reference quality.
I opened my listening tests of the CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 with the film's final fight between Kal and General Zod. With the volume at a healthy, yet what I thought sensible -10 below reference, I was soon scrambling for the remote.
After discovering a more reasonable volume level and probably leaving my neighbours wondering what had just happened, I resumed my listening tests. The big takeaway from this experience was the sheer power of the MX-A5200.
Connected to the VAF i90 and i91 loudspeakers, the MX-A5200 was able to deliver more power than I was ever likely to need. The Yamaha combination never showed any signs of fatigue. Even at quite elevated volume levels (more than I am comfortable to listen to), the MX-A5200 still felt like it had power in reserve.
With this level of muscularity, the Yamaha combo was capable of massive dynamic swings with a superb sense of power.
I don't subscribe to the argument that overhead channels don't need as much power as the main channels. The benefits of equal channel power were readily apparent with the Yamaha. As Superman embarked on his maiden flight, all of my home theatre speakers shared an equal sense of power and weight that gave the sound a cohesiveness, which in my experience is not possible in lower spec'd atmos channel amps.
This same muscular performance carried over with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on 2014's Unbroken, the power of the B-24 bomber's engines not only heard but also felt at the primary listening position. Flak and machine-gun bullets could also be felt as they tore their way through the B-24.
The CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 created a massive soundstage, easily filling my modest-sized home theatre with sound. Granted, Unbroken's Dolby Atmos soundtrack sounds wonderful on most systems, but play at it back on capable components such as this Yamaha combination, and you almost feel like you're there.
Switching to the UHD of Mad Max Fury Road, the pair conjured a wonderful sense of space. Not only did the combo create a vast sense of space, but extracted every piece of detail from the soundtrack.
As Max lifts himself from the sand following the sandstorm, you can hear the grains of sand making their way from the front to back speakers.
By the time it came to John Wick, I was becoming quite accustomed to the Yamaha's powerful yet detailed sound. With John Wick, the pair produced thunderous bass as Wick shot his way through a nightclub.
While the bass could indeed be thunderous, YPAO couldn't match the level of control I have become accustomed to from Audyssey with my usual reference, Denon's X-8500H. Likewise, it didn't turn in quite the same level of punch as Anthem's ARC room correction.
What Yamaha's YPAO room correction did do though, was give my speakers excellent cohesiveness. The sound of choppers in the 4K version of Apocolypse Now precisely and realistically tracking their way around my listening room.
The Yamaha CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 do share some sonic similarities with the RX-A3080 AV Receiver that we received earlier this year. Yet at the same time, it's an entirely different beast, with a sound that's both more detailed and natural.
Naturally, stepping up from an AV receiver to a dedicated pre-processor and separate amplifier brings with it extra power. And this is where the Yamaha combination shines, with a wonderfully muscular sound that will fill just about all listening rooms.
Yamaha's CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 combination are going to set you back a few more sheckles than even the biggest AV Receivers on the market. But with that said, if you're looking for serious dynamics and a high level of excitement in your home theatre, the investment is most certainly worth it.
For more information, visit Yamaha.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.