If you really want to build a powerful home theater, you will quickly find a separate output stage and a processor. Not all brands offer that possibility, but Yamaha does. In this review we review the update of their most powerful AV combination, the Aventage CX-A5200 and MX-A5200.
Introduction Yamaha CX-A5200 and MX-A5200
You don't choose the CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 No reason. They are devices for a very select audience – and that is special. In a market where mainly all-in-one AV receivers are sold, it is quite brave to come up with a separate preamplifier and output stage. But not unheard of either, because professional installers and home theater adapters who want to surround a larger room often end up with a separate set-up. It is a high-end option, which explains why these two devices are really the top models from Yamaha’s Aventage premium line. If you buy both of them, you are not far from 6,000 euros.
You get a lot for that price. The CX-A5200 is a processor and pre-amplifier that can process 11.2 channels, with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, many connections and with high-end DACs. The MX-A5200 is his buddy: a powerful 11-channel amplifier with a completely spectacular structure, which offers interesting additional support for audiophile stereo channels in a BTL configuration where you use two channels for the left channel and two for the right channel. In short, this duo could be a very powerful motor for a great home theater.
“The more expensive, the heavier” is anyway a law in audio country, and this Yamaha combo certainly does not deviate from that. Although the bulk of the weight is mainly with the powerful MX-A5200 that supplies 150 watts (with 8-Ohm speakers, two channels controlled over the full frequency range). Partly because of the huge toroidal transformer, the heavy internal cooling fins and the sturdy metal housing, the final stage is ticking at just under 27 kg. That seems little to tough people, but believe us: if you want to place this device in a rack or have to put it in a cupboard, you need some muscle strength. And preferably also a piece of furniture that can support all of this.
It does motivate you to lay all the cables right at once, because afterwards things can still be a major undertaking. Well, in practice it will probably be better than expected. We assume that anyone who purchases a CX / MX-A5200 has plans for a larger project that requires some planning. That you provide more space for the devices and keep the back accessible seems no more than normal.
Both the CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 are perfectly finished. Although the design does not differ enormously from the other Aventage receivers, you have to touch the CX-A5200 to notice that everything is made of high quality. For example, both devices are equipped with a sturdy bottom plate that prevents vibrations.
You may be wondering: why work with two devices instead of one handy receiver? If you have to ask that question, chances are that the CX / MX-A5200 combination is not for you. You often only see the advantages of pre / final stages when you need something more and are deeper in the home theater story. We find the removal of processing from amplification not only interesting for quality reasons (you create a hard separation wall between the digital video section and the DAC section on one side and the power amplifier on the other. This approach also makes your home theater more future-proof. now build a beautiful movie theater with the MX-A5200 as a fixed amplifier and the CX-A5200 as a step.When there is a new HDMI standard or whatever that encourages you to replace your receiver, you only have to replace that CX-A5200 replacing a newer model: it is not completely plug 'n' play, but a lot less work than replacing a complete system with its cabling.
The CX-A5200 is a very fully equipped AV preamplifier that is the hub for connecting all source devices, and when we say “very complete,” we really mean it – you can really find everything on this thing, from 7 HDMI inputs and 3 HD MI outputs (pay attention, the zone 3 port is different from zone 1 and 2), quite a few legacy video connections, and an incredible number of audio inputs (3 x cinch, 1 x phono, 3 x coax, 3 x optical) . Very unusual is that there are also analogue inputs for surround channels, so you can connect an SACD or Blu-ray player with your own multi-channel DAC. That is very niche, but if you have bought an expensive Oppo or Panasonic player with 7.1-analog outputs … you can connect it to the Yamaha.
Pre-outs are also abound – logically – and both balanced and unbalanced. There is also a fourth audio zone that goes outside via two XLRs. That makes the CX-A5200 very interesting for high-end setups where music is sent in stereo to a separate hi-fi amplifier. This device also takes care of all streaming and processes the audio, including volume control. Oh yes, there is also a DAB + radio tuner built in, handy now that analogue radio broadcasts are gradually being extinguished.
Behind a metal front panel there are a few extra inputs hidden behind a large number of controls. The most convenient is undoubtedly the USB port with which you can play music from a USB disk. By the way: the many controls you find here make it possible to fully set up the receiver. That is not always the case.
The MusicCast platform that is embedded in the CX-A5200 (and most Yamaha receivers) is treated a little more extensively. But already this: via the MusicCast app you can control each of the four zones that the preamplifier offers separately. A huge plus, because this device can actually control a (wired) multi-room system throughout the house. Integration is also something that is very important to the Yamaha front stage. On the HDMI front, it is good to know that the ports are HDMI2.0a compatible and also support HDCP2.3, in addition to Dolby Vision and HLG.
New to the CX-A5200 compared to previous models is not only support for new standards, but also a DAC section with two ES9026 PRO chips. A major novelty is Surround: AI, a new feature that we discussed in depth in the review of the Yamaha RX-A1080. In summary, Surround: AI is a new sound mode that intelligently continuously analyzes sound content to select the appropriate sound settings. You could say a sort of automatic gearbox for surround, so that you don't have to constantly switch between suitable sound programs. We find it interesting, although there are times when we prefer the “manual” modes. Surround: AI seems particularly interesting to us if you often do a lot of different things with your receiver, such as gaming, movies and just watching TV.
Staying in class
The MX-A5200 is a bit higher than a typical AV receiver, while the CX-A5200 is about the same height as a normal device that also fits the full gain. Place the two on top of each other and you are talking about a serious setup of approximately 50 cm. One of the reasons why the devices are so large is that they have many more connections than standard devices – and that simply requires a lot of space. A lot of space on the back of the CX-A5200 takes up the pre-outs of all channels that you connect to the MX-A5200 (or another output stage, if you prefer). As you would expect in the premium segment, you can choose between unbalanced cinch cables or XLR for the connections between preamp and power amplifier. We opted for the latter: the quality is higher and the connection is also mechanically more reliable. At this point you should pay close attention to your setup, because it is a bit more complex than with the regular device. It is also best to put a cable between the trigger connections, so that the MX-A5200 switches on / off with the front stage.
The speaker connections are located at the back on the right and left side, logically grouped per half of the room. On the left you will find all the left speakers (plus the center), on the right the connections for the speakers in the right half of the room. In itself this is very handy in terms of installation, although it depends on the situation. In professional centers, all speaker terminals are sometimes preferred at the bottom of a row – which is more convenient in a rack – but the placement at the MX-A5200 has to do with the internal structure of the amplifier.
All channel inputs are located in the central part, more or less logically arranged. You know which input matches which terminal thanks to the channel numbering and the small labels that indicate which speaker type belongs to it. One thing you should know: with Yamaha, the presencation channels are the height speakers.
Each input has a small dip switch that allows you to choose between XLR or cinch connection. You must therefore take this into account when setting up the amplifier. Also pay attention to the additional switches with which you can for example channel 3 bridge with channel 4 if you want to control a few demanding stereo speakers. The impedance switch is also an important one to set correctly before you switch on the MX-A5200.
When setting up the CX-A5200 you quickly discover that this is a very flexible device that can be used in many scenarios suits. The interface is very extensive and is full of options. Fortunately there is always some explanation provided. When it comes to speaker configurations, all conventional arrangements are possible – and a few less obvious ones.
Naturally, Yamaha remains the king of sound programs or audio modes. Do you want the sound of a church in Tokyo, Freiburg or Royaumont? Or a hall in Munich (twice), Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Vienna, Amsterdam or just in the US? With this receiver you can experience it all. Personally we think this is a bit more playful, but of course it can't do any harm. If the list is too long for you and you cannot find the useful programs, you can simply uncheck the superfluous modes in the settings.
The Yamaha also excels in terms of adjustability when it comes to inputs. You can combine and rename inputs in a very flexible way, so that you get the most exotic combinations of sources arranged. Not everyone is going to use the possibilities, but on a device in this segment they must be there. In any case, we get the idea that Yamaha has thought very hard about all configurations of home cinemas and multi-room arrangements that are possible.
Two things you should definitely try are VPS and VSBS. These are functions to simulate missing speakers. For example, if you only have 5.1.2 with height channels in front, VPS will simulate the rear height channels. It is not as convincing as separate speakers on the ceiling, but it did increase the spatial feel.
Surprisingly, the CX-A5200 is fully MusicCast Surround compatible. That means that you can use certain wireless MusicCast speakers as rear channels and connect a wireless sub. This feature works great and is pretty handy, although we don't think anyone buying a CX / MX-A5200 combination is planning to work with cheaper wireless speakers.
If you choose a high-end surround solution, you paradoxically often end up with a receiver that is slightly less strong in streaming. The top brands in this area, such as Arcam and Anthem, are pulling this card a lot less (for the time being). However, Yamaha has a major asset: MusicCast. This platform has been around for several years and is very mature. The Japanese manufacturer has been installing it on almost all new devices since 2016, both with receivers, hi-fi devices and soundbars and therefore also with the CX-A5200.
What you get streaming in terms of CX-A5200 is very comprehensive and works well. In addition to the options embedded in MusicCast and the accompanying app, you also have the option to work via AirPlay, to forward music via the Spotify app or to stream via Bluetooth. Also nice: Bluetooth works in two directions. So you can stream from your smartphone to the receiver, but you can also connect a Bluetooth headset if you want to enjoy a movie late at night.
MusicCast is a streaming and multiroom platform, which means that you can use the app multiple times Can control Yamaha devices (if any) and, if desired, the different zones of the CX-A5200. If you do not need those zones, you can switch them off. This way you keep the app organized. And that's smart from Yamaha, because presenting options that you don't need only causes confusion. Similarly, you can also disable unnecessary streaming services, inputs, and audio modes so that the TV interface and app stays clear. Smart.
This adjustability is an asset of the MusicCast app. This way you can give each zone or device its own image. That can also be your own photo, so that you can personalize the app for the whole family. You can also easily rename physical inputs, so that you can fully personalize the app and operation.
You can control the receiver almost completely via the app. This way you can easily select physical video and music inputs. You can stream music via a limited but well-chosen number of services, including Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer. Internet radio is also present. You can listen to your own files from a USB stick, your mobile device or over the network of a DLNA share. There is very good support for music formats, including DSD and hi-res PCM (up to 24-bit / 384 kHz, except for ALAC which for some reason is limited to 192 kHz). The only downside is that when descending into the offer of a streaming service things like albums and tracks could be presented slightly larger and more interesting. But it is functional. We find it very positive that you can adjust a lot from the screen with the playing track.
The CX-A5200 comes with the most advanced version of YPAO, the calibration function that Yamaha developed to adapt the sound to the space and placement of the speakers. In its simplest form, YPOA only needs a single measurement with a microphone, so that a test tone is sent through all speakers at only one position. That is a lot less work than with competing systems, such as Audyssey (used by Denon and Marantz) or Dirac (used by NAD and Arcam), where you have to take a measurement in multiple places.
The You can use the simple mode of YPAO with this high-end receiver, but you also have the option of taking more complex measurements. Why would you do that? Because more measurements yield more data about your room and speakers, so that the receiver can ultimately adjust the sound even more optimally for your situation. As more channels are involved, that becomes even more important.
That's why you have two additional options when calibrating the CX-A5200: multiple measurements (up to eight places) and an angle / height measurement. About those multiple measurements: the interface shows that you have to do this if you have a large seating area where multiple listeners take their place. But it is just as useful if only you and your partner look on the couch together. You then carry out the additional measurements around your seat, preferably not too far. A 50 cm should suffice.
The angle / height measurement is definitely recommended if you build a surround installation with height channels. For this additional measurement you need a plastic accessory that is included in the box. It looks a bit like a boomerang, with a bar in the middle. If you look closely, you will notice that the three legs of the boomering bear a figure. You place the boomerang at your first measuring location (your seat), with figure 1 facing the screen. Via the TV interface you will be guided through a short measurement procedure in which you place the microphone on the three digits, and then for a fourth minimum measurement at the top of the bar. We have worked with and without the angle / height measurement, and still found it an added value in terms of balance between the ear-level speakers and the height channels.
As mentioned, we ended up with a YPAO profile that also includes data from an angle / height measurement. We are really convinced that it is better to measure several times, but in our test room we found the result in one position quite impressive. Thanks to multiple measurements, the subwoofer seemed slightly more controlled and the rear channels presented three-dimensionally, but it wasn't a huge difference. That can of course be completely different in a larger home theater with different dimensions, so taking the time to measure at all eight places and taking angle / height measurements is really worth it. For this test, we rely on our usual surround setup, with Dali Rubicon at the front and Opticon at the back, and Alteco speakers mounted at the top of the walls, and with a Monitor Audio Silver W12 subwoofer. On the source side we again use the Oppo UPD-203 and the Panasonic DMP-823, in addition to an Xbox One X.
'Roma' (via Netflix in Dolby Atmos, Xbox One X) remains one of our favorite films if we want to discover how good a receiver is in presenting micro detail. This film by Alfonso Cuarón and the rightful winner of an Oscar for good sound contains many scenes with unbelievably well-placed sound effects. Close your eyes and you really feel like you're in a villa in Mexico City. For the best effect, the calibration software must generate a correct surround field – and that works really well here. We hear a lot of microscopic sound effects, such as the dog's metal collar when he jumps and the radio that plays through a large part of the film in the background, each time in a different angle depending on the scene. The film may be black and white, but in terms of sound it is very colorful. It is just like a painting, thanks to the very good placement of all effects. We also add the famous scene with the flying beans from Zhang Yimou’s “House of the Flying Daggers” (Blu-ray, DTS MA HD). It all seems uninspiring, until you hear it on a good surround setup. The beans that fly through space are impressive, but the drumming of the drums is really hard to reproduce properly.
The Roma soundtrack is of course not very dynamic, so we switch to something very otherwise: 'The Expendables 3' (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos). It is of course a very absurd film, but that is precisely why it is also a classic in its genre. The old men – Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and many others, even Harrison Ford – are clearly having a good time. In terms of sound design it is not the ultimate word, but the final offensive at the factory where the Expendables are hiding really pops (literally). The MX-A5200 handles the explosions effortlessly in any case, absolutely no shortage of power. We may miss a bit of emotion, but we are very impressed with “Alita” (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos). The CX / MX-A5200 combo presents the big city scenes very nicely and spatially, but at the same time comes out of the corner dynamically during the Motorball battles – euh, competitions. That is a very beautiful marriage.
A small but important thing that we note approvingly during the testing: the otherwise excellent remote of the CX-A5200 is great to use to also serve our Panasonic and Oppo players. In theory, most receivers can, but in practice it often doesn't work that well. However, Yamaha has mastered this aspect well.
The CX-A5200 and MX-A5200 presents itself as the ultimate solution for the discerning surround enthusiast. Almost 6,000 euros is of course not nothing, but at this level you simply have to budget more. A better home theater can easily lean to 12-15,000 euros, including speakers and acoustics. It is in such a scenario that these two racks from Yamaha fit in.
There are some high-end rivals in this box around this price point, but the separate pre-stage approach from Yamaha has its advantages. This makes it a bit more future-proof. Yamaha also has the necessary flexibility built in, also for more audiophile setups. Huge plus points are the excellent MusicCast platform and cutting-edge technology such as Surround: AI and virtual speaker arrangements. Above all, the Yamaha combination balances large power reserves with a very detailed representation, making the label 'ultimate' in place.
View  Source: kieskeurig.nl