Compared with plain ol' text-based menus, most fully graphical, icon-based onscreen user interfaces have impressed me as yielding a different, but not always better, way of navigating settings, options, and modes. However, Yamaha's new effort is among the very best so far. It's fast, clean, and intelligently laid out, and Yamaha does not attempt to force everything onto an icon; there are still plenty of textual lists where called for. With at most three levels (except- ing set-once setup choices), back-and- forthing is kept to a minimum. There's also a pop-up Options pane for everyday chores like tone and dynamic-range controls, while a handy Level key under the remote's flip-out door is always available to make temporary channel-level trims. The "Net" input's operations earn special mention for accessibility. There's no alphabetic search function per se, but long lists such as All Tracks or Art- ists can be quickly jumped through using rapid-access side-panes for letter groupings. Even better, during playback you can side-pane over to jump through lists by 1-page or 10-page bites, making long scrolls far more bearable.
The very usable main remote is a handsome two-tone job, intelligently arranged and with full backlighting. Yamaha also throws in a second, basic remote for simplified or second-room use. With the receiver networked, any Web browser running on a computer or handheld can serve as a very useful controller, complete with onscreen prompts, while the free Yamaha/Aventage iPhone/iPod touch app makes an even cooler, although not yet fully functional, alternative. (Future updates are promised.) Finally, the RX-A3000 can send signals to up to four zones, as many as three of which can be powered by the receiver's seven onboard amplifier channels.
Like the very Universe, I abhor perfection, so I will point out that the RX-A3000 lacks direct-plug iPod control (you have to buy one of Yamaha’s optional iPod docks) and, doubtless, a few other qualifying elements. But top-tier A/V receivers have now achieved such sophistication, complexity, and ability that I would have to budget 6 months of steady daily use to be confident I hadn’t overlooked some wart or other (or just possibly an unheralded beauty mark). Short of that, it should be clear that I liked the Aventage RX-A3000 — a lot. Well done, Yamaha.
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