Yamaha RX-Z11 A/V Receiver Comparisons & Conclusion
Over the last eight months, I have had several AVRs and pre/pros in my home theater from different manufacturers at various price points. The Z11 is by far the most expensive unit, and it impressed me with its audio aptitude. But it was somewhat of a disappointment in terms of video processing.
The Yamaha RX-V3800 costs less than a third as much as the Z11 ($1600 vs. $5500), yet they are similar in a lot of ways. The power offered by the seven main-zone amplifiers is identical, but the less-expensive model does not support presence speakers or multi-zone capability. The V3800 does not process HDMI video, whereas the Z11 does, but both units clip below-black and above-white. It's been a while since I listened to the V3800, but my notes have similar observations about the audio quality of both units. The Z11 does offer THX certification, which brings a certain peace of mind, but it wouldn't surprise me if the V3800 could pass the same stringent tests.
Another reasonable comparison would be the Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro combined with an Anthem PVA 7 amplifier (my reference system), which retails for 35 percent less than the RX-Z11. The Z11's multi-zone capabilities give it an advantage, but the Silicon Optix video processing built into the Onkyo trumps the Anchor Bay in the Yamaha. Audio-wise, I would give a slight edge to the Onkyo because of its ability to be calibrated by an Audyssey Pro technician, which delivers amazing results. Granted, the Onkyo/Anthem combo isn't a "one-box" solution, so this isn't really an apples-to-apples comparison, but it's in the same ballpark.
From a purely audio standpoint, the Yamaha RX-Z11 is a superb product—you would be hard pressed to find a better-sounding AVR on the market. However, the video processing is a disappointment with its rolloff of high frequencies and its inability to pass below-black and above-white, even when set to "through" mode. According to the company, it is considering a firmware update to address the clipping issue, which is welcome news.
If you have a dedicated room—or a wife that will allow you to install an 11.2 system—the Z11's ability to power four presence speakers is an intriguing prospect, but this idea would never fly in my home. I could find a use for those extra four amp channels, say, powering my backyard speakers as well as a pair in the garage, with the benefit of freeing up some space in my A/V rack.
The value proposition of this product is my main concern. Flagship models appeal to a very select group of consumers, and the price of the Z11 limits the customer base even more. Would I buy this AVR? No, but that isn't because of its audio performance. My reservations are all about the video processing, which is not up to the level it should be in such an expensive product. If that can be corrected with a firmware update, the RX-Z11 would truly be worthy of its flagship status.
Clean, dynamic, powerful sound
Excellent deinterlacing and scaling of 480i material
5 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs
Decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio
Does not pass below-black and above-white
Rolls off highest frequencies in HD material
Poor remote for main zone