Goes beyond the capabilities of previous high-end Yamaha models with High-definition CINEMA DSP technology, the ability to automatically optimize sound for the listening room, superior audio and video quality, and the operating ease that Yamaha is famous for.
Power output: 9.1 channel, 170 W x 4, 50 W x 2
Frequency response: 10-100,000 Hz +0, -3 dB
Compatibility with the latest movie sound formats including dolby digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic II,DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, DTS Neo:6 and DTS 96/24
The best Yamaha AV receiver ever... awe-inspiring design, terrific build quality, astounding performance and expensive. One-off product.
The DSP-Z9/ RX-Z9 was Yamaha's last US $4,500 legacy Uber AV amplifier/ receiver that was primarily devoted to sound quality. With this model Yamaha made a quantum leap in terms of sound quality with respect to its previous model DSP-AZ1/ RX-Z1. It was the first receiver in the world to support video up-conversion (720p/ 1080i) and provide a GUI display for easy operation.
The later HD ready DSP-Z11/ RX-Z11 was more about home theater than stereo/ multi-channel audio performance. The DSP-Z9 flagship model incorporated a "pure direct" circuit designed for ultimate audio sound quality and "HD Cinema DSP," which boasted an impressive live feeling with 9.2 channels.
Pros of DSP-Z9:
1) The DSP-Z9 is built to last forever with the types of materials and build quality you expect from a significant investment in your home theater system. The DSP-Z9 is built like a Panzer tank and runs like a Swiss watch. Terrific build quality and a robust feature set make the DSP-Z9 a class leader among the competition. It is about the most trouble-free, easy-to-use, intuitive AV amplifier I've encountered.
2) The casework on the DSP-Z9 is gorgeous, comparing with the best in the business. The faceplate is formed from a 10 mm thick piece of beautifully machined extruded aluminum, finished in a striking brushed titanium treatment reminiscent of Krell amps. The faceplate & side panel quality are above reproach and beyond anything I have seen on an AV amplifier. In fact, it felt much more like a handcrafted high-end component than a mass-produced one.
3) The DSP-Z9 internal amplifiers are so good and so musically right, that unless you're willing to fork over some major dough one wouldn't look to separates if you can afford the DSP-Z9. I found the DSP-Z9's power on tap to be bountiful and robust, making it one of the best-sounding AV amplifiers in the game even today, with overall audio performance not unlike what I heard from many high-end integrateds. In Pure Direct Mode it has a smooth, rich textured sound that is rife with air and possesses striking dynamics that bring songs to life. In Straight Mode a slightly warm midrange and solid bass impact make the DSP-Z9 one of the most musical solid-state AV amplifier ever made.
4) Incredible power output, capable of powering any speaker on the market today with juice to spare making the DSP-Z9 a very versatile amplifier for a variety of system and needs. It has the power and headroom to be able to drive even tough impedance-load speakers to beyond-cinema levels, even from the most demanding sources. THX's Ultra2 certification backs those claims up with third-party verification that you can trust.
6) During auditioning setup the most stand out & appreciated feature was DSP-Z9’s unexpectedly large gold plated 2-way extruded speaker terminals. Frankly speaking the plain jane speaker terminals of Denon & DSP-Z11 was a real pain to use where as I was really impressed with DSP-Z9’s binding posts as they easily accommodated those rather heavy speaker wires for the nine channels. DSP-Z9 has a genuine upper hand here.
7) The DSP-Z9 except for HDMI, possesses more features and customizable options than even the most fanatical home theater enthusiast is ever likely to need and/or use.
8) The DSP-Z9 possesses a natural, lively and energetic sound that adds a bit of swing to music and punch to movies. It simply excels as a multi-channel listening device, be it for music or movies. The bass on DSP-Z9 was the best in comparison with DSP-Z11 & Denon AVC-A1SRA. Low, fast and tight only start to describe the sound.
9) Yamaha's various DSPs sound remarkably good for an AV amplifier. To find significantly better surround sound DSP modes, you need to look at AV preamps costing 200 percent more or higher than this Yamaha DSP-Z9.
10) 1080i video quality is topnotch with the Faroudja processing and up-conversion actually improves the look of legacy video sources, although it is important to note that the video processor is no miracle worker.
11) The DSP-Z9's dual subwoofer outputs, are nice features that more users are bound to employ.
12) The onboard GUI display is essential, not only for making adjustments to the DSP-Z9, but because it is hugely beneficial and easy to use.
13) While the DSP-Z9's initial price was on par with a mid-fi separates system, its performance is more high-end than that of most AV amplifiers in almost every conceivable way.
14) The DSP-Z-9’s pre & power amplifier circuit design architectures & PCB layout are exotic in nature and are found on US $10,000 plus separates. The pre-amplifier section uses a fully balanced wiring for audio signal transmission with high quality gold plated relays to achieve low noise & distortion and feeds the symmetrical driven fully discrete push-full power amplifier circuit configuration having a complementary FET input stage. This ensures fully balanced power output with no signal interference and highest slew rate (rate at which signal changes; affects high frequency response) and balanced clipping.
15) From 1990 onwards to this date, Yamaha has released eight Top Of The Line (TOTL) AV amplifiers ranging between US $2,000 to US $5,500. From a technical standpoint and purely in terms of internal circuit design architecture & layout I found six of them namely DSP-A1000, DSP-A2070, DSP-A3090, DSP-A1, DSP-AX1 & DSP-AZ1 follows the same design philosophy/ architecture/ pattern as laid out by Mr Izumi Ozeki back in 1990 with his award winning DSP-A1000. I reached to this conclusion after critically analyzing all of their service manuals. With time they successively released newer models which were just a gradual evolution of the former with some more refinement & added features. On closer inspection I found though Mr Masaya Kano designed DSP-Z11 (an engineer working under Mr Ozeki) having a very different circuit design layout & positioning, have abundant traits that clearly sticks to the same design philosophy of DSP-A1000 chalked out by Mr Ozeki back in 1990. DSP-Z11 is more or less like the same candy in a different & more shineier wrapper.
However, DSP-Z9 is an exception to this case, having absolutely nothing in common in term of design philosophy to the rest of the bunch. DSP-Z9's design philosophy & architecture is completely different being far more exotic, pure, unadulterated & performance oriented than its counterparts and it seems to be designed from a completely new ballpark with no relevance to its sisters to achieve never before attained performance levels. Mr Ozeki wanted a revolution for his masterpiece rather than an evolution of his previously designed models. This was also evident when I auditioned DSP-Z9 & DSP-Z11, the DSP-Z9 being a clear winner as far as performance goes.
Cons of DSP-Z9
1) Heafty price. The Yamaha DSP-Z9 is an AV amplifier in the traditional sense, but follows the lead set by the separates camp as well. For starters, it's not cheap. At US $4,500 retail, it was one of the most expensive AV amplifiers one could buy back in 2004. There was no Yamaha India back then, so their sole Indian importer after including the (international freight charge + customs duty + warranty + profit + VAT) with its retail price charged a whooping INR 4.75 lakhs for the titanium version. The golden/ black versions used to cost 10/ 20 grand less.
2) Weight is always a consideration with an amp at this level. DSP-Z9 weighs a hefty 30 kilos.
It’s pretty good. The best I have owned. Maybe the best thing out there before breaking the receiver functions into components.
Yes, it generates a good amount of heat, but that is to be expected for this amount of amplification. The design has fans in the top and great airflow right though the center of the unit. The heat you may be feeling is good because it is being removed from the unit. However, it is really important that you also remove the heat from the cabinet! My unit is at the top of my cabinet with about 4" of clearance and two silent 120mm fans blowing out the top. The shelf below it allows air to pass as well. There is a steady flow of warm air coming out the top. Not hot by any means.
There is some noise in the video that I have not been able to isolate, so I can’t be sure it is in the receiver. I only suspect it. It’s barely noticeable and only at about four feet from the screen.
The Faroudja processor doesn’t seem to work as well as some high end systems I have seen. With the same input source (Hughes HD TiVo), my system shows some artifacts on 480 images, whereas I regularly watch TV on a system with a dedicated Faroudja component that displays the image on a 12’ screen and it looks great.
My main deciding factor was the number of component video inputs coupled with digital audio. Also, I was attempting to simplify remote control operation to avoid buying a Crestron or something similar. It didn’t work and I ended up using the Harmony, which isn’t everything, but works pretty well, especially considering the ease of programming.
The audio amplification is pretty good and the auto-configuration tool that uses a microphone to set the levels of the speakers works pretty well. It is pretty well balanced without any manual fine tuning.
I have been purchasing and listening to high end audio equipment for over 25 years. One thing that immediately stands out about the Yamaha RX-Z9 is the heat it generates. After about 3 hours run time, even at low listening levels the top gets so hot it would burn your hand. This is not necessarily a bad thing, even though electronics enthusiasts will all tell you that heat is the biggest enemy of all electronics. I have my unit on top of my stereo cabinet with nothing around, or on top of it. This is the price one must pay for heavily biased class A amplification.....for all the channels too.
Other reviews have noted the massive power the Z9 seems to have, and it is true it does. Considering it has bench tested continuous RMS outputs of 145w into 7 channels should give you an idea of the capability of the pwr supply. I myself only do serious 2 channel listening so indeed it does seem that this pwr supply can provide bottomless non-clipped power for my uses.
The features are numerous and impressive but my review will focus mainly on 2 channel sound. I had the RX-V3000 and loved it, the Z9 had a tough act to follow. The first thing are the Burr-Brown PCM1792 DAC chips, currently the top of the line. On well mastered CDs the low level linearity is stunning. For high sound levels the combination of the DACs and high output pwr contribute to outstanding and flawless sound. These are the main 2 differences between the Z9 and the 3000.....DACs and pwr supply.
For times when I watch movies I have listened to the best that Pioneer and Denon and Sony have to offer. I am talking about their top line units. There is no comparison. Yamaha leads the industry is DSP surround sound processing and has for many years. The Z9 is also THX Ultra 2 certified, which is recognition by the Lucas company of the seriousness of the quality of the receiver. With the right speakers Capt. Picard really does fly through your living room.
This is not an inexpensive unit. I would suspect that most people would be quite happy with the RX-V2600. I have listened to that for a week in my living room and thought that was great too. However the Z9 starts to really overtake it once you start turning up the volume. It is like driving down a city street at 50mph, with either a regular car or a Ferrari. There is no difference....really....until THAT moment when you are either showing off or testing to see what the unit will do. The Z9 does an awful lot!
Just got Z9 less than a month. Did some extended comparison with my RX-V1400 on 'Direct Stereo' mode to Dynaudio Contour Special 25 speakers. Just want to test out the audio performance since that's my No.1 concern. By using 'Direct Stereo' mode I can eliminate all the other 'non-relevant' factors. Z9's mid-range perfomance is way better (of course this is expected given the price difference). The female vocal sound much more grain-free and clearer. 1400 has an slight nosal hint and less solid center imaging. The sound stage of Z9 is deeper (behind the speakers) while 1400 more pop-up to the front. Different peopler have different perferrence here.
Bass is, again of course, much much much firmer and tonally correct given the much powerful amp and power supply of Z9. Trebel difference is minimal, although Z9 sounds a little more 'free' feel.
Just tested Eagle's DTS DVD 'Hell Freezes Over' for Multi-channel performance and it works just fine. Couldn't tell too much of difference from 1400 though.