Blu-ray Players

Yamaha A-1020 Universal Blu-ray Player


The Yamaha A-1020 Universal Blu-ray Player In Use

The first thing that stands out with the BD-A1020 is its speed, or rather the lack of speed. From powering it on, to loading a disc and responding to remote inputs, the BD-A1020 feels slow the whole time. At a time when most players are moving to much faster processors to handle more online content and complex BD-J titles, the Yamaha feels a bit like its running on a chip from a year or two ago. This carries over to Netflix as well, which also takes a long time to load.

On playback of Blu-ray titles, the overall image looked quite good. There were no serious flaws that were immediately apparent, although a couple issues do arise in our bench tests later on. Menu navigation is a bit slow but does work fine, and overall the Blu-ray performance is good. While I'm sure many others would continue to discuss the Blu-ray playback in depth, it's really something that is either right or wrong, and on the Yamaha it is almost entirely correct, with those exceptions discussed in the bench test section.

DVD playback is a bit more subjective compared to Blu-ray material. Resolution is good with wedges and other test pattern material, but on real content the image seems a bit soft and lacking in noise reduction. With the best Blu-ray players, up converted DVD content will still never be mistaken for native 1080p, but it can look much better than the original 480i source. On the Yamaha it just looks like a DVD, with that inherent softness in comparison to high definition material.

One of the key reasons that you would get the Yamaha is for its universal playback and the higher quality DAC inside of the machine. Listening to CDs and SACDs, the Yamaha sounds quite good. There was a nice depth to the soundstage, and the top end isn't harsh and edgy as cheaper players often are. One curious issue is that the BD-A1020 has a habit of automatically turning itself off if it is not connected to an HDMI device. With a CD or DVD-A disc in the player and only using the analog outputs, but with nothing connected to HDMI, it would often turn on only to turn itself right back off. When I powered it up again it would remain on, but it was another annoyance that you wouldn't expect in a player designed around analog outputs.

Netflix provides the regular and kid interface that now seems to be standard for everyone. There is no OSD to indicate what bit rate or quality level you are getting, or what type of audio track is present. Watching an episode of Arrested Development, there seems to be more macro blocking from a result of compression than there is on other recently players that have been tested. This might be due to a video processor that won't process streaming video, but only works on disc playback. It could also be streaming at a lower resolution, but there is no way to tell on the Yamaha aside from what I can see.

In day-to-day use the Yamaha is marred by the slow performance of the player, and the lack of responsiveness. Most players have added faster and faster processors to keep up with more online content and demanding titles, but the Yamaha feels like it has a chipset that is at least a couple of years old in comparison. While the Blu-ray image looks generally fine on screen, streaming performance is poor, and DVD performance is merely adequate. Audio performance is good, but held back by issues I run into when using the player in an audio-only setup, and the remote is incredibly challenging to use at night. In use the Yamaha BD-A1020 was certainly not a player I looked forward to using.