Ken Taraszka M.D. is an anesthesiologist by trade based in Tampa Bay, Florida. Ken is also a professional audiophile and home theater writer specializing in AV preamps and all facets of the audiophile market. In the past, Ken has been a staff writer and editor at AVRev.com. He has also at times been a frequent contributor at AudiophileReview.com.
The latest features added into the home theater receiver market are enhanced surround fields with even more speakers, namely Dolby Pro Logic IIz, which adds front height channels and Audyssey DSX to create a more enveloping surround experience for the user through the use of added speakers above the left and right mains. The new line of "double zero" receivers from Onkyo come equipped with these new surround enhancements, as well as all the features needed for the most demanding theater junkie. The subject of this review is the new Onkyo TX-NR5007, which carries a retail price of $2,699 and serves as the manufacturer's new flagship receiver.
This new Onkyo receiver sports all the connectivity any one could need, starting with eight (seven rear, one front) to two HDMI 1.3a switching, with dual simultaneous output over both HDMI outputs. Only one resolution can be sent to both of these and the user can select to prioritize either one to maximize the main display, or both can be set to output the max resolution. Older video connections, of which the TX-NR5007 has many, are transcoded to HDMI and scaled up to 1080p by the HQV Reon-VX chipset. The TX-NR5007 has nine stereo analog inputs, one front, with one for a moving magnet phono, two tape loops and a 7.1-channel analog input, as well as 9.2-channel preamplifier, output complete the analog section, while digital is handled by the eight HDMI ports and three coaxial and four optical ins (one front). Two USB ports, one front and one rear, allow for playing music files off mass storage devices, and an Ethernet port makes it possible for networked PCs to be used as music servers or for streaming Internet radio. A SIRIUS satellite radio jack and Onkyo universal port for iPods complete the inputs.
A total of eleven pairs of binding posts are included for speaker connections to the nine 145 watts-per-channel amplifiers. The amplifier channels are very flexible and can be assigned any number of ways. 5.1 and 7.1 systems can use the free channels to power second or even third zones with stereo output. The free channels can also be assigned to bi-amplify or even bridge the amplifiers, giving more power to the fronts for enhanced two-channel performance. Control is covered by an RS-232 connector, as well as IR in and out, 12-volt triggers and a proprietary Onkyo RI interface.
All the modern goodies are here, including Audyssey Multi EQ XT room correction and HQV Reon-VX video scaling. For enhanced audio performance, direct modes and pure direct modes allow you to turn off unused circuits in the receiver to maximize analog performance. Each input even has its own independent ISF calibration internally, so you can have your video calibrator truly optimize each and every source in your system. The user can also assign any of the available audio formats to each input, so you can have your CD player run in pure direct mode, thus shutting off all digital and video circuits from the receiver during its use, or set the surround formats for your PS3 to be game modes, of which there are several. You can even select the use of Dolby Pro Logic IIz or Audyssey DSX for any input, and you also have the ability to select each of these for each signal fed to the receiver, so mono TV signals could do one sound field, while Dolby Digital feeds can play another.
I unpacked the Onkyo and found all the usual accoutrements inside, including the manual in both French and English, the Audyssey calibration microphone, power cord, both FM and AM antennae, and the new Onkyo remote with batteries. I was quite pleased with the new remote, as it has a sleek gloss face and fits your hand well. Backlighting is well done and the range and off-angle performance were much better than I recall the remote for the prior Onkyo to possess. The new remote is programmable, so it can control the rest of your components, too.
I quickly swapped out the Onkyo in my bedroom system, which consists of the Kef KHT 5005.2 speaker system, Denon DVD 2500 BTCI and Oppo BD-83 SE Blu-ray players, Scientific Atlanta 8300 HD DVR and a Marantz TT-15SI turntable. After living with the receiver for some time, I also received the new MartinLogan Motion series speakers and set up a full 9.2 system, using the Motion speakers for everything but the front width channels, which consisted of a pair of my KEFs.
When I completed all the initial wiring, I powered up the system and dove into the set-up menus. Assigning and renaming the various inputs was logical and straightforward, but when I tried to use the system to watch TV, I had video passed to my display, but no audio. I rechecked all the wiring and set-up, to no avail. I tried my other sources and still had no audio. After about an hour, I got frustrated and gave up. The next day I did the obvious next step and read the manual, which says you need to set up the speakers or do Audyssey to produce sound. Once I ran the Audyssey, I had sound, but the Onkyo's implementation of Audyssey is unusual, as nearly every other receiver I have used the Audyssey in the set-up menu. The new Onkyos do it automatically when you plug in the microphone. One other note here: most Audyssey systems give you a few seconds to move out of the room prior to running test tones. With the Onkyo, once you start the system, the tones begin. When I completed half a dozen measurements, I had the receiver calculate the correction curves and unplugged the Audyssey microphone. Oops. Since the Audyssey system is automated, unplugging the microphone resets the system, so I had to power off the receiver and start over again. Onkyo released new firmware that corrects the lack-of-sound issue, but the calibration test tones still start immediately. (Onkyo reports that this issue is solved by a firmware update for both new and existing units).
Read about the performance of the TX-NR5007 AV receiver on Page 2.
I tested the video scaling with my cable TV feed. The internal scaling of the Onkyo was quite good, far better than my Panasonic plasma's processor. While watching TV, I did find one thing a bit annoying. When the Onkyo locks onto a digital signal, it makes a fairly loud and clearly audible click. This noise occurred a bit too frequently for my liking during television viewing. I understand it happening sometimes, and really I might be too picky here, but it occurred even when the show switched to a commercial, or when you used the DVR to fast-forward or pause a show for more than a few seconds. While it didn't detract from my viewing, it was just a tad bothersome to have this clicking noise. Switching between channels was quicker than with older models, but video lagged for about two seconds when switching between channels with different HD resolutions.
For some two-channel music, I spun up Robin Trower's Bridge of Sighs (Capitol) on my Marantz turntable through a Dynavector P75 MkII phono stage, as it uses a low output moving coil cartridge and the Onkyo only accepts the much higher output of a moving magnet cartridge. From the start of "Day of the Eagle," I was hooked. The guitar licks were lively and dynamic, with solid bass depth and smooth vocals. The eerie stereo effect of "Bridge of Sighs" was wonderful and filled the room. I sat back and listened to the entire album, both sides, and enjoyed it immensely. The Onkyo can really output some sound, even with the front singly amplified. I am sure that I could have pushed a bit more out of the system had I bridged the front amplifiers, providing more power.
Using my Oppo player and the 9.2 speaker set-up. I cued up Jennifer's Body (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). The movie is weak at best, but the Onkyo did a great job with the surround effects. Bass was full and solid, with voices that were clearly portrayed. During the attack scenes, dynamics were powerful and energetic. Switching the DTS HD Master Audio track to add height to the front channels created a more spacious soundstage most of the time. I did find the Audyssey DSX added a more natural feel to the enhancements and generally preferred it on movies and for TV viewing to the Dolby Pro Logic IIz. Unlike previous Onkyo receivers, the TX-NR5007 ran much cooler than its predecessors. After the movie, the case was warm, but not hot.
Competition and Comparison
If you are interested in comparing Onkyo's TX-NR5007 against its competition, you should read our reviews for the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 AV receiver and the NAD T785 AV receiver. You can also find more information by visiting our AV Receiver section or our Onkyo brand page.
The initial version of firmware my receiver came with wouldn't allow the unit to produce any audio until the speakers were set up, either manually or with Audyssey, and this led even an experienced reviewer to get frustrated and step away from the project. A new version of firmware solved this issue, but the fact that I walked away from it the first day makes me wonder how many people will have this difficulty, and how many have already returned the unit as defective because of this. I hope Onkyo makes sure all the currently shipping units have the new firmware to prevent this.
The way Onkyo implemented the Audyssey room correction was also unusual. I searched for the set-up in the menus to no avail and had to resort to the manual to figure out how to perform the calibration. When I did initially complete my sampling, unplugging the microphone reset the entire thing and I had to start from scratch. This was annoying and a bit time-consuming, but as most people only use the auto set-up once, it is a minor gripe in the ownership of the piece.
When locking onto a digital signal, the receiver makes a fairly loud clicking noise, which can occur even when television shows transition into commercials. While it locks onto digital signals quickly, the ever-present clicking can be annoying. The only other thing to pick on with this unit is its lack of support for XM Radio and Mac users, as the receiver will only network with PCs.
The new Onkyo TX-NR5007 is a wonderful-sounding receiver with more features and connectivity than anyone could ever need. The nine channels of amplification are customizable to power a full 9.2 system in one room, or a 5.1 system for the main theater and two other zones. The extra channels can even be used to bi-amplify or bridge the front speakers for better two-channel performance or add additional front height and width channels for an enhanced surround field.
You won't have to worry about the Onkyo being outdated any time soon with its eight HDMI inputs and the ability to decode all the new lossless codecs of Blu-ray and implement the latest in surround sound enhancements with Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX, as well as their Multi EQ XT room correction system. I really fault this receiver in the set-up department, but once that is over, it performs extremely well. It has its issues when it comes to locking onto a digital signal, which produces an audible popping noise, but housing the TX-NR5007 in a cabinet or away from the primary viewing space will combat the issue.
Sonically, the Onkyo TX-NR5007 is exceptional, with plenty of power and a seamless sound from the treble down to the bass that is detailed, natural and controlled. I would put this unit up against any other manufacturer's top of the line receiver and expect it to be on par if not better in many regards.
Onkyo did raise the price for their top of the line offering by $400 with this new TX NR5007 unit, but they added plenty of features and surround enhancements, as well as two more channels of amplification. Though a bit more expensive, I still think this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck receivers in the high-end receiver market today.