The modern receiver market is tough. With the rapidity of progress in the HDMI format and the recent, albeit lackluster, revival of 3D in the home, modern receiver manufacturers have been pumping out new models at a fierce rate to compete with each other and to keep up with the latest trends in the industry. Onkyo has just released their newest flagship receiver, the TX-NR5009, the subject of this review. Retailing for $2,899, this new model is designed to satisfy even the most advanced home theater nut and provide all the flexibility one would need for multi-zone use.
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The TX-NR5009 offers everything you could want in a receiver, from its nine channels of amplification, each rated at 145 watts into eight ohms, thanks to the massive toroidal transformer. Of course, this receiver does everything you'd expect a modern receiver to do in terms of scaling and transcoding video to 1080p and output it via HDMI for legacy sources. The TX-NR5009 lists 4K scaling from its Qdeo Marvell chipset in its features. As only a small handful of displays can accept this resolution, it may be a moot point at this time. Make no mistake: 4K video is coming and will be here soon. Still, for the immediate time being, the TX-NR5009's inclusion of said technology, albeit via upscaling, is a measure of future-proofing for those in the market for an AV receiver today. Video processing is handled by the TX-NR5009's HQV Vida chip. It will decode any of the new uncompressed codecs offered by Blu-ray, has both front and rear USB ports for memory devices, iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc., and will even display album art from your Apple device, though only the front USB is compatible with them. The unit is also THX Ultra 2-certified and has Audyssey DSX, DTS NeoX, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz for additional front channels.
The Onkyo TX-NR5009 offers all the connections anyone could want, including eight HDMI 1.4 inputs and two outputs. Three component video inputs and one output, connectors for the optional iPod docks, HD Radio, and an analog RGB D-sub 15 connector for connection to PC 9.2 preamp outputs allow users to grow the TX-NR5009 into a more powerful system by adding separate amplifiers. The dual independent subwoofer outputs are corrected independently with the Audyssey's MultiEQ XT32 system. Onkyo also includes Audyssey's Dynamic EQ and Dynamic volume.
The seven digital inputs, four optical and three coaxial, employ 192 kHz/32-bit digital to analog conversion and 32 Bit DSP processing. A Music Optimizer is included in the digital circuitry to enhance the sound of compressed audio files. Jitter cleaning circuitry also helps keep digital sounding its best. A total of 40 FM and AM presets can be programmed and the digital crossover can be set at a multitude of points, from 40 to 200 Hz, to suit your needs. A/V sync of up to 800 milliseconds is available if you need it. Each video input allows for independent ISF calibration and all onscreen displays are available over the HDMI main output.
The receiver is fairly large at 17-and-one-eighth inches wide, by nearly eight inches tall and 18-and-one-quarter inches deep, weighing just over 55 pounds, making it a pretty substantial unit. The front panel is pretty plain at first look, with a large volume knob on the upper right of the face directly to the right of the display. Two smaller buttons are on the left side. The larger one is the standby button and the smaller is the Pure Audio button and indicator. It is nice to have this button/indicator on the front, as the display is off when in Pure Audio, and this little light lets you know why quickly. The front panel can be easily dimmed to several levels from the remote as well. Between the buttons are both IR receivers, and emitters for bidirectional communication are between the receiver and the remote. Midway down the face is a long row of buttons with illuminated vertical bars above them for direct access to any of 12 inputs. The lower portion of the front fascia is a trapdoor hiding less commonly used controls, as well as the front USB, HDMI, composite video and optical digital and analog audio inputs.
The rear of the Onkyo TX-NR5009 is fortunately large, as it has a ton of connections on it. Across the top are seven HDMI inputs and two outputs, across the bottom are eleven sets of speaker binding posts. You could need this many, as the amplifier channels are pretty freely assignable and can be used differently for each source. Between these are five sets of stereo analog inputs with associated S-Video and composite video, one set of outputs and a moving magnet phono input. The 7.1 analog input, 9.2 preamp output and a pair of stereo analog outputs for zones 2 and 3 are all there, too. On the upper right of the rear are the antenna connections, as well as the two-prong IEC power cord input. Rounding out the connectivity are an RS-232 port, Zone 2 and 3's 12-volt triggers and a proprietary RI jack for connection to other Onkyo components. Finally, an Ethernet port allows hard-wired connection to the Internet for streaming of Internet radio and playback of music stored on a PC.
The remote is pretty simply laid out. It has a gloss black front and a ridge on the rear to keep it steady in your hands. The power buttons run across the top. The top also houses the Zone select button, which changes color to show which zone you are controlling. Below this are the activities keys for My Movie, My TV and My Music. Once programmed, these work very much like they do on the Harmony remotes. Moving further down, you find the input keys, TV controls, the directional pad and several keys around it, then the transport keys and, finally, the audio mode keys and numeric keyboard. All the keys of the remote light up when any are pressed and active keys, such as sources or activities, light up brighter to distinguish themselves as active. The remote seems to control everything available on the front of the unit. The keys are easy to read when lit up, even in the darkest of rooms, yet they don't glow so intently as to distract you during use.
Users can choose to use the nine channels of amplification any way their systems require. If you want to add front height or width (or both to a 5.1 system), this can be done. You can use two of the channels to bi-amp the front speakers, to run two different sets of front speakers, to power a second, or, for a 5.1 system, even a third zone. Onkyo uses their WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology) to allow ultra-wide 5Hz to 100kHz bandwidth and a linear gain volume circuitry to maximize amplifier performance. To further improve performance, they also have a Direct Mode and Pure Audio Mode. These modes work to minimize interference from digital circuits and the display circuitry to maximize analog performance.
The unit I received for review was a show or "demo" model. It was packed very differently than a typical new model. I have never had any complaint before with the way Onkyo packs receivers I've had before and have no reason to assume their packing would be something I'd fault. Included in the box were all the necessary accessories to get up and running, including the receiver itself, remote and batteries, AM and FM antennas, a power cord and the Audyssey microphone. Optional accessories available include the UWF-1 wireless USB network adaptor ($39.99) for those who cannot hardwire to their home network, the UP-HT1 HD radio tuner ($159), and three choices of remote iPod/iPhone docks, in case you aren't happy with the front USB connection or simply want something more wife-friendly. When I first unboxed the unit, I was surprised by the simple box-like nature of the receiver. The front is basically flat, with a large display. Once it was installed in my rack, though it had a clean look to it, I really liked it, and it grew on me even more over my time with this unit.
I replaced my trusty Marantz SR7005 with the Onkyo in my bedroom system, which consists of a 55-inch VT25 Panasonic plasma, Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray disc player, AppleTV and Scientific Atlanta HD8300 HD DVR. For speakers, I relied on my Kef 5005.2 speaker system. Thanks to HDMI, I only had a handful of connections to make, so I had the wiring done in less than fifteen minutes. I powered up the unit, ran the Audyssey setup, assigned my sources to their respective connections and set up the included programmable remote. Surprisingly, the remote was very easy to set up. The only slight issue I had was finding which set of Panasonic codes worked for my display. Once I had the right codes, I could immediately access the macros for My Music, My TV, and My Movies. Fine-tuning of these three macros is also allowed, resulting in an experience that was by far the best I have ever had with any included remote.
To torture test the Audyssey room correction, I pulled an additional subwoofer, my Canton Vento AS 850 SC, into the mix. I placed it in a ridiculous spot in the middle of the room, as this was only a test. I leveled the subwoofer manually to minimize the need for level adjustment by the Audyssey system and re-ran the calibration. Surprisingly, it did quite well with equalizing the additional subwoofer and made my room go even deeper than before. I was pleased to see just how well the new Audyssey system handled two totally different subwoofers in one system.
I began my evaluation of the TX-NR5009 with some 3D content, courtesy of Avatar (Twentieth Century Fox) on Blu-ray 3D. The Onkyo had no issues passing the 3D signal to my 3D-compatible display. Sonically, the TX-NR5009 offered up plenty of dynamics and depth to the bass that permeates this entire film. The space of the jungles of Pandora seemed huge and the subtlest details to the largest crashes were kept under control with ease, even at high listening levels.
Read more about the Onkyo TX-NR5009 receiver's performance on Page 2.