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A Great Home Theater Receiver for Anyone
Dec 19, 2012 (Updated Dec 19, 2012)
Review by wolfcabrio
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Effective, user friendly, affordable, future-proof.
Cons:Lack of light up buttons on receiver and remote.
The Bottom Line: Stop researching and pick up one of these while you still can!
Recommend this product?
This review is for the Onkyo TX-NR609 home theater receiver. I don’t intend to evaluate each and every one of the features of this receiver since there are many features and there are many websites that discuss every one of them. I will review this unit from a consumer’s stand point. I upgraded to this receiver from using a very old Yamaha 5.1 receiver with approximately 80 watts per channel. This unit was from 2004 so as you can guess, this was a pretty big jump in features and capabilities for me. Even the most high end receivers from Denon, Harman Kardon, Pioneer Elite, and Marantz from 2004 are highly outdated by now. My old unit didn’t include USB, THX, or streaming technologies. While looking for a new receiver, I wanted to get a mid level unit that had the same features of the high end units costing $1,000 or more. I wanted to stay in the $400-600 range which if you get creative and resourceful, it can happen. This was the unit I stumbled on. My dad had some very high end stereo equipment from the 70’s and later bought an Onkyo mid level receiver while we were all kids. We used it for 20 years and had no issues with it so I decided to be a brand loyalist and take Onkyo seriously. I cross shopped a Pioneer Elite and Denon unit of similar price and specs. Onkyo is known for having the best bang to buck ratio. With Denon you don’t get quite the same amount of features at that particular price point. With Pioneer you get similar features but a lot of fluff you won’t usually use. Even higher end brands like Rotel and Marantz you have to spend about double the price or more to get what this particular Onkyo unit will have. Harman Kardon was by far the worst dollar to feature ratio. I still don’t understand why a receiver can have so few features and cost so much. The quality and fidelity of those brands might be better, but for the average joe who wants a good home theater experience, Onkyo is a great way to get just that, not to mention a slick neighbor-impressing centerpiece.
The NR-609 is the “tipping point” receiver that has every feature that a normal audiophile would want. I looked at the 509 and the 709 as well but found the 509 to be lacking in areas that the extra $80 was worth spending to get the 609 but the 709’s improvements over the 609 were minor and not worth the extra $70-125. Most of the increases with the 709 had to do with streaming music and other low priority features for me. I have been using the receiver for about 6 months now and have yet to hook up an Ethernet cable to be able to stream music or a wireless receiver to stream with. Why would you need this feature anyway if you have an iphone or itouch that you are going to connect to it anyway? Streaming any music service through the device that’s connected to the unit works perfectly. The “must have” features that I wanted to have in this receiver where: USB connection, HDMI, full dolby digital sound stages, 7 channels, nice remote, cool (non-overheating) operation, etc. I know, this is a pretty simple must-have list.
One of the great features is that this unit has a second sub output. It can power two subwoofers of virtually any size and it won’t draw power from the rest of the speakers. I have a 10” Polk sub connected and compared to the Yamaha, this sub sounds like a totally different sub. It’s deep, rich, and dynamic hitting every low note thrown at it. I could hook up another sub and locate it in a different part of the room for a more “in stereo” low end delivery. The 609 is a large all black unit that takes up more space than the traditional measurements of a receiver. It looks right at home next to large high end NAD or Rotel preamps or other high end components. It looks at you and screams “I’m a $3,000 receiver!” when in reality it cost a fraction of that. I had heard that Onkyos have issues overheating especially in small spaces. I have mine in a special small closet in the living room so it’s totally hidden and I was worried that it would overheat. I did however come with up a great ideal to counter this by using a cheap $10 USB laptop platform that has a fan inside so laptops stay cool while sitting for long periods. I positioned the fan on top of the receiver right underneath PS3 and plugged the fan into the USB port. This way, the fan comes on and cools the PS3 and the receiver. They both stay cool to the touch.
The rear of the unit has the look and feel of a much higher end unit. It has wire nuts to connect speaker cables instead of the pinch holes of lower end units. This is a nice touch and makes sure that wires will not come loose and that larger gauge wires can be used such as monster cables. Not that the average consumer needs to have many HDMI outputs, but this unit has 5 total. You can connect multiple game consoles, dvd/blu ray players, cd players, and many other devices. I wish it did have a second usb output on the rear or maybe one more on the front. That way you can connect your ipod for music while charging a PS3 remote. I have a WII next to the receiver so I can always tap into it for charging purposes but if you have just the standalone receiver that be a challenge. The front face is one of the most handsome receivers I’ve looked at. It looks drastically different than previous Onkyo models and takes on a more serious audiophile appearance. Buttons are at a minimum. There are no secret fold down doors that can break or become damaged. You can essentially do most functions of the receiver without the remote which is a great feature. If you temporarily lose your remote you can still activate most functions. The front face is a nice slightly brushed finish that repels finger prints and scratches as well. My biggest complaint is that there isn’t enough light on the front of the unit. I wish the buttons were backlit or had the words that lit up. My basement is dark and if I want to make a quick change in output, the tv and other lights don’t hit the receiver so I can’t see. I have to caulk my head to one side to get an ambient light reflection or turn the light on. There are many buttons on the front which make it easy to access. You don’t have to go through 2-3 layers of menus to make a quick change or test. On the front face, you can essentially select any output with the push of a button. There are even available ports that you can plug something special into that may not be a common component for most people, or a duplicate item- second cd player, etc. The remote would be better if it were backlit too. Maybe over time I’ll be able to remember which button is which just by touch, but for now I’m having to use a light to operate the remote. The volume knob is a nice heavy weighty feel that is confident. It’s not as weighty as my 1970’s Sansui 9090 receiver that will keep turning if you spin it from one end of the display to the next, but it’s good considering modern electronics.
This receiver has a GUI (graphic user interface) which many of them do these days. I can’t say much as a comparison to other brands because this is the only receiver I’ve used this feature with. Every manufacturer does have their own interface and some are better than others. I think this one is stellar. Working with it is a cinch. I’ve been a little intimidated by the idea of having to use your tv as your receiver display to be able to configure your settings and sound dimensions for optimal use. I’m used to just doing it all by ear. With this program, you can program what sound and power levels you want to which speakers. You can see the settings and adjust accordingly. It’s more accurate than using a knob and just going by “here is a 3, now this is a 4.” You can also set up many other personal preferences with other sound stages. It’s a great feature, especially when you first need to configure your receiver for the first time. One nice feature of the GUI is that you can assign ports and outputs however you want. If you have a complicated system, there’s nothing this receiver can’t handle.
Currently, I have 6 speakers hooked up. 10” Polk powered woofer, 2 rear JBL in-ceiling speakers, 1 Infinity center channel, and two top of the line vintage Sansui speakers. It’s a mutt of a system but I’ve dialed it in to sound pretty amazing. By experimenting with multiple manufacturers you can get a different sound than an out-of-the-box homogenous system. The Sansui speakers are unlike any set of speakers you can buy today for under $1,500. Even in a digital age, they keep up well and deliver rich dynamic sound in all formats. The previous owner must have put them in a sealed, climate controlled time capsule. This receiver does well at delivering high quality signals even to old speakers. At near full volume, this receiver delivers. It doesn’t overheat, have any feedback problems, or lull in power at high volume/high demand music types. It is a THX certified unit which in the audiophile world is pretty nice. Not many receiver have this designation on their faceplate. do I have THX certified speakers and a real nice home theater? No, and unless you do, this feature won't mean very much. It is a nice way to ensure that your receiver is somewhat future-proofed though. This can easily be a 10 year receiver because of the amount of current and relevant features it includes. This Onkyo 609 has all the major and relevant sound stages that one could ask for depending on what they’re watching or listening. It even has a great game mode which enhances video game sound formats and sounds eerie on some games. Footsteps behind you on a video game will make you flinch- it sounds like someone is actually walking up behind you. Helicopters? Once they arrive on the right of your screen and leave on the left- that’s exactly how they’ll sound. You’ll be able to tell they’re doing just that without even looking at your screen.
Overall, after about a year of shopping and research, I made the right choice with this receiver. You won’t get a better bang for your buck than with this or the models above and below it. Other brands that are 3rdtier brands like Sony, Pioneer, or Samsung may offer slightly better value, but they will struggle to keep up with a good, solid, 2ndtier brand like Onkyo.
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