The Onkyo TX-NR709 receiver is a great choice if you need to switch among various video sources with different formats. It accepts inputs in every flavor: composite video, S-video, analog PC monitor, component video, and HDMI. Then, it converts them all to an HDMI (or component video) output so you never have to switch the input on your TV. You can configure the output to match your TV's specifications such as 1080P. And when you switch inputs, the sound processing is adjusted based on the input -- you can configure that the audio from your cable box will be in Dolby by default, but internet radio will be all-speaker stereo for example.
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Size and Weight
The Onkyo is big and heavy - but not as big as some of the monsters that are out there. It is just over 17 inches wide, about 7 inches high, and 15 inches deep. Most cabinets will accept it since a standard rack mount is 19 inches wide. If the cabinet has shelves they'll likely need to be adjusted, or one shelf removed. Watch the depth though, add at least 2 inches (to 17 inches) to allow for wiring. It weighs just under 30 pounds.
I have mine in a closed media cabinet (air vents in the back) and haven't had any problem with heat buildup. Yes, it runs hot. But I think all receivers with this kind of power are hot. It's a byproduct of the technology. Bear in mind, though, that due to the huge number of connectors on the back panel Onkyo had to sacrifice a switched power outlet; you can't plug a fan into the back panel to have it switched on automatically with the receiver.
Finally a receiver that connects directly to the internet. I can ditch my Logitech box and instead listed to Pandora and Internet Radio directly from the receiver. Lots of other services, too, like vTuner, Napster, and last.fm. You need accounts for these, which you will establish from your PC. Then, you can either enter your account information into the Onkyo from the remote, or access the Onkyo from your PC over your home network and enter the account information from there.
Radio stations are organized according to normal categories such as genre and location. There's a category for Local stations that, based on your IP address, displays, well, local stations to listen to. Or you can enter the call letters of a station and the Onkyo will find the stream. You can supposedly add any station to your Favorites, or pull up a list of recently listened-to stations, but these features are not working for me.
The sound quality from the internet is great.
This is a 7.1 receiver, meaning you can connect 7 main speakers plus a subwoofer. Three speakers go in the front (left, right, center). The next two are surround speakers that, according to the little picture on the screen, go to the left and right of the listener but i position mine in the back corners of the room. If you have a sixth speaker it goes in the back center. Then with seventh, you position it in the back also so there are two behind you. You can also position speakers high in the front or in the front corners -- these count among the 7 total allowed, but I'm not really sure how they are supposed to be configured.
Anyway, to set up the sound from the speakers, just plug in the included microphone, position it at the listening position, and follow the on-screen prompts. The Onkyo emits test tones from all of the speakers, determines which ones you have, and establishes speaker volumes and delays to tune the sound to your room. It works very well. My only problem was that, with my 5 speaker setup, I initially plugged my surround speakers into the wrong jacks.
The audio quality is outstanding. I get as much volume as I want (110 watts/channel) in my large living room (18 foot ceiling). Tone controls are accessed from the remote through a menu, rather than being on the receiver with knobs. There are half a dozen different sound processing schemes including all-channel stereo, classical, unplugged, Dolby/TV logic, and THX for movies.
The best I can say is that the receiver doesn't seem to get in the way of video quality. Your source is faithfully transmitted to your TV. There are sometimes some short (2 to 3 second) delays, with a blacked-out screen, when changing HD channels; I don't know if this is due to the HDMI technology in the receiver or if it's from my cable box. Anyway, it's annoying.
There's a USB connector on the front panel where you can insert a flash drive and play any music that the receiver can find. You can also plug in your iPod and navigate it with the Onkyo remote.
There's a tremendous amount of flexibility in the setup. You can change the gain of each input, +/- 12dB, to get the volume the same on each (avoids having the cable box be really loud while the DVD volume is low, forcing you to change the volume when you change inputs).
The remote itself is very easy to use and clearly marked. Dedicated buttons for each of the inputs, and four buttons switch among the most commonly used audio processing schemes. I use a universal remote (Harmony) that puts an emitter over the receiver's sensor. But I can still use the Onkyo remote because the sensor is sensitive enough to work even though it's covered by the emitter.
The back panel is arranged logically, with the speaker terminals arrayed across the bottom. I can reach behind the unit and find all the connections; very helpful since I have to remove the door from my cabinet to pull the receiver out. There's also a phono input, for turntable with magnetic cartridge.
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