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Letting Technology Create your AV Environment
Aug 31, 2011 (Updated Aug 31, 2011)
Review by daleb
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Recommend this product?
The Onkyo TX-NR809 is a handsome receiver, and one of several models available. It is at the high end of the middle line of Onkyo AVRs.
It is designed to put out 135 watts of audio power into 2 channels or just over a 100 watts into 7 channels driven simultaneously.
This is into 8 ohms, or 6 ohms minimum. There is a switch to change it for speakers with less than 6 ohms impedance to protect the receiver.
There were some complaints of earlier Onkyo AVRs running too hot. After two days of some intensive adjustments and listening, I can say it never got warm enough to be uncomfortable to touch at anytime.
Setting it up can be a bit of a challenge. I highly recommend following the Quick Setup instructions, while is very tempting to grab the owner's manual and just stream down each page. Using the QS initially will tend to burn off some enthusiasm (or apprehension) while enabling you to ensure everything is properly connected and your receiver is working correctly. The QS provides all you need to get it up and running including the wonderful Audyssey system for calibrating the receiver to the rest of your equipment as well as your room's acoustical signature.
Once it is determined that everything is basically working as it should, one can sit back and go through the manual and set up personalized adjustments as well as learn about all the buttons and controls available including the fairly sophisticated learning remote.
I have front speakers that are capable of being bi-amped. This means the higher frequency driver of the speaker (tweeter) and the lower end (woofer) can be driven by separate amplifiers. The advantage is that each amplifier will not have to work as hard to drive the speaker since the workload is now split. In theory this should provide even better sound. It is most advantageous when listening to primo two channel audio tracks such as LPs or upgraded CDs. To do this, means compromising 2 channels of the receiver. 2 Back Surround channels are used for the additional amps.
Additional speakers such as back surround or front High or Wide speakers can be added. Not many homes will have as many as 7 or 9 speakers but larger rooms can accommodate such a setup and in a large listening environment can add more dimension especially to movies. Again, doing so will negate the ability to bi-amp the 2 main front speakers.
There is also multi-room capabliity. Speakers can be set up in a maximum of two other rooms, or 'zones', all controlled by this one receiver.
Features and Use:
Most modern AV systems today can process high definition Video & Audio over one HDMI cable. This receiver has 8 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs.
DVD/Blue-Ray players, 5.1 digital audio and a HiDef picture from your local stations, or other channels via cable or satellite. Cable/Sat will have set top boxes with HDMI outputs to feed your LCD or Plasma display. The receiver will do all the swtiching necessary between sources (players, cable TV, etc.) and your HDTV display.
An optional iPod adpater will allow you plug your iPod player directly in to the receiver and view all the information on the receiver display or your TV. There is also an optional wireless ethernet adapter for connecting the receiver to the internet, as well as an HD tuner for radio. You can also plug in a USB stick with recorded audio.
The built-in 'internet tuner' allows you to literally 'tune' to internet radio stations such as Pandora, Napster, Slacker, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. plus XM/Sirius satellite radio. Most of these require a monthly subscription, but many offer a trial period.
One thing to consider is a small monitor or one of those cheap portable TVs you find in Target, etc. I use one to see the video output of the receiver when the Net Tuner is being used, it makes it much easier to see than looking at the small display on the receiver or having to turn on your TV display when you just want to listen to music.
The remote works well, and has good programming options. The response of the receiver to either the remote or manual buttons on the receiver is a bit on the slow side. It is mildly annoying but keeping in mind many modern receivers have a small computer inside explains a lot of it.
I have found the audio quality of the reciever in all modes to be very good, this includes the internet tuner as well as the USB input. This receiver handles all that it is given with the best it can do. Even though it can not spin gold out of straw, it can upconvert less than HD quality video to a higher definition.
If you have a well adjusted or calibrated display, and a fully optimized Blue Ray player that looks stellar on your display, you can set the video processing for THAT input to Auto and Direct which will preserve that wonderful signal and pass it on to your display.
On the other hand, you can take lesser quality video and have the Onkyo process it, either with standard set options like ISF (Imaging Science Foundation ) day or night, or make your own manual adjustments to tailor the individual video signal with a multitude of options.
This may take a little more knowledge on how to best 'calibrate' a video signal, and as I advised early on, I strongly advise doing the quick setup first, before delving into these more detailed adjustments available in the Owner's Manual.
Audyssey deserves it's own 'section'. Basically this is a calibration process that uses a small microphone that is positioned at various listening points in your room, and measures acoustically the distance from each listening point to each speaker. Based on that, calculates the proper amount of power needed to achieve an acceptable level of loudness.
From there it goes on to 'look at' (sonically) the room's acoustic response which is affected by furnishings, windows, carpeting, etc. and 'tunes' the receiver further based on those results.
I highly recommend using Audyssey to give you the best in audio performance. But along with that I would strongly suggest for those not in the know, read up on 'room acoustics' and how you can tailor the best sound yourself. Anything Audyssey does will be an improvement over doing nothing, but still some compromise. It is really designed to 'trim' or 'match' your room not make it over.
The best audio quality in an AV system means attaching quality loudspeakers including the subwoofer, that are properly spaced, and paying attention to room details like highly reflective surfaces that over-brighten or conditions that can dull music or movie soundtracks.
Those who do will benefit the most from this receiver and others like it in it's class.
I found the AQ to be very good. When watching TV that means greater intelligibility when characters are talking, especially against other sounds in the program.
Music sounds great. Very detailed without being strident or brassy. Bass is full and musical. Movie 'explosions' come with the fast attack, and the startle factor that's expected. The audio is deep, clear, with a broad soundstage.
Your room and speakers are still key factors in the success of this receiver to deliver all that's promised.
Video is like the source or better, and no artifacts or other problems get in the way of giving you an image you can fully appreciate.
I've listened to many receivers over the years, and this one would certianly reigns as one of the better and is definitely competitive in it's price range.
Like many things where we rely on our senses, our perceptions are not all the same. I strongly recommend folks check out the competition as well as receivers costing less and even more, so you can appreciate the differences.
Over the years, home electronics have improved significanlty. The purists are likely finding even less to complain about, but ironically are just as critical as ever.
It is more important to please your own senses as well as your budget as well as consideration for the rest of your system. Just keep in mind, electronics alone will be a small factor against quality loudspeakers and the 'condition' of the room you put them in.
You might also look at the meaning and consequences of the terms I highlighted in my review.
A good sounding receiver that offers little in the way of options, ease of use, or control is can be just as bad a choice as one that you feel does not meet your standard in sound quality.
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Amount Paid (US$): 711
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