The difference between a 5.1 and a 7.1-channel speaker system is huge according to many audiophiles. The main goal for these speaker setups is to achieve full 360 sound quality. As many people move towards these setups, studios are releasing Blu-ray movies that take advantage of the additional speakers so there is finally a good reason to upgrade your home theater receiver to a modern model that provides enough watts to power 7.1 channels. Onkyo along with many other manufacturers provide plenty of options for these configurations. Just prepare at least $550 so you can go with something inexpensive like the TX-NR515. Of course going for a model like the TX-NR1010 which costs thrice as much gives you more features like better video enhancements. But if you want to go for a long term investment and not buy any AV receiver in the next 3 years or so, Onkyo provides a couple of high-end options with the Onkyo TX-NR3010 being the most affordable 9.2-channel AV receiver. With a $2,299 price tag, the TX-NR3010 is not affordable for most people by any stretch. But you can save about $700 by avoiding the flagship Onkyo TX-NR5010 model if you are just after the 9.2-channel specification and other key features that will be discussed in this review.
The Onkyo TX-NR3010 looks exactly like the Onkyo TX-NR1010 from the front so make sure you confirm that the model you are looking at is really the TX-NR3010 because you will miss out on the 9.2-channel support if you get the TX-NR1010 or TX-NR808. It also comes in black and silver models so it is ideal to get the one that matches the other parts of your home theater system.
Although this an AV receiver for serious enthusiasts, the Onkyo TX-NR3010 has a very sleek and minimalistic presentation. Many high-end AV receivers must have plenty of buttons on the front panel since there are multi-zone options and extra display options but Onkyo decided to put the input sources upfront just below the wide display. Each button is distinctly labeled making it very easy to switch to the input source you like providing that you matched the component with the right labeled HDMI input. You only need to open the bottom panel if you want to control the rest of the AV receiver or plug in a portable device to the HDMI, USB, phones or AUX inputs.
The rest of the inputs including the 8 other HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs can be found on the back of the TX-NR3010. While the second HDMI output can be used for a projector, you can optionally plug in another TV located in another room to that HDMI port if the cable is long enough so the AV receiver can also output video there. This feature works in conjunction with the zone 2 audio ports for multi-room setup. Compared to the TX-NR1010, the TX-NR3010 features more pre out ports with the front high, front wide and surround back each having separate pairs.
While the overall appearance of the Onkyo TX-NR3010 is similar to other Onkyo 2012 models, the interior is different and plays an important role in bringing out the best audio quality. The amplifier circuits and processing equipment are each contained in separate housings so the electrical interference is significantly reduced. The PLL or Phase Locked Loop is another component of Onkyo’s innovative design to eliminate digital clock noise. Finally, the Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT) that some of the cheaper models have is further enhanced by the Three-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry to bring down the distortion levels. These design choices allow the AV receiver to run pretty quietly so the sound is as pure as it should be even if the TX-NR3010 processes a lot of loads.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The Onkyo TX-NR3010 has all of the advanced audio features and technologies that you would expect from a typical 7.1-channel AV receiver. But the real extra benefit of going for the TX-NR3010 rather than other 7.2-channel AV receivers is the sound expansion options that really contribute to the ambient effects and sound envelope. With Audyssey DSX, you can expand your existing 5.1-channel source by adding the Height and Wide channels. If you only need the Height channels and want to expand your stereo source, the Dolby Pro Logic IIz is also available. The DTS Neo:X is a more exclusive sound expansion option that does not exist in any of the Onkyo models that cost less than $1,000. This option expands the Height and Wide channels to music and game listening modes in addition to cinema. While the TX-NR1010 has this sound expansion system as well, the Onkyo TX-NR3010 has the necessary pre outs to support 11.4 channels. Powered Zone 2/3 line outs are also available if you prefer expanding different audio sources to one or two other rooms. The Audyssey MultEQ XT32 handles the calibration so you should have a fully optimized setup once you use the feature right after positioning the speakers.
With 8 HDMI inputs on the back, you should be able to hook up multiple game consoles along with a Blu-ray player and a few other home theater components. Once you made the necessary connections, you should still have a vacant HDMI port on the front. It is best to keep this vacant so you can easily plug in an Android smartphone or tablet with an HDMI port directly to the AV receiver instead of the HDTV. By making this type of connection, any videos played on the mobile device will be outputted to 1080p while the sound quality is enhanced to 7.1-channel quality. Apple devices and USB flash drives can make use of the USB port where the TX-NR3010 can also improve the sound quality.
An Ethernet port is present on the Onkyo TX-NR3010 so you can access Internet services like Pandora and Spotify as well as stream from other devices including smartphones and Windows 7 computers. By equipping your iOS or Android device with the free Onkyo remote app, you can also control and configure the TX-NR3010 wirelessly.
The THX Ultra2 certification best sums up the Onkyo TX-NR3010 because it takes a lot of advanced technologies in order for THX to even consider such a high-standard certification. In addition to the premium audio improvements, you also get to enjoy the powerful Dual Core Video Engine for amazing visuals that look great on 1080p and even 4K displays. The price of the TX-NR3010 may be too difficult to swallow for a lot of people, but it is the necessary premium to pay if you really want to go beyond 7.1 channels.