Onkyo has a reputation of delivering quality performance at competitive prices. The new 5.1 channel Onkyo TX-NR509 retails for less than $400 and is packed with features usually found in more expensive receivers. It is network-enabled, hence the ‘NR’ moniker, and is also designed to be iPod/iPhone friendly.
Design & Connectivity
The 2011 Onkyo receivers are redesigned and comes with a more industrial looking black fascia that may not go down well with previous Onkyo owners. The layout is simple and functional. There is a USB port on the front that allows you to connect your iPod or iPhone.
There are 4 HDMI 1.4a inputs, 2 component video inputs and 5 sets of composite video inputs for low resolution devices.
Onkyo offers optional iPod dock and HD radio receiver for the Universal port. Network capabilities are accessed through an Ethernet port on the rear. You can now enjoy Internet Radio and start streaming audio from your PC or USB memory.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Even though this may be an entry-level A/V receiver, Onkyo has decked it up with several technologies. Here are some of the notable ones:
- HDMI 1.4a Support for 3-D Video and Audio Return Channel – HDMI has fast become the cable of choice for connecting today’s A/V components. The four HDMI 1.4 inputs on the TX-NR509 let you simultaneously connect high-definition sources such as a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, and a cable/satellite tuner. 3D video is the next big thing in home entertainment. As the latest standard, HDMI 1.4 adds 3D support and an Audio Return Channel. Audio content received directly by your HDTV’s tuner can be sent “upstream” to your A/V receiver, without the need for a separate S/PDIF audio cable.
- 192 kHz/24-Bit Burr-Brown DACs – High-quality Burr-Brown DACs work to optimize analog audio performance. These DACs perform advanced 24-bit signal processing and support sampling rates of up to 192 kHz, all while displaying high resistance to clock jitter and offering a 113 dB dynamic range.
- Decodes High-Definition Surround-Sound Codecs – The TX-SR508 can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
- Audyssey Technology – The TX-SR508 comes with 3 Audyssey technologies that help create the most suitable listening environment for your home. Audyssey 2EQ Acoustic Room Correction tailors multi-channel audio for your home theater speaker set-up by measuring three room positions and applying a resolution filter to the satellite speakers to correct for room acoustics. Audyssey Dynamic Volume automatically compensates for annoying volume fluctuations in audio content – for example, during jarring commercial breaks – while optimizing the dynamic range of your sound. Finally, Audyssey Dynamic EQ maintains a consistent bass response, tonal balance, and surround-sound effect at different volume levels, so you can enjoy the natural dynamics of your content regardless of the volume.
- Play Different Audio Sources in Different Zones – You can use the Zone 2 line-out to send an unamplified audio signal to an amplifier (and speakers) in the second room.
- Universal Port for Connection of Dock for iPhone /iPod or HD Radio Tuner – A proprietary Universal Port located on the rear panel of the TX-SR508 lets you connect an optional Dock for iPhone/iPod or Radio Tuner. If you have both peripheral devices, they can easily be “daisy chained”. A key advantage of the Universal Port is that it accepts video and audio signals through the same cable that sends a power supply from the receiver to the devices. The net result is more connectivity with less cable clutter.
- New overlaid On-Screen Display – On-screen set-up menus appear overlaid on the video image you’re watching. This means you can adjust the settings immediately, without having to switch back and forth from a blank screen background.
- Internet Radio Connectivity – Receive streaming audio from Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster,Slacker, Mediafly, Sirius Internet Radio, and vTuner.
- Network Capability for streaming audio file formats that include FLAC, MP3, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WMA Lossless, AAC, and LPCM.
- Onkyo Remote App for iPod/iPhone – allows you to use your iPod/iPhone as a remote controller.
Setup & Performance
Setup is pretty straightforward. The OSD is well laid out and navigation in intuitive. However bear in mind that this receiver does not convert between different video input formats. To display the OSD on your TV you will need to connect using an HDMI cable. Most would already be doing that but this is something to take note of.
Using True Grit on blu-ray, we tested the performance of the Onkyo TX-NR509.
Video performance was outstanding, with special mention going to the impeccable image clarity throughout. Be it Bridge’s frizzled white beard, the lifelike textures of the granules of sand and dirt, or the meticulous detail of the brick surfaces, each detail was stunningly captured. Facial close ups revealed blemishes of the characters. Colors were top notch as well, with each and every color rich, vivid, such as the nice tanned leather jackets and saddles. Black levels were rich and added a significant level of depth, while shadow delineation was superb in dimly lit sequences. Skin tones were natural and the contrast was excellent.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack was a fitting counterpart to the commendable video performances. Atmospherics were fantastic, such as the crackling of the fire, the rustling of the leaves and the rolling waters. Gun fire scenes were enthralling, with penetrating gunshots breaking the silence. Whether it was within close distance or further away, each gun fire was distinct. Dialog was sharp and crisp, with Bridge’s garbling still very much comprehensible throughout.
Using Diana Krall’s Girl in the Other Room SACD, we tried out another aspect of the TX-NR509’s audio department. Together Krall’s deeply soulful voice, Wilson’s guitar, McBride’s deep and tight bass and the drums of Erskine blended in harmoniously with each other. Special mention had to go out to Krall for the warmness in her voice, which was flawlessly captured in the SACD, cumulating in an immensely relaxing experience. The collection of genres such as jazz, blues and pop were also crystal clear. The multi channel mix was exceptional, with Krall’s voice and the instruments well spaced throughout the channels.
As an entry level receiver the Onkyo TX-NR509 exceeded our expectations. Using trickle down technologies from its more expensive siblings resulted in impressive video and sound qualities. With network capability and an extensive feature set, the TX-NR509 is highly recommended at this price.