The Onkyo TX-NR515 is part of Onkyo’s new 2012 lineup of AV receivers. 2011 saw the redesign of many Onkyo receivers so it is a good strategy for Onkyo to retain the same design so those that haven’t thought about getting an Onkyo receiver back then can take another look because these new models have a nice bump in specifications while the 2011 Onkyo AV receivers are still around and priced much cheaper. However, the Onkyo TX-NR515 is a model that is worth paying attention to as it manages to secure its new position as being the most affordable 7.2-channel network AV receiver gracing the $600 zone.
Design and Connectivity
While the TX-NR515 isn’t really designed to replace the TX-NR509, the design is very much the same which is good because it has that sturdy black fascia design with all sorts of buttons and connection ports on the front. It certainly has that industrial look and it is quite easy to mistake the Onkyo TX-NR515 as a high-end model. While there are more advanced Onkyo models available, it is easy to just look at the TX-NR515 in order to conclude that there are so many features being offered.
There are several connection ports on the front including an HDMI port which happens to be MHL compatible, a video jack, USB port and another jack for the setup mic. The front panel is very much identical with other 2012 AV receivers. The main difference lies on the back panel where you can see that the number of ports is fewer than higher-end models like the Onkyo TX-NR616. One of the biggest improvements is the 7 HDMI ports and 2 HDMI outputs. All HDMI ports are 3D-ready so you should be able to maximize the features of your 3D display and 3D Blu-ray players. There is also an additional USB port.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The Qdeo video processing by Marvell is one of the biggest additions to the 2012 lineup and the Onkyo TX-NR515 is fortunately included. This futureproofs the AV receiver by adding 4K wide-screen display compatibility. Think of 4K displays as the next generation of high definition since the number of onscreen pixels are literally quadrupled compared to the standard 1080p. 4K isn’t widely supported yet and the technology is very expensive but the Onkyo TX-NR515 is ready to upscale any Blu-ray and DVD content once you get the chance to upgrade.
The TX-NR515 also makes it easy to select an input source thanks to the InstaPrevue visual port management technology. This technology works by providing a live thumbnail so you can easily switch to the right device connected via HDMI. This eliminates the need of remembering which device is connected to which port and you won’t have to name it either.
Smartphone connectivity is significantly enhanced making the TX-NR515 a more attractive upgrade for any AV receiver if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or smartphone running the Android operating system. All you need to do is download a special application so you can change the settings of your receiver as well as input sources. If you are using Android, it is also possible to play audio files wirelessly as long as both devices are connected to the same network. But if you do not have that connectivity, you can still hook up the smartphone to the front-panel HDMI port so you can play back any video while utilizing your screen’s 1080p capabilities. The TX-NR515 can even utilize 7.1-speaker configurations when any content is played through the smartphone.
The USB port also serves as a quick access point for playing music stored in iPods, iPhones and flash drives. Supported file types include MP3, WMA, FLAC and AAC. The Onkyo TX-NR515 has special integration with the Apple TV as well.
If you are tired of your AV receiver depending on other devices, you can use the MP3tunes Cloud Locker feature which is a free cloud service that lets you upload music files so you can stream them from your account as long as Internet access is available. Even if you do not use the service, you can access a number of other supported online music content services including Pandora, SIRIUS XM, Last.fm, Slacker, Spotify, AUPEO and Rhapsody. This AV receiver is DLNA compatible as well you should be able to stream from other DLNA servers found in your network. You have to connect an Ethernet cable to your router to get the Internet access. For wireless connectivity, you have to purchase the Onkyo UWF-1 wireless LAN adapter.
In order for the sound quality to really shine, it is important for the speakers to be properly calibrated. The Audyssey 2EQ, Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Dynamic Volume technologies work together by correcting the room acoustics, optimizing the bass and surround-sound levels and normalizes the audio levels that come from different sources and content.
Finally, hybrid standby is a rather interesting approach to save power because you can leave the AV receiver on standby state while still being able to use any devices connected to the receiver. You can then use the smartphone remote apps to quickly put the TX-NR515 out of standby.
Despicable Me is a suitable Blu-ray title for testing the Onkyo TX-NR515 performance. Compared to older AV receiver models, the pristine colors and other details show up very vibrant while the blacks are considerably deeper. It also did a good job rendering the 3D effects without much picture degradation and ghosting. Audio performance was also very lively especially when it is set up using a 7.2-channel configuration.
The Onkyo TX-NR515 can be positioned alongside the high-end Onkyo receivers but it has that nice midrange price making it very inviting for people that want an easier interface and plenty of HDMI ports to work with. The best thing about this receiver is that there are no huge weaknesses across the board. The audio and video performance is exceptional for what you pay for and the number of connectivity options should be more than enough to last several years before another upgrade is necessary.