Networking, 3D, video streaming and Apple connectivity are the new buzzwords in the consumer electronics industry. What was once the domain of more expensive receivers is now available in mid-priced products. The 2011 Onkyo TX-NR609 is a case in point.
For a shade below $600 you now have a receiver packed with these latest technologies and output enough power to deliver a solid home cinema experience in 3 dimension.
Design & Connectivity
For this year’s “TX-series” Onkyo has changed the front panel aesthetics. It is now more squarish and look industrial. The front panel is made from solid aluminum. Weighing almost 25 lbs, it is a hefty unit. Although solidly built, we can’t say that we are blown away by the new look. We actually prefer the subtly slanted fascia of the older models.
The layout is simple and functional with many options to connect your devices on the front panel. There is a HDMI input for your HD camcorder and a USB port for your iPod/iPhone/iPad. The USB port will also support audio stored on USB drives. An internal fan is visible just under the top panel for additional cooling.
Connectivity options on the back panel is more than adequate for the average home theater setup. Most notably you get 5 HDMI inputs, 2 component video, 4 composite video inputs, and one output for each. The HDMI ports are version 1.4a and support 3D video, HDMI Thru (in standby), and an Audio Return Channel. Zone 2 audio is supported by pre-outs or powered through the surround back channels. Not very common among AV receivers at this price level is the inclusion of dual subwoofer pre-outs, making it a true 7.2 design. However, there are no pre-outs for external amplifiers. For internet connectivity an Ethernet port is provided. Wireless option is via an optional USB adapter (UWF-1) which is sold separately and costs $39.
Also included on the back panel is a PC input. This is a RGB connector, but the receiver will upconvert the signal to HDMI.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Onkyo is known for pushing the frontiers in audio performance and embracing the latest technologies in its products. The TX-NR609 comes with cutting edge features like iPod/iPhone/iPad functionality, support for 3D and ultra-high resolution 4K video upscaling via Marvell Qdeo™. This is the same video chip used in the highly regarded Oppo BDP-93 blu-ray player. It also has PLL jitter-cleaning circuitry to preserve signal clarity, lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and a new user friendly on-screen display.
The TX-NR609 outputs a solid 100 watts to each of the 7 channels. This is more than enough to drive an average room to sufficient levels for an truly immersive movie experience. The amplifiers make use of the Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT). Without going into specifics, what it does is that it delivers high instantaneous current enough to effortlessly drive even difficult low-impedance speakers for movie soundtracks to have sufficient dynamics and clarity. The quality of its audio output has earned it a THX Select2 Plus Certification.
Audio processing incorporates 24bit/192kHz Burr-Brown DACs, lossless Dolby and DTS codecs, and the expanded surround formats of Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. Supported audio files include FLAC, MP3, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WMA Lossless, AAC, and LPCM
You can also connect the receiver to the Internet or your computer with ease. The TX-NR609 brings to life a wide range of Internet Radio sources such as Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius Internet Radio, and vTuner.
Despite coming in at a relatively affordable price tag, the Onkyo TX-NR609 displayed superb value with a good all round performance of video as well as music playback.
On the blu-ray release of Street Kings 2-Motor City, an outstanding aspect of its picture quality was the incredible attention to fine detail. The sheer substance of the details gave character to the Ludlow’s facial expressions. Colors were brilliantly rendered, such as the background scenes where it showcased its vibrancy and richness, with breathtaking realism. Black levels were flawless, especially in dark scenes. Overall, the TX-NR609 managed to capture the cinematic feel superbly, and the quality clearly defined how a top notch blu-ray player should be.
With the excellence of its video performance, it was only fitting for the audio department to rise up to the occasion. It’s decoding of the DTS-HD MA 5.1 was impeccable, with special mention going out to the bass, which was potent but not overwhelming. It also helped set the tone for the tension and anguish of the movie. The atmospherics were immersive, be it the hovering helicopter, or subtler sound effects. Gunfire scenes were hauntingly realistic, and shots from a shotgun or pistol could be reasonably distinguished apart. Dialogue was relatively sharp throughout the film.
To get a better feel of the TX-NR609’s audio versatility, we used Eric Clapton’s Slowhand on SACD. Lost details on the original could be heard with vivid clarity, exactly the way Clapton had intended it to be. Clapton’s trademark tender, bluesy voice and his virtuoso guitar skills were on a different level in terms of lucidity. Special mention had to go out to the track, “The Core”. The electric guitar riffs, the brilliant saxophone solo and the perfect marriage between Clapton and Levy’s voices made it sound as if it was off a current album.
Onkyo has certainly made discernible improvements to the TX-NR609 compared to the predecessors. If you have a small to medium sized room, this 7.2 channel receiver will deliver a satisfying movie experience. It will also do justice to your CD and music collection. At this price it is considered a steal.