It is the most logical thing for consumers to buy home theater components that all have the same brand because the entire system is easier to set up and you may enjoy certain features that are exclusive to the same brand. But when you have to buy an AV receiver to improve the audio quality, you have an entirely different brand selection to worry about. Onkyo is one of the big players of the AV receiver industry but there are simply too many models to choose from. The Onkyo TX-NR717 is one of the models released in 2012 and judging from the $949 price tag, the TX-NR717 isn’t cheap and there are plenty of competing models that are even priced under $500. But considering the fact that there are Onkyo AV receivers that cost more than $2,000, the Onkyo TX-NR717 should be looked at as a potential mid-range AV receiver that is far more superior to any of the cheaper products out there.
When it comes to Onkyo AV receivers, many of the models deserve the heavy duty treatment and the TX-NR717 is one of them. It weighs about 26 pounds and has several essential frontal ports including HDMI and USB ports. The row of buttons in the middle serves as a set of toggles for the input source while the buttons directly under the information display are for configuration purposes.
The back of the Onkyo TX-NR717 really shows how premium this AV receiver really is. There are 7 more HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs making it possible to use the AV receiver with a home theater projector without the need for unplugging the main display. In addition to the necessary ports for a 7.2-channel configuration, there are some ports for Zone 2 and 3 for multi-room configurations. Another USB and Ethernet port can be found on the upper left of the back panel.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Thanks to the Qdeo video processor, the TX-NR717 is ready to take advantage of the upcoming 4K video displays. These massive TVs were announced just recently in the IFA consumer electronics show and are expected to carry a huge price tag. There isn’t much 4K content available right now but at least the Onkyo TX-NR717 is ready to upscale your existing DVD and Blu-ray titles so they look far more detailed on very large displays.
Plugging home theater components to HDMI ports to get the full surround sound and 1080p experience is nothing new but the front-panel HDMI port has the latest MHL standard adding versatility to any smartphone device or tablet that supports MHL. By connecting the device to that port, you can watch video in full 1080p, get the full 7.1-channel surround sound effect and charge the device all through one cable. It is also possible to use the remote control that comes with the TX-NR717 to control the AV receiver.
iPods and other portable audio devices cannot use the HDMI port but there is a USB port on the front which can read MP3 and AAC files. It can also read USB flash drives if MP3, AAC, WMA and/or FLAC files are present. Because the Onkyo TX-NR717 uses a digital means of transporting the audio signal, the sound quality is noticeably better.
The Onkyo TX-NR717 is outfitted with several audio components and technologies including Burr-Brown 192 kHz/24-bit DACs on every channel for higher dynamic range and lower distortion. It has both THX and Select2 Plus certification so you can listen to movies the exact way directors want you to experience them.
Even if you do not have a 7-channel speaker setup, the Onkyo TX-NR717 can take advantage of the Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX support for expanding the soundstage. These options let you add Height or Wide channels so additional details can be heard. The results are easily noticeable if every speaker is properly configured and fortunately, the Audyssey 2EQ feature can handle the calibration process automatically by performing key measurements based on the positioning of the speakers. Once optimized, the bass response, surround-sound effect and tonal balance will stay consistent across various volume levels. This also allows the TX-NR717 to handle volume fluctuations which may occur if you switch from one channel or input source to another.
The “Front Wide” and “Front High” channel outputs are reassignable in case you have some speakers in one or two rooms. To make it easy to play different audio sources for each zone, Onkyo is offering special remote applications for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire users. The applications allow smartphone and tablet owners to adjust the settings of the Onkyo TX-NR717 or control the input sources. Android and Kindle Fire owners can also send audio files to the AV receiver directly providing that the receiver is connected to the wireless router through Ethernet. While there is no AirPlay support, the Onkyo remote control can interact with an Apple TV.
With up to 8 input sources to choose from, finding the source you want to switch to can be time consuming if you forgot your connection setup and decided not to follow the HDMI port labels. Onkyo makes switching much easier with the InstaPrevue feature which makes use of a live video preview thumbnail to represent every active input source whenever you need to switch.
Being an AV receiver, Internet features are on the basic side but you still get to enjoy from a variety of services including Last.fm, Pandora, vTuner, Spotify, Rhapsody and several others. If there are other DLNA servers like Windows 7 systems in your home network, you can also configure them to stream music to the Onkyo TX-NR717. When new firmware updates are available, the TX-NR717 can download them online too.
The power output per channel is 125 watts but the Hybrid Standby feature can still save some electricity without sacrificing functionality. “HDMI through” allows the Onkyo TX-NR717 to maintain a connection with certain input sources like a gaming console or Blu-ray payer even when standby mode is entered. Network connectivity is maintained as well so you can still use the remote apps to wirelessly control the AV receiver.
$949 is a pretty steep price to pay for an AV receiver that lacks AirPlay and doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi component. But if you after plenty of expansion options and THX-class sound quality, the TX-NR717 can be a perfect fit without passing the $1,000 barrier.