Any high-end home theater setup cannot be brought to its full potential if it is equipped with a basic AV receiver. The primary role for the AV receiver is to amplify the sound while higher-end AV receivers can add to the video processing as well. Pricier AV receivers that cost more than $1,500 have higher wattages which are necessary to drive various home theater components as well as larger speaker systems. But many multimedia enthusiasts do not need an overpowered AV receiver if they do not have more than 8 components that will all be connected to the AV receiver simultaneously. 9.2-channel sound systems are not very common either which is why Onkyo has prepared the Onkyo TX-NR818 which packs the premium punch without maximizing certain specs that can skyrocket the price.
Any $1,000 AV receiver needs to look complicated with tons of buttons on the front and plenty of ports on the back. But the TX-NR818 surprisingly has a more minimal look with a large display and master volume on the side. The only buttons that are always visible aside from the power and pure audio buttons are the input selectors. All of the other buttons for configuring the AV receiver are found beneath a large panel. Flipping down the panel also reveals the various ports for connecting portable devices. The USB, HDMI, phones and aux inputs should be enough to spread the compatibility across plenty of old and new devices. There is also a mic port where you can plug in the included calibration mic when you need to configure your speakers automatically. The back of the Onkyo TX-NR818 features 7 HDMI inputs and a pair of HDMI outputs so there is plenty of room for expansion if you have a basic home theater system.
Like many other Onkyo models, the Onkyo TX-NR818 comes in white and black designs so you can choose the better component that matches the rest of your home theater. It is also one of the cheapest models that takes an independent block construction approach where noise isolation is improved by keeping the power amp circuitry and preamp in separate blocks.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The TX-NR818 is one of the few AV receivers that are ready to handle the new 4K resolution. This is probably a feature that most people won’t take advantage of since 4K displays are virtually nonexistent. But once they become more affordable, you won’t have to buy another pricy AV receiver just so DVDs and Blu-ray discs look nice on the massive display. The Qdeo video processor makes the video upscaling possible and it is actually included in some of the cheaper Onkyo models. But what these cheaper models lack that the Onkyo TX-NR818 has is the HQV Vida VHD1900 video processor which can enhance the quality of high-definition sources as well as standard-definition sources. The HQV StreamClean technology also does a nice job in cleaning up the lower quality online sources. With ISF Video Calibration, video input sources look their best.
While the Onkyo TX-NR818 supports up to 7.2 channels, the audio technologies featured in the TX-NR818 can still be applied to smaller speaker setups. With support for Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX, you can create a much larger soundstage by adding Wide or Height channels. You can freely choose which expansion system you like without worrying so much about your configuration because the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 uses highly sophisticated room correction techniques to optimize the sound settings of every component regardless of location. This is an improved version of the standard Audyssey 2EQ room calibration feature found in lower-end models.
Thanks to the available powered zone 2 and 3 line outs, it is possible to broadcast different audio streams to different sets of speakers in other rooms. The friendly user interface makes it easy to set up and there are some available remote control applications if you have an iOS or Android device. Because these modern devices sport touchscreens, the Onkyo remote control app provides its own GUI where you can control any input source or adjust the settings of the TX-NR818 directly. This feature will only work if the TX-NR818 is connected to the home network via Ethernet. A Wi-Fi adapter needs to be purchased separately if you don’t want to use an Ethernet cable.
As mentioned earlier, the front HDMI port and USB port allow you to easily bring the premium sound experience to portable devices like iPods and iPod Touch devices as well as Android devices with HDMI ports. It is even better if the Android device has an HDMI port that supports MHL because you can output high quality 1080p video and 7.1-channel surround sound through a single HDMI cable. This port can supply power to your device as well so you do not need to charge it.
When you plug in a portable device or flash drive to the USB port, a direct digital connection is used to make the audio sound a lot cleaner than analog signals. This means that FLAC, WMA, AAC and MP3 files will sound much better when hooked up to the Onkyo TX-NR818.
With all these devices plugged in, switching from one input source to another can be daunting if multiple components are turned on. The InstaPrevue feature makes the selection a lot easier by showing an interface where you can see what each input source is currently displaying at a glance through live video thumbnails.
The network connectivity features of the TX-NR818 is not just for allowing mobile devices to control the AV receiver. The Onkyo TX-NR818 also provides a friendly GUI for accessing a number of audio streaming services like Spotify, vTuner, Pandora, Rhapsody and Last.fm. If you already have a massive music collection but it is stored in your PC or laptop, you donít have to transfer the files to a USB drive because the TX-NR818 is already DLNA-certified. This means that you can directly stream from these networked devices with minimal effort.
The Onkyo TX-NR818 costs about $1,200 which is a bit much since you can get a THX Select2 Plus-certified AV receiver with a similar sound experience for a few hundred dollars less. But the TX-NR818 puts a lot of emphasis on video enhancements making it a good choice if you have a nice display and sound system but an average media player. It is also a must to get this AV receiver and not any other cheaper model if you really need the RS-232 port.