Both Pioneer and Onkyo make fantastic home theater receivers and while both companies are now collaborating together, new receivers from both brands continue to be released. But Onkyo is definitely feeling the wave of change and Pioneer is making some influence. Onkyo kicked off 2015 with some interesting entry-level receivers featuring new looks on both the front and back to make them more inviting for novice users. The midrange lineup didn’t get much love in the looks department but some great new features were added. Then there is the high-end TX-RZ series which is an entirely new family of Onkyo receivers and it currently consists of two models – the Onkyo TX-RZ900 and the slightly less expensive TX-RZ800.
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About the Onkyo TX-RZ900
The TX-RZ900 is the new top-tier model of the 2015 lineup and it is surprisingly a 7.2-channel receiver with a fairly high $1,599 price tag. The new look is immediately recognizable with no more input select buttons laid out below the information display. Those buttons have been grouped up and pushed to the right of the display making them less emphasized but still noticeable. Some might find it too simple and a bit uninspired but the arrangement does make it easy to switch to a different source as each button has initials. The two zone buttons are mixed in with the group as well. Below that group of button is still the familiar volume knob while the opposite end features the listening mode and tone buttons along with smaller knobs below them. These knobs are linked to the buttons directly above allowing you to fine-tune say the listening mode after picking the category or adjusting the bass, treble or Phase Matching Bass. The door below the information display hides the rest of the buttons and connection ports. The TX-RZ800 shares this same design, too.
The back of the Onkyo TX-RZ900 reflects the TX-RZ800 too but there is one exclusive difference – the speaker posts are gold-plated. It has 7 HDMI inputs and 1 on the front along with the typical ports you need for custom installation. It is worth noting that none of the 2015 models outside of the RZ series support custom installation.
In 2014, Dolby Atmos was one of the main themes of home theater receivers. This year, the technology trend continues and this time feels more complete by adding support for DTS:X to the TX-RZ900 through a firmware update. DTS:X aims to provide much greater flexibility when it comes to the speaker arrangement while delivering on the added depth enhancements Dolby Atmos brings so at least on paper, DTS:X is superior. You can do cool things to the audio too like turning up the dialog alone. It is an object-based surround sound technology that hopes to eliminate traditional channel-based audio one day. But not all audiophiles may bite due to the 7.2-channel limitation. You can’t have that awesome 5.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup that you can do with say the older Onkyo TX-NR1030 model. The good news is that at least the Dolby Atmos support remains. In fact, if you have Dolby Atmos speakers, you can either choose between the Dolby Atmos mode or use them for DTS:X.
Even though audiophiles still have a reason to pick high-end 2014 models like the TX-NR1030, the Onkyo TX-RZ900 scores a minor leap in the HDMI department and it is a pretty big deal if you want the best quality out of your 4K display. The ports are HDMI 2.0a complaint which means the new High Dynamic Range support will work effectively enhancing the contrast.
The wireless and Internet features were sadly not improved. This would have been a great time to introduce Google Cast to the Onkyo TX-RZ900 but Onkyo still sticks with the AirPlay support with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming as other options. For Wi-Fi, the Onkyo Remote app for iOS and Android still remains and the interface is still friendly. You can command the receiver to access Spotify, Pandora and a few other services to play music so the quality is great. If you have a NAS or PC in the network, you can stream locally as well.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
While the TX-RZ900 and TX-RZ800 don’t look too far apart in terms of model names, it is the 200 watts per channel that really separates this receiver from the rest of the 2015 pack and even some of the older THX-certified models. The Onkyo TX-RZ900 is unsurprisingly THX-certified in its own right but it features something extra special to really enable the receiver to reproduce ultra-low frequencies. That special thing is a custom toroidal transformer and the bass impact really makes a difference. Then there is the Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry which you can also find in the TX-RZ800. This technology focuses on the purity of an analog signal where you get very high fidelity without the unwanted pulse noise. A new Asahi Kasei 384 hHz DAC also replaces the Burr-Brown one for even better audio quality when listening to lossless music. Last year’s models really focused more on music than movies and the TX-RZ900 continues that trend but DTS:X balances out the equation a bit and really makes movies sound better. The fact that you don’t need special speakers is really neat.
• Very powerful technologies and specs really help with the audio quality.
• New design looks great.
• DTS:X and Dolby Atmos support open up great possibilities.
• HDMI 2.0a is cutting edge for 4K and beyond.
• Stellar audio performance, bass and all.
• Lacking Google Cast support.
• Bit pricey for a 7.2-channel receiver
If you are very comfortable in the 7.2-channel world, the Onkyo TX-RZ900 is the one to get right now. Thanks to DTS:X, Dolby Atmos and multiple zone support, you actually have more possibilities in setting up a nice and great sounding home theater system. Just remember that there are other Onkyo THX-certified systems that could save you money if you don’t need the extra power and you can get even bigger savings with the Onkyo TX-NR747 if you don’t require custom installation.