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Onkyo TX-NR609
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Onkyo TX-NR609 AV receiver

Hi-Fi World magazine - July 2011 issue

 

Onkyo TX-NR609


onkyo_tx-nr609

Onkyo's new for 2011 TX-NR609 is a great budget network connected receiver says Noel Keywood.

 

Home Cinema and the lure of high definition digital surround-sound seems to be waning; Blu-ray isn't on everyone's lips. Yet Onkyo seem not to have noticed and continue to produce superb AV receivers, subtly re-purposed to do more than replay movies. Plug in an i-pod or i-phone using Apple's supplied USB lead – you don't need a dock – and the new TX-NR609 will play your music in surround sound via a squeaky clean digital connection. But there's more – oh so much more this receiver will do – for just £500.


Measuring 435mm wide and 328mm deep, and weighing a liftable 11.3kgs, the TX-NR609 is relatively compact as AV receivers go and it is amazingly compact considering it produced 120 Watts per channel under test (see MEASURED PERFORMANCE). Being a 7.1 receiver with seven amplifiers on-board it kicks out a lot of power potentially. In use, when not pushed hard, it runs warm but I fancy it stays a little cooler than earlier models; a silent fan kicks in to help cooling if need be, but since 10 Watts or so per channel gives high volume through a modern loudspeaker it will rarely need this assistance.

 

FACILITIES

Like any modern receiver the TX-NR609 handles DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD and all associated digital processing formats. It can convert stereo to surround-sound with Dolby Pro Logic IIz, the 'z' suffix meaning a signal can be derived to feed frontal height loudspeakers (i.e. you've got to nail 'em to the walls!) and it has DTS Neo6.


Most people will want to use fewer loudspeakers, not more I suspect, and for them the receiver can be set to bi-amp front loudspeakers that have bi-wire terminals, to improve sound quality. I switch the Centre channel off and use quality Left and Right stereo loudspeakers (WAD KLS9s for this review) to produce a phantom centre image, as in normal stereo; a Centre channel suits movie dialogue but not quality music reproduction. My Surround loudspeakers are full range too (Usher S520s) and backs are used on a wall shelf (Usher S520s), but these are unimportant.


On-board are 24/192 Digital-to-Analogue convertors on each channel, and those with SACD collections will be pleased to hear that the '609 recognises and decodes DSD fed in through an HDMI cable. You'll need the Cambridge 650BD Blu-ray player that I use to do this, however, or an Oppo player like the BDP-83 (both also play DVD-A). The bad news is that although you'll get surround-sound from SACD, it reaches CD quality standards our tests showed, limited by internal DSD-to-PCM conversion. The more expensive Onkyos manage better.

onkyo_tx-nr609rear

There are six HDMI inputs no less, but no multi-channel analogue inputs and no multi-channel pre-amp outputs either. You get Composite Video inputs and an output, Component Video inputs and an output, and an HDMI output of course. There are two S/PDIF optical digital inputs and two electrical digital audio inputs, useful for connecting a CD player digitally.


Another room can be fed music, identified as Zone 2. And, finally, there is a VHF/FM co-axial male connector and an AM aerial wire connector, just below an Ethernet socket, all of which supply radio since a vTuner is fitted for internet radio reception.


The '609  will also read music files from a server or from a computer running Windows Media player 11 or 12 (but definitely not i-tunes from an i-tunes player!). Onkyo's owners manual lists all this in detail and is downloadable from  http://www.eu.onkyo.com/


The front panel carries grey lettering on a black background that was illegible in all except bright lighting, making setup difficult at times. The remote control will normally be used and this was clearly marked, if a little cramped and fussy. The front also carries a USB input to read music files on a memory stick, and an HDMI input for camcorder playback (well, that's what I use it for).

 

SET UP

Before being reviewed the receiver's firmware needed to be checked and updated if necessary. The '609 did a DHCP handshake with my Netgear router over a wired ethernet connection, without difficulty. Firmware update was needed (1031-0200 etc to 1031-0400 etc) and took three minutes on a fast internet connection in central London; Onkyo say this can take up to one hour. I had to re-set the receiver's internal DSP three times afterward though before normal operation was resumed, and the remote control had to have its batteries removed before it would reset and work, Onkyo's owner's manual procedure doing nothing. After this kerfuffle – not unexpected – the TX-NR609 was fine for the remaining review period.


Onkyo have changed the operating logic a little to put preferred playback mode into default memories related to the input used. I found Pure Audio (unavailable in U.S. models), which switches displays off and bypasses signal processing for best sound quality, buried in amongst a myriad of processing schemes; it is unavailable as a selectable over-ride option on the remote control. An alternative Direct mode leaves displays on.


Connected to a big, roof mounted multi-element VHF aerial pointed at the Wrotham transmitter that streams BBC stations 30 miles to London, the VHF tuner was set to a station frequency listing to avoid auto-tuning to distant off-set transmitters. I manually tuned then noticed all stations were in mono; the receiver must be auto-tuned for stereo. Station frequency can be punched in on the fly, station pre-set numbers can be entered into the keypad or the band stepped up and down with a rocker button next to the volume control to choose between 40 memory presets – very handy. Onkyo receivers are well thought through in this respect and relatively easy to set up, as AV receivers go that is. Radio Data Service is fitted to receive VHF data. If you appreciate high quality radio Onkyo consistently make a good job of it across all their receivers I have found.


Onkyo provide a setup microphone and the Audyssey 2EQ loudspeaker and room tuning system, which I choose not to use. Its EQ settings make little sense of my acoustically treated lounge that is 'flat' at the listening position, and room low frequency modes are not equalised, at least in the main channel. I was fascinated to see that Onkyo have now fitted comprehensive low frequency equalisation in the subwoofer channel, comprising 25/40/63/100/160Hz bands to lessen boomy subwoofer bass. As I use full range loudspeakers I don't use a subwoofer and the main channel has no such LF EQ, which is a pity.


There are a myriad of signal processing schemes, mostly from Audyssey, promising to correct everything you could ever think of and even things you never thought about, but most of the processing is far too technologically simplistic to do anything other than change the sound rather than truly improve it – and there's no end of ways to furtwangle a signal in a DSP. I dialled in Pure Audio to bypass all this as I always do; Americans can use Direct, which does the same thing but leaves displays on.


By the way, it is Ken Ishiwata of Marantz who insists that turning displays off improves sound quality – and he is right; there's a very slight reduction in fuzziness. Marantz even turn the video feed to the TV off in their receivers, but forgetting you have done this causes confusion so Onkyo don't provide this option.


With radio and older CDs I sometimes listen via Dolby Pro Logic II Music as it clears the front stage of out-of-phase information, adds a little depth and tidies things up generally, benefits outweighing the potential hit to sound quality inherent in conversion to digital and back again.

 



 
Comments (2)
Onkyo TX-NR609
2Wednesday, 06 July 2011 17:43
Noel Keywood (publisher)
Hi Daniel,

There is no problem using a 4 Ohm loudspeaker. All amplifiers can drive them nowadays and the Onkyo has plenty of reserve power, should you turn volume right up.
Onkyo TX-NR609
1Wednesday, 06 July 2011 17:33
Daniel Geal
Good morning,

I was just reading your review of the TX-NR 609 and found it really helpful, thank you for this. I’d like to ask one question but understand if you don’t answer as your website’s no forum!

It’s just that I’ve ordered this amp and wanted to buy some JBL Control One Pro speakers to go with it. They are, however, 4 ohms (whereas the JBL Control One speakers are 8 ohms). Following your tests, do you think it would be acceptable to use the One Pros or would I be ‘better off’ buying the standard Ones? Do I risk the system overheating and is there something I should beware of?

Personally I would like to get the Pros and my girlfriend would prefer it too as she wants white speakers (the Ones don’t come in white). Yet if I risk damaging the amp then of course I want to avoid that.

Many thanks!

Daniel in Cologne

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