Onkyo TX-NR809 Review – THX Certified 7.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver with 8 HDMI inputs

Introduction:

My beloved Pioneer Elite VSX-82TXS just lost a channel and anyway, it was time for a new receiver. I needed something with similar specs to the good old 82TXS but updated to the 2011 requirements (Internet connectivity, 3D support, etc). I prefer connected equipment when possible plus a bunch of HDMI inputs and, when Amazon had Onkyo TX-NR809 on sale I jumped on it. A couple of days later a large and heavy box found its way to my door and I played with its content for the last two weeks. The results are described in this Onkyo TX-NT809 Review.

Throughout the review I’ll make brief comments regarding how the new Onkyo TX-NR809 compares to my old Pioneer Elite VSX-82TXS. I think these two receivers belong to the same class and it should be interesting to see how the technology evolved in the last 5 years.

Unpacking:

Amazon sent the receiver in its original box and did not require a signature. Depending on your address, this could pose a problem. The box is quite heavy but the content is well protected and arrived without any damage.

Box Content

Beside the receiver itself, the box contains the Audyssey microphone, manual and CD manual, AM/FM antennas, power cable, remote control and the batteries for the remote control.

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Onkyo TX-NR809 Technical Specifications

Number of Channels
7.2
Power
135W/Ch
(8Ω, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% THD)
Network Capable
Yes
THX Certification
Select2 Plus™
Audyssey Room EQ
MultEQ®XT
HDMI I/O
7+1 in / 2 out
Overlay On-Screen Display
Advanced via HDMI
Made for iPod®/iPhone®
(Direct USB input)
Front & Rear
(Supports album art)
Multiroom
Powered Zone 2 / Pre out 3
Component Video I/O
2 in / 1 out (HDTV capable)
Composite Video I/O
5 in (1 front) / 2 out
Digital Audio Input
3 Optical & 3 Coaxial
Analog Audio I/O
6 in (1 front) / 1 out
Subwoofer Pre-out
Yes
Color-coded Speaker Terminals
Yes
AM/FM Presets
40
RIHD (CEC via HDMI)
Yes
Onkyo Exclusive Gaming Modes
4
Advanced Music Optomizer
Yes
Phono Input
Yes
RS232 & IR In/Out
Yes

Design

What I really like about the TX-NR809 is the simple front look. When the door is closed, only two buttons are visible, the Power button and the Volume (lighted). Also, while in use the front display will turn off automatically several seconds after the last command was received (this behavior can be changed from the settings menu). All in all, very simple and stylish. Every input is accessible via its own dedicated button (instead of using a knob and having to switch through every one of them until the desired one is available). The receiver has also front HDMI and USB (iOS compatible) inputs.

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Onkyo TX-NR809 Installation / Hookup

The receiver itself is very simple to install and hookup. Fortunately for me, most of my devices have HDMI output and Onkyo excels in this department due to its 7 HDMI inputs on the back and one in the front. Basically, I just needed to connect the power cable, network Ethernet cable,  HDMI cables and the speaker cables and I was good to go. The new receiver also had the overall dimensions of the Pioneer unit I replaced so the whole process was fairly easy and it took less than 30 minutes including disconnecting / removing the Pioneer.

HDMI and simplification of cabling

The previous Pioneer receiver only had 3 HDMI inputs. At this point I have a Sony PS3, XBOX 360, Logitech Revue, a Toshiba HD-DVD player (yes, I still keep it), a Yamaha DVD / DVD-Audio/SACD player and one Home theater PC. As you can imagine, using those huge component cables took a lot of space and the whole setup gathered a lot of dust.  HDMI certainly helps in cable department, but, interestingly enough, since all my AV devices are connected, I have an additional Ethernet cable for each of them, with the Gigabit Switch in the back. It looks like we just can’t get rid of all of the cables, regardless of the technology.

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Settings

The TX-NR809 allows you to control virtually every aspect of your entertainment experience. Starting with the remote and activities to the Audyssey sound settings, individual speaker impedance and level, equalizer, input labels and assignments, image quality, noise reduction and parameters, there is no end in the amount of tweaks  you can perform. Or, you can leave everything the way it is and the experience is still excellent. You can also configure the dual HDMI outputs setting the resolution priority, etc.

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Onkyo TX-NR809 Performance

Network Performance

TX-NR809 is the most feature loaded receiver I have ever seen. In my tests, it is fast to connect to various streaming clients and once connected, I never experience any drop-outs or buffering issues. The sound is clear (obviously depending on the source) and the receiver will remember the last streaming client used connecting to it automatically after power on. The login info is easy to use via the on screen keyboard. Just be aware that services like Spotify will require a paid premium subscription to work on the receiver and the error message is less than clear –  “Sign In Error. Please check your account information. For help with your password, visit www.spotify.com”. While this may apply if you input your password incorrectly, it will also show up if you do not have a premium subscription.

Sound Performance

Well, now to the main section. Network services aside, Onkyo TX-NR809 is an A/V receiver. That means sound quality should matter the most. I owned several receivers through the years, including an old Sony, a Kenwood VR-505 and a Pioneer Elite VSX-82TXS that Onkyo replaced. The Onkyo is paired with Jamo S 606 HCS 3 (review here) 5 speaker system and a Premier Acoustic PA-150 subwoofer.

After the initial setup using Audissey system, I put my system through a series of tests. I do have a number of sound  / video material that I regularly use when testing new equipment. For sound, I use Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (DVD audio format), Blue Man Group (also DVD-audio), Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon: 30th Anniversary Edition (SACD), Beethoven – Symphonies 4 / 5 and 9 on DVD audio as well. For movies, Matrix, Transformers, Independence Day and Star Wars series (yes, I am a SciFi addict).

In all my tests, Onkyo TX-NR809 performed flawlessly. The combo receiver – Jamo systems packed a lot of punch during the action scenes and a smooth and clean sound while listening to music. The sound directed to the subwoofer seems to be at a quite high level (at least compared with my Pioneer) so some adjustment might be required. The quality overall was better than the Pioneer especially while listening to music. I did not crank the volume as far as I wanted in consideration to my neighbors, but the temperature didn’t increase significantly in several hours of tests. Also, the included fans did not kick in.

The only aspect that I don’t like is that Onkyo doesn’t block the signal to the subwoofer during the initial power on. As a result, every time the receives is started, a bump sound can be heard from the subwoofer, a phenomenon I did not experience with the Pioneer.

Network connectivity

As all modern device, including receivers, Onkyo is connected. That means it has an Ethernet port and this connectivity can be used for three main activities: Internet Radio, DLNA access and Firmware Update. In terms of setup, there is really nothing to do if you are using a wired connection like I do. Just plug the Ethernet cable and you are good to go.

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Firmware Update

Immediately after I connected the Onkyo TX-NR809 to my network switch I checked if a software update is available (Hardware Setup-> Firmware Update). It was and the whole download / upgrade process took as advertised, around one full hour. It was worth the wait since the new firmware added Spotify support in the Internet Radio section, per Onkyo promise to bring the popular service support for all their 2011 network connected receivers. The firmware for various DSP / video scaler chips was also updated bringing a better image quality all around. I really love to see Onkyo supporting and improving their line and hope for more software updates down the road.

Internet Radio

I obviously bought the receiver for its connected capabilities and in this department the Onkyo TX-NR809 does not disappoint. Included are clients for vTuner (thousands of local / international radio stations including many in Europe / Romania I was interested in, Sirius/XM, Mediafly, Pandora, last.fm, Napster, Rhapsody, Slacker and once you update the firmware, Spotify. Most of them including Spotify and last.fm will require a paid subscription but vTuner and Pandora are free. I was able to easily input my account info in Pandora using the on screen keyboard and it connected fast displaying all my channels. You can create Favorites lists as well.

One nice feature I noticed is that the receiver remembers the last radio service used and logs in automatically when you power it on again. This way you won’t have to turn your TV again to navigate to the last radio service used.

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DLNA

One of the best features Onkyo TX-NR809 has beside Internet Radio is DLNA access. The support is solid, it successfully identified all my DLNA servers (PlayOn, Orb, TVersity and the native Windows Media Player). The navigation is fast and simple but I have a feeling it buffers the entire song before starting to play it. There is a pause of a couple of seconds every time you choose a new song.

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I prefer using TVersity which can easily publish a folder structure. If you wonder why I have so many DLNA servers, I use them for testing purposes and to feed music / videos to various clients including iPad 2 and CyanogenMod 7 Nook Color.

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Remote Control

While I won’t really use the included TX-NR809 remote control relying instead on my good old Logitech Harmony 880 (yes, it has codes for the 809), the Onkyo remote is a long distance from the atrocious remote Pioneer used. The new remote is simple, menu based, directional pad included,  dedicated input buttons and it can even control some of your other devices including the TV. It even has three activities – My Movies, My TV, My Music. It is not enough to satisfy my needs but it is well designed in my opinion.

You can program the remote and activities from the on screen menu, directly from your receiver.

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Onkyo TX-NR809 Innards

The received is quite densely packed inside and it looks like a computer. To help cooling, you can find two fans but they never turned on in my tests. A high current transformer is present, clearly labeled. I took a large number of photos that you can find in the gallery section.

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Conclusion

The Onkyo TX-NR809 is the best received I ever had / tested. It is feature packed, offers a large number of HDMI inputs, every Internet Radio  / music streaming client you could want and a good DLNA client implementation. It runs fairly cool compared with previous Onkyo generations and offers a very nice sound packing a lot of punch while keeping a smooth and clear sound. I got mine for $699 shipped and I am really happy with its performance.

Pros:

  • 7 x 135 W power
  • smooth and clear sound
  • excellent network connectivity, clients for the most popular streaming services
  • good DLNA implementation
  • price
  • well designed remote control

Cons:

  • The first received I tested that  needs time to boot. It is not really a complaint, I understand that it is essentially a computer at core but it feels weird.
  • Bump noise from the subwoofer every time the receiver is powered on. I would like this fixed in a future firmware release if possible.

Gallery

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5W6LJNP355BVSUWEPBM2TBO3J4 Harish

    Hi, This is Ananda from ZAMBIA, I am so much like to own this unit (Onkyo TX-NR809 Review – THX Certified 7.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver with 8 HDMI inputs) give me Best price you can. but i dont have credit card to pay, if westernunion or bank to bank to bank direct money transfer possible pls let me know.
    Regards
    Ananda

  • Anonymous

    Great Review ! I’ll definetly buy it.

  • Anonymous

    Is the Harmony remote an absolute replacement for the factory remote (i.e., any missing functionality at all). My used 809 from Amazon shipped w/o the remote. Trying to decide to return or by a mulitfunction remote with the partial refund they offered. Thanks JimMann72@gmail.com