Onkyo TX-NR609 A/V Receiver
Price: $599 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified • Audyssey and THX loudness modes • iDevice Onkyo Remote app
With gas approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country, most consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending in order to make ends meet. If you have to drive an SUV (like I do), then a trip to the local gas station could set you back $100 to fill the tank. In times like these, your quest to find the greatest bang for your buck might even extend all the way to your equipment rack. If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you won’t have to look far thanks to Onkyo. What if I told you you could have seven channels of amplification, first-rate video processing, and many of the features found on the flagship products for less than $600? If I’ve piqued your interest, then keep on reading, because the TX-NR609 is one of the best values that’s come down the pike in a long time.
Lean but Solid
While the TX-NR609 isn’t especially beefy, it’s no lightweight either, weighing in at just under 25 pounds. Inside are seven channels of amplification rated at 100 watts each and featuring three-stage inverted Darlington output circuitry with Onkyo’s proprietary WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology). According to the company’s marketing literature, this design provides “improved dynamic signal-to-noise ratio and better delivery of momentary power peaks,” or in other words, cleaner, more natural performance on dynamic source material like movie soundtracks or high-resolution audio discs.
Aesthetically speaking, this AVR won’t win any beauty contests, but it features a serviceable solid aluminum front panel with direct switching to each input, a dimmable display, a headphone jack, and an HDMI 1.4a input. A USB port allows for direct digital connection of an iPod/iPhone, USB mass storage device loaded with music files, or optional Wireless LAN adapter (UWF-1). Onkyo supplied me with a UWF-1 along with the AVR. Once connected, it quickly found my wireless network, but as with many other Wi-Fi devices I’ve tried in my theater, weak signal strength from my distant router prevented it from keeping a solid connection. As usual, I opted for my wired Ethernet connection for the rest of my testing.
The rear panel sports a nondetachable power cord, five HDMI 1.4a inputs, one HDMI output (with Audio Return Channel), three component video inputs (one output), dual TosLink and coaxial digital inputs, more than enough stereo analog inputs (six), an Ethernet jack, and a Universal Port for an aftermarket Onkyo-branded iPod dock (UP-A1) or HD Radio module (UP-HT1). One tradeoff for the $599 price point is the lack of 7.1-channel analog inputs/outputs and a 12-volt trigger that you might use to control an external power strip or zone-two amplifier.
THX Select2 Plus certification guarantees that the TX-NR609 can reach cinema reference levels of 105 decibels in a room of 2,000 cubic feet or less when paired with THX Select2–certified loudspeakers. This means it’s engineered for smaller rooms where the display and center speaker are 10 to 12 feet away from the listening position. One of the many benefits of its being THX certified is the inclusion of THX Loudness Plus, which ensures proper tonal and spatial balance at any volume level.
I used to always listen to music and movies at high volume, but with two kids in the house, I need to be considerate of their sleep habits. Thankfully, the Onkyo values this as much as I do. In addition to THX Loudness Plus, it also offers Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume, which work together to provide an adequate surround sound experience at lower volume levels. The unit also includes Audyssey 2EQ, the auto setup and room correction technology that makes setting up the AVR a painless experience. The setup sequence initiates when you plug the supplied microphone into the jack on the front panel, and the unit will measure three listening positions in the room. Plan on about 15 minutes to perform the calibration. When it’s complete, the Audyssey software will attempt to optimize the response, taking into account both the frequency and time domains (where most audio problems come from) across the listening area.