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The Pinnacle of The Electrostatic Sound

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Home Theater Review!
Onkyo TX-NR5010
THX Ultra2+ Multi-Channel Receiver


"Top-End Model Offers Audiophile Sound Quality"


by Russ Long

  Onkyo’s latest flagship receiver, the TX-NR5010, is the company’s most impressive to date. The $2,999 receiver includes THX Ultra2+ Certification, which is reserved for products that are equipped to successfully deliver the cinematic experience to home theaters up to 3,000 cubic feet — with a viewing distance of 12 feet or greater from the screen. This is the largest class of home theater.

Features
  The substantial (17 1/8" wide x 7 13/16" high x 18 1/4" deep) TX-NR5010 weighs in at just over 55 pounds and is enclosed in a chassis constructed of thick anti-resonant aluminum panels. Featuring all discrete analog circuitry, the receiver incorporates a massive toroidal transformer supported by two independent transformers — one for audio and one for video processing.
  The receiver’s D/A conversion incorporates PLL jitter-cleaning, VLSC noise-mitigation and premium 192 kHz/32-bit Burr-Brown DACs. Audio signals are amplified through Three-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry that incorporates a triple-transistor array, cutting distortion and boosting current flow to the speakers. The Digital Crossover Processing Network enhances performance when bi-amping the front channels. A Differential DAC Mode reassigns DACS to only the channels being used. Video technology includes the Dual-Core Video Engine that utilizes Marvell’s Odeo technology for upscaling to 4K, coupled with the HQV Vida VHD1900 for upscaling to 1080P. ISF video calibration allows every video input to be optimized.
  The logical layout of the TX-NR5010’s connector-laden rear panel prevents it from feeling overly cluttered. The eleven pairs of gold-plated speaker output terminals are located along the bottom of the panel making it easy to isolate speaker cables from the component connectivity. The receiver contains nine 145-watt amplifier channels. There are also 11.4 channels of pre-out (the .4 is two outputs for each channel of the sub stereo out). The internal amps and pre-outs can be used simultaneously, and if you find (as was my case) that nine amplifier channels is actually more than you need, you can use them to power any or both of the other audio zones or to bi-amp the mains. HDMI or composite video out can also be routed to Zone 2 (up to 1080p).


The Onkyo TX-NR5010 really shines in its sonic output; this receiver rivals many audiophile separate amp/preamps when it comes to high-res audio movie and music music. It is that good!

  The receiver’s HDMI, DLNA, and smart phone MHL allow playback connectivity from a wide variety of standard sources. Eleven HDMI ports (9 in and 2 out) include support for 3D, Audio Return Channel, DeepColor, x.v.Color, LipSync, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, DVD-Audio, SACD, Multichannel PCM, and CEC. In addition, the front-panel’s USB port provides iPod/iPhone connectivity while the rear panel’s USB provides for more permanent media storage. Three coaxial/optical digital audio inputs provide more audio connectivity.
  There are two antenna inputs (one for the main zone and one for Zone 2) and even twelve-volt triggers for Zone 2 and 3. Also included is RS-232 control and a PC input. Onkyo’s optional Bluetooth adapter (UBT-1) provides an alternate way to listen to music from a mobile device; audiophiles will be glad to see that it includes a phono input.



The NR5010 Has Plenty of Speaker Options


  The TX-NR5010’s brilliantly designed GUI overlays on the HDMI output for seamless receiver integration. It’s nice to see a receiver finally getting the GUI integration that its TV and Blu-ray player counterparts have enjoyed for some time. The versatile remote provides control of the TX-NR5010 as well as other Onkyo gear. It feels slightly cluttered at first but the layout is intuitive making it simple to find the desired function once you are used to the button arrangement. This said, I downloaded and installed the Onkyo Remote App on my iPhone 4S and found this to be my favorite way to control the NR5010 for normal use.
  The built-in Audyssey MultEQ XT32 tool provides calibration of all of the system’s channels including the dual subwoofers. The DTS Neo:X feature, currently the most advanced and comprehensive upmixing solution available, offers up to 11.1 surround channels with distinct front-height and wide imaging. This amazing process pulls you into a film creating an amazingly realistic 3-D sonic experience.
  The InstaPrevue feature provides a picture-in-picture preview for the HDMI and MHL inputs. The receiver is fully networkable and is DLNA Certified for local streaming. As is the case with most AV receivers, the TX-NR5010 doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi but Onkyo sells a wireless LAN adapter. Utilizing an Apple Airport or Airport Express is another option. The receiver is pre-configured for many of the popular streaming services such as Spotify, vTuner, Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, LastFM, iRadio, Aupeo, MP3tunes and Sirius/XM iRadio. It does not support connection of a Sirius/XM satellite antenna as Sirius/XM comes via iRadio only. When you can stream music to the TX-NR5010 from Windows Media Player’s Play-To feature, there is no AirPlay support, but you can stream from an iPhone/iPod via the network — using Onkyo’s remote app.
  Unfortunately, the Onkyo does not contain multichannel analog inputs. Thus, if you have a favorite BD player with analog outs, such as an Oppo, the older Yamaha, etc., you are out of luck. You gotta use HDMI.This probably isn’t an issue with newcomers to the home theater market, but those of us who have been doing this for a long time are most likely to have some older pieces of 5.1 equipment that we are not yet ready to retire.

The Setup
  The majority of my testing was done using the Onkyo TX-NR5010 along with a set of Episode 700 Series speakers (2 x ES-700-MON-6, 1 x EX-700-LCR-5, 2 x ES-500-SAT-4, and 1 x ES-SUB-12-300). The ES-700-MON-6 speakers were placed on a pair of 18” speaker stands — with the ES-700-LCR-5 at the same height mounted just below a Sony KDL-46EX640 LCD TV. The ES-500-SAT-4’s were mounted slightly higher at 36”. All five tweeters were focused at the listening position. The entire Episode speaker system, with the exception of the ES-SUB-12-300 powered sub was powered with the TX-NR5010. The majority of my time was spent monitoring with all five channels single amped but I spent some time monitoring with the left and right channels bi-amped. Playback was primarily via the Onkyo BD-SP809 Blu-ray player, Pioneer Elite BDP-53FD Blu-ray player and an Apple iPod.


Stellar Sound is an understatement with the TX-NR5010

  Before doing any listening or viewing, I calibrated my system with the built-in Audyssey MultEQ XT32 utility which I found to be easy and straight forward to use, and based on my listening tests, quite accurate. It automatically calculates and sets all levels and distances as well as performing room acoustic correction. The included microphone is connected to the front panel input and is used to take measurements from up to eight positions around the room before automatically calibrating the sound. Onkyo’s advanced 32-bit DSP chip provides a host of preset sound modes that work well in many situations including four gaming settings (Rock, Sports, Action and RPG), multiple THX presets and several music modes.

The Audition
  I used my staple evaluation material to test the receiver’s audio performance and ease of use. Using a Pioneer Elite BD-52 univrsal player, the Onkyo TX-NR5010 is perfectly suited for music playback. I referenced Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, James TaylorHourglass, and Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road SACDs and a wide variety of DVD-A discs including The Beach BoysPet Sounds, The Beatles’ — Love, BjorkVesperine, and Fleetwood MacRumours and was thoroughly impressed with the receiver’s performance and ease of use.
The sound, routed via my reference 5.1 cadre of Episode speakers, has never sounded better than when used in conjunction with the TX-NR5010 receiver. After spending time comparing between single-amping and bi-amping the mains, I found that making the jump to bi-amping makes a more significant audio quality improvement than I would have anticipated. Clarity improved, as did low-frequency definition. This was more noticeable when listening to stereo material than when monitoring in surround, but it was noticeable in both instances.
  Compared to a reference ES Sony receiver from just a couple of years ago, the dynamics, width and depth were much more obvious via the Onkyo. In fact, the detail and clarity on movie soundtracks were the equal of many separates I have auditioned.

 Many receivers that tend to sound good when listening at lower volumes often become edgy, brittle and piercing when listing to loud music or during dynamic segments of a film. This is not at all the case with the TX-NR5010, which retains its smooth, open, high frequency presentation — even during extremely loud playback.

  The receiver did a wonderful job reproducing the audio tracks of BatmanThe Dark Knight, Ratatouille and Hugo. These three films are among my favorites for pure audio quality and all three translated beautifully through the TX-NR5010.
  Many receivers that tend to sound good when listening at lower volumes often become edgy, brittle and piercing when listing to loud music or during dynamic segments of a film. This is not at all the case with the TX-NR5010, which retains its smooth, open, high frequency presentation — even during extremely loud playback. Additionally, even at extremely low volumes the TX-NR5010 maintains clarity, definition and punch.
  The width and space of the sonic cues and ambient effects in lossless soundtracks are excellent. They match or exceed receiver and standalone pre-pros/amp combos that cost twice the price. The Onkyo is a truly audiophile-grade multichannel receiver.
  The only negative I found was that of the internal audio relay click noise. It’s on and off clicking as the audio activates or deactivates when moving through the menu items was noticeable. That is a minor quibble, but that is it. This receiver is that good.

The verdict
  Onkyo’s feature per dollar count never ceases to amaze me and the TX-NR5010 is no exception. While $2,999.00 is a healthy price tag for a top-performing receiver, the more time I spend with this unit, the more I find myself considering it a bargain. Features like 11.4 channel DTS Neo:X support, Zone 2 HDMI output, and ISF calibration separate it from the rest of the pack. Plus the Onkyo really shines in its sonic output; this receiver rivals many audiophile separate amp/preamps when it comes to high-res audio movie and music music. It is that good.
  Any home cinema user in need of a feature-packed receiver with uncompromising, spectacular sound should give the TX-NR5010 top consideration. It also gets our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.

 An avid home theater and audiophile listener, Russ Long makes his living as a Nashville-based professional audio engineer, who has recorded hundreds of albums for various artists, including Grammy Award winner Sixpence None The Richer. 

Onkyo BD-SP809:
"A More Video Friendly BD Player”



  During the TX-NR5010 review period, we utilized Onkyo’s flagship BD-SP809, priced at $600. The Blu-ray player is beautifully designed and perfectly matches the TX-NR5010. This THX-certified player, one of the few certified BDPs on the market, includes Marvell's Qdeo processing which delivers excellent image quality on Blu-ray and DVD discs. In fact, we were awed by its high-res image quality.
  If you only want to play commercial Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs, the Onkyo is an outstanding player. The player’s dual-HDMI outputs can be helpful in unique configuration situations. USB connectivity provides digital playback from several file formats including MP3, DivX HD, and WMA.
  While the player performs wonderfully as a video player connected to a receiver or pre-pro, with exceptional 1080P image quality and upscaling, its $600 price tag does not net you any extras that lower-price units deliver, such as Wi-Fi. And it has only a limited list of streaming media services (like Pandora, Amazon Instant, MLB.TV and Hulu Plus).
  Compared to numerous other Blu-ray players, it also eschews more advanced audio features that are common on players produced over the last two years, such as the ability to play SACD, DVD-A, FLAC and high-res audio PCM .WAV files from data BD and DVDs, as well as USB drives. We could only play lower-quality WMA and MP3 stereo audio files from Windows-formatted USB drives.
  The HDMI audio output from commercial Blu-rays allow only the full-res audio via the HDMI compliant handshake output to the receiving equipment (receiver, pre-pro). But many players can output more full-res stereo audio, PCM audio by utilizing an HDMI audio de-embedder that takes the HDMI output and converts it to SPDIF, which allows them to be connected to a separate DAC. The Oppo and Pioneer players, for example, output high-res PCM from Flac, HDTracks downloads, AIX Records and 2L BDs.
  However, our tests show that the Onkyo’s audio output is limited when using it as a high-res stereo PCM player, when connecting its HDMI output to an HDMI de-embedder. At $600, I would expect the Onkyo to perform similarly to the Oppo, but the answer is no. The Onkyo, for example, would not output 24/192 kHz stereo tracks from our 2L BD through the HDMI de-embedder; it would only play as high as 24/96 if you seleetd downsample from the Audio menu. We could not get it to play any .WAV files from a USB stick, formatted Fat32 in Windows. Also, it would only play MP3s from the Windows-formatted USB stick. It also would not play any DVD or BD .WAV music data discs that our Oppo and Pioneer units play perfectly.
   Our opinion: the Onkyo BD-SP809 is for hardcore Onkyo fans who want the corporate logo match with the excellent Onkyo receiver, and who primarily watch movies, which the player excels. If you want more advanced audio playback features, there are more capable BD players out there.

—Russ Long and John Gatski


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