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In action the Onkyo delivers truly astonishing multichannel movie sound. After loading Cloverfield into the Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player and letting the Onkyo get its teeth into the disc's 5.1-channel Dolby True HD track, we were instantly pinned in our seat by one of the most commanding and engrossing audio performances we've heard in a long time.
The centre channel voices dialogue with distinction and life-like clarity, allowing the words to easily cut through the booms and bangs as the monster stomps around Manhattan. Meanwhile rear-channel effects are guided with precision and perfect timing, giving sudden transient effects real bite and reproducing subtle ambience with due care and attention, all of which contributes to a captivating and expansive soundstage.
The sharp, strident midrange and treble are backed up by some immense bass work, which blends beautifully into the mix to create a coherent, solid wall of sound. It's the sort of inspirational performance that will make you fall in love with home cinema all over again, and will certainly give Onkyo's rivals something to chew over in product planning meetings.
We also had a quick blast of Army of Darkness on Blu-ray and the Onkyo's handling of its DTS HD Master Audio track is equally mesmerising - and call us shallow, but it's still a novelty seeing the DTS HD format's name appear in the front panel display.
The unit also delivers a fantastic performance with music, replaying a 5.1-channel Japanese jazz DVD-Audio disc with spine-tingling detail, drive and cohesion. It even turns in a top-drawer performance with CDs, squeezing out every last drop of sonic detail and giving the material a snappy, rhythmic feel that would make even the most staunch hi-fi purist nod along in enjoyment.
As for pictures, we fed a 576p signal into the HDMI port from a DVD deck and let the HQV chip ramp it up to 1080p. The results are impressive but the improvements over a decent upscaling DVD deck are too slight to make this the compelling reason to buy one. More remarkable are the ISF tweaks, which can make a big difference to picture quality and when calibrated properly could reduce your display's power consumption by up to 50 per cent.
Finally, the Onkyo's network functionality is loads of fun to play around with and works perfectly. The onscreen menus are straightforward and welcoming, making it easy to find the music you want, and after streaming some 320kbps MP3 files from a laptop via a wireless router, we were blown away by the clean, punchy sound quality. Internet radio is similarly easy to access, with loads of stations pre-programmed into the unit's memory, though sound quality obviously depends on the quality of the stream.
With a vast array of features, neighbour-scaring power output and sophisticated audio technology, the Onkyo TX-NR906 is not a receiver for the faint hearted or those with a bad back. It is, however, perfect for people with ever-expanding systems who want to experience the very best sound quality from Blu-ray discs and DVDs. In short, the TX-NR906 is a phenomenal AV receiver that's worth every penny of its asking price.
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