Not so long ago we cast our eyes (and ears) over Onkyo's TX-SR576, a great value entry-level receiver that offers Dolby Digital Plus decoding and superb audio performance for the money. But Onkyo's ability to deliver this sort of amazing sound quality at the lower end of the price scale left us tingling with excitement at the prospect of what its high-end models are capable of - and now we've got the chance to find out with the TX-NR906.
It's the replacement for the universally adored TX-NR905 and as you'd expect for a receiver costing well over a grand, its specification is absolutely staggering, providing the perfect demonstration of how today's AV receivers have gone from simply decoding movie soundtracks to performing a wide range of essential functions, not all of which are audio related.
Perhaps the most impressive of its talents is its networking capability (indicated by the ‘N' in the model name), which allows you to stream MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis audio tracks from a networked PC, as well as listen to internet radio stations using the vTuner portal.
And like many of today's AV receivers, the Onkyo boasts 1080p video upscaling, but this is no ordinary upscaler - at its heart is the HQV Reon-VX chipset from Silicon Optix, recognised as one of the world's most advanced video processors. Most companies would stop there, but not Onkyo - the TX-NR906 is also the world's first AV receiver to feature video calibration facilities courtesy of the Imaging Science Foundation, which allow you to tweak the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and gamma levels on each video input.
But audio is the TX-NR906's raison d'être, and on that score it leaves no stone unturned. It blasts out 7 x 230W of room-filling power and is equipped with three Texas Instruments Aureus 32-bit DSP chips, which allow the unit to decode any format you throw at it, including Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD. It also gets the George Lucas seal of approval with its THX Ultra2 Plus certification, which incorporates THX Loudness Plus technology - a new processing algorithm that enhances sound at low volumes.
You'll also find a wealth of other audio wizardry courtesy of Audyssey, including a MultiEQ XT mode that checks the characteristics of your room and system (number of speakers, their size, distance from the listening position and crossover frequencies) using test tones and a setup microphone placed at up to eight positions around the room, before automatically setting the optimum EQ levels. This can be used in conjunction with Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ, which process the sound in real time to level out the varying volume levels of different types of material, and to maintain consistent sound quality when the volume is adjusted.
The scary thing is that these are merely the highlights - there's a plethora of other listening modes and high-powered audio circuitry on board, and we'd need a separate website to list them all (check Onkyo's website for a full spec run-down).