With so many features to cram into the TX-NR609, it’s amazing that Onkyo’s engineers had any time to get it sounding as good as it does. Its performance with our Blu-ray test discs is awesome, achieving levels of power, precision and clarity that you might not expect from a midrange receiver.
We started with Avatar, and the relish with which the Onkyo gets stuck into its big battle sequences is infectious and downright exhilarating. The deep muscular sound of the army’s missiles blasting chunks out of the Pandoran forest will leave you (and your neighbours) breathless, backed up by crisp high frequencies, clear, direct speech reproduction and a sense of scale and surround imaging that brings you closer than ever to the real cinema experience.
Iron Man 2’s Monaco Grand Prix scene is equally impressive, showcasing not only the Onkyo’s muscularity but also its consummate control, which stops the scene’s brutal effects from straining or sounding harsh at high volumes. So as a result, the roaring, raspy engines of the F1 cars sound ferocious, sliced-up cars hit the ground with a convincingly solid metallic crash and effects are masterfully steered around the expansive soundstage. Onkyo’s sound is smoother and easier on the ear than previous generations, and that’s in evidence once again, but not at the expense of dynamism or attack.
It also shows great subtlety when conveying calmer scenes with lots of delicate detail or gentle ambience in the background. It easily teases out these sounds, giving the impression of depth and texture that makes it wonderfully immersive.
With music, a little more finesse wouldn’t go amiss just to tease out those some of those finer musical details with demanding material, but unless you’re a staunch audiophile you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the Onkyo’s handling of SACD and CDs. There’s a lovely sense of balance across the frequency range, while the inherent smoothness and warmth shines through, even when using it without a subwoofer.
We didn’t think it was possible for Onkyo to improve on the superb TX-SR608 but incredibly it has. Everything we loved about last year’s model can be found on the TX-NR609 but mixed in with a bunch of new features that feel like so much more than mere gimmickry – network functionality is enormously useful, and there’s real longevity and value in having Spotify on board.
And don’t forget that it’s THX Select2 Plus certified, supports iPods, plays a wide range of audio formats from USB devices and offers loads of connections and processing modes – not to mention automatic setup, terrific onscreen menus and 3840 x 2160 upscaling, which may not be useful now but might be when 4K TVs inevitably become the norm. With this sort of spec sheet you’d expect it to cost a lot more, so at around £500 the TX-NR609 feels like a real bargain.