Onkyo is starting to have a bit of a monopoly on our Home Cinema Awards, scooping Best Surround Sound product two years on the trot with the TX-NR906 and TX-SR608 AV receivers. But its success is not hard to understand, given the Japanese company’s uncanny ability to pack its products full of all the latest features and deliver superb sound quality while keeping its prices competitive. Signs are that the 7.2-channel, THX Select2 Plus TX-NR609 shares the same ethos, and as ever Onkyo has thrown in one or two groundbreaking features that set the trend for others to follow.
The TX-NR609 is the revamped version of the TX-SR608 and the switch from the letter S to N indicates this midrange model is now network-enabled, making it possible to stream content from PCs and access internet radio. But the main talking point is the NR609’s Spotify support, which puts an enormous library of songs at your disposal without the need to plug in an iPod or MP3 player.
But the big changes aren’t confined to the feature list. Onkyo has also given the external design a makeover, opting for a much more understated black or silver fascia with fewer jutting angles than its predecessor. It’s a great look, appearing minimal without leaving any of the key connections or controls on the workshop floor. All of the buttons are discreetly lined up along the nooks and crannies on the fascia, which means you don’t actually notice them until you get up close and personal – apart from the whacking great volume dial that is, which is accentuated by a white light.
The display panel is large and therefore easy to read, showing you all the crucial information, while along the bottom you’ll find one of the unit’s many HDMI inputs, a headphone jack, a composite video input, a USB port (for direct digital connection of an iPod/iPhone or USB storage device) and an input for the supplied setup microphone. These aren’t covered though, making them vulnerable to toddler attacks.
The back panel offers a wealth of other connections that should keep you covered for years to come. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the row of five HDMI inputs (that’s six in total) and one output, all of which are version 1.4 and can therefore receive and pass on 3D pictures, HD audio, sound from an ARC-compatible TV and anything else you care to throw at them.
You also get two component video inputs (one output), five composite video inputs (two outputs), four digital audio inputs (two optical, two coaxial), six analogue audio inputs (one output) plus powered and line-level Zone 2 outputs. Among the more unusual sockets is Onkyo’s Universal port for adding peripherals like the UP-A1 iPod/iPhone dock or the UP-DT1 DAB radio tuner and an analogue RGB input for PCs. All of the network features can be accessed via the Ethernet port, although Onkyo has launched a wireless USB adapter, which makes life a whole lot easier. The speaker terminals are colour-coded, banana plug compatible binding posts, not a springclip to be seen.