If we’re being candid, the jump-up in quality between the TX-NR609 and NR709 isn’t huge – there’s perhaps a bit more brawn behind action scenes but fundamentally the pair share the same sonic DNA. But that’s not a bad thing. There are excellent levels of detail, masterful orchestration of fast-paced action scenes and astonishing power, but it’s all delivered with a smoothness that won’t leave you wincing when the volume’s up high.
The Onkyo’s prowess is clear when playing The Dark Knight on Blu-ray. The DTS HD Master Audio is a test for even the best amps with its brutal fight scenes and car chases, but the Onkyo takes it all in its stride. It relishes in the opening bank robbery, teasing out all the top-end detail as the robbers zip down wires and twiddle with safes but then snapping into life in a heartbeat with a taut, punchy gunshot or a bus smacking through a wall. It’s an electrifying listen.
The thrilling high-speed chase through the streets of Gotham is our next port of call, and here’s where the Onkyo really raises hell. The roar of truck engines is forceful and visceral, shuddering through your body as if you were stood on the sidewalk. Bazooka blasts, crashing cars and explosions possess impressive depth and solidity in the low frequencies, while high frequencies are crisp and effects move round the room quickly and smoothly.
It doesn’t neglect its dialogue duties either. Voices are beautifully handled, nailing all the nuances from the gruff texture of Batman’s voice up to Rachel’s feminine tones. It also sheds light on little details we hadn’t noticed before, like the extra depth added to the Joker’s voice after he lifts his mask in the opening scene.
If there’s a downside to the Onkyo’s performance then it’s not quite as comfortable with music playback as movies, with receivers from Marantz, NAD and Denon offering a slightly more refined and insightful sound. There weren’t as many ‘shiver down the spine’ moments with our favourite tracks as we’d like. But the TX-NR709’s musical prowess is still impressive, giving tunes room to breathe, keeping pace with uptempo rhythms and providing a pleasing balance across the frequency range.
The TX-NR709 is expensive but certainly won’t leave you feeling short-changed. Abundant connections will keep you futureproofed for ages, there’s a wealth of features on board and its performance with movies is first rate. There are more musical amps out there but on the whole you’d have to be pretty fussy not to be impressed by this marvellous receiver.