- Written by Gabriel Lowe
- Published on 09 January 2012
The Onkyo TX-NR809 Network Receiver In Use
The NR809 impressed, as I expected it would. Onkyo has long made some excellent receivers, and this one is no different. Starting with the video portion, I found the scaling and processing to be really top notch. I don't watch much content on TV that is not already Hi-Def at this point, so I tested with a couple of DVDs running out of my Blu-Ray player with the scaling deactivated in order to allow the NR809 to handle that task. I popped in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I was amazed at how close to HD the DVD looked. Make no mistake; I can certainly tell that this is still not true HD material, but what I did see was a DVD that seemingly had new life. The opening scene in which Dumbledore arrives to help deliver Harry to Privet Drive is very dark, and includes some smoke moving through the picture – two things that are historically difficult to render without pixilation and digital artifacting. I cannot honestly say that this was totally absent, but unless I was standing very close to the HDTV, it was very hard to spot. I could not see any noticeable judder due to de-interlacing; movement was smooth as could be. Lighter scenes, such as when the Hogwarts invitation letters start flying into the Dursleys' home, or when Harry and Hagrid stroll through Diagon Alley show excellent color rendering and contrast.
I also tested with two episodes of the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. These DVDs are always a great test for de-interlacing and scaling not only because it is a 4:3, 480i video-based source, but also because many episodes contain scenes with greatly contrasting colors and levels. Again, I found that the NR809 did an excellent job of scaling and processing. Watching in a dark living room at night, I determined that I did like the ISF Night setting quite a bit more than the any other of the pre-set options. The episode Schisms features some dimly lit scenes, as Riker is kidnapped into some aliens' laboratory in another universe. The NR809 preserved the shadow detail and contrast quite well. Of course, being 4:3 material, the video included black bars on the sides of the image. It was telling that those bars basically blended into my HDTV's bezel. I realize that much of that is due to the plasma display itself, but I can say that after watching several scenes both with and without the NR809 handling the processing, that it definitely did a better job of preserving blacks than the Blu-Ray player was on its own.
Audio performance was what I have come to expect from Onkyo – in a word, stellar. The Audyssey configuration and equalization contributes greatly to this, as does the quality of the sound processing components (DSPs, D/A converters, etc.). In addition, the quality of the actual amplifier components (including the power supply) and overall design result in crisp, clean sound devoid of any audible noise and excellent low volume performance. As I have stated in past reviews, being able to watch later in the evening with others in the house asleep while maintaining the detail of the audio track is very important to me. There are three technologies that enable this in the NR809. First, there is the new THX Loudness Plus, which is part of the THX Ultra2 Plus and THX Select2 Plus certifications. Next there is the Audyssey Dynamic EQ feature. Each of these two can be applied to any source. In addition, for Dolby Digital encoded tracks, there is a Late Night feature. I prefer to use Audyssey Dynamic EQ for late night movie watching as I find it works very well.
When my Blu-Ray set of the Star Wars films arrived, I immediately had to stick Episode IV: A New Hope in to test it out. As any home theater enthusiast knows, the combination of the orchestral score and sound effects make it a perfect movie to test a receiver's performance, even more so now that there is a DTS-HD Master Audio version. Having my Blu-Ray player connected via HDMI and outputting bitstream allowed the NR809 to do the decoding work as well. Again, the receiver did not disappoint. The opening Fox fanfare leading into John Williams' brilliant main theme was glorious as the film began. The Death Star escape and final Death Star assault space battles looked and sounded excellent. I was enveloped in the explosions of Alderaan and the Death Star as the house shook (yes, for this test I waited until I had the house to myself). Dialog was clean and well balanced. Of the countless times I have watched the film, this may have been one of the most enjoyable times.