With a nod to Colin Clive after a good jolt of electricity brought his creation to life, a similar, though not quite identical exercise brought my latest box of tricks into being as well (at least, in this living room).
Very, very rarely will I dip a toe into the murky waters of hifi gear and buy something completely blind. I'll usually trawl through any reviews I can find, seek out as many user reviews on top of those, then check out the specs online, then...blah blah blah...I'll eventually buy the thing or I'll walk away. In fairness, there's been stability for the most part in the last year or two with just the amp changing.
So when Onkyo added a network stereo receiver to their two-channel lineup, my eyes lit up. Checking out the specs, they lit up even more. Short of HD audio, this delivered everything I'd usually want to play and then some. Hummed and hawed for ages, hoping a review would turn up, none did. Started seeing user reviews appearing really talking this thing up. Price had been £400, but then it came down in Superfi and Richer Sounds. Hmmm, then Superfi start doing their 10% off thing, so suddenly we're looking at the wallet just before the ...
So I bought one and it arrived today. Out the box, it's a smart looking thing and substantial too. I've never been a big fan of the fascia, or more accurately, the plasticky knobs, but you can pitch the same complaint at any number of manufacturers now (Yamaha AS3/5/700 owners will be on the page here for instance). Other than this, there's no gripes. The display is clear, spread over two lines and can easily be read from across the room. It can be dimmed too.
There's a variety of buttons inset flush to the fascia below the display (setup, enter, return, speaker select and so on) with four knobs (input, bass, treble and balance) towards the bottom. A "Pure Audio" button and a larger volume knob complete the tweakery to the front. Oh and there's a USB connector for iPods to the front bottom right.
Round the back, well, let's just say it's an amp that caters for anything and everything most users would likely want to plug in - CD, turntable, TV, Blu-ray, game console, VCRs (yep!) and the list goes on. It'll take an additional power amp and a subwoofer as well. The Firmware upgrade was a doddle, via homeplug and so now it has Spotify, with a little help from Onkyo's free app on the iPod Touch. I'm sitting here just over an hour or so in, all set-up and playing music. The internet function is good, though I need to explore it more but currently streaming Spotify and it's great.
The ample power on tap (130wpc at 6ohms, roughy 100wpc at 8), means it'll drive just about anything. And with that in mind, the sound quality is very good; no harshness, good bass and nicely balanced with everything all present and correct. The TX8050 sounds way better than you'd expect for £400 and for the £270 I handed over, it's an utter steal. I'm very impressed with how Onkyo managed to turn this out but I'm not too sure how they did it. Either way, this should be on anyone's list that's looking for a new amp under £500 and maybe even a tad more.
Oh and to round off what's turning into a great day for me, I just had a phone call when writing this up with the offer of a new contract. Six months business analysis work with one of the banks in Edinburgh on a big development programme there. If I wasn't babysitting tonight, I'd crack a bottle open - what a happy boy; it's going to be a good Christmas after all!