So yesterday (friday the 13:th, no less) the Onkyo beast that is TX-NR5009 arrived. Have already installed it and run Audyssey calibration twice with a few minor tweaks here and there. Time to see if it can make the Apex perform to my liking like none of the others could. So far things are promising, apart from a few negatives that might ruin the deal for me. I'll keep you guys posted.
(the stickers stay on in case I will return it)
(new spot for my second AW-12 subwoofer, which seem to work wonders)
Current A/V equipment:
NUFORCE AVP-18 (processor/DAC) | NUFORCE MCH-300SEC7 (multichannel amplifier) | MONITOR AUDIO APEX (5.2 speaker system) | SAMSUNG LE-52B755 (tv) | DENON DBT-3313UD (disc transport) | NAIM UNITISERVE (music server) | SUPRA (cabling) | LOGITECH HARMONY 900 (universal remote) | NORDOST PULSAR POINTS (isolation feet)
Wow, The Beast. How exhilarating ..Keep us informed about it - it will be ever so interesting to hear your thoughts:)
Samsung UE46D6530 > QED Performance HDMI > Denon AVR-1909 > Chord Active Silver HDMI > Denon BDP 2010 > Leema Linx 1 Interconnect > Leema Pulse Stereo Amp. > ProAc Signature Black Speaker Cable > Beresford TC-7220 2-way Audio Switch > Atlas Hyper 1.5 Speaker Cable > M.Short Mezzo 6,Mezzo 5 and Mezzo 1 on Atacama Nexus 6i > Wharfedale SW150 Sub
The hunt to find a replacement for my trusty Denon AVR-3808A continues with the Onkyo TX-N5009 to tackle the Apex speakers. It proved to be somewhat of a mixed experience, though overall a positive one. I'll get right down to how it performs. (PS! the following are highly personal opinions)
I'll begin with the positive aspects. Reproduction of movie soundtracks through Apex is an absolute thrill with this machine, no question about it. After my numerous disappointments with offerings from Pioneer, Anthem and Primare it didn't take more than a few minutes into the blu-ray of "Hellboy" to realise I was in for a treat. With well-crafted soundtracks Onkyo serves up a generous soundstage with great transparency and spaciousness, even with "just" my 5.2 set-up. Watching movies with Onkyo at the helm quickly proved to be one of the most immersive and dynamic experiences I've yet to have with the Apex (I dare not imagine a full 9.2 set-up!). And this is without any DSP-enhancement, mind you. The exciting nature and liveliness when watching movies is commendable and grabs your attention. The sound is bold and full in all channels, but never overblown. There is delicate detail retrieval and a fine amount of spatiality. Presentation of dialogue is realistic and clearly projected into the room, never is it drowned out by the surrounding action. I reckon much of this is due to the calibration and measurements done by the advanced Audyssey MultEQ XT32, and of course utilizing Dynamic EQ ontop of that. The result is far and above what I ever managed to get with Pioneer's calibration tool MCACC or Anthem's much-praised ARC. There's just no question.
Most Apex owners know the integration between these speakers (including the subwoofer) is amazing to begin with, and Onkyo enhances that even further – there is nearly a hint of disruption to be found anywhere in the soundfield. Coherent is the word. I was also impressed by the way my pair of AW-12 subwoofers were kept under strict control, thanks to the dual subwoofer calibration and filtering. I also believe the DAC's and jitter-cleaning technology in this machine make a difference. Overall it feels like the Onkyo has a fairly neutral character with very little 'colouring' of the sound, which suit Apex just fine, at least with movies. There is a decent amount of power on tap, more so than my Denon, as large dynamic swings are effortlessly portrayed with the kind of smoothness that makes you wanna turn up the volume (and yes, the unit gets very hot). The toroidal transformer obviously ensure constant quality of power is fed to the speakers, and demanding as they are Apex naturally makes the most of that. Thankfully I noticed no sign of listening fatigue or distortion.
Though obviously impressed I didn't feel the differences (or improvements) between my current Denon and this Onkyo were hugely significant, but the benefits are definitely there and might prove difficult to live without. In some ways it brought new life to the Apex. I'm not surprised that What HiFi (among others) have crowned this jewel the best of the best in terms of A/V receivers. It has indeed made an impression on me.
Now to the unfortunate negatives. Firstly; to my ears there seems to be a great deal of musicality missing here. It's a little odd after such a thrillride with movies to find music reproduction a bit 'stale' and uninspiring. Perhaps it's because some of that warmth I'm accustomed to from Denon is not evident here? The AVR-3808 might not be a champ with music but for a receiver it's quite decent most of the time. Secondly; plain 2-channel reproduction bore me these days and with a sub/sat system I need to make the music fill my entire listeningroom. As good as the Apex are a pair of A10's alone cannot compete with the soundstage created by a pair of full-blown floorstanding speakers. Therefore an all-channel-stereo mode is a must. But in order for a such a DSP-mode to sound good in my room it needs to be tweakable. Sadly Onkyo have omitted the possibility of saving independent speaker levels per source or listening mode. For example; I might want to manually adjust the level of specific channels to find a harmonious balance. Not possible. Onkyo seem to only allow one general level setting that apply to all sources and all listening modes regardless. I find this puzzling when other brands (e.g. Denon) offer that flexibility. I mean, when watching TV or playing video games one might also prefer to save different level settings. As it stands, Onkyo's all-channel-stereo mode comes off as uneven and virtually unlistenable to me. Also, the strict control of the subwoofers I found so impressive with movies seemed to almost vanish. Suddenly bass was bloated and overpowering. Sadly no other mode on offer impressed me either (I'm picky with this, yes).
Despite the Onkyo being so spectacular with movies it's not a complete overhaul or revolution compared to the capable Denon, and since it seems I might suffer with music through this receiver it may not be an all-round enjoyable investment. Its kind of irritating when I thought I'd finally gotten my hands on an ideal partner for the Apex. I know we can't have it all in a receiver like this but I refuse to compromise on certain issues. I play music half of the time so it's important to be equally thrilled. If I cared only for watching movies and listening to music in plain 2-channel this might be a no-brainer. For some people this receiver would fit the bill perfectly and I'm sure they would also find its music reproduction excellent. The Onkyo is still a doubtlessly terrific partner with Apex and bring out good things from them. Just not in every aspect as far as I'm concerned. I wish Onkyo could cut down on the massive amount of excessive features they stuff into their receivers and concentrate purely on performance with flexible settings in every regard. However, the Onkyo is not out of the equation, I still might switch to it. Maybe there are ways to adjust or get around the things I felt were lacking so I can also enjoy music the way I want to.
I just need to check out a few other alternatives first
Excellent review / thought, thanks
OOI what anthem and primare did you try out and what did you find disappointing with them?
What do you plan to try out next?
HiFi / A/V / Bedroom
Nice system - looks cool!
Main AV Setup: Panasonic 50VT65 TV, Pioneer Bdp-lx71, Pioneer Vsx-lx70, B&W FPM Series, B&W PV1, Optimum AV300 AV Stand, QED Silver Anniversary XT Speaker Cable & Chord Silver Plus HDMI Cables. Gadgets: iPad Air & iPhone 4S.
Hey Ben! I'm grateful you took the time to read
It's been a very interesting, if somewhat frustrating, journey testing all these machines over the last year (I've tested 6 different models now). I just want to find an 'ideal' partner for my Apex package. You can read my reviews of the Anthem and Primare in 'The Apex Club' thread. I'll try link you to the pages where those reviews are posted:
Anthem MRX700 http://www.whathifi.com/forum/home-cinema/the-apex-club?page=28
(page 28 / post #4)
Primare SPA22 HD http://www.whathifi.com/forum/home-cinema/the-apex-club?page=35
(page 35 / post #9)
Next I'm interested in possibly checking out offerings from Rotel, Yamaha, NAD or try a separates solution, though not sure which processor and multichannel amp to go for. I just know none of the beforementioned have Audyssey MultEQ XT32 which might be problematic since it's obvious I like how it makes my Apex speakers perform. Also, Denon have new top-of-the-line receivers coming up... Then again, I might not have given up on the Onkyo either!
Hi Ricky, thanks for the links and sorry I missed those reviews before I unfortunately never got to try the primare but the 2 main problems you seem to identify don't surprise me, its processing and it's lack of flexibility compared to more traditional receiver brands.
You've already mentioned the potential solution I would suggest, which might give you the best of both worlds of audyssey & flexibility plus subtlety and ability with music. That would be separates with something like the Onkyo PR-SC5509 as a pre pro and a multichannel power amp from someone like Primare / Arcam / Audiolab. As it happens, pretty close to my solution!
Yes indeed Ben, your suggestion is very, very intersting! I've had my eyes on the processor Onkyo PR-SC5509 or Integra DHC-80.3, possibly with Primare A30.7 (they do make great amplifiers!) or Nuforce MCH200C. I have very limited room for separates in my A/V cabinet so they must be compact. So many demands... hehe. Your own solution is great!
Hey Ricky you are not the only one who's got limited room in the A/V cabinet. But atleast yours is like twice as big as ours haha and nicer looking! I love the clean black/white look you have!
May be here my heavy experimentation with various equipment plays a role.
I started with Denon and moved across various brands and finally Classe.
I have the same feel about Onkyo. Movies great but music lacking. Yamaha does not do much better. Rotel is a bit weak on high frequencies. (I am saying it based on the house sound of the brand and use only few components in their range. So some specific components might deviate)
Arcam AVR 600 is the best sounding receiver for music but IMHO, for multi channel music, it could be beaten easily by pre/pro and power.
So if I have to make a suggestion based on what I have seen - Marantz AV7005 with a power amplifier (Used Arcam P7 - It is what I had and it is great) in your range is the best bet. The other alternative could be Audiolab 8200AP. Beyond this, it is alot of matching and improvement in speakers from Apex etc etc
Ofcourse, Classe sound is a world apart but the asking price for an SSP-800 is not a small change!
Useful post The problem for Ricky with the audiolab is it has no room EQ AFAIK. The Marantz I believe does use audyssey and is therefore a viable alternative. I came close to buying one but got the onkyo instead, thinking the marantz may be a little smooth in comparison, but definitely worth an audition.
Ricky, yes primare make great amplification and would be my first choice! Space is definitely a question, tho for me the large centre was the biggest problem. At least with a power amp it can be hidden away as it can be switched on by a jack lead from the processor.
Hey WishTree, thanks for reading and giving me your input – very interesting!
BenLaw is right however, I am in dire "need" of Audyssey (preferably the more advanced MultEQ XT32) and Dynamic EQ, which after all the experiments with other brands/models I cannot seem to live without. However, I shall not rule anything else out of the equation completely. And a pre/pro is still in the back of my mind, but they also need to be efficient, compact and with the (limited amount of) features I want. I believe Marantz is coming out with a new processor to follow the AV7005 (hopefully with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 this time). Sadly I could not house an Arcam P7, however great it might be. I've looked at NuForce, who makes great power amplifers alongside of Primare. When I tested the integrated Primare SPA 22 HD the amplification section really impressed me and fit really well with Apex (for music).
Then again, like you said – there is always Classé… (I wish!)
Great set up and very informative postings. I hope you find that perfect amp. Are you sure there's nowhere you could fit a P7?
I don't believe the new Marantz processor has Audyssey XT32.
It's more the sub than the speakers that need EQ'ing, so I wouldn't rule anything out. I've gone from XT32 to no EQ at all, and I'm finding my system more enjoyable for both movies and music.
David @Frank Harvey Hi-Fi, Coventry
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