Onkyo BD-SP809 review

Top-quality results from top-of-the-range Blu-ray deck Tested at £500

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

For cinema enthusiasts this is a fine choice. It's narrower of focus than some, though


  • +

    First-rate Blu-ray picture

  • +

    good upscaling

  • +

    superb, muscular movie sound

  • +

    decent stereo


  • -

    Lacks streaming support

  • -

    no multichannel analogue outs

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The Onkyo is unusual in two regards: it is unable to replay DVD-Audio and SACD discs, but it is endowed with THX certification. Onkyo has carved itself a formidable reputation in this market, and the 809 clearly targets the company’s loyal legion of AV receiver owners.

The selection of socketry reflects the more specific needs of its target audience, too. Unlike its rivals, the Onkyo does away with multichannel analogue outputs, retaining but a pair of stereo sockets to facilitate connection to your hi-fi system.

It does, though, have twin HDMI outs; they can be specified either to feed video via one socket and audio via the other or, if you prefer, both video and audio from each. Only the ‘main’ HDMI output, however, delivers optimum, THX-certified video quality.

Build quality is certainly up to the high standards of this class. The Onkyo’s independent circuit blocks for analogue and digital circuitry help to reduce electromagnetic interference, while items that generate mechanical vibration, such as the motor assembly, are directly coupled to the stiff chassis.

The remote handset is more basic, however, and we’re not smitten by the BD-SP809’s small and apparently rather uninformative display, either.

Film-like picture quality
Such earthly concerns fade from the memory once you’ve ushered the Onkyo into life. Its 2D picture is excellent, giving Contagion’s polished transfer all the lustre it merits.

There’s a film-like quality to the density of its colour palette and the smoothness of its motion, while detail fans will adore the breathtaking clarity it can muster.

3D discs are equally delightful, the 809 conjuring a rigorously layered, unerringly stable image with Avatar.

Switch to DVD and the Marvell QDEO upscaling is almost as convincing as that of the Denon DBP-2012UD and Marantz UD7006.

There’s a shade less ‘snap’ to colours and contrast, but its pictures are crisply drawn, with little edge-shimmer or background noise.

A formidable listen with Blu-ray
The Onkyo also proves its worth sonically. It’s a formidable listen with Blu-ray, the energetic presentation helping to bolster both the scale and the spaciousness of our reference system.

Analogue stereo’s not at all bad either – almost a surprise given the 809’s overtly multichannel inclinations. This isn’t the most expressive listen here – that’s the Marantz – but it’s respectably refined and rhythmic, at least with CD.

Streaming is satisfactory in performance terms, although as with the others here, the range of file types is limited: you can’t listen to FLAC or WAV files over your network, and the Onkyo has no truck with MKV video, either.

If you want outstanding home cinema performance, this Onkyo is a fine choice. If, by contrast, you want the best all-rounder you can buy, its slight limitations mean it isn't the best in class.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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