Originally a five-star machine, the Onkyo TX-NR515 was knocked down to four when it was reviewed against key rivals including the Yamaha RX-V673 and the Sony STR-DN1030 towards the end of 2012.
But that was when the Onkyo cost the best part of £450. Now, thanks to a substantial price drop, the TX-NR515 can be yours for closer to £250, a not insignificant saving. It is time, therefore, to revisit our review.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review: Specification
The Onkyo TX-NR515 has more than enough specification highlights to make its price-tag seem an absolute steal at this money.
The eighth, front-panel-positioned HDMI socket (do you even own eight HD sources?) doubles as an MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) input, so any 1080p content stored on a smartphone can painlessly be sent to an HD display while the Onkyo amplifies the corresponding multichannel sound.
There are more than enough lesser inputs too – the rear-sited USB socket, for instance, can be used with a (cost-option) wireless LAN adaptor, which leaves the USB on the fascia free for iPods or other, less ubiquitous, flash-memory devices.
There’s a powered audio Zone 2 output, seven channels of amplification (so surround back or front height speakers are on the menu) and a ‘hybrid standby’ mode that allows HDMI information to pass through the receiver even when it’s switched off.
The InstaPrevue feature is pretty useful too: live thumbnails of all HDMI-connected devices makes input selection child’s play.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review: DLNA, streaming, set-up
The TX-NR515 has sufficient online capability to make the competition tremble. As well as DLNA compatibility (with support for audio formats up to FLAC 192kHz/24-bit), v-Tuner brings a planet’s-worth of internet radio stations into your listening room, last.fm keeps abreast of your listening preferences, and subscription services SIMFY and Spotify are incorporated too.
There’s even access to cloud-locker music via MP3tunes.
Onkyo’s most recent software update for the TX-NR515 also saw Apple Lossless file support (over a home network or via USB) included, pushing the feature count to even higher levels.
Thanks to a combination of logical and straightforward menus and the remote-control handset, the Onkyo is simple to calibrate to your specific circumstances.
There’s a free iOS and Android remote app available – thanks to the big, bright icons and intuitive layout, we find the app preferable to the small, unlit buttons of the standard remote.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review : Movie sound quality
Once set up to your satisfaction and amplifying the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to Chronicle, the TX-NR515’s gets straight into its stride.
The combination of subtlety and brute force that has charmed us with Onkyo’s most recent efforts, and the TX-NR515’s natural, neutral tone, fanatical detail retrieval and dizzyingly expansive dynamic headroom capture the listener straight from the off.
The soundstage the TX-NR515 generates is deep, wide and tall, and the Onkyo has no problem in moving effects around it with speed and precision. Focus is first-rate, and there’s a level of immediacy granted to centre-channel dialogue that’s a real rarity, especially at this new, lower price.
Deep-breathing and authoritative when the going gets explosive, but with the insight and attention to detail to make the most of the tension and dread in a high-def soundtrack like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 or 2), the TX-NR515 is simultaneously bull and matador.
At its original higher price point the competition is much tougher, but with the amp now mixing it with more budget rivals, it has no trouble bossing them in terms of clarity and subtlety.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review: Spotify, internet radio sound quality
Other audio formats allow the Onkyo to demonstrate similar poise and authority. Stream some music from your network-attached storage device and the NR515 makes the differences in compression ratios apparent (we listened to Beastie Boys’ The Sounds of Science at a variety of file sizes, and the gains in detail, separation, dynamism and simple fidelity are explicit). And results from the defiantly middling files-sizes of the entire Spotify library are equally enjoyable.
Where internet radio is concerned, of course, you’re at the mercy of the quality of the broadcast itself, but given a fighting chance with Radio 3’s 192-ish kbps or FIP’s 128kbps the results are punchy and listenable.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review: Picture quality
In video terms, the Onkyo doesn’t stick its oar in when passing through HD and 3D information, and does sterling work when upscaling lesser formats to fit your Full HD display’s resolution.
A DVD of The Man Who Wasn’t There, for instance, is upscaled every bit as effectively – by which we mean with smooth edge definition, low noise levels and impressively strong contrasts – as it is by our favourite sub-£400 Blu-ray players.
In fact, the TX-NR515 is capable of upscaling all the way to 4096 x 2160 (4K) resolution, but as it stands this is the mootest of points – it’s hard to conjure with the idea of the owner of a £17,000 Sony VPL-VW1000ES projector or £7000 Toshiba 55ZL2 TV only spending £250 on an amplifier.
Onkyo TX-NR515 Review: Verdict
Ultimately, the TX-NR515 performs as well as it ever did, but at its newer, more affordable pricepoint, the case for any prospective buyers is even more convincing.
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