Onkyo has a formidable track record in the field of home cinema amplifiers, and the TX-NR609 got off to a flying start back in our June 2011 issue. Back then, we earmarked this amp as an ‘authentic contender’ for class-leading status.
Our opinion hasn’t changed. This is still one heck of an amp for the money – a real show-stopper. Fed the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Onkyo serves up surround sound of the highest order.
The ‘609 has a strong-armed, speaker-thrashing side which is all too ready to come out when a movie demands it, but this latest Onkyo is more than a bare-knuckle brawler.
Truly communicative with music
There’s a level of gracefulness, subtlety and refinement that allows it to engage with the listener on many more levels. Harry Potter’s musical score sounds wonderfully detailed and dynamic. As Hermione erases her parents’ memories, the sombre accompaniment leaves a lasting impression.
This natural tone, combined with excellent detail and dynamics, gives the ‘609 a real advantage with CD playback. There are very few receivers at this price that are as comfortable playing music.
In terms of socketry and features, it’s as well-equipped as any rival, and it’s arguably also one of the best-looking, thanks partly to a smoother, more sophisticated finish compared with previous generations of Onkyo amp.
THX Select2 Plus certified
The ‘609 is THX Select2 Plus certified, opening up various THX-approved surround modes and settings. The provision of six HDMI inputs (five rear, one front) is in line with rivals, as is the vast array of video and audio inputs on the back – which include a couple of digital coaxial and optical inputs, useful for extracting 5.1 surround sound from a Sky+ HD set-top-box.
There’s an FM tuner built-in; if you would prefer to sample the delights of DAB, you’ll have to pay £130 for Onkyo’s optional UP-DT1 module, which slots into a proprietary connection on the rear.
The Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker calibration is simple and succinct, while the inclusion of both Audyssey DSX and ProLogic IIz gives you the choice of front height, front width or surround back speakers as your sixth and seventh channels of surround sound.
A fully fledged network receiver
The ‘NR’ in its name indicates that this is a fully fledged network receiver. Via the ethernet socket on the back you can access vTuner and Last.fm internet radio, while there’s DLNA compatibility for accessing music and video stored on other devices on your home network.
Like some of the other amps in its class, streaming for Napster subscribers is also offered; and the inclusion of Spotify should prove useful to users of the Premium version of the music streaming service.
You can log-in to your Spotify account via the remote control and on-screen menus, and then play back your favourite tunes and playlists. You can connect and stream music directly from an iPod or iPhone, but unlike the Denon and Pioneer, there’s no AirPlay functionality to take advantage of.
Still, this is hardly grounds for any major criticism – and nor should it be, given just how superb this home cinema amplifier sounds.