Onkyo TX-NR5007 A/V Receiver

Some critics say hip-hop is dead. If they’re right, then Kanye West and Li’l Wayne should get into the A/V receiver business. The two industries bear striking similarities. Hip-hop artists maximize sales by loading up their albums with guest performances. Audio manufacturers maximize sales by loading up their receivers with guest technologies.

Onkyo’s top-of-the-line receiver, the TX-NR5007, illustrates my point. It’s only the second receiver I’ve seen that outputs all 11 channels of sound needed for a complete Audyssey DSX surround sound setup. It’s certified by THX and the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF). It includes Dolby Volume and Pro Logic IIz height-channel processing. It upconverts video using HQV Reon-VX processing. It streams from the Pandora, Rhapsody, and Sirius Internet music services — and from computers on your home network.

But just as you can’t make a great hip-hop record merely by tacking on a vocal from T-Pain, you can’t make a great receiver with outside technology alone. Fortunately, Onkyo packed the TX-NR5007 with plenty of its own good stuff, starting with nine analog amplifiers, each rated at 145 watts continuous, plus two independently adjustable subwoofer outputs. (You need to add a separate stereo amp to get full 11-channel DSX.) If you don’t want to run a full DSX setup, you can bridge two of the unused amp channels to double the power into your front left and right speakers. You can also use the extra amps to biamplify the front speakers, powering the woofer and midrange/tweeter sections separately, or to power stereo speakers in one or two other rooms.

Onkyo provides seven HDMI inputs, with an extra one in front — more than even Jay-Z’s home theater would probably require. There’s a phono input for a turntable, and front and rear USB inputs. A multipin jack accommodates two optional modules: the $159 UP-HT1 HD Radio tuner and the $109 UP-A1 iPod dock. It’s the rare home theater aficionado who won’t find every jack they need on the back of the TX-NR5007.

SETUP

As I scanned the 15 logos on the TX-NR5007’s front panel, then flipped through the manual, I got the impression I was in for a long installation, with a zillion minor parameters to be addressed and a high likelihood that I’d miss some important adjustment lurking in an out-of-the-way menu. But the TX-NR5007 surprised me at every turn. Operations that sounded difficult in the manual turned out to be completely intuitive.

When you first start up the receiver, it practically forces you to go through the Audyssey auto-calibration process, which uses a supplied microphone and a series of test tones to evaluate your speaker system and your room. The process then calculates the channel levels and delays, the subwoofer-crossover frequency for each speaker, and an equalization curve for each speaker. Except for minor miscalculation of a couple of crossover frequencies, the auto-calibration worked perfectly.
Other setup functions were quick and easy. Even setting up the universal remote proved simple. An onscreen menu for remote control setup guides you though the process. Choose the device and the brand, and then the receiver transmits the proper codes to the remote. In less than 5 minutes, I had the remote programmed to control my LG Blu-ray Disc player and Samsung digital TV tuner.

The networking setup also proved far simpler than the Onkyo’s manual suggested. After I plugged in an Ethernet cable from my home network, I found that the Internet radio feature was ready to go. In seconds, I was listening to a richly accented commentator dish international news on BBC 4. Using Pandora required only that I enter my user name and password through an onscreen keyboard; almost instantly, I was listening to a channel focused on the works of Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain.

When I tried to stream music from my laptop through the network, it turned out I had something set wrong on my computer — but the receiver’s onscreen menu suggested a fix. After I changed one network setting on the computer, a computer icon appeared on my TV screen. A few clicks of the remote delivered “What I Say” from Miles Davis’s Live-Evil — and a moment of elation as I heard this classic track expanded to huge, 9.2-channel sound courtesy of Audyssey DSX. Switching to other tracks was simple, except for one annoyance: The onscreen display shows the tracks in alphabetical order, not in the order they appear on the album.

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