Onkyo TX-NR5008 A/V Receiver
A Bigger Boat
So the red-felt-topped pool table with the Bud Light (get it?) lamp suspended above it in your man cave doesn’t illicit “oohs” and “aahs” from visitors like it once did? Maybe it’s time to re-create that 1980s Crazy Eddie’s look by installing a showroom’s worth of speakers and driving them with the Onkyo TX-NR5008 AVR.
I see you scratching your head trying to figure out exactly where you could put all the speakers Onkyo’s new flagship AVR can accommodate. Well, besides the side surrounds and back speakers (yawn, that’s so last millennium), the Onkyo can handle four more speakers in the front of the room. Audyssey DSX uses width speakers, which go to the outsides of your main left and right speakers; plus DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz add height speakers, which go, naturally, above these. When both height and width are engaged, the Onkyo cuts out the rear (but not side) channels, if connected. That’s how Onkyo can provide 11 speaker output terminals on its back panel but only have juice for nine of them at a time. It’s all done using software to control the hardware. While I had to humbly settle for just 5.2 channels of surround sound for this review, the results were still amazing.
That’s Not a Knife—That’s a Knife!
The THX Ultra2 Plus–certified Onkyo TX-NR5008’s design is superbly well thought out. Ergonomically, I don’t think you can find as feature-packed an AVR that’s as easy to set up or, even more importantly, use on a day-to-day basis. The onscreen display melds seamlessly with whatever HDMI image you’re watching. Press the THX button to cycle through a myriad of Dolby Pro Logic and DTS Neo:6 decoding methods with THX post processing. Your HDTV clearly displays each choice. Setup menus go from effective and attractive to graphically embellished. For example, the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 setup shows a 3D perspective of a listening room that highlights each speaker as it’s being measured. The user manual is very well written, but you won’t need to refer to it often.
Onkyo’s HQV Reon-VX video processor implementation is overgenerous by leaps and bounds. The TX-NR5008 will easily crossconvert and upscale standard- or high-definition sources to HDMI. But if you’re like me, you’ve been 100 percent HDMI for years, so what’s in it for you? Well, the Onkyo will let you modify brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation for each source. That’s a splendid option to have, even if you’ve calibrated your HDTV. I frequently record shows on my DVR that are uncomfortably dark or desaturated. With a few clicks, you can get any picture looking better. There are even more advanced settings, including custom memories to save calibrations for day or night viewing. You can also set brightness and contrast for red, blue, and green individually.
As far as connections go, the Onkyo doesn’t go overboard with analog audio and video inputs like most AVRs, so the back is fairly uncluttered and easy to navigate. There’s an Ethernet connection, and you’ll definitely want to make sure it’s plugged in, as you’ll soon read. Finally, every AVR I’ve ever reviewed had crappy binding posts that don’t accept spade connectors. The Onkyo is no different, but that doesn’t make it right.
This Onkyo has eight HDMI 1.4a inputs, so it meets the requirements to pass 3D video (although I didn’t test it with a 3D dislay or source). Seven of the HDMI inputs are on the rear panel, with an eighth behind the drop-down door on the front panel. There are also two HDMI outputs for your HDTV and/or HD projector, and they are both active by default. This is by far the most HDMI routing I’ve seen in a single box.
You won’t need a special dock to plug your iPod into the Onkyo; there’s a convenient front-panel USB input to let you get your groove on, and off again, in a flash. The fully featured video interface grants you access to your playlists, artists, albums, etc., and shuffles songs as needed. But the reality is, without the fancy Apple wheel, it takes an insufferably long time to click your way down to any artists or songs in the latter part of the alphabet. Get your iPod’s menu to where you need it before you plug it in.