Onkyo TX-RZ900 A/V Receiver Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Equipped with Dolby Atmos, primed for DTS:X
Abundant clean, dynamic power
AirPlay, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi all on board
Versatile, usable, hi-res-ready streaming options
Minus
Only two height channels, whether powered or line
Failed to stream DSD recordings

THE VERDICT
Plenty of performance and features, and solid human factors, with an emphasis on core audio quality, at fair “flagship” pricing.

Producing a test report on a “flagship” A/V receiver is always a bit of a high-wire act. On one hand, the receiver represents the top of the line: Maximum power, maximum features, and maximum performance are all expected—and generally delivered. On the other hand, cruiser-class designs rarely offer much of real importance that a model two or three jumps down any given maker’s line doesn’t also do quite competently—and for roughly half the price, which means it’s the model that most folks eventually buy. This leaves the hapless reviewer with the unenviable choice of either damning with faint praise or condemning excellence for its expense.

That said, Onkyo’s latest isn’t literally top-of-the-line; a couple of preexisting, fully 11.2/9.2-channel models carrying higher MSRPs remain on the company’s Website. Nonetheless, I will lead with this advice: If a flagship (or flagship-consort) model incorporates a feature or real utility you need—in the TX-RZ900’s case, this might be Zone 2 HDMI-out—go for it in good conscience. Otherwise, “just because” is probably as good a rationale as any; it’s always nice to know you bought the best.

The Setup
Although it’s heavy enough at 40 pounds—much of that due to a special toroidal power transformer touted as a boon to sound quality—the newest Onkyo is half the weight of some A/V flagships of yore, so I managed to unbox it and hoist it atop my rack without sustaining permanent injury. The receiver’s black-monolith looks are squarely handsome, but its tiny gold-on-black panel graphics proved entirely illegible without strong light and reading glasses. And while the central, drop-down door that conceals secondary controls moved smoothly and closed crisply enough, its closed-position stops—a pair of foam blocks glued to the subpanel—seemed rather inelegant when it was open.

Three important features, the first two also present on newer Onkyo models well down the lineup, highlight the TX-RZ900. First, it’s DTS:X-ready, meaning that a future firmware update is promised to deliver DTS’s flavor of object-oriented, channel-scalable surround sound—alongside Dolby’s flavor, Atmos, which is also included here. Second, the receiver provides HDCP 2.2-capable HDMI connectivity, which means that it will, or at least should, accept forthcoming 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players. Third, the TX-RZ900 is THX Select2 Plus certified. (THX categories are getting as hard to keep straight as canned-olive grades.) Onkyo also underscores that the HDMI ports support passthrough of high dynamic range (HDR) video, though unlike some other models in Onkyo’s line, the TX-RZ900 performs no video processing. It is strictly a what-comes-in-is-what-goes-out device, the sole exception being incoming SD video, which the Onkyo cross-converts to HDMI but does not scale.

Thus, the only video “performance” note I made regarded HDMI source-to-source switching, which seemed noticeably faster than what I’ve experienced from many other Onkyo AVRs—a welcome upgrade. Otherwise, the TX-RZ900’s only real video aspect was its onscreen displays, which were quick, crisp, and readable, though entirely text-based despite a “Features” bullet-point of “Graphical Overlaid OSD.” Interestingly, an Onkyo receiver at half the price I reported upon nearly two years ago included very competent Marvel Qdeo video processing.

The little-mourned decline of S-video and composite-video (0/4 jacks, total) makes for a spacious rear panel; hookup was a snap. While billed without qualification as Dolby Atmos/DTS:X-ready, the TX-RZ900 incorporates only seven amplifier channels, so an Atmos/DTS:X setup with more than two “height” speakers—which I think very well worth the trouble—is not an option. Worse, Onkyo does not even permit you to route the two shortchanged channels to an external amplifier: With the TX-RZ900, two height channels is the max, period. Onkyo is by no means alone among the AVR corps in producing receivers in this architecture, but in all cases, and certainly at this price, I deplore the lack of expandability. (Onkyo’s $1,699, nine-channel-power TX-NR1030 does permit flexible, 11.2-channel pre-out routing, so we know it’s possible.) Neither the TX-RZ900’s printed Basic Manual (supplied) nor the online Advanced Manual Web-linked on its cover, make all of this particularly explicit. (Ironically, the Dolby Atmos graphic on the TX-RZ900’s page on Onkyo’s own Website displays nine loudspeakers.)

COMPANY INFO
Onkyo
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Slardybardfast's picture

I currently own an Onkyo NX-818 that I absolutely love in large degree for its implementation of Audyssey MultiEQ XT. With the elimination of Audyssey EQ from their receivers, Onkyo has lost me as a future customer. Denon is in my future.

aravaioli's picture

Same here. I also consider Audyssey superior to any other calibration system I tried (which includes also Anthem), so cost-cutting there for me simply means giving up to the most discerning customers and betting on those who only buy features (which often will never use, while well-calibrated speakers are a constant and permanent enjoyment).
Besides that, Onkyo also developed a very poor reputation in terms of reliability, which I have experienced myself with the TX-NR818 dying and becoming un-reparable for the well-known faulty HDMI board problem. They lost a customer and who knows how many others? I do not have sales figures but I doubt Onkyo is keeping up with Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, Pioneer. Maybe they are now as the same level of Harman Kardon, another company victim of the same choices which downgraded it as budget hi-fi.

Truthsayer's picture

I currently own 7 models of onkyo a/v recievers dating back to 1987.

And it's obvious the reviewer or the previous post's have not auditioned the RZ-900.

The new accu eq calibration, puts audyssey to shame. And the sound quality, truly is top notch of anything on the present market.
People please quit worring about not having audyssey, that would be a downgrade to what this unit incorporates now.

I am lucky enough to audition many different units, including, Anthem audio, Marantz, Denon, Yamaha etc. For audiophile grade quality, ease of set up, 2nd gen accu the onkyo puts them to shame.

hk2000's picture

readers should check this review out: http://hometheaterreview.com/onkyo-tx-rz900-72-channel-av-receiver-revie.... The reviewer is very impressed with the new AccuEQ

boxerdog's picture

I contacted my Authorized Onkyo Dealer (repair service) to order a TX-RZ900 and was told Onkyo is allready no longer producing this unit! Within a month I was told new models are being released.

Truthsayer's picture

Boxerdog, you need a new dealer. I contacted Onkyo directly, and whom ever told you that, is wrong.

You can still order directly from Onkyo or a dealer.

boxerdog's picture

I correct myself I was told they are no longer being produced and that new models will replace. Units are still available. Hoping new units will have more channels for 5.2.4 or higher.

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