Onkyo PR-RZ5100 Surround Processor Review Page 2

The pre/pro’s tenure in my system coincided with my birthday (no, I’m not telling) and thus receipt of the 50th-anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. So it seemed appropriate to first listen to the new 5.1 version on Blu-ray, mixed by George Martin’s son, Giles, and Sam Okell—and you can count me a fan. My first big OMG moment came as early as the initial backing-vocal entrance on “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Here, the distinction between individual voices snapped sharply into focus, bringing the poignant image of two flesh-and-blood guys flanking a microphone, whereas before, there was just a homogenous “Beatles-backing” sound. And I had no complaints at all with the Onkyo’s presentation. Both versions—DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD—sounded revelatory. One of my regular references, a Telarc disc of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, confirmed its multichannel-SACD prowess as well. (SACD is, after all, just DSD on a disc.)

917onkrec.rem.jpgFilm sound: Ditto. I cued up the new DTS:X version of 3:10 to Yuma on Ultra HD Blu-ray and was rewarded with a big, sweeping soundfield that powerfully supported this understated but very finely drawn Western. The mix’s height cues are relatively rare, but the Onkyo’s involving, wellportrayed surround bubble drew me all the way in just the same.

Onkyo’s electronics are so nearly ubiquitous that user-interface familiarity may have predisposed me to approval, but I found the PR-RZ5100 easy and generally quick to operate. The onscreen menus and displays are mostly simple text, and the majority of them pop up and down with reasonable alacrity. One exception is the main setup menu, which required my display to resync to 720p and then back again, engendering a pause of a couple of seconds in each direction, which would become annoying if the menu weren’t so infrequently used. (Onkyo says this has to do with how individual televisions sync their HDMI signals, and that some displays may not be subject to this at all.) The remote that Onkyo supplies is the same rather basic, nonilluminated, blackplastic handset that’s packed with the company’s receivers fairly far down the lineup, which is a bit of smack for a $2,400 flagship pre/pro. But I understand the rationale, which doubtless is that a majority of buyers will be using a custom system controller or the app anyway, so why throw money away?

A couple of this-gen UI updates I particularly liked: First, each of the remote’s four listening-mode keys (Movie/TV, Music, Game, THX) step through the surround modes available to the current input signal, just as with earlier Onkyos, but the PR-RZ5100 pops up a two-line, lower-right-corner onscreen mini-menu that displays the inputsignal format above the surround mode as you step. Second, a remote info key (“i”) pops up full data on input signals and modes, both audio and video. Meanwhile, Onkyo has retained the Quick Menu, which pops up a mini-menu of context-sensitive items like center- and sub-channel level trims, tone, and EQ settings. Better still, all of the above are basic character-generated overlays, so there’s no delay or interruption whatsoever to video.

The pre/pro’s 1080p-to-4K video scaling worked as expected and introduced no overt artifacts I could detect, though I ended up fairly confident that it was at least no better than my Vizio display’s onboard processing. That said, I still fail to see the rationale for these 1080p-to-4K scalers. If you’re viewing 4K, your screen (or projector) by definition includes its own 4K scaling, the quality of which you presumably factored into your purchase decision. Perhaps it’s just a fringe benefit to the 4K input/output processing necessary to any up-to-date HDMI design.


Streaming audio features include the usual suspects. Tidal, the only such service to which I subscribe (and not for much longer, I think), sounded and worked fine, as I imagine the others do. The Onkyo also includes a local-streaming mode, which I used as a client to my iMac-based TwonkyMedia DLNA server. This worked well and sounded superb, cheerfully streaming all my DSD and hi-res files without a hiccup. One gripe, though: Like a lot of these streamers, Onkyo’s puts onscreen a still of album art with track timing, album title, and artist name. But there’s no file type or codec info (and presumably because of the album image, invoking the Quick Menu now induces a two-second video blank in both directions as the menu comes and goes). I’d happily trade the picture for the data! In any event, Onkyo’s streaming client is one of the quicker and more positive-responding examples.

Among the raft of other features, the two-zone multiroom functions seem worthy of note. One of these can be A/V, and the secondary HDMI output can serve as a singlecable, Zone 2 A/V feed. I confirmed Bluetooth, AirPlay, and Chromecast functionality, the Bluetooth being not the better-performing aptX codec, by the way—a fact that wasn’t immediately obvious and required arduous research to discover (see below). As noted, the PR-RZ5100 is stamped as capable of high dynamic range video; lacking both HDR source and display, I didn’t confirm this.

One small point of irritation: The PR-RZ5100 arrives packed only with Onkyo’s Basic Manual, essentially a glorified setup guide. The link marked “Full Manual, English” on the pre/pro’s webpage actually downloaded a PDF of the same basic manual: Arrghh! I eventually found a link (and QR code) printed on the cover of the Basic Manual that led to an HTML, PDF-downloadable full manual, which included substantially more info (though a printed book would still be welcome, especially at this price). Only there, after diligent searching, did I learn (among other tidbits) that the PR-RZ5100 does not in fact support aptX.

Beyond these quibbles, though, I have no bones to pick with Onkyo’s latest preamp/processor evolution. The PR-RZ5100 is highly functional, sounds great, looks fine video-wise, is easy and mostly quick to use, and (compared with many another pre/pro, especially the few more esoteric ones) is very sensibly priced. What more could we ask?


drny's picture

S&V, you well know the dirty little secret that HDMI 2.1 will make all AVRs as well as most Integrated Amps and Sound Processors obsolete.
I have not updated (and will not update) my 2016 Yamaha AVR based solely on the fact that all brands and models will be made obsolete by 2019 (or earlier) adoption of HDMI 2.1 connection (new cables as well will be required.
As such I don't sent any video signal through my AVR. Only Audio goes to my Receiver.
I will wait till 2019 to update / upgrade. That's when HDMI 2.1 with necessary firmware updates will have proliferated the AVR market.
By the way the same goes for Smart TVs.
I own a Samsung JS9500 (2015 model year). No matter how much I feel tempted to jump into the OLED pool, I will stand by until 2019 model year models(with late season firmware update).
Just as with AVR the change to HDMI 2.1 will eventually make $3000-7000 TV displays obsolete.

mountainman3520's picture

Hello. Anyone have test results of whether this generation of Onkyo prepro uses mechanical relays to change between modes?
I spent over a year trying to resolve this on a top end Onkyo prepro from a few years ago (PRS-5507 was the number if I recall). I also tested the following year's model in a store and it had the same design defect.
The issue was that changes between digital audio stream formats caused a mechanical relay to make a loud CLICK noise. This wouldn't have been such a problem if it only occurred during infrequent user selected mode changes, but ANY brief interruption of the digital audio stream caused an automatic CLICK into "no audio" mode followed by another CLICK back into active audio. So every time a source device with digital audio was interrupted, such as a streamed program, TV show on a DVR, Netflix video, etc being paused or skipped forward/back, or any change, it would result in a sequence of audible clicks. Skipping 3 minutes of commercials in six 30 second remote button pushes? CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK. Ugh!
Many people reported the issue on various forums. A few said they were able to resolve it by adjusting programmable default sound source settings and Onkyo told me this as well. But I followed their instructions and they did not resolve the issue. Eventually Onkyo issued a firmware change that they claimed would fix it, but it also did not work.
Pretty much ruined my enjoyment of that Onkyo prepro despite its other merits. If my AV gear was in a different room it wouldn't be an issue. Or a sealed rack, but then it would have cooked.
I'm curious if this lameness has been resolved after a few years and models.

katherinerose6's picture

I noticed that my meter's center level was a few decibels above normal, but it's not common for an office demolition auto-cal system to precisely match up with another measurement technique.