Onkyo TX-RZ900 A/V Receiver Review Page 2

In what’s likely a cost-saving move (and as several other AVR makers have done), Onkyo has dropped Audyssey EQ/calibration in favor of proprietary software, AccuEQ. This proceeds along similar lines to most, Audyssey included, via a small wired calibration microphone that audits circulating noise bursts, with a brief pause for calculation; the whole deal takes only a few minutes. AccuEQ did quite a laudable job with channel levels and distances in my setup. However, since AccuEQ only takes data from a single mic position, these proved quite variable by a decibel or even 2 dB over fairly small placement differences. For the same reason, the proprietary speaker/room-EQ seems unlikely to be quite as effective as Audyssey’s higher-version MultEQ, which takes data from up to eight mic positions (32 in a Pro setup) and presumably deploys considerably more, and more expensive, DSP power to derive filter coefficients. That said, the effect of Onkyo’s results versus unequalized sound was generically similar to what I’ve heard many times from multiple Audyssey versions: a slight opening up of upper-octave sounds, a slight sharpening of soundstage image localizations, and a distinct tightening up of midbass elements. It would be edifying in the extreme to directly compare AccuEQ with MultEQ XT’s eight-position setup, but it’s just not practicable.

The Hands-On
Aside from its new front panel layout, the TXRZ900 is operationally similar to the last Onkyo receiver I reviewed, more than a year past. The supplied preprogrammed remote controller is virtually the same handset—logically laid out and reasonably readable, at least for the primary, on-key graphics. There’s no illumination, though, and you have to return the remote to receiver mode every time you change inputs; otherwise, the newly selected component will respond (if programmed), but the TX-RZ900 won’t. Onkyo’s handy pop-up adjustments menu is retained, but its name has been rationalized, avoiding the confusion between Setup and Home menus I observed on earlier iterations.

The new model incorporates fundamentally the same network music features as previous Net-ready Onkyos: Internet radio courtesy of TuneIn free radio streaming, plus Pandora, Spotify, Slacker, Deezer, and Sirius/XM subscription services. The TX-RZ900 streamed my music library via my desktop’s TwonkyMedia DLNA server, including hi-res FLAC, ALAC, and WAV formats, with all the expected sound quality, and with quicker, more responsive search and access times than I remember from previous models. However, even after updating the receiver to the latest firmware, the TX-RZ900’s network streaming interface wouldn’t accept DSD files for me (or even display all of them in their parent folers). This, despite Onkyo’s cut-sheet claims that it should have, up to DSD 5.6. An upgrade to the latest version of Twonky (8.2) didn’t resolve this, while the same DSD files all streamed and played just fine via my Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player’s network interface, which is connected via a standard Ethernet switch on the same network to which the Onkyo was connected. Similarly, I could not get DSD files to play from a USB thumb drive, though Onkyo’s manual says that the unit won’t do higher than DSD 2.8 from USB in any event.

The TX-RZ900’s built-in Wi-Fi connection found my 2.4-gigahertz network without issue and worked with no noticeable sacrifice in speed. I also confirmed the Onkyo’s Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay capabilities: Both operated without drama, and the receiver automatically selects its Net input in response to an AirPlay or Bluetooth handshake—pretty cool.

Onkyo headlines the TX-RZ900’s power supply with a newly engineered, large, high-current toroidal power transformer, and indeed, audio performance itself was just about faultless. The receiver displayed ample power to drive my mixed, medium-sensitivity loudspeaker suite to reference level in my 3,000-ish-cubic-foot studio, even without active subwoofer support. And while most receivers I’ve tried that are rated for 100 watts or more can claim the same, the new Onkyo seemed to have a larger margin of headroom (even at a decibel or two above reference level) than some, as well as a pleasingly authoritative, effortless quality on demanding stereo music, whether full-orchestra fortissimos or R&B horn sections.

Thus, at my preferred listening level a few decibels below reference, all was completely pristine. A hi-res recording like Stravinsky’s Suite from L’histoire du soldat, from an HDtracks 96/24 download, delivered all the transient crispness, textural complexity, and dynamic conviction I expect from recordings of this caliber. Of particular note were the arrestingly lifelike presence of the declamatory voice and the clarion timbre and pristine attack of the trumpet. (This excellent reading by Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen enjoys a fine recording indeed—the first I’ve heard to challenge my superb late-1960s Nonesuch LP, produced and engineered by the peerless duo of Marc Aubort and the late Joanna Nickrenz.)

Just as engagingly, the TX-RZ900 gave me an excuse to peruse a few new Atmos-equipped Blu-ray titles, if only via a 5.1.2 layout (with just two height speakers, in front). Like bay leaf in a stew, a little Tom Cruise goes a long way; still, the wow-factor of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a course that’s hard to skip. You could pick any scene at random, really, but chapter 4—at the Vienna Opera, with chase, banter, and gunplay all interwoven with Turandot—did a great job of demonstrating the big Onkyo’s prowess with music, effects, and dialogue, all in the space of a few minutes. Atmos announces itself right from Puccini’s famous opening five chords, with the vertical space of the grand opera house well represented, followed by a great up, down, and all around workout in the chase through the backstage fly loft. Throughout this disc and several others, the TX-RZ900 never failed to deliver ample clean dynamics on even the biggest, full-frequency action.

In short, I have no bones to pick with the TX-RZ900’s A/V performance: It’s flagship-class, soup to nuts. Nor do I mean to pick on the new Onkyo in particular; as I said at the outset, the value proposition for top-of-the-line components is often problematic. The TX-RZ900 is expensive, yes, but it does all the basics we require from an A/V receiver very, very well, abetted by the full complement of up-to-the-minute technologies and features (albeit with the few limitations noted) and driven by playback power and quality that should satisfy the most demanding among us.


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

Slardybardfast's picture

Aravaioli and Truthsayer, I suggest that you read the Hometheaterreview review a little more carefully and with less optimism. In particular, do you believe the following quotes mean that the TX-RZ900's AccuEQ system is the equal of Audyssey MultiEQ XT:

"Although it might not be as refined, and although it doesn't offering (sic) nearly the number of setup parameters (much less the number of measuring positions), I'd put the new AccuEQ in the same category as superior room correction systems like Anthem Room Correction and Dirac, at least in terms of the effect it has on standing waves. It may not deliver results as perfect as those aforementioned systems, but it gets you 80 percent of the way there with a fifth of the effort."

"Other than that, my only constructive criticism would be that Onkyo needs to work on AccuEQ a little more to perfect its detection of proper crossover settings. Perhaps it could default to 80 Hz and run a quick check to see if the speakers can handle such a crossover setting, then go from there"?

Note that the comparison mentioned in the above quotes is limited to Room Correction only and does not include frequency correction over the entire frequency range. The review simply and mysterious says:

"Here's the thing, though: in my room, that's just about all that AccuEQ does to the audio, and rightly so. Whereas last year's AccuEQ tended to darken vocals and the overall timbre of my sound system (the centers and surrounds, at least), AccuEQ 2015 leaves everything from the midrange on up effectively untouched. As it should. There's none of the deadening that comes with Audyssey."

I dare you to find a review of Audyssey MultEQ XT that describes it as darkening. In the meantime, the review offers faint praise of version 2 of AccuEQ 2015 by saying that it eliminates SOME of the previous versions problems.

And where are the comments on AccuEQ's subwoofer equalization? They don’t exist.

Please read the Hometheaterreview review once again. This time more objectively. AccuEQ is not the equal of Audyssey MultiEQ XT by a long shot.

My original comment still applies: “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.

One correction to my original post: My Onkyo NX-818 has Audyssey MultEQ XT32 implemented, albeit for one subwoofer only. XT32 has hundreds of control points in the subwoofer range alone.


Mrsnikoph78's picture

I've never owned a receiver with Audessey, so I don't know if I would like it or not.

But I picked up an RZ800 at an awesome price, and decided to check out ACCU EQ for myself. Then I measured the results with Room EQ just to see if I could get into the Ballpark of what it is doing.

What I can note is that, despite having 5 identical tower speakers playing, it selected crossovers relatively correctly once, and then screwed them up bad twice. It has nailed distance to within a few inches every time. Levels are also spot on - only + or - 1 dB. I EQ down the subwoofers as a matter of preference.

It EQ's the subwoofers as well. I have two different ones, and it saw and corrected some room modes at about 100 hz and a big one at 40 hz. It didn't make measured response "ruler flat", but it tightened up and improved overall bass response considerably. I've been experimenting with leaving it either "on for all channels" or "Off for Mains, On for rest". I seem to prefer it off for the mains when using my other center channel, on for all channels when running 3 towers across the front.

When on, ACCU EQ appears to shelf down the mid/treble relative to the bass. It doesn't EQ frequencies above, say, 120-300 hz? But it seems to be doing something to the mid/treble levels, as the measurements make plain.

In short, I'd like to have an actual image of the measured result and target response, but you don't get one. But I can say that its a great sound that largely deals only with bass, as it should. In addition, there is still a multi-band EQ that can be used to tweak each connected speaker independently, to the User's preference.

Slardybardfast's picture

Trying to EQ your system via multi-band (parametric, I assume) equalizer is worthless. It does give you something to play with, but you have no idea what results you have achieved. And it is too gross to be meaningful. Audyssey does such frequency EQ automatically at thousands of frequencies,at multiple microphone locations at and near the listen position.

Mrsnikoph78's picture

Trying to EQ your system is worthless? Hardly. "Too gross" to be meaningful? What does that even mean? Do you understand how EQ works? When you measure response from 8 locations do you understand what you are doing? Probably not.

So it must be nice that Audyssey "holds your hand" and goes through the process for you. I don't mind getting out a notepad, a tape measure, and my measurement mic + free or cheap apps. I can do a lot with nothing but an RTA or SPL reading and a little time spent staring at the charts.

Having a parametric EQ is icing on Onkyo's delicious cake for those of us that DO know what we are doing. But I mainly messed with levels, as I said. My speakers sound so good as it is I don't feel a great need to mess around with midrange or treble response. They are approximately flat and I have a very "natural" roll-off in my room. It is basically a very good room for sound except for some rattling windows.

In my car, however, 15 minutes of measurements and cuts 3-12dB from a 5-band EQ got my overall measurement error way closer to + or - 3 dB. If I had a 13 band EQ I'd be closer to perfection, and could easily shape the overall curve a little easier. Is it perfect? No it is not. But our ears and brains are different than microphones. We tolerate bad sound all the time. I don't need absolute perfection and frankly can't 1-2 dB errors anyway. Tape measure, good microphone, and app. "Auto-EQ" and Audyssey are for noobs but at least Onkyo has one that makes integration easy, and doesn't screw up your music love at the same time! That was my main point. Enjoy your Denon/Marantz/Old Onkyo whatever.

Slardybardfast's picture


by "too gross" I meant exactly what the appropriate dictionary definition is: general or large-scale; not fine or detailed. If you think you can equalize a room with a 5-band equalizer, then have at it.

Mrsnikoph78's picture

You CAN EQ a Room (you are referring to my car, of course, which has the 5-band EQ), when EACH BAND of the EQ corresponds to a PEAK identified by a MICROPHONE (e.g. not ear). Sometimes you get lucky.

How's that? Well sir, its because I had adjustments to make at about 60hz (3 dB), 250hz (6 dB), and 1 khz (12 dB). Those conveniently were 3 of the 5 bands I had available. 4 khz and 16 khz were trimmed slightly and only because there is no "natural" roll-off in the car and I want one. I cut, I don't boost. Many very good reasons for that. IF I can't cut a problem frequency, I leave it alone, or would consider allowing other errors to balance it out somewhat (e.g. I cut 1 khz 10 dB instead of 12, read below). In other words, you don't need "perfect". The best affordable speakers out there might be around +-3dB or +-5dB. That is a 6-10 dB window, in other words. Not impossible to achieve.

The re-measured result showed some suckouts mainly below 1 khz that you find in many other cars (For example a Subaru with a Harmon Kardon system showed the same basic problem areas - and they know what they are doing and have a target curve, I am sure). But this is a different problem than "gross" spillover into other frequencies that measure OK. This is a problem where your room "sucks", because it is glass, metal, and plastic with some cheap foam and fake leather thrown in. I could boost the suckouts with a better EQ or a DSP but then I risk blowing up my subwoofer or midrange just to get a better measured result. OR, I keep cutting until I have a system with no headroom left (e.g. max volume is 80 dB instead of 100 dB).

Anyway I also have some residual excess energy at about 1.6 khz which I can't do much about (but I could with the same company's deck with a 13 band EQ if I choose to buy it). Many issues and factors at work including the overall response of my speakers and their placement. But my non-golden ear friend, switching from DSP on to OFF preferred it on, suggesting I had achieved a better subjective response. I agreed. So there.

Oh ya, I lost a little headroom so I can't necessarily go deaf in my car anymore. The suckouts and excess treble energy make things seem a tad "lean" sometimes, but its the best sounding car I've ever done probably. All because of simple EQ tweaks made from a $20 microphone.

Sure its nice to have "high resolution" "filtered" systems, but that can create problems because these systems A) don't know your speakers and B) don't know your "room". They are using DSP processing to hit a target curve that is NOT necessarily within the range of reasonable for your room (you are too absorptive or too reflective). You might NOT like their target curve. Then they present the changes with a pretty, smoothed chart to hide the fact that you probably still have a noisy-ass response shape.

I'm not knocking it, mind you, but there are reasons these systems don't touch frequencies beyond 5 khz, and reasons why reviewers of Dirac, for example, limit adjustment on purpose to JUST BASS (e.g. 300 hz and below). I could add Dirac to my receiver if I wanted to get crazy, and similar DSP systems are available for cars. But even if I did, it might be a waste considering that your Human Ears don't really hear all that great (both personal bandwidth and sensitivity vary), and your brain compensates for imperfectness.

That is my very generous response to you. Try some sound science sometime, the dictionary doesn't know diddly about audio tuning.

I'll close by re-iterating my basic point that Onkyo's new ACCUeq seems to do a great job with bass integration now. I have measured results to prove it, and thankfully its pretty hands-off with the rest of your sound signature, just like other reviewers have noted. I really hope more manufacturers pursue this most basic and critical improvement in sound quality.

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.