Test Report: Onkyo TX-NR509 A/V Receiver

Difficult though this may be to believe, not everyone in 2011 America can afford to earmark $1,500 for an A/V receiver — or even $500. Still more shockingly, not every person who can would even choose to. Well, then, how about $400? Onkyo apparently sees this figure as being a bit more like it. The longstanding receiver maker has just stamped out a new trio whose middle member, the $399 TX-NR509, falls squarely on the number, yet manages to incorporate features that until recently were found only in the $1,000-and-up class.

The most buzzable of these (after 3D-readiness, which I decline to countenance) is network streaming, bestowed upon the TX-NR509 and its next-up sib, the $599 TX-NR609, to bring Internet radio and PC/Mac streaming audio (via Windows Media or DLNA server software). Perhaps in compensation, the NR509 only has a 5.1-channel power-amp section, a stark admission of the fact that most Americans don’t care about (or even know about) 7.1-channel surround. The new Onkyo is still 6/7.1-capable, but requires an external power amp for the additional channels.


It was a pleasure to set up the bantamweight NR509, and not just because of the easy lifting. The new Onkyo includes auto setup and basic room correction in the person of Audyssey 2EQ, a stripped-down version of that firm’s MultEQ technology that accepts only up to three mike placements instead of eight and delivers substantially less EQ resolution and no subwoofer compensation. (Audyssey 2EQ does not attempt to correct the low frequencies.) This proceeded as usual, automatically popping up when the supplied calibration mike was connected and yielding channel levels and delays (“distances”) consistent with what my sound-pressure level meter and yardstick suggested. The consequent midrange and treble EQ result sounded akin to those I’ve heard from many iterations of Audyssey’s higher-end system. The NR509’s straightforward setup menu and fast-pop-up overlay menus made the whole process quick and painless.