When Onkyo launches a new top-of the-range receiver, you have got to take note. Not only is the brand famed for being the first out with new features, new innovations and new widgets, they are often launched on products at price points well below the competition.
The TX-NR5007 is the company's new flagship receiver; it's got loads of new toys and it's close to half the price of range-topping amps and receivers from the likes of Denon, Pioneer and Yamaha. It's business as usual from Onkyo and we love it.
What isn't usual in the TX-NR5007 is the sound. Gone is Onkyo's house sound that errs on the side of all-action hero with a side-order of bad-ass-bass. No bad thing if all you want to achieve is a home cinema adrenaline ride, of course, and in terms of bang for your buck, Onkyo has been scooping all the Oscars for a while.
But the TX-NR5007 is different. It's a grown-up receiver with neutral balance and spacious presentation, offering a wonderful sense of scale and precision with every movie. From Pixar fairytales to cult classics, this is Onkyo's best all-round performer to date – and that's before you come to its festival of features.
Top of that list is nine channels of amplification. Not only is this easily configurable as a powered multiroom system (eg 5.1 + 2 zones of stereo), it also allows bi-amping or bridging of main channels for better audio performance – and still has enough juice for a powered stereo zone.
However, the real magic of all those power channels is revealed when mated to the Onkyo's excellent Dolby Pro-Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX processing, as this AVR allows full 7.1 plus equal power for height or width channels. In fact, you can even set it up as 5.1 with both height AND width channels – something which I have done and can heartily recommend.
Of course, you lose the rear back channels, and sadly Onkyo has missed a trick on the TX-NR5007 by not offering full 7.1 plus height and width channels (ie 11.1). This could have been achieved with a line level pre-output for a small stereo power amp for those last two channels. One up for Denon's competing AVR 4810, which does just that.
Thankfully, the NR5007 is not just about the number of channels, it's about the number of bits as well – all 32 of them. Its main processing engine is a trio of TI Aureus 32bit DSP chipsets and there is a whole suite of Burr-Brown 196kHz/32bit DACs to turn the post-processed data streams for each channel into precision analogue sound.
The highest of high-tech continues on the video side, with Silicon Optix's Reon-VX engine and the excellent ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) video calibration for every input source.
In terms of processing, Onkyo has all the Dolby and DTS marques covered including Dolby Volume. It also sports the full Audyssey gamut with MultEQ auto set-up and room EQ, DSX, Dynamic Volume and Audyssey Dynamic EQ. The latter is a system for correcting the room EQ relative to the overall volume and the dynamic range of the material in real time. It gives me a headache just thinking about how complex the processing for that must be.
What won't give you a headache is the wonderful GUI, and intuitive ease of use, day-in and day-out. Onkyo has absolutely nailed the TX-NR5007's interface. It's bold, bright, informative, logical and, best of all, offers excellent text descriptions for every feature, function and setting. It's hands down the best GUI on any flagship receiver to date and pretty much consigns its own Yellow Pages-sized instructional manual to the recycling bin.
Phasers on stun
With the new Star Trek Blu-ray yet again called into action (if you don't own this yet, put the mag down and go and buy it), I put the Onkyo through its paces, and found that from the outset, this is a receiver that is supremely surefooted and blessed with a remarkably even balance.
The bass is deep and potent without being overbearing; the mid-range is wide open and richly detailed and the top-end is smooth and sophisticated. This is the sort of balance that will thrill without offending, no matter what the volume, so it seemed only right to give it a handful.
As Kirk (senior) steers his ship into an inevitable head-on collision in the opening sequence, the Onkyo lights up the room with a huge, immersive festival of sound and effects. Opting for 7.1 plus DLP IIz Height, the soundstage reaches intergalactic proportions and the sheer visceral impact will put a smile on any action movie fan's face. That is a true Onkyo character, but what separates the manly TX-NR5007 from the boys lower down the company's range is the subtlety and uncanny level of detailing.
Dialogue is so very natural with no forced sibilance or boom, and small ambient effects like the sheer scale of the hangers is rendered in the audio equivalent of 3D. Whack up the volume as planet Vulcan crumbles and you're rewarded with a sweeping increase in scale and dynamics. Explosions have real edgy impact and the falling rubble as the temple collapses is so believable my dog abandoned the sofa and hid in the bathroom.