Feature-rich AVR offers energetic performance, Wi-Fi, and more HDMI inputs than you'll ever need...
Onkyo's TX-NR929 is not one of the brand's heavyweight offerings, but this well-priced receiver – it now sells for around £1,000, after initially launching at nearer £1,500 – packs enough performance and feature tricks to comfortably drive and tune most people's setups. The value for money offered is superb, and it's therefore easily recommended.
In use, it's rather fabulous; a full-bodied multichannel monster that doesn't so much as deliver film soundtracks than grab them by the scruff of the neck and throw them around the room with verve and precision. Even considering that Onkyo's power claim of 185W is for a single channel into an six-ohm load, there's plenty of heft here, and it wears its THX Select2 Plus badge with pride. This means it's been deemed up-to-snuff for mid-sized rooms with a 3-4m viewing distance, which will be many.
Setup is aided by an uncluttered bank of speaker terminals and a generous array of connections. There are nine HDMI inputs, plus two outputs, and various speaker configurations are catered for courtesy of the nine channels of amplification. Pre-outs enable an 11-channel setup should you have an extra stereo amp.
The graphical user interface is far from perfect, and on a par with the current systems from Pioneer and Yamaha. Thankfully, the supplied handset is relatively straightforward, and only had me heading down blind control avenues a couple of times during the initial audition period.
Calibration is done via Audyssey's flagship MultEQ XT32 system, and you can choose to run either a Quick Start version or the full, in-depth, multi-measurement iteration.
Beyond this, the Onkyo provides a range of sonic tweaks, from adjusting the Center Width of Dolby Pro-Logic IIx to setting the default level for individual sources, on top of manual speaker level calibration. This will allow tech-heads to arrange their setup to taste for multiple sources; you could spend hours fiddling. Others may simply prefer to hook up their speakers, press Play, and sit back with a good movie.
Sucking on the Fast Five Blu-ray soundtrack, the TX-NR929 proves its AV mettle. The climactic bank heist sequence becomes a thrilling mixture of revved engines, frantic machine gunfire and crumbling masonry.
The Onkyo's effects steering is good, resulting in a believable three-dimensional soundfield that engages your senses, and the crafted soundstage is sumptuously large-sounding. Importantly, there's an effortless nature to this delivery that comes from having power on tap. Dynamic moments, such as the stolen bank vault (seriously...) crashing through concrete bollards, are handled without a struggle.
This is with Audyssey engaged; taken out of the equation and the Onkyo's natural forward-sounding bent, in conjunction with my own rather eager Crystal Audio array, is perhaps a little too brash at the higher registers. Audyssey, for my setup at least, works well to smooth out the performance.
Bass management impresses. The Onkyo ensured my subwoofer and speaker array sang from the same hymn sheet, with fluid handover and no glaring gaps. With Metallica Through The Never (BD) this equates to a beautifully cohesive rhythm section, pounding away beneath the distorted guitar work.
Music streaming via the TX-NR929 (video is ignored) is made easier via in-built Bluetooth and Wi-Fi options. Onkyo has taken a lead over other AVR manufacturers in this regard, and I welcome it. Personally, I think Wi-Fi is essential for a modern streaming setup, and Bluetooth comes in handy for guest sources such as smartphones.
I paired a Galaxy S4 with the AVR via Bluetooth (in truth, an awkward process) and enjoyed the weight and scale it imparted upon MP3s purchased from the Google Play store. And it's with music that the Onkyo's array of DSP modes comes into play – All Channel Stereo being my personal fuss-free favourite, although with the various Dolby, DTS and THX options (plus some of Onkyo's own genre-specific ones), post-processing fans are likely to find something that appeals. Purists can elect Pure Audio mode.
The TX-NR929 is a perfect example of a crowd-pleasing AVR; easier to operate than some, reasonably affordable and loaded with network tricks and efficient auto calibration features. Full-blooded audio performance is the icing on the cake.
Price: £1,000 Approx
Highs: Nine channels of power provides flexible system setup; largescale, energetic sound; top level of Audyssey EQ; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Lows: UI could do with a bit of polish; long-winded calibration; naturally forward-sounding; Bluetooth pairing awkward
Dolby TrueHD: Yes. And Pro-Logic IIz
DTS-HD Master Audio: Yes. And Neo:X
THX: Yes. Select2 Plus
Multichannel input: No
Multichannel output (claimed): 9 x 185W (into six ohms)
Multiroom: Yes. Zone 2 and 3
AV inputs: Yes. 5 x composite; 6 x digital audio (3 x optical and 3 x coaxial)
HDMI: Yes. 9 x inputs; 2 x outputs (main supports ARC)
Video upscaling: Yes. To 4K
Component video: Yes. 2 x inputs; 1 x output
Dimensions: 435(w) x 199(h) x 438(d)mm
Also featuring: Built-in Wi-Fi; built-in Bluetooth; Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto calibration; Audyssey DSX post-processing; 11-channel pre-out; Spotify, last.FM, Aupeo! and Tune-in radio access; Zone 2 HDMI output; MHL HDMI on front panel; audio file playback via USB and DLNA; proprietary Rock, Sports, Action and RPG gaming DSP modes; headphone jack; twin subwoofer outputs
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