We've spent plenty of time with the Onkyo TX-NR5007 AV receiver -- so much, in fact, that the company has now announced its replacement, the TX-NR5008, which adds reasonably minor updates. But the TX-NR5007 is still available, and, as new models filter in, it's likely that good deals will start to emerge.
Currently, the high-end TX-NR5007 isn't cheap. At around £2,000, it's a considerable investment, costing about twice what most people spend on a TV. Add in a good set of speakers, and you're going to be spending quite a sack of cash on this bad boy. Allow us to explain why we think it's a good idea to do so.
Big, black and beautiful
Our TX-NR5007 had a black colour scheme, which we adored. It's also available in silver, which we aren't so keen on. It's a personal choice, though, and your decision may depend on what the rest of your AV equipment looks like.
Although it's huge, and weighs about as much as a yacht, the TX-NR5007 is surprisingly lovely to look at. The buttons on the front are concealed beneath a drop-down flap that keeps the receiver's face free from clutter. All you'll see are a range of input buttons, a volume control and the chunky power switch.
The back is a different story -- there's no way to conceal the huge selection of inputs and outputs found here. There are 11 speaker binding posts, nine HDMI sockets -- two outputs and seven inputs -- and more composite and stereo audio RCA jacks than it's healthy to count. There are six digital audio inputs, divided equally between optical and coaxial, and you'll find dual subwoofer RCA jacks too, in case you want twin-sub action in your home cinema.
The remote control is pretty awesome too. It's larger than the ones that come with Onkyo's cheaper systems, but feels comfortable in your hand. Its controls are generally within easy rich of your controlling digit.
Power has its price
If you're wondering why the TX-NR5007 is over four times as expensive as Onkyo's excellent TX-SR608, the answer is simply that it's hugely powerful. The TX-NR5007 is THX-Ultra2-Plus-certified, which means it's aimed at rooms of up to 914 cubic metres, with a viewing distance of more than 3.66m between the screen and your eyeballs. Put simply: the NR5007 is aimed at people who have huge rooms and video projectors.
Does this mean you can't use the TX-NR5007 in a small room? Certainly not. But you probably won't be able to get the amp up to the reference level of the THX Ultra2 Plus certification. The reference level is designed to produce the same fidelity and volume of sound as the director hears while a movie is being edited. Ramping up the AV receiver to the reference level in a small room would probably prove unbearably loud.
It's hard to make equipment that works like this, and building amps of sufficient quality is quite an expensive process. But, whatever the reasons for its cost, the TX-NR5007 is undoubtedly very expensive, and not everyone will want to spend this kind of money.
Don't want to go deaf?
Unless you want to become deaf, listening at the reference level isn't a good idea, and doing so will probably seriously annoy your neighbours. To get around this, Onkyo has included the THX Loudness Plus system, which aims to produce the same audio detail at lower volumes than the reference level.
We like this feature, as it's in no way practical to listen to audio at the reference level. If you want to buy the TX-NR5007 for a smaller room, you shouldn't let its awesome potential power put you off, because this receiver is just as capable at lower volumes.
HDMI input central
There are no less than eight HDMI inputs on the TX-NR5007. Seven of these are located on the back panel, with the eighth being an easy-access socket mounted on the front of the receiver. This means you can plug a games console in without rooting around at the back of the machine -- something you'll be thankful for when all your equipment is connected up.
If you're using a Sky or Virgin set-top box, then you'll need to make sure you connect it with an optical or coaxial digital connector to the TX-NR5007, as well as run the video over HDMI. This is because most of these set-top boxes refuse to support Dolby Digital over HDMI, which means that, without a digital audio cable, you won't be getting the best out of your high-definition TV service.
The good news is that, as with all of Onkyo's receivers, the inputs are totally configurable, so, if you want to take audio from another input, say, an optical digital one, then the TX-NR5007 allows you to select this source as an alternative to taking the audio transmitted on the HDMI connection. This is all done through the brilliant menu system, which is graphically pleasing and surprising straightforward to use, once you've had some practice.
9.2-channel surround sound
The TX-NR5007 can drive 11 channels at any one time. You can divide these up as you see fit. So, if you want 5.1-channel surround sound, and two additional stereo zones, you can make it so. If you want to have 7.1-channel surround sound, with additional high-mounted front speakers for Dolby Pro Logic IIz height audio, then that's no problem either. And, if having two subwoofers takes your fancy, then the TX-NR5007 is more than happy to oblige in this regard too.
In our test set-up, we opted for 5.1-channel surround sound, which will be more than sufficient for most people. It's also by far the most sensible option for testing Freeview HD content, DVDs and Blu-rays. We used a set of Monitor Audio Silver RX speakers, which we drove pretty hard for this review.
Setting the TX-NR5007 up is an important process. Onkyo includes an auto-set-up microphone, which you connect to the receiver once you've positioned your speakers, run the cable and plugged everything in. This is a hassle-free way to get the system balanced for your listening environment, but we generally ended up hating the resulting sound.
We usually find that the automatic method puts too little audio through the rear effects channels, and doesn't push as much as we'd like through the centre channel. We prefer to adjust the levels for each channel ourselves. The receiver can produce white noise to help you do this. We set all the channels so they produced sound at the same level, and then we gave a little extra boost to the centre channel. How you approach the set-up is entirely up to you, but make sure you tweak the settings until you're happy with the final result.
Sounds good to us
How does this beast sound? In a word: terrific. We've tested quite a few AV receivers, and various other surround-sound set-ups in our time, but the TX-NR5007 is without doubt our favourite so far. It manages to deliver fantastic-quality audio at truly earth-shattering levels.
We tested dozens of Blu-ray movies with the TX-NR5007, and it always produced clean, clear and detailed sound. From the MGM lion roaring at the start of Casino Royale to the ear-bursting noise that the departing spacecraft makes in District 9, this receiver does a truly stunning job.
The Dolby Pro Logic modes also help get the best out of standard-definition stereo audio -- or audio with multiplexed surround sound. With all of this kind of material, the TX-NR5007 will steer sound to the right channels and deliver pleasing, clear audio. That's something we're very keen on, given the abysmal audio quality you get from most TVs. Hooking your telly up via RCA stereo or -- even better -- digital audio is strongly recommended.
Music sounds good too. This receiver certainly puts in a very impressive musical performance when you make sure it's in the right mode. Onkyo provides many different music presets for this purpose, and we'd encourage you to try them all until you find one that works best for your music. If you want pure sound, hit the 'direct' mode up. If you want plenty of impact, with deep bass, the THX and Dolby music modes are both well worth a perusal. We also like the 'all channel stereo' setting, which probably gives the best balance of all the possible options.
Onkyo has spent a great deal of time and R&D budget getting its amplification technology right for this receiver, and we think it shows in the final product, which sounds amazing. The reason this receiver weighs as much as a teenager is that its amplification gear is designed to be as good as is technically possible.
The Onkyo TX-NR5007 is expensive and too powerful for most households' requirements, but we love it with all our hearts. If you can afford it, we're confident you'll feel as well disposed towards it as we do.
Edited by Charles Kloet