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Onkyo was one of the few Home Theater oriented manufacturers to budget a dedicated demo space at CE Week 2015. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with two knowledgeable representatives from Onkyo about their exciting new RZ900 and RZ800 AV Receivers along with their take on the issues that have arisen with recent tech trends in the Audio and Video worlds.




Onkyo’s new top-of-the-line midrange RZ900 AVR is gorgeous to the eye. Its exterior is beefy and the unit’s front panel styling is squared-off and sharp. It oozes a visual robustness that will play well to folks that enjoy proudly displaying their gear or desire bold styling. The interior guts of the RZ900 are equally impressive, anchored by a massive custom designed toroidal transformer flanked by two bottom-side cooling fans. I asked about Onkyo’s past history of reported instances of over-heating; I’m told that, yes, their Class A/B Amps can run warm and that customers simply need to make sure proper ventilation is provided. The bottom-line is placement and customers need to understand that you can’t shove an amplifier unit into a tight enclosed space – this is true of most any gear. While Class D amps (like those used by Pioneer) are said to run cooler, Onkyo says they believe that the sound resulting from Class A/B use is better. So the common sense take-home is: ventilate properly! The RZ900 and RZ800 will ship this coming August.



A look at the guts of Onkyo's RZ900 AVR.


I was treated to a fun Dolby Atmos demo session using the RZ900 and a 5.1.2 speaker array anchored by two height channels mounted in angled downward firing orientations (just forward of the listening position). The demo was impressive. One of the audio clips flipped back-and-forth between standard 5.1 and 5.1.2; there’s little question that the added “.2” gave the presentation a life and airiness that the standard surround configuration simply couldn’t duplicate. There is one caveat: the demo room’s rear channels were not positioned above head level. Instead, they resided on stands slightly below head level when seated. I believe this altered the impact of the rear channels during 5.1 playback. That being said, I also believe that properly deployed height channels will radically change home theater rooms from shore-to-shore as Atmos and DTS:X dig their claws into the enthusiast world. This is certainly an exciting time in the evolution of sound reproduction.

As I mentioned in an edit to my last article (about the RZ900 and RZ800 AVRs), these models (minus the ability to run 7.1.4 immersive audio) appear to be 100-percent ready to handle most of the new tech that’s still percolating in the basement labs of the audio and video industry. They can handle Hi-Res Audio, 4K/60 Hz, HDCP 2.2, and 4:4:4 Color. They can also play both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X material and have HDMI 2.0a capability to pass-through the all important High Dynamic Range (HDR) video content that will arrive, in force, beginning late this year or early next year.



A rear shot of the RZ900 (left) and RZ800 (right).


If you’re looking for a truly up-to-date Flagship model from Onkyo, you’ll need to wait for 2016’s model year. The TX-NR3030 is Onkyo’s current Flagship AVR. Yes, it can handle HDCP 2.2 (kudos to Onkyo for including this feature last year), Dolby Atmos, and 4K/60 Hz. But (unfortunately there’s a “but” here), it only carries HDMI 2.0 and doesn’t have DTS:X. The lack of HDMI 2.0a means that there’s a good likelihood that the TX-NR3030 won’t be able to pass HDR content. According to my sources, Onkyo hasn’t tested HDR pass-through on the NR3030. It might work…or might not work…so don’t buy the unit based on the assumption that it will work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear there’s a firmware update to fix this omission, so buyers with HDR concerns will need to look to the RZ900 as the next best option. As for DTS:X, I was told that the NR3030’s dual core processor isn’t upgradable to include DTS:X. So, again, the RZ900 is the better option for buyers looking for future compatibility with both immersive sound codecs. Onkyo does not currently support Auro 3D on any products.

Now, onto the elephant in the room: Audyssey. This is practically a dead-end news story at this point, but it’s an issue that still pops-up whenever Onkyo’s AVR gear is discussed. Home Theater Shack (both Staff and forum members) has been openly critical of Onkyo’s decision to remove Audyssey from their product line of AV Receivers last model year – and we’re not alone. It has been rather healthy internet-wide forum fodder. The company is more than aware that the change was unpopular and openly acknowledges that its first stab at the proprietary AccuEQ room correction software had room for improvement. I appreciate their willingness to admit that iteration number one needed to be altered. To Onkyo’s point, the exclusion of Audyssey was made for competitive reasons (I wasn’t told that license fees drove the decision, however one would imagine that played a roll) and they feel that the latest revamp of AccuEQ addresses many of the complaints produced upon its first release. Common sense dictates that it was impossible for Onkyo to get it right in year one, and based on our conversation year two offers a much more solid product. As of yesterday, the manuals for the RZ900 weren’t available in English, but once they become available we’ll take a closer look at what the new AccuEQ has to offer.

From Onkyo’s perspective, the enthusiast world (and its opinions) matters, but the “average customer” is a much larger part of their overall sales. It comes down to dollars and cents (and product control), and the company feels like they can still deliver acceptable room EQ with AccuEQ. My take is that the average customer could care less if Audyssey is involved and the likelihood that the average customer will spend hours properly tweaking an audio system is low. Perhaps Onkyo has a good point.

Onkyo has experienced some frustration accommodating changing AV tech over the last two years. This isn’t an Onkyo-specific problem, but an industry-wide struggle. As evidenced by the TX-NR3030, 2014 was an especially difficult road to traverse tech-wise. It does appear, however, that the road is smoothing-out and new gear (going forward) should be relatively future proof with the ability to handle both Atmos and DTS immersive sound codecs, HDR, HDCP 2.2, and 4K/60 Hz. If you’re like me, this past year has been particularly sticky because upgrading to incorporate Dolby Atmos has been too risky for a big investment. I, for one, can’t wait to integrate a new AVR and immersive audio speakers into my dedicated theater room and am watching the AVR market like a hawk. I think the market will be flooded with potent high-end options over the next 8 to 10 months.

In the coming week, I’ll share more from CE Week including a better look at HDR and a full-scale update on the exciting Value Electronics Flat Panel Shootout.


Image Credits: Home Theater Shack/Todd Anderson
 

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Re: More From Onkyo on Its New Receivers and Tackling the Current Tech Rush

From Onkyo’s perspective, the enthusiast world (and its opinions) matters, but the “average customer” is a much larger part of their overall sales. It comes down to dollars and cents (and product control), and the company feels like they can still deliver acceptable room EQ with AccuEQ. My take is that the average customer could care less if Audyssey is involved and the likelihood that the average customer will spend hours properly tweaking an audio system is low. Perhaps Onkyo has a good point.
This is what I've been saying since AccuEQ was announced and frankly I don't blame them for taking this approach. I have recommended it to anyone who asks for my help choosing a receiver, but the average consumer simply doesn't care about what it does, or that it's even available, IMO. Having said that, I do believe they need to improve it to remain competitive. Glad to see they've paid attention to critical reviews and made some changes.
 

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Average consumer: "Room EQ?, why would I have to do that?" "Bah, it sounds good how it is. Why is junk so complicated?" Lol

Enthusiast: "I can't tweak the infinitely adjustable time space continuum module!!!! Junk....
Lol
I'm also relieved they're looking at evolving accueq. I've always looked to onkyo for performance/cost effective ratio.
 

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Re: More From Onkyo on Its New Receivers and Tackling the Current Tech Rush

I have a question regarding Onkyo's heat issue:
My room is about 85°F. Is it still safe to buy an Onkyo? I'm currently using a Denon 3312.

Is AccuEQ better than Audyssey's old MultEQ XT?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I honestly believe that a properly ventilated Onkyo unit is no different than most other brands. Truth be told, if you put any brand of AVR in an airflow compromised area, then you run the risk of overheating. That's even true of Class D Amps.

Have you placed your hand on top of your Denon after watching a movie or listening to music? Does the top get hot? Is it in a cabnet with cooling fans or out in the open?

As for room EQ, technically speaking: the best Audyssey correction package will probably out perform Onkyo's AccuEQ. Will you be able to hear a striking difference? Not sure. It probably depends on your room set-up more than anything.

I haven't combed through the specs for this iteration of AccuEQ, but I'd imagine that it performs the basics very well. Don't forget that speaker placement and room treatments have a huge impact on perceived sound quality...Room Correction software isn't the end all, be all.
 

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Re: More From Onkyo on Its New Receivers and Tackling the Current Tech Rush

Have you placed your hand on top of your Denon after watching a movie or listening to music? Does the top get hot? Is it in a cabnet with cooling fans or out in the open?
Yes... it's hot. It's on top of a bench, fully open space. No active cooling though.

Thanks for the advice on the eq. Will spend more money on bass traps in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
If you haven't had issues with the Denon, I'd imagine you'll be fine with Onkyo...especially considering that the new models (detailed here) ship with internal fans. More than likely, most of the Onkyo overheating issues that hit the forums a few years ago had to do with customers cramming equipment into hot cabinets. Perhaps they had a design flaw...not completely sure...but we are several years removed from those issues being hot forum static and the latest models are redesigns.
 

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But have they finally fixed the HDMI board problems?
Are there reliable figures out there that show what percentage of units had/have known HDMI board issues? I know it was a common issue at one point, but the only time I see it mentioned anymore is when people ask this question. I don't see why Onkyo is still singled out.
 

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But have they finally fixed the HDMI board problems?
Are there reliable figures out there that show what percentage of units had/have known HDMI board issues? I know it was a common issue at one point, but the only time I see it mentioned anymore is when people ask this question. I don't see why Onkyo is still singled out.
The Onkyo issue is big enough to justify their out-of-warranty repair program.

Personally, I had a new 3007 which had the HDMI problem after 2 years, was repaired (for free by Onkyo), then died again in 3 months. The 3007 was replaced by a new 1010, which I bought while the 3007 was being fixed to upgrade to Multi XT32 (very nice, btw), that died after 1.5 years. It was repaired about 2 months ago. Both of these spent their entire lives in a room that never gets above 75F (60sf basement closet with no exposed walls and no other sources of heat except the AV gear) and mounted on an open wire shelf which is completely open on 4 sides and approx. 5-6" space above and below to the next higher/lower piece of gear.

A friend of mine had a mid range Onkyo HDMI AVR, not the TX-NR series but I do not recall the exact model number, which died with similar symptoms (loss of audio, loss of network, etc.).

It's very well documented but I do not know statistics. It's unfortunate, too, as these (and my Onkyo CD player and my older non-HDMI Onkyo receiver) are/were otherwise great gear for the money.
 

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But have they finally fixed the HDMI board problems?
I asked Onkyo about HDMI issues, they didn't seem immediately aware of any overarching issue and said that HDMI should be fine on the new units.
I was told the same thing about the x008 series when I was looking to replace my 3007 which had HDMI board failure, twice. I decided to leap to the x010 series but had an HDMI failure in 1.5 years. Three failures in 1600 hours total service...

Until they can explain the specific issue and what they've done to address the issue, I am unconvinced.
 

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I will say this... Onkyo fixed my 3007 and 1010 for free. For the 3007 I took to a local shop but the 1010 had to be FedEx'd out of state (Onkyo cost both ways). 3007 took about 3 weeks to get back but the 1010 was turned around in a week. While the failures themselves are frustrating, they fixed both and I am happy with the customer service. That goes a long way.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I was told the same thing about the x008 series when I was looking to replace my 3007 which had HDMI board failure, twice. I decided to leap to the x010 series but had an HDMI failure in 1.5 years. Three failures in 1600 hours total service...

Until they can explain the specific issue and what they've done to address the issue, I am unconvinced.
I understand your sentiment. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say.
 

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From Onkyo’s perspective, the enthusiast world (and its opinions) matters, but the “average customer” is a much larger part of their overall sales. It comes down to dollars and cents (and product control), and the company feels like they can still deliver acceptable room EQ with AccuEQ. My take is that the average customer could care less if Audyssey is involved and the likelihood that the average customer will spend hours properly tweaking an audio system is low. Perhaps Onkyo has a good point.
I can understand leaving it off their lower end systems and maybe their mid range stuff but the average consumer is not buying a TX-NR3030. Unless they improve the AccuEQ system dramatically I would not consider another Onkyo receiver for myself but I would still recommend them to someone that was just looking for a good bang for the buck receiver that didn't care about room eq.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
You're not the only one that shares that sentiment, Mike. And I know many folks were holding their breath as Onkyo rolled-out higher end models during year one of AccuEQ...hoping that Audyssey would be included.

It's over, though. I don't think Audyssey will be coming back...and Onkyo seems optimistic that version two of AccuEQ is better than version one. I have the manual from their latest receiver line...and plan to look over the AccuEQ information. If enough information is available, I'll compare and contrast V1 and V2 of the software.
 
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