Onkyo TX-NR929 9.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver
By Luther Ward
By Luther Ward
I have found over the years my satisfaction with my systems has been good, until I see or hear something better. Making the term “ignorance is bliss” ring so true. We all have a knowledge base that we judge from. In video, I have grown through VHS, SVHS, DVD, and Bluray. In audio, 78 acetate records to 33 1/3 vinyl records, 8-track tape to cassette, CD to SACD, MP3 to Hi-Def files. All along the way, I have been blissfully happy with my new found improvement to the listening experience. From the format to my equipment, my journey has been an evolution.
Today I’m writing about another step in my system’s evolution and a new reference point for my knowledge base. Another mile traveled forward in my journey down the road towards nirvana. Many of you have seen my mantra over the years and I think it is worth mentioning again here.
”There are many roads to audio nirvana. While the ultimate goal may be the destination, don't forget to enjoy the ride.”
I am enjoying the ride thanks to the Onkyo TX-NR929. Check out just a few of the features.
• 9.2 channel receiver
• Built-in Wi-Fi for app-controllable multizone network audio streaming
• Built-in Bluetooth wireless audio technology
• Audyssey’s MultEQ XT32 room acoustic equalization
• THX Select2 Plus certified power audio in up to three zones
• DTS Neo:X™ , Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Audyssey DSX
• Onkyo Remote App for iPod, iPhone, Android and Kindle devices
• 9 HDMI inputs for movie, gaming and other sources
• 2 HDMI outputs with Zone 2 HMDI out for connecting an additional display to watch the same program, or a different one, in two different rooms
• Plays back files over your wireless home network, including high-res audio formats like DSD, FLAC, WAV and Dolby TrueHD along with MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, Apple Lossless and LPCM
Build Quality, Appearance and Functionality
The TX-NR929 is a substantial receiver. It measures 17 1/8" x 7 13/16" x 17 1/4" and tips the scales just over 40 pounds. Built solid and executed at a level I have come to expect from Onkyo. The look is clean. The input selection buttons, power button and volume knob are easily accessed when the font panel door is closed. With the panel opened, you gain access to the full functionality of the unit. I like having the extra buttons behind the panel. It gives the receiver a clean and uncluttered look. That and I don’t typically use controls on the front of a receiver but prefer to just use the remote control. Still they come in handy when standing next to the unit or when I can’t find the remote.
Speaking of the remote, the supplied RC-840M remote is better than most but not the best I have seen. I wish the industry standard would be remotes that fully light up. While not all the buttons on the remote light up; the input selections, activities, and remote mode buttons do. This helps to know what you’re controlling in a dark room. Pressing the HOME button lights the last button pressed. As for layout, it is easily used with one hand. Once your selection has been made, operating the most commonly used buttons like volume, channel, menu and menu selection wheel are all within the reach of your thumb. If you prefer, you may control the TX-NR929 with Onkyo’s remote control app for your iPod touch®/iPhone,® Android, or Kindle device. Here are a few screen shots of the Onkyo Remote 2 app I loaded on my iPad. The center image is the main screen. You may move left or right for the other screens. It is actually very intuitive and easy to use. Tap on a button and it either expands or rotates through the various options. The pictures don't do the real screen images justice. They are bright and vivid. I like the blue background.
For functionality, the TX-NR929 is packed with features; several of which, in previous years, could only be found on top of the line models. It starts with 9.2 channels of THX Select 2 Plus certified power; 135W into 8 ohms with 2 channels driven. Now if you want to go even bigger, there are 11.2 channel pre-outs. Add your own external amp and, along with the receiver’s DTS Neo:X or Audyssey DSX, you have playback through up to 11 channels. Another option would be to assign four of the nine available channels to drive audio in Zone 2 and 3, at the same time. Regardless of your setup, the TX-NR929 can be configured to maximize your home theater and 2-channel enjoyment. Given a stereo or 5.1 channel signal, the receiver has Dolby Pro Logic IIz or DTS NEO:X that will expand your listening soundstage to 7.1 channels.
The TX-NR929 has an array of available inputs to cover all your needs. It has 8 HDMI inputs on the back and another one on front panel that supports the MHL standard. Add to this a plethora of options: five composite (one on the front), two component, three coaxial, three optical inputs (one on the front), USB (on the front) and stereo inputs for PC, TV, Phono and Video (on the front). Yes folks, I said phono. With the resurgence in vinyl, this makes the TX-NR929 a great receiver to build your entire entertainment system around. That covers what is going into the receiver. For getting it out to the rest of your system, the TX-NR929 has two Hi-Def HDMI outs. Hook up your TV and a projector or a second TV in another room. You can even connect an additional display using the receiver's Zone 2 HDMI output to watch the same program, or a different one, in two different rooms. There is also a composite video and a component video out for even more options.
Onkyo is thinking ahead and making sure all your needs are covered. Using Qdeo™ technology from Marvell, the TX-NR929 upscales standard video to 1080p and can even supply 4K to compatible displays. If you already have a signal in 4K, it also does passthrough. Keeping current, you also get built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This makes it so much easier to connect to your home wireless network and stream data from your Bluetooth device. No more wires, yea! Now it is simple to play MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, Apple Lossless, DSD, LPCM, and Dolby® TrueHD files from your network or stream from places like Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, SIRIUS XM Internet Radio, TuneIn Radio, Last.fm, Spotify, and more. You will never run out of things to listen to. Not only listening, but it is easy for your TX-NR929 to stay current by updating its firmware wirelessly. I did it on the review unit and it only took about 15 minutes. It even tells you when it’s completed.
Now let me tell you about sound, or better yet, the ways the TX-NR929 can control and enhance the sound of your system. I’ll start with Onkyo’s top of the line Audyssey MultEQ®XT32 room-correction. I have used other versions of Audyssey in the past and like what it did for my system, but I had no clue what was about to happen when I ran the MultEQ®XT32 room-correction during setup. WOW! This was an epiphany; the next leap in the evolution of my listening pleasure. I had known for a long time my setup, with its mix of speaker types and manufacturers, was a difficult task to manage, but had good results using internal and external equalization. Little did I know the potential that was hiding in my system. The TX-NR929 took this mixed bag and gave me a cohesive system providing a spatial whole room listening environment. The balance was spot on, the frequency range and transitions were smooth and effortless. At first, I thought it may have been a bit light on bass but came to realize this was the correct balance and what I was used to was too much bass. Granted I can use the Onkyo remote and amp up the bass when I feel like really rocking the house, but for regular movies and music, it is perfect.
To maximize your system potential, the TX-NR929 uses Onkyo’s Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT). This is made up of three elements: (1) a low negative feedback design; (2) closed groundloop circuits; and (3) a high instantaneous current. What this means for the listener is tighter bass, cleaner crisper sound, no distortion and the ability to handle wide dynamic swings effortlessly.
Another tool in the sound arsenal is Onkyo's PM Bass boost. What this does is phase-match the bass for optimal low end and, at the same time, preserve the midrange clarity. What you get is rich dynamic bass with crisp clear vocals. As someone who has trouble sometimes hearing what people are saying in movies, this is a welcomed feature.
Setup / Auto Room Correction
Setup is straight forward and a breeze to complete in short order. After pulling the TX-NR929 out of the box, grab the quick start guide and you’re on your way. With very clear drawings and descriptions, it takes you step by step in hooking up all your speakers and components. It even shows you the different options you have to fit the receiver into your system. A nice little piece in the box is a sheet of peel off stickers you may use to mark your speakers wires. This comes in handy if it isn’t easy to tell which goes where when they all converge at your receiver.
Once everything is in place, you plug the receiver in and turn it on, along with your TV. Note that only a TV hooked to the HDMI OUT MAIN will display the setup wizard on-screen menus. The TX-NR929 goes into initial setup automatically. Using your remote, you are walked through the setup process by way of some very nice color graphics. The first screen will ask what language you want. Once that is selected you are greeted with a screen that asks if you have already hooked up your speakers and sources. Answering yes takes you right into Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto setup.
Once you have plugged in the supplied microphone and placed it in your main listening position, (I place mine on a camera tripod to get the microphone to head height where I normally sit) the first measurement is taken. What I noticed here was not just the standard “whop whop” but a series of different tones checking distance, level and crossover points across a range of frequencies. You continue moving the microphone around to each of up to eight listening positions. When all are done, the Audyssey software does its calculations and sets the parameters for optimal sound in your room.
The wizard continues through several sections to complete your setup. Next the on-screen menu takes you to Source Connection. Scrolling through the menus gives you pictures and sound that verify you have indeed correctly hooked up your other pieces. Simple yes and no prompts take you through this process. This is followed by Remote Mode Setup where you can enter remote control codes for your other gear you would like to operate. Next is Network Connection. If you have hardwired your network in, it will auto detect it. If you have chosen wireless, you will be walked through a series of screens to select your wireless network and enter your password or PIN. This will complete your initial setup. You are presented a home menu screen with icons to access frequently used menus: Setup, InstaPrevue, Firmware update, Network Service and USB.
My Review Setup
Projector: Panasonic PT-AE8000U
Screen: Elite 106"
TV: Samsung 52" LCD (LN52A750)
Receiver: Onkyo TX-NR929
Source: Oppo BDP-103
Power: Panamax M5400-PM
Amps - main bass bins: SST Ampzilla 2000 mono blocks
Amps - main horns: JAMO MPA-101
Amps - sub: Behringer EP 4000
Crossover - Electrovoice DX-38 active
Speakers - mains: Klipsch Jubilee
Speakers - center: Martin Logan Cinema
Speakers - front high: Infinity OWS-1
Speakers - surround: JBL SAT2
Speakers – rear surround: JBL SAT2
Speakers - subwoofer: Danley Sound Labs DTS-10 horn
Adele – Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Be it the Bluray or the CD, the music speaks for itself: powerful, emotional, moving. The TX-NR929 absolutely shined here. Be it in direct mode or DTS-HD Master Audio, I had fun trying the different settings. Regardless of which I chose, Adele’s voice was “live” in the room with me. I was presented with a full, rich and large soundstage. At no point was the bass overwhelming. The balance was perfect. The highs were crisp and the mids smooth. I could sense the emotion in her signature "Someone Like You" and the live vibe during "Rolling in the Deep."
Chicago Symphony/Fritz Reiner – Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture
I expect, unless you have been raised on an isolated island, you have heard at least part of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture; even if it was only in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Well, this isn’t what you have heard on the radio, TV or on your iPod. Listening in Direct mode, the Onkyo showed its ability to handle the wide dynamic range of this classic. From the delicate opening of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to full crescendo, the clarity was superb. Even during the real cannon shots, not a hint of distortion. It was blissfully detailed. I followed the battle with the music, Russia with God Save the Czar and France with La Marseillaise, to the end, with the bell tolling, as Napoleon retreated…sublime.
Star Trek – Into Darkness
I have been a Star Trek fan since the 60’s. I have seen every incarnation through the decades and while some are better than others, I’ve enjoyed them all. For me the latest offering is one of my favorites. I’m sure partly for the story but the presentation in my home via the TX-NR929 was awesome. The video was brilliant in its clarity and color. The bridge glistened in detail. The actors were so real, like looking through a window at them, instead of on screen. Then there was the sound. Voices were clear and easily understood. I was totally immersed in the Star Trek world. From humming engines to photon blasts, my room was filled with sound that moved me along with the story.
Guillermo del Toro has fascinated me ever since Pan’s Labyrinth. His vision for the other worldly is exceptional, so I had high hopes when watching Pacific Rim. This isn’t Oscar material but it does what it set out to do; be a good action sci-fi film. The TX-NR929 gave me video that was ultra crisp. Even the dark night fight scenes and the final ocean battle underwater were clean and clear. Add to this a sound track that took full use of all my speakers and I was immersed in another world. From clanking metal, thru plasma cannon blast to nuclear explosion, the Onkyo literally rocked my house.
I have now seen Skyfall a dozen times through half a dozen machines. Here the TX-NR929 showed it has more in common with Onkyo’s top of the line models than the affordable price would lend itself. Once again, the Onkyo delivered vivid video. The detail showed every facet of every element in a scene. Having watched this on very good machines before, to find new nuances to the movie brought a smile to my face. Then to relive the fight and battle scenes with the sound moving around me in the room was spectacular.
Conclusion and Recommendations
I’m thinking of how I write my conclusion without sounding like a fan boy or that I work for Onkyo. The truth be told, there are so many things to like about the TX-NR929; 9.2 channels with plenty of power, lots of connectivity, networking, streaming, spectacular room equalization, 3D, upscaling and more. This allows you to use the receiver for years without the need to upgrade. With this much bang for your buck, I feel the TX-NR929 is a bargain and should be on your short list of receivers to consider. No, I don’t think almost $1400 is inexpensive but with top of the line receivers going for double and more, you can have your cake and eat it too. I believe in this so much, that after a long search for my own home theater receiver upgrade, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and purchase one.
Onkyo TX-NR929 Review Discussion Thread