Receivers

Onkyo TX-NR906 7.1-Channel Home Network A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

Basic set up of the Onkyo is quick and intuitive. The GUI is well laid out and response/navigation through the GUI is near immediate. In terms of manually setting up the Onkyo the menus are intuitive and it's a quick process. One can also rely on the Audyssey calibration system to perform an automatic speaker set-up. Like most 7.1 receivers these days the 906 can re-route 2 of the amplifier channels in a 5.1 set up to bi amp the main speakers. Unlike many other receivers it can also bridge those four channels to deliver more power to the left and right speakers in a 5.1 configuration. The limitation on bridging is the speakers must have a nominal impedance of 8ohms. In my 5.1 configuration I chose to bi-amp my B&W 805s monitors. I won't go into much detail on Audyssey, it's been covered in great detail on other reviews. If done properly I find an Audyssey calibration to significantly improve the performance of a home theater system./

There are some limitations to the set configurations a buyer should be aware of. Speaker distances can only be set in .5 foot increments. Most receivers at this price range allow adjustment to the tenth of a foot. I was skeptical that such a broad range of adjustment could produce an accurate sound field. I listened to the receiver with the .5ft adjustments set by the Audyssey calibration. In most cases the speakers were off by .2 to .3ft from the set distance. To determine if this made a difference I physically moved the speakers to match the set distances exactly. It was a subtle difference and one I feel most users would not be able to discern.

The other major limitation of the 906 concerns Audyssey functionality. The implemented configuration only allows the default calibration curve to be either on or off. It doesn't offer the music and stereo bypass modes of other receivers like my own Denon.

What truly sets apart the TX-NR906 from it's rivals are the isf controls. There are two levels to the isf controls, user controls and a deeper set of controls meant for professional calibrators. The isf controls are meant to address a very common problem with routing all your video sources through a receiver. If your sources are directly connected to your display you can perform basic calibrations (brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue, saturation, etc…) to each input. This insures proper black levels, peak brightness and so on for each source.

Once you connect all of these sources to your receiver and a single input on your display you lose the ability to perform accurate calibrations on each source. Most receivers lack the range of adjustments required to adjust each source accurately. My own Denon 3808 has adjustments for brightness, contrast, hue and saturation. The range is limited, and to my eye each step of adjustment is coarse. The Onkyo's user adjustments cover a much broader range, with each step of adjustment being more accurate.

The ability to adjust each input is a fantastic feature. The isf settings reserved for professionals unleashes a slew of additional parameters. While the features are meant for pro installers and calibrators, if you do a bit of online research you can find the procedure to access these. That said, without proper measurement equipment you won't be able to get the best of the isf settings. An installer or calibrator is highly recommended if you intend to get the best out of the 906.

The advanced isf adjustments allow a source to be grey scale calibrated for both a day and night mode, advanced adjustments to the Reon processing, basic picture adjustments, sharpness and so on. This is especially helpful if your display has little in the way of adjustments without accessing the service menus. All these options are well laid out and they make sense if you know what you're looking at. They're also a great way to experiment with grey scale calibration and not have to worry about permanently altering your display. It's a hobbyist dream in terms of functionality.

Then there's the networking functionality. I'm mixed on this feature. While it's nice to stream internet radio and music from the receiver. The user interface of a receiver and the response is at time frustrating. Using a dedicated appliance or HTPC in my experience works better and faster. That said the 906 was easy to set up, it recognized my network immediately (I used a Linksys Ethernet to WiFi adapter as the Onlyo only has Ethernet built in) and I was also able to play supported file types seamlessly from the USB port as well. Response is a bit sluggish when navigating either internet radio stations or music (server based or on a USB HDD or Flash Drive). It's a nice feature to have but one I wouldn't base my purchasing decision on this feature alone.