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Product Review
 

Onkyo NetTune NC-500 Internet Audio Receiver

July, 2003

Brian Weatherhead

 

Specifications:

● Dynamic Power** - 6 ohm (Front) 27 W/Ch, 8 ohm (Front) 24 W/Ch
● VLSC (Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry)
● Net-Tune
● Ethernet
● MP3/WAV/WMA Playback
● 20-Character, 4-Line Dot-Matrix Display
● Display Dimmer
● On-Screen Display
● Sleep Timer (90 minutes; 10-min steps)
● Number of Presets (FM/AM) 40
● Number of Presets (Internet Radio) 20
● Headphone Jack
● Number of Repeat Modes 2
● Random Playback
● Analog Input 1
● Analog Output (Variable/Fixed)

Onkyo

www.onkyousa.com

Introduction

Everyone should be familiar with FM/AM radio. If you haven't heard, there is also Internet Radio. Unlike regular radio there is an infinite number of stations and locations on the internet. Not only can you listen to classical stations in the US, but you can also listen to pop stations from the UK, jazz from Australia, and ethnic music from dozens of countries all over the world. There simply are no bounds to the source and location of the stations.

NetTune receivers from Onkyo are designed to make it easy to listen to these internet radio stations, and provide some other functions as well.

Besides the internet radio feature you can also listen to music stored on your local PC. In the days of downloadable music, this is a hot concept.

I spent a lot of time with the Onkyo Net-Tune NC-500, and some of its competition. Let me be the first to say that this technology is 'the' solution for Internet Audio at home.

The Implementation

What Onkyo did was bring a great concept to fruition. They packaged all the features that Internet junkies wanted into a component that belongs right next to conventional home theater and audio equipment. This isn't some gimmick, but rather a solid piece that adds features to any quality home theater.

I unpacked the NC-500, added it to my home theater receiver just like any other component, using composite video, and two audio RCA jacks. Once it was connected, I set up the functioning of the unit according to the manual. This product does require a little time on setup, but it's easy. With a big display in the front, you can easily see and navigate through the online and local library. The NC-500 also has an On Screen Display (OSD) that allows you to browse your library on any TV. This single feature is a God send.

I was a little disappointed to see that the NC-500 wasn't shipped with the software or cables needed to hook it up. The software can be downloaded, and network cables are cheaply available at any computer store, but still, I like to play right out of the box.

After sourcing a few items, I was connected. The NetTune software is available for free though www.onkyo.com, and installed successfully on Windows. The program automatically indexed my 5000+ mp3 and WMA files.

The NetTune software is what indexes and feeds the NC-500 the music from your local PC. This requires a network connection between the two devices. Once the connection was established, I was surfing through my MP3s. I loved listening to my collection on my rich and full home theater equipment, and not through my dorky computer speakers. If you think a 300 disc CD changer is cool, wait until you have 5000 songs at your finger tips.

Living With It

I had the NC-500 for a few months. As I have a large MP3 music library, it was very nice to finally use such a well thought-out device. The NetTune software lets you create play lists from your favorite music, allowing you to then listen to those play lists via the NC-500. The OSD lets you easily browse from CD or Artist or Genre. Once you locate the grouping of songs you like, you just hit play. The controls are very intuitive, so you don't have to be a computer or Internet expert to enjoy this piece.

I mainly used the NC-500 to play my extensive MP3 collection, but on occasion I set the Internet radio to a classical station for bed time. My roommate loved the internet radio feature, as he could listen to Top 40 from UK, and dance music.

Features

The NC-500 has a regular AM/FM tuner and all the pre-outs one would expect of a quality audio piece. It also features a built-in amplifier and speaker outputs for bookshelf speakers. The unit has a set of variable RCAs for direct connection to a power amplifier. These then can be controlled via the volume control on the remote. Even an Aux-in wasn't forgotten, making this a great piece for the executive desk or standalone in any location.

The Ethernet connection is how the unit receives its content from your local PC as well as the Internet. For more information on what you need, check Onkyo's website here. Onkyo also offers the NC-500PKG version which includes bookshelf speakers. Of course don't forget the OSD, or the NetTune software, because those two features are the TKO.

Conclusions

This sounds like a glowing review for a reason. This is by far the best solution to MP3/WMA I have found yet. It isn't a computer toy. It's a serious home audio component. If you have a collection of computer audio, and want to break away from the limitations of your computer speakers, this is it. I have dealt with many pieces that claim to play your MP3 library, but so far this is the only one deserving a spot in my listening room.



- Brian Weatherhead -

 

Copyright 2003 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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