Customer Review

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very capable and competitively priced entry-level receiver, December 29, 2011
This review is from: Onkyo TX-NR509 5.1 Channel Network A/V Receiver (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
Bought this receiver from another vendor after Amazon ran out of stock. It's a very capable receiver and offers a lot of bang for your buck.
My HT system consists of the following: a 46" LED-LCD Sony Bravia, a pair of Polk Audio TSi200 bookshelf speakers for the L/R channels, and a Polk Audio CS10 center channel speaker. I might add a subwoofer soon to make it a proper 3.1. Here are a few things i discovered on my own the hard way, that i would like to share with everybody:

First of all, note that the screenshot in the Amazon description above is a bit misleading. That belongs to the 509's older brother the 609. If you select the NET input, you will not see that
black screen with the icons of the various internet services. You will just see a basic list. White font over black background. Not very high resolution either, so doesn't look very sharp on your fancy HD screen. However, you operate the NET feature from your smart phone, where it looks much better, and sometimes even shows album art.

Also out of the box, your firmware will likely be outdated. PLEASE UPDATE your firmware. It's not very hard to do. The latest version was released by Onkyo on December 16th 2011, and it offers support for Spotify, fixes some Audyssey equalization bugs, and (thank God) made the DLNA work. Initially I struggled with having my Windows Media player "play to" the receiver, but after the upgrade, it worked like a charm.

Speaking of Spotify, you HAVE TO BE A PREMIUM MEMBER to be able to stream it to the 509. Initially I wasn't, and I spent 30 min trying to log in. It gave the non-descriptive "Error logging in". I called Onkyo support and they weren't sure why, and told me contact Spotify. I then read at the very bottom of a random page on the Spotify website that you have to be a premium member to stream to receivers. Moreover, they say that if you are a premium member, "most tracks" are available for streaming at 320kps quality. It's hard to verify what quality you're getting because it doesn't display the bit rate anywhere.

Out of the box, the 509 was expecting a subwoofer and surround satellite speakers. As a result, it sets the L/R speakers to "Small". That means the bass management will take the low frequencies from the left and right channels and send them to the subwoofer. If you do not have a sub, PLEASE go to the setup page, and turn the sub off (which will make your L/R speakers "Large"). That will make your speakers play the full range of frequencies. Moreover, the distance of the speakers to the listener is preset to 3.7 meters (which was too long for me). After i adjusted those numbers to reflect the correct distance, and made my speakers "Large", my Polk speakers sounded SO MUCH better. They sounded so flat initially. Alternatively, do the Audyssey EQ which should theoretically adjust all these numbers for you.

One last thing, I was pleasantly surprised by how well my receiver interacted with my Sony Bravia. Which is probably a common feature now. If you turn the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) option on, your HDMI output to the TV will act as an input. So if you're watching a youtube video on your TV, the audio will be sent down to the receiver to be played on your nice speakers. Similarly, if you turn the Onkyo off while watching TV, your TV will react by turning on its own speakers. And your cable signal will pass through your receiver via HDMI even if it's off. Nifty!

Pros:
- Very competitive price given the available features. It offers most of the features of the 609 for roughly a 150$ less. For an entry-level receiver, it is a big-time winner.
- Available app for iPhone (or other smart phones) is very convenient. Moreover, there is another (none-free) app called oRemote that gives you even more functionality.
- DLNA setup went relatively smooth (ONLY AFTER INSTALLING LATEST FIRMWARE UPDATE).

Cons:
-There is only ONE USB connection (located at the front). You can either use that to hook up the wireless dongle (bought separately) OR your iPhone/iPad/iPod. In other words, you have to disconnect your wireless connection to plug in your Apple product. Inconvenient, but not a deal breaker.
-The graphical interface is very basic and not what you see on the Amazon description page. Solution: use your phone app instead.
-As a lot of reviewers pointed out, the 509 does not convert your analog/component video input into digital. So it cannot up-sample your SD analog video input into an HD digital video output. The 609 does. But that's a non-issue if all of your inputs are HDMI.
-USB dongle is a bit overpriced, but totally worth it if your router is in a separate room.
-Even though is supports Zone 2, it only gives you zone 2 pre-outs. Which means you need a separate amp. If you need a zone 2, get the more expensive 609.

Hope this review makes you reach a more educated decision when you shop for your receiver.

Update January 2012:
I have been using this receiver for almost two months now and i'm still reasonably pleased. Here is what's new:
1- Onkyo recently updated their iPhone/iPad apps now to offer support for Spotify. I uploaded screenshots of the app (along with screenshots of the basic built-in GUI for comparison). Here's the bad news: it doesn't work as well as the previous version! It is very slow and regularly hangs requiring to restart the app. I hope they keep improving it.
2- I finally added a sub and did the Audyssey room equalization. If you are not aware what that does, the concept is simple. It tries to correct the sound to make it more balanced in particular locations of your choice. For the engineers in the audience, that means that they compute frequency-domain filters to attenuate some frequencies and boost others. Now Audyssey has 4 flavors. MultEQ XT32, MultEQ XT, MultEQ and 2EQ, from most to least advanced. The 509 only offers 2EQ, which computes filters of limited resolution in the none-sub frequency range (higher than 80Hz or whatever you sent it to in the setup page). It was easy enough to perform, and I was pleased with the end result. If you don't like it you can always turn it off.
3- I experimented a little bit with zone 2. As i mentioned earlier, you need a separate amp to drive your Zone2 speakers. My only complaint is that the interface is a bit limiting. If your Main and Zone2 start playing Pandora for example, and you switch your main to DVD/Cable, your Zone2 can only keep playing Pandora. You cannot navigate back to switch to Spotify or DLNA, unless you do it through the Main. I was hoping the phone app would fix that, but it has not so far (as it stands, the app barely works for Main). Moreover, i noticed a slight lag between the two zones if you are playing the same input. I will update this review to share with you any breakthroughs I have with Zone2.
4- The DLNA feature started acting up. If you "play to" to the receiver from Windows Media Player, sometimes it hangs and skips. After some debugging I figured that the problem was with my wireless router. I did a firmware upgrade on the router and now DLNA works with no hiccups. If you experience similar problems, check your router.

Hope this review helps some confused folks out there.
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