We recently tested the Onkyo TX-L50 multichannel home cinema receiver, a slimline model designed to amplify two to six speakers while offering 4K Ultra HD compatibility and, above all, very powerful audio streaming functions thanks to its implementation of FireConnect multiroom technology (Google Cast, Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, etc.).
Onkyo TX-L50: small and powerful?
Standing 7 cm tall, weighing in at 4 kg and delivering up to 60 W at full power, the Onkyo TX-L50 clearly doesn’t set out to be a heavy-hitter capable of powering five floorstanding speakers. This becomes even clearer considering that the sixth amplified channel is designed to drive a passive subwoofer, which by definition demands a lot of power. According to its manufacturer, the Onkyo TX-L50 is capable of generating 80 W. However, these 80 W are generated into 4 Ohms at 1kHz, with a distortion rate of 1% (in other words, producing a shrill noise) and with only a single speaker connected. Onkyo’s decision to take this unrealistic approach to expressing the TX-L50’s power seems understandable considering that, with all channels operating, a signal from lows to highs and a distortion rate in accordance with hi-fi standards, the power per channel is sure to not exceed 10 W. And in the end, while 10 W is not very impressive on paper, it’s enough most of the time. Moreover, playing a movie or a TV series almost never requires all 5 channels to operate at once–and certainly not from lows to highs–and only the front channel speakers are designed to restitute Dolby audio mixes and low-frequency DTS signals.
However you look at it, the slimline Onkyo TX-L50 has clearly been designed to power sensitive compact speakers, and we highly recommend pairing it up with an active subwoofer (with its own integrated amplifier) in order to not needlessly wear out its power transformer and transistors.
Onkyo TX-L50: for which configurations?
This small, multichannel receiver is best suited to a very precise type of home cinema installation. At only half the height of a standard multichannel receiver, it can be installed in a smaller piece of AV furniture. Its low heat output, without being an invitation to block its ventilation system, means no specific precautions must be taken in terms of cooling. The Onkyo TX-L50’s small size also makes it esthetically appealing, and even when placed on top of a piece of furniture, it keeps a low profile. This receiver is the ideal companion for an HD TV and a small audio system composed of five two-way, compact (or satellite) speakers and an active subwoofer. If you’re thinking about using it with a pair of small column speakers, you’d be better off opting for its (almost) twin, the Pioneer SX-S30D.
Onkyo TX-L50: functions
With its HDMI 2.0 controller, which is HDCP 2.2 compatible, the Onkyo TX-L50 can be connected to an HD TV or 4K Ultra HD screen, as well as four HD and UHD sources (Blu-ray player, UHD Blu-ray, gaming console, etc.). Its maximum resolution is 2160p at 60 Hz, with the possibility to upscale 1080p content. The HDMI inputs handle both Dolby and DTS (HD or not). The HDMI output is CEC and ARC compatible, making it possible to power the device on and off via a paired television, while also providing an audio return channel from the TV to the receiver (sound from sources only connected to the TV will thus be restituted by the receiver). Three RCA analog stereo inputs are proposed, as well as two S/PDIF digital audio inputs to connect an HD TV or a CD-player, for example. An antenna connector makes it possible to listen to FM and AM radio stations. Listening to online radio stations is also enabled via the receiver’s Ethernet connection or WiFi antennas. We’ll go into more detail on this a bit later.
The range of connectors on the receiver’s back panel is complemented by small, spring-loaded speaker terminals into which stripped speaker cable with a cross-section of up to 2.5 mm² may be inserted. There is also an LFE output for an active subwoofer. Lastly, the receiver features an input for an AccuEQ calibration microphone, and Onkyo supplies a microphone for this purpose.
For its part, the front panel includes a headphone output (3.5 mm mini-jack) and a USB Type A port to connect USB flash drives or hard disc drives (5V/1A max) containing audio files (FAT partition). The principal file formats are handled: MP3, WAV, ALAC, FLAC (24/192 max) and DSD64.
Onkyo TX-L50: with so many inputs, what is the simplest way to listen to music?
Objectively speaking, the Onkyo TX-L50’s streaming functions make it much easier to listen to audio files with a smartphone, tablet or computer, as well as the principal online music streaming services. For the greatest user comfort, these functions should be privileged over a Bluetooth connection (lossy and limited in range) or a USB flash drive. Onkyo has developed a control app (Onkyo Controller for iOS and Android) which lets the user adjust the receiver’s settings, tonal balance and volume as well as access online radio stations, several online music streaming services, and the audio files stored on a smartphone.
As multiroom technology is integrated into the Onkyo TX-L50’s firmware, it is possible to group together several Fireconnect-compatible receivers, network players, or wireless speakers to play the same music in different rooms, for example.
But there’s more, as FireConnect is associated with GoogleCast technology, which is directly integrated into many Android (and iOS) apps and grants access to the official apps for Deezer, Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal and YouTube in order to listen to music directly through the Onkyo TX-L50. Just connect the receiver to the local network, and that’s all there is to it.
Onkyo TX-L50: test conditions
As a matter of fact, connecting to the local network is the first step involved in setting up this receiver. We opted for a WiFi connection for a change, and we selected our access point directly from the screen on the Onkyo TX-L50’s front panel. The password can then be entered using the included remote control, which can in turn immediately be set aside in favor of the Onkyo app (smartphone). The user can then name the receiver and the listening room (optional) before listening to music.
Five minutes is all it takes for the Onkyo TX-L50 to be ready for use
When connected to a TV, the receiver proposes classic speaker settings (large, small, none) for each of its six channels. Just as for the autocalibration process, all settings may be adjusted via the receiver’s control screen. The Android/iOS app can be used to adjust the tonal balance, choose from among different surround sound modes, and change the volume of the central channel (which restitutes voices for films and TV series) as well as that of the subwoofer.
Onkyo TX-L50: listening impressions
This little amplifier offers a completely honest restitution which is pleasing to listen to. On the other hand, a speaker such as the Cabasse MC170 Antigua or the Klipsch Heresy III quickly show the limits of its power stages, even before the volume reaches a high level. The energy of full-size (more powerful) home cinema receivers is missing and the soundstage struggles to unfold its deepest layers when listening in stereo. In surround mode, the soundstage becomes wider and thus more convincing.
Lows: perfectible in the very low frequencies, monotone sound with highly demanding speakers.
Mids: slightly emphasized, much more skillfully articulated, the main strength of this receiver.
Highs: clear and soft, but the timbres are perfectible.
Onkyo TX-L50: Conclusions
The receiver is hyper-connected and that’s its principal asset: making it possible to stream music from GoogleCast-compatible mobile apps is a real plus. But don’t count on the Onkyo TX-L50 to drive demanding speakers. Compact models with a 3”-5” low-mid driver and a soft dome tweeter would be a good choice: the Klipsch Quintet 5.1, KEF E305 and Elipson Planet M 5.1. With the addition of an active subwoofer, this receiver fits the bill and inspires a full range of emotions in multichannel format: perfect for DVDs, Blu-ray discs and Dobly Digital TV programs.This post is also available in: French