This week, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver stopped by our test room. Certified THX Select, Hi-Res Audio and Imax Enhanced, this A/V receiver is compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and features 9 amplified channels along with a dual subwoofer output. Consequently, it is ideal for a large living room or a dedicated home theater room to power a Dolby Atmos 5.2.4 channel or 7.2.2 channel home theater speaker system. It is sold for 1199 euros.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: the brand
Founded in 1946, Onkyo gained a solid reputation in the speaker and audio component sector by offering innovative and high-performance products. Initially specialized in speakers and stereo hi-fi products (tape decks, M series amplifiers, turntables, radio tuners), the Japanese brand approached the home theater market with the same passion and precision, releasing the first THX certified A/V receiver in 1993: the Onkyo TX-SV919THX. In 1996, it was followed by the Onkyo TX-DS939, the first THX 5.1 certified A/V receiver.
In addition to being recognized as a leading specialist in the hi-fi sector worldwide, Onkyo is now a major player in the development of mid-range and high-end A/V receivers. Onkyo’s A/V receivers are characterized by their high power rating and their ability to concentrate a large amount of power to drive speakers. At the heart of these supercharged behemoths lies Onkyo’s WRAT technology (Wide Range Amplifier Technology), a suite of innovative processes developed by the brand to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio and improve the fidelity of the amplified sound. Ultra-functional and highly effective when it comes to watching action movies, these Onkyo A/V receivers are regularly praised by the specialized press.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: packaging and accessories
The Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver comes with a power cable, a remote control and two AAA batteries, an AM antenna, a wired FM antenna, and a microphone for acoustic calibration. A brief installation guide is also provided, as well as several brochures promoting the brand’s different products. The manufacturer doesn’t include a physical user manual, but a comprehensive 200 page PDF version can be downloaded from their website.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: presentation
From the first visual contact with the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver, its imposing front panel sets the tone: this is an exceptional A/V receiver, designed to pack a punch! A sticker on the liftable panel reminds us that this Onkyo A/V receiver features a custom power transformer and electrolytic capacitors to handle the significant dynamic shifts in movie soundtracks. Consequently, it can provide speakers with a large quantity of power and offer viewers intense emotions.
9 amplified channels
The Onkyo TX-RZ840 is designed to power a set of home theater speakers that includes compact or floorstanding front speakers. It provides enough power to maintain a high volume level for the entire duration of a movie, even in a large room. With its nine amplified channels, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 can deliver Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio tracks in 5.2.4 and 7.2.2 formats without a separate amplifier. Because it decodes these formats over 11.2 channels and has pre-outs for four additional channels, it can be paired with a stereo power amp to power a Dolby Atmos / DTS:X 7.2.4 speaker system.
When you have multiple speakers, you want to be able to enjoy 3D sound, even with old movies mixed in stereo or on 5.1 channels. This is why the Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver includes several DSP modes as well as the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualizer and DTS Neural:X technologies. This way, it can create spatialized multichannel surround sound with a DVD or a Blu-ray mixed in Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 and send it to all of the speakers in the installation, including any Atmos speakers.
Hi-Res Audio, FLAC, DSD…
Although the Onkyo TX-RZ840 offers a plethora of functions, it can also handle simpler tasks masterfully. Certified Hi-Res audio, it has a wide frequency range (5 Hz to 100 kHz) and is therefore able to accurately restitute audio files in Studio Master quality. It handles PCM, FLAC, WAV and AIFF digital files up to 24-bit/192 kHz, as well as DSD files up to 11.2 MHz. Its network connectivity provides access to audio files shared over the local network, but also online music services (Deezer, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, TuneIn…) via the Onkyo Controller app.
Onkyo Controller app
The app also lets you select the source and modify the volume along with certain audio settings. It may also be used as a remote control and can provide information about the quality of incoming and outgoing streams (codec, frequency, number of channels for the audio and resolution, color code for the video).
Chromecast built-in, AirPlay 2, DTS Play-Fi, Bluetooth…
Once connected to the local network, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver can stream music wirelessly using a number of protocols: Chromecast with Android and iOS devices, DTS Play-Fi (DLNA), and AirPlay 2 with Apple devices. It is also possible to use Bluetooth to stream music from a smartphone or tablet. However, because the aptX codec isn’t supported, streaming quality is poor and this type of transmission isn’t recommended.
6 HDMI inputs / 2 outputs
The Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver has an abundance of connectors, including six HDMI inputs and two outputs, all of which are 4K HDR and HDCP 2.2 compatible. In addition, there is a component video input and two composite inputs (with the possibility of video upscaling over the HDMI outputs), six RCA stereo inputs and a Phono (MM) input, as well as two digital audio inputs, one optical and one coaxial. Nine pairs of screw-type speaker terminals are included, along with pre-outs, two of which are assignable to two additional listening zones and can be switched to line-outs.
Simplified remote control
Lastly, the brand’s effort to provide the user with a user-friendly remote control should be applauded. Relatively compact, it is divided into three different parts.
The upper part includes the on/standby button, the source and HDMI selector, as well as the play/pause, next track, previous track and repeat/random keys. The middle part primarily consists of the menu navigation buttons which can also be used to search for and pre-select radio stations. The lower part includes the keys for audio settings with the tone and volume control, the audio mode selection buttons (Movie/TV, Music, Game), the Zone 2 and Zone 3 activation buttons…
It is pleasant to use on a daily basis as the most frequently used keys are easily accessible. The small bump on the top of the volume button is particularly appreciated as it allows you to quickly identify it with the tip of your thumb. It is regrettable, however, that the manufacturer did not consider backlighting the keys to ensure optimal comfort in the dark.
Nine amplified channels.
Audio decoding over a maximum of 11.2 channels.
Compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (support for 7.2.4 and 5.2.4 channels) + support for all anterior Dolby and DTS formats.
Power: 180W/Ch (6 Ω, 1 kHz, 1% THD, 1 powered channel).
NB: this measurement indicates the maximum power with one working channel, which can be used to deduce an average power of 20W per channel when all nine channels are powered.
This may seem low, but in practice it is enough. The reference sound level recommended by THX for home cinema is 85dB, with peaks at a maximum of 103dB. However, the majority of home theater speaker packs include speakers capable of delivering upwards of 88 dB with one watt of power.
When the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver is paired with speakers boasting a high sensitivity rating, such as the Klipsch RP-8000F (98dB/w/m), it is possible to attain 103dB with only 3 watts of power. With speakers such as the Elipson Prestige Facet 34F floorstanders (94dB/w/m), it will take approximately 10 watts of amplification to achieve the same sound level. In practice, we observed that the volume had to be between 45 and 50% for it to be satisfactory and to produce an immersive and impactful sound.
Moreover, with Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, as well as all their variants, the channel that demands the most power is the LFE or low frequency channel. To produce intense and powerful lows, it is necessary to move a lot of air using a large and powerfully motorized driver, which requires robust amplification. This is why the low frequency channel is only preamplified by the A/V receiver before being restituted by a specialized speaker (a subwoofer) which features its own amplification module.
HDMI inputs/outputs compatible with 4K/60 Hz, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, 3D, ARC (with the HDMI Main Out).
Acoustic calibration via an AccuEQ microphone with correction of the room’s audio characteristics.
Connected network features
Chromecast built-in, compatible with AirPlay 2 (multi-room features possible).
Compatibility with Amazon Music, Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, TuneIn.
DTS Play-Fi and FlareConnect multi-room with compatible products.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: configuration
We associated the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver with a pair of Elipson Prestige Facet 34F floorstanding speakers for the front left and right channels, and the Elipson Prestige Facet 14C center speaker. Mounted onto NorStone Stylum 2 speaker stands, the Elipson Prestige Facet 8B compact speakers were used as left and right surround speakers. We also used the REL Acoustics T9i subwoofer (which we will be reviewing soon…). We connected the receiver to the speakers using NorStone W250 Classic speaker cable (front speakers), QED XTC speaker cable (center speaker) and NorStone B250 speaker cable (surround speakers), whereas the subwoofer was connected using a NorStone Jura RCA SUB cable.
We used the Pioneer UDP-LX500 UHD 4K Blu-ray player, connected to the receiver’s HDMI-1 input as a source. The Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver’s Main/ARC HDMI output was connected to our 65” (164 cm) LG OLED TV via an Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI cable. A WiFi connection to our local network was handled by the satellite of our Netgear Orbi RBK50 pack.
AccuEQ room calibration
When turning the Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver on for the first time, it is recommended to turn the television on and switch it to the HDMI input connected to the receiver, which will then invite you to carry out the initial configuration via a menu displayed on the TV screen that will guide you through the steps.
The configuration is split into five steps:
- Installing the speakers
- Carrying out the AccuEQ room calibration
- Controlling the sound in each listening zone
- Configuring the HDMI ARC connection
- Connecting to the network
The first step consists in entering the speaker configuration used. In our case, we entered a 5.1 speaker system (5 speakers + 1 subwoofer), without bi-amplification, using speakers that featured an impedance of 6 ohms or higher. The receiver then transmitted a signal to each speaker and the subwoofer, confirming that they were connected on the screen.
The second step is the AccuEQ acoustic room calibration. This carries out a parametric equalization of the speakers using a processor in the receiver which sends different sound signals to the speakers. Thanks to a microphone (included) connected to the receiver and placed at the listening position, at ear height, the sounds, their volume and their reverberation in the room are measured and analyzed. The processor then carries out an acoustic correction of the signal sent to each channel to achieve a linear response across the whole frequency range.
After the first measurement was taken, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 suggested that we carry out several more (up to nine), depending on the number of people in front of the screen, in order to broaden the optimal listening zone.
Once the acoustic calibration was finished, we were able to get down to serious business and start our first listening sessions, without going back over the settings.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: listening impressions
Even though we streamed music to the Onkyo TX-RZ840, mostly via the Chromecast connection, we decided to base the majority of this test on home theater listening. For this, we called upon the Pioneer UDP-LX500 Blu-ray player to play the Mad Max Fury Road UHD 4K Blu-ray and the Master & Commander Blu-ray. We also watched Birdman on Netflix with our LG OLED TV using the HDMI ARC link with the receiver.
Mad Max Fury Road (Dolby Atmos)
George Miller’s soundtrack is just as impressive as the movie. The music composed by Junkie XL conveyed the tension and rhythm of the action scenes with energy and intensity. Sound effects and explosions were omnipresent, providing a rich and complex soundscape. The Onkyo TX-RZ840 skillfully orchestrated all of this.
The sound of the engines was credible, the 1974 Ford Falcon XB’s V8 purred like a cat before roaring and whirring when Max pushed the accelerator to the floor to escape his pursuers. The spatialization at the front and rear and the depth of the soundstage were amazing, notably when the buggies and vehicles of Immortan Joe’s men appeared behind the viewer and began to chase Max. After his capture, when they headed back to the citadel, the depth of the different sound layers was remarkable. Even with our eyes closed, it was easy to follow the motorbike as it accelerated, overtook the vehicles in the convoy and sped away.
When Max was held captive deep within the citadel, the electric motor of the tattoo machine created an oppressive atmosphere, and the needle in Max’s skin was painfully audible. The voices that followed him through the tunnels during his escape echoed convincingly, amplifying the dramatic tension of the memories haunting the hero.
The movie’s few dialogues were perfectly restituted and always audible. Despite the many sound effects and the roar of the engines during the chases, the actors’ speech was consistently discernible and clear. The Elipson Prestige Facet 14C center speaker deserves a special mention!
Master & Commander (DTS HD Master Audio)
Peter Weir’s movie is remarkable for its meticulous reconstruction of the era’s ships and living conditions at sea. The soundtrack, which is precise and very realistic, is an important factor. At sea, the flapping sails, the creaking hull and the sound of the waves completely immerse the viewer in the adventure. We constantly felt like we were at sea and part of the ship’s crew.
The naval battle scenes are only a small part of the movie, but they are stunning and so lavishly recreated that they seemed real. The sound of the cannons was highly realistic; the REL Acoustics T9i subwoofer pulled out all the stops without overdoing it. The sound of the wood shattering and falling back onto the deck was expertly reproduced. The spatialization of sound effects was excellent, restituted by the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver with tremendous precision. We were on deck with the panicked sailors.
Birdman (Netflix – Dolby Digital+)
Although it isn’t demonstrative, Alejandro Iñárritu’s soundtrack is rich and very precisely spatialized. The decision to shoot the movie in a single shot means the camera constantly revolves around the actors. The viewer is sometimes caught in a visual and acoustic vortex. Here, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 worked wonders.
By expertly handling the sound effects, the receiver reproduced the acoustic atmosphere behind the scenes of the theater perfectly. When the actors were on stage, during the preview of the play directed by Riggan Thomson, the character played by Michael Keaton, the viewer was completely immersed in the scene. The actors’ voices moved precisely, following the position of the camera.
During Riggan’s monologue in front of the audience, the echo of the actor’s voice in the theater brought a lot of depth to the soundstage. The movements of the actors’ chairs, the glass of gin shattering on the floor, and the laughter, whistles and applause of the audience were all rendered realistically and precisely. We were transported by the rhythm of Antonio Sànchez’s jazzy soundtrack, sometimes thumping, sometimes rapid, which accompanied Riggan Thomson’s misadventures.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: compared to…
Sonos Amp: only tested in stereo with a subwoofer, the Sonos Amp made a very good impression on us. We were particularly impressed by the width of the soundstage and the centering of the voices. However, the Onkyo TX-RZ840 receiver is superior in many ways, starting with its precision in positioning sound effects and the scope of the soundstage it creates. Very dynamic, the Japanese receiver also displays a good amount of energy, more evenly distributed than that of the Sonos, which has a tendency to emphasize the upper mids. In addition, the comprehensive support for existing surround sound formats means you can consider all speaker configurations with the Onkyo, in particular those with two or four Atmos speakers.
Denon Heos AVR: we were impressed by this receiver’s original design (no screen and a single volume control knob on the front), by its easy setup thanks to the Denon Heos app and by the streaming possibilities provided due to its connectivity. The Onkyo TX-RZ840 is an equal match in these areas thanks to its refined front panel, the step-by-step installation menu, the auto calibration and its simplified remote control (which can be replaced by the remote control mode in the app). When it comes to sound, the Onkyo displays more precision and presence, with a rich and detailed restitution, and a much wider soundstage.
Onkyo TX-RZ840: conclusion
The Onkyo TX-RZ840 A/V receiver is without a doubt a master in spatialization and surround sound effects. With both epic soundtracks and more intimate pieces, it brings life to the characters on screen with precision and realism. Explosive when necessary, it also knows how to be more subdued and nuanced when the soundscape calls for it.
The expanse of the soundstage that it creates is remarkable, allowing the viewer to be truly immersed in the action that unfolds far beyond the limits of the screen. The timing and placement of sound effects is extremely precise. We were immediately transported into the soundscape of the movie being shown on the screen.
What we liked
- The simple and user-friendly installation menu
- The effectiveness of the AccuEQ Room calibration
- The size and richness of the soundstage
- The precision and realism of the sound effects
- The simple and intuitive remote control
What we would have liked
- A backlit remote control