Originally Posted by mtrot
UPS just dropped this off, and I just ran the firmware update, which took about an hour. I am going to swap it out with my Yamaha RX-V1800 and set it up exactly the same, which is run on "STRAIGHT" and with no YPAO or anything. I am first going to set up the 809 in a similar manner and compare the audio quality on movies and music. I need to find out if it has a different sound quality out of the box. I am also very interested in how well it decodes DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD, particularly with respect to the center and surround channels, directionality of effects, and clarity of dialog.
Well, if it does not sound any better, I will be returning it. Trying to be very objective with expectations and evaluation.
Well, I have some initial impressions, based on listening to the 809 with several different inputs. I only run a 5.1 system. A Sherbourn A1500 amp(200 wpc x 5) handles the Front and Center speakers, and I connected the surrounds to the Onkyo.
I set this up just like the RX-V1800, in that I did not run Audessy or any EQ. All I did was set speaker distances and played around with crossover settings for the center channel. As I have tower speakers for the fronts and surrounds, I set them to FULL BAND. With the Yamaha, I had selected "LARGE".
My Oppo BDP-83 is connected via HDMI. My cable box is connected via optical for the audio.
First, I watched some HD cable TV including news sites, HDNet Movies, ESPN Sportscenter. It was immediately apparent that the Onkyo sounds a bit different from the 1800. On the HD cable programs I watched, the sound was sharper and more immediate and alive sounding, compared to the Yamaha.
Next, I tried some CDs, and they sounded like, well, CDs. What I really wanted to hear was high resolution music, so I listened to the Jane Monheit Never Never Land dual disc(96/24) as well as the Linda Ronstadt What's New (192/24) DVD-Audio. These sounded just a good or better than with the Yamaha. The delicacy and tonality of Jane Monheit's voice was particularly impressive. What's New sounds about as good as it can get, given that it has never seemed to me like all that great of a recording in the first place.
Next, I tried a couple SACDs, which sounded the best. I have my Oppo set to output DSD for SACDs, and tried the 809 on both DIRECT and Pure Audio. I played Diana Krall's Look of Love and the SACD soundtrack of A Beautiful Mind. I think one impressive thing about the Onkyo is that for the first time, SACD quality seemed to surpass DVD-Audio. With the Yamaha, I never could say I could notice any differences between SACD and DVD-Audio. On both the Look of Love and A Beautiful Mind, I was blown away by the lushness and liquid and musical quality of vocals and mid range instruments like strings.
Blu-ray was my next format, and it was in this arena that the Onkyo seemed to show the most superiority over the RX-V1800. I have never been all that impressed with the decoding of DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD with the Yamaha. Perhaps that may be because it was one of the first receivers able to decode those formats and does not have the same level of decoders as these newer receivers. Also, the Yamaha does not use equal decoders for all channels. I can say there is no doubt the Onkyo decoding is superior to the 1800, which is exactly what I was looking for. I played Quantum of Solace as my first test. Everything is improved, but what I noticed most was the clarity and separation of sounds across the sound stage, as well as greater dynamics on explosions and other effects on the left or right channel. They just seem to jump out of the speakers. Dialog also seems more intelligible, which was another top concern.
Thus, so far, I am fairly impressed with the audio quality of this unit, especially given the Amazon pricing. Add to that the network and wireless capabilities that the 1800 lacks, and I think this may be a keeper. I need to live with it and use it some more before ruling out any potential deal breakers.
Due to the strong opinions here of folks much more knowledgeable than I that receivers should not sound different when not over driven, I had hesitated to even try this unit. But the difference is quite obvious. My guess is that the pre-amp section as well as the decoders are just more advanced and explain the improvement, especially since I am using a separate power amp. I'd be interested to hear any other impressions and/or comparisons to prior receivers.