It has been quiet around Onkyo for a long time, which was a pity, especially in the field of AV receivers. However, the Japanese brand is back, with some American help. The TX-RZ50 is a 9.2 AV receiver that wants to connect with many features, including a full version of Dirac. And that is unique.
The TX-RZ50 is the first of a new batch of AV receivers from Onkyo. It is a 9.2 device that, together with the more powerful TX-RZ70, should herald the return of the legendary Japanese brand. You may find other Onkyo receivers here and there in the market, but this is a brand-new device with the features you expect in 2023. Starting with broad support for HDMI 2.1 on all ports and for IMAX Enhanced. It also features an FM/DAB tuner, a rarity in this price segment. The receiver also has some unique features with which Onkyo wants to distinguish itself from major rivals Denon/Marantz and Yamaha.
High on the list is Dirac, the room calibration software considered the best solution for tackling acoustic issues in a room. Onkyo isn’t alone in choosing Dirac; Arcam, NAD, and Primare, among others, also offer it in AV receivers. It has recently also been optionally available from Denon and Marantz. Unique is that Onkyo supplies the full version of Dirac for free. This corrects the entire frequency range, not just up to 500 Hz. Given the high price of Dirac, if you buy it separately, that is strong. The Onkyo TX-RZ50 is in stores for 1,599 euros.
|What||9.2 AV Receiver|
|Surround formats||Dolby Atmos (and below), DTS:X (and below), iMAX Enhanced|
|streaming||Play-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, DLNA|
|Inputs||6 x HDMI 2.1, HDMI 2.0, optical, coaxial, 5 x cinch, phono-in (MM)|
|Outputs||11 channels pre-out, 2 x sub-out|
|Extras||AccuEQ, Dirac (full version), Works with Sonos, Zone 2 and 3|
|Dimensions||43.5 x 20.2 x 39.8 cm|
A fresh start
It could sometimes be challenging if you were looking for an AV receiver in recent years. Some brands could not deliver due to parts shortages and logistical problems; others had to contend with factories in Asia that closed their doors for a long time. Onkyo (and sister brand Pioneer) suffered even more, eventually requiring a fresh start under the auspices of Sharp and the Premium Audio Company. If that last name doesn’t mean much to you: the audio company behind it houses Klipsch and Jamo, among others, and distributes others.
This new start has taken time, among other things, to design and market these new devices. With the TX-RZ50, we immediately see signs of the new approach. For example, the AV receiver comes with a Klipsch Optimize Mode that optimizes the amplifier for the American loudspeaker manufacturer’s Reference and Reference Premiere lines. Looking around, we also see that the TX-RZ50 is widely available.
Full HDMI 2.1
At the back of the TX-RZ50, you will find six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. All according to the HDMI 2.1 standard. There is a small difference between the first three inputs and HDMI inputs 4 to 6. The first supports 8K/60AB and 4K/120AB, the second group only 8K/60B and 4K/120AB. That difference is not significant in practice, in our opinion. Who has more than three 8K home sources supporting an expanded color space? There is a seventh HDMI input on the front, but it is limited to 4K60. By the way, Onkyo still provides legacy video inputs, always useful if you collect retro consoles.
When it comes to audio inputs, the analog range is quite wide. Six RCA pairs and a dedicated phono input are available for analog audio sources. If you want to connect something digitally, you have less choice: a coaxial and an optical input.
It is useful if you want to combine a hi-fi and surround system that the TX-RZ50 has full pre-outs for 11.2 channels. You can also control two additional audio zones. Just above these pre-outs, you will find the loudspeaker terminals. They are more functional,; we prefer larger ones made of sturdier plastic or metal.
Sleek design with many keys
Where some manufacturers go for more and more minimalism, Onkyo takes a different course. The TX-RZ50 is quite a sturdy receiver that stands on sturdy legs with a front panel full of buttons and rotary knobs. Thanks to the fifteen small input keys, you can switch very quickly to a specific source. Under the green display, there is a heavy cover; open it, and you’ll reveal even more controls.
Funnily enough, the included remote is more sober. But not so sober that you can’t indicate anything with it. It’s smaller but equipped with all the buttons you need to operate the receiver. Includes an information button that allows you to see on the screen which signal is being delivered quickly and how it is being decoded.
You can do that if you prefer to work via an app. The Onkyo Controller app (iOS and Android) shows very nicely on large screens but is slightly less organized on smaller smartphone displays. It is a good app that gives you much control, including per separate zone if you set the TX-RZ50 that way. Tapping one of the various inputs and built-in streaming options is very easy, and you can also quickly jump to another listening mode while watching.
Simple looking but powerful
The TX-RZ50 may be new, but the TV interface looks familiar. As always, Onkyo opts for a sleek interface that presents choices. There are several options, but it doesn’t come across as complex. We work with a limited number of main choices that lead to new options. A little explanation could sometimes be useful, but everything is generally presented clearly. Regarding adjustability, the TX-RZ50 gives you quite a bit of freedom. You can, for example, give sources their name.
Although you are not taken by the hand like with Denon, the logical structure and clear presentation make it easy to set things up. The basis – your speaker configuration – is presented graphically, and you immediately find the necessary options. It’s good in terms of flexibility. For example, you can choose from different height speakers and select a different type at the front than at the back.
A characteristic of Onkyo is that you will also find some settings for each surround codec. This is especially the case with DTS / IMAX, where you can play with the Bass Feeding option (where your sub only produces LFE tones or also low from speakers). For example, we find more useful menu options without overwhelming you with complexity. It is a more sober experience than, say, at Yamaha, where you will find a lot more DSP modes. The Quick menu is also practical, which you can call up while watching via the Q button on the remote. You can do so very quickly by turning the center speaker a little louder with a quieter dialogue mix.
Works with Sonos
The receiver carries the Works with Sonos label, indicating that you can make it work with your Sonos system elsewhere in the house. This is something that Onkyo introduced before and still sets it apart (although Sony has recently announced something similar). Now if you’re hoping for the TX-RZ50 to appear in your Sonos app, we’ll have to disappoint you. To integrate the receiver into a Sonos system, you must invest in a Sonos Port. You connect this to an input of the TX-RZ50. The AV receiver will automatically switch to this input when playing music through the Port. You can, of course, place that Port in the same zone as your other Sonos speakers, so you still get an approximation of unified control.
Lots of streaming options
You can count on many streaming options with this receiver. AV receivers rarely fall short on that front, but it’s expanded here. Starting with Chromecast and AirPlay 2. With those two, you work via your favorite music service app on your mobile device. If you prefer to work via your app, the TX-RZ50 also offers Play-Fi. Many manufacturers use this DTS platform and offer streaming services, playback of their music files, and internet radio. The Play-Fi app is rather busy and could be brighter, but it works and gives you many options. There is also multi-room functionality so the Onkyo receiver can play with a Play-Fi product from another brand. By the way, you can use the general Play-Fi app or Onkyo Music Control, which is the same app with an Onkyo skin.
It is also nice that Onkyo still supports DLNA. This allows you to play music on the receiver with one of the many DLNA player apps for iOS or Android. Most apps are designed to play their own files, but a few (such as BubbleUPnP or Mconnect HD) also support Tidal and Deezer.
Bluetooth is rarely an option on an AV receiver that offers quality. Most manufacturers only support the SBC code, which often sounds less good. This device is an exception to the rule because the TX-RZ50 supports AAC. By the way, you can also connect wireless headphones and then you can even use aptX HD. If you want to watch a film ending late at night, you can at least do so in high quality.
AccuEQ or Dirac?
As mentioned, the TX-RZ50 is equipped with Dirac, but you also have the choice to get started with AccuEQ. This is Onkyo’s old calibration system, which is also quite sophisticated. But you shouldn’t do it for the time savings, because an AccuEQ measurement with our 5.1.4 setup took at least as long as the Dirac measurement. You also hardly have any options afterward to intervene in the result, which is possible with Dirac. The only reason to work with AccuEQ is that you can get satisfactory results without too much hassle.
Dirac you need a little more time and knowledge. But the result is better in terms of definition and a seamless surround field with Dirac. If you go for a Dirac calibration, you have several options. The simplest is working with your smartphone’s supplied puck microphone and the Dirac app. The better option is to purchase a separate calibrated USB microphone, such as a UMIK-1. Connect it to a Mac or PC, then run the Dirac Live application.
Nose for detail
We did not use our usual DALI loudspeakers for this test but also visited a KEF R Meta setup for several months. We hung a pair of KEF R7 Meta floor standers with an R2 Meta center speaker at the front of the TX-RZ50. The role of the surround channels was for a set of R3 Metas. Because the R8 Dolby speakers or a KEF subwoofer were still on the way, we kept the DALI Alteco height speakers and an ELAC Sub 2050 subwoofer that are fixed in the room. On the source side, we use an Apple TV 4K, an Oppo UDP-203, and an Xbox Series X as usual.
The usual row of Dolby and DTS demos are discussed first. The TX-RZ50 makes a good first impression. After being adjusted with Dirac, the receiver presents the sound in these demo films as spacious and well-positioned. The integration between the different speakers has been successful, including the height speakers. Sound effects that transition from left to right via the center do that very seamlessly, and the effects in ‘Audiosphere’ also move well high in the room and even behind us. They also have a very tangible and well-defined character. The Onkyo passes that first test with flying colors.
There’s a lot of great Atmos content out there, but there’s also a lot of older movies and content in older surround formats. The TX-RZ50 knows how to make something beautiful out of that; we notice, for example, when we nostalgically did not go to the FF9 disc, but to the original ‘Fast & Furious’ from 2001 – in stereo! Not really a high flyer in many areas, but the Onkyo receiver did manage to give a nice surround feeling to the street race with which Paul Walker wants to build up the creds with Dom’s gang. It may not have the enveloping that you would expect from a modern production, but it is still surprisingly well put down in our test room. Cars skim convincingly past the screen and music is delivered intensely room-filling, creating a nice cinema feeling.
The final attack on the secret base in ‘Top Gun Maverick’ is not only very exciting. It is also a very nice example of how sound effects greatly support the action to put you completely in the film. The pilots’ panting from the center channel, while the turbulence sounds echo from the surrounding speakers, increase the tension. The TX-RZ50 emphasizes displaying those micro details, and we get the impression, making the many aircraft maneuvers appear fast and realistic. It goes super fast from left to right, up and down, which pulls you even more into the action. There could be a little more slam and impact when a rocket explodes, but that is easily adjusted via the Quick menu. In any case, the Onkyo and KEF marriage seems to be a good one,
With Maverick, we had the impression that the Onkyo behaved a bit politely. It was great regarding surroundings, but the real bombast that belongs to an action movie was a bit missing. But that’s different with the next movie. The opening scene of ‘John Wick 4’ (Dolby Atmos), with Keanu Reeves practicing his boxing punches hard, really blows through the room – just as it should. It also sounds like the large space we see on the Sony screen. In terms of immersion and detail formation, this Onkyo is very good.
Onkyo successfully returns to the AV receiver segment with the TX-RZ50. This device has unique assets, giving surround enthusiasts a choice different from what can be found elsewhere. The bundling with a full Dirac, many streaming options, a clear, to-the-point interface, and a fast reproduction of sound effects make this device a great choice for building a better surround setup at home.
- Full Dirac included
- Integration with Sonos
- Lots of streaming options
- Detailed and fast
- HDMI 2.1 support
- App is cluttered on some screen sizes
- Speaker terminals could be a little more premium