Yamaha RX-V2300 6.1-channel Receiver ($999)
Onkyo TX-NR900 THX Select 7.1-Channel Receiver ($1,500)
So you are interested in a new receiver? Maybe you want to upgrade from a budget receiver or want the latest in surround processing technology. Either way you could be happy with one of these mid-priced receivers from Onkyo and Yamaha.
The Yamaha RX-V2300 and Onkyo TX-NR900 are very similar in specs, however a few features demonstrate their distinction. Let’s start with their similarities. Both amplifier sections are rated at 110 watts at 8 ohms for each channel. Both have pre-outs for all channels, processing for Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS-ES, and DTS Neo:6, second zone amplifiers, 6-channel inputs, component video switching for two sources, learning remote controls, on screen menus, and a processor direct switch.
Onkyo adds 7.1 THX-Select processing and Net-Tune (which can stream digital audio through the receiver from your computer). Yamaha is not THX certified and offers 6.1-channel surround processing. Lastly the Yamaha RX-V2300 MSRP is $500 less than the Onkyo TX-NR900.
Easy Onkyo Setup
The setup and configuration of each receiver is pretty standard and straightforward. Experts will find both easy to setup, however newbies should find the Onkyo easier because it offers color-coded speaker terminals with matching stickers to label each wire. I also found the Onkyo menu was easier to configure whether I was using the front-panel display or the on-screen menu.
Each remote offers a plethora of buttons to control all your components, but neither would be my choice for best universal remote. However, the Onkyo was more user friendly because the more frequently used buttons were grouped in better locations and were shaped corresponding to their function. Also, the Onkyo remote can be totally backlit, making it much easier to find buttons in a dark room. The Yamaha remote took a little longer to get used to and was next to impossible to use in dark room since most of its buttons are rectangular and black. Yamaha conceals its setup and configuration buttons beneath a hard to locate sliding panel at the bottom of the remote. To their credit each remote offers learning and macro programmable options.
Distinguishing sound quality between receivers can be tricky due to configuration differences, DSP settings, and the difficulty to quickly do an A-B comparison. So I listened to each receiver separately for more than a month, and then I spent a couple of days switching cables furiously to listen to the same source material from each receiver. Both receivers sounded very good, with the Onkyo gaining an advantage with the addition of a seventh surround back speaker. However in overall sound quality in stereo and surround modes the Yamaha brought out more subtle details from movies and music. I often found myself hearing things with the Yamaha I could not notice while listening through the Onkyo. The Yamaha sounded more powerful and dynamic with better imaging, despite their equal amplifier specs.
THX or Not
Are you wondering how I can come to the conclusion a non-THX receiver can sound better than a THX-certified receiver? Isn’t THX supposed to guarantee audio accuracy in movies? Yes and no… THX certification is a license a component can get if it meets certain secret THX specifications to insure sound is heard as the moviemaker intended. On the other hand, just because equipment is not THX-certified, does not necessarily mean it couldn’t pass all of the tests to earn a certification. The THX label is not free. Certification costs are paid by the manufacturer and passed on to the consumer into the price. Lastly, THX has nothing to do with stereo or even multi-channel music.
Is 7.1 better than 6.1?
In certain sized rooms, with optimal speakers and placement you would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference between a movie in 7.1 or 6.1. Since the rear surround channel is mono, you either hear the same sound from one back speaker or two. Larger and wider rooms will benefit from a 7.1 setup. Although, DTS-ES and Dolby Digital EX, even THX Surround EX are really only six channels of sound plus a subwoofer (LFE).
The Onkyo incorporates the Net-Tune feature in the TX-N900 receiver. It allows you to connect an ethernet cable from your computer to play digital audio files from your computer or from the internet. Unfortunately my computer setup did not allow me to test this feature. However, MP3 addicts could find this feature beneficial.
So have you decided which receiver is best for you? The Onkyo earns points for usability, 7.1 processing and its Net-Tune feature. While the Yamaha sounds slightly better and is lower in cost. Choose the receiver with the features and options that best meets your needs. You won’t be disappointed with either component.
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Remember I am just one man with one opinion. If you own this product, or have a comment or question feel free to add your thoughts below.
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