onkyo tx-nr838 video review



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The TX-NR838 offers six rear-placed HDMI inputs and two outputs, one of which is ARC compatible, augmented by a front-facing HDMI input. The secondary Sub HDMI output can duplicate the main output for multi-zone or TV/projector use.

The Onkyo TX-NR838 hits all the right notes. Great sound quality and a bevy of features which include WiFi, Bluetooth and Dolby Atmos make it the total package in AV receivers.Onkyo traditionally pumps out good sounding receivers year after year. Because of this, it’s sometimes easy to take for granted the sound quality of their products. The fact that the 838 sounds great is almost expected. The inclusion of Dolby Atmos and HDCP 2.2 DRM are big pluses especially for future applications.

The 7.2 Channel Onkyo TX-NR838 on the surface appears to be pretty much the same as last year’s 828 model. However, Onkyo has made a couple notable changes to the 838 this year. The most significant of which is the support of Dolby’s new Atmos format and the dropping of Audyssey calibration.

Appearance & Features

As far as looks go, the Onkyo 838 is pretty much identical to last year’s 828. The big black box of the 838 is big and bulky. The front has a clean and uncluttered appearance. The lower trap door on the 838 is it’s secret to keeping the front tidy looking. Flipping it open reveals buttons for various sound modes and input selects as well as one analog, one USB and one HDMI input. When lifting the 838 out of the box, it’s 34 lb heft is immediately apparent.

Turning the unit around reveals an ample supply of analog and digital inputs highlighted by 7 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs. Onkyo’s even included a phono input in the rear for vinyl lovers.When examining the remote that comes bundled with the Onkyo TX NR838, I guess the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” can be applied. Onkyo’s been using the same remote for their AV receivers for the past few years. Like past years models the remote is adequate. It could probably make due with a little bit of simplification as it does have a few superfluous buttons, but overall it’s not too bad. To put it bluntly, we’ve seen worse.

Audio Performance

With all of the minutia out of the way, I’m sure you want to know how the Onkyo TX-NR838 sounds. To sum it up….excellent. For pure stereo output it sounded fantastic. I usually feel that dedicated stereo receivers do a better job for pure stereo applications. Most AV receivers usually come up a little short in this department. However, the Onkyo 838 proved me wrong.

If there is one flaw with it’s audio performance, it could be a lack of warmth. While the 838 has excellent dynamics, it doesn’t quite have the warmth of a Marantz or Pioneer receiver. This is purely subjective of course as I’ve had other’s listen to the 838 and they thought the differences were subtle.

Overall, Atmos nearly delivers on it’s promise. It does create a much fuller room filling sound stage with some sounds appearing to come from above and wrapping around your head. However, it wasn’t quite as engaging as we expected. Also, in our listening area there appeared to be a “sweet spot about 8′-10′ in front of the speaker modules where the spacial sound effects were the most convincing. If we stood further back or moved further to the right or left it wasn’t quite as effective. This being said, it did provide a more realistic sound stage than you’d get with a traditional setup.

Conclusion

The Onkyo TX-NR838 is another great receiver from Onkyo. While none of the features it offers are groundbreaking, they do show that Onkyo has an eye towards the future. HDCP 2.2 DRM compliance means the 838 will be prepared for the onslaught of 4K video. Even though Atmos needs some refinement, it shows lots of promise. In a few years when Atmos becomes a standard, those who purchase the 838 will be happy they did.

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