Onkyo TX-NR838 Review – Height or Hype? Onkyo’s THX-specified Home cinema heavyweight is among the first to implement dolby atmos. but is it worth the extra speakers?
Dolby Atmos could be the audio format that gives your home cinema a lift. With two outputs for additional ‘height’ Atmos speakers, Onkyo’s TX-NR838 is one of the first to deliver Dolby’s object-based surround sound. Every feature you can reasonably expect to find on a seven-channel receiver is here, including an amazing array of connections. With all the extra speakers, the set-up procedure could prove to be a headache, but it’s not, thanks to the bundled auto calibration system. But speaker placement is crucial. In Dolby Atmos mode, in 5.1.2 configuration, all seven channels work together to deliver an even more cohesive soundstage than usual. In films there’s no shortage of scenes where you get to hear the new ‘height’ effect channels.
Unlike 7.1 set-ups, it’s very much like the soundfield of a proper cinema. The only regret is that you’re faced with the stark choice between 7.1 and 5.1.2. It would have been nice to have sound pass over and then fade into the surround backs as in the cinema, but you’d need nine channels to achieve that. The Atmos processing can also upmix 5.1 mixes into Atmos mode and add some overhead noise. As a stereo, or perhaps as a regular surround sound receiver, the Onkyo TXNR838 is just as accomplished. The powerful amplification makes it possible to drive quite large speakers with relative ease.
How Atmos takes surround sound to the next level ?
Dolby Atmos gives you a wider sound stage than usual, thanks to overhead speakers, which give films ‘height’. It also uses object-based audio, rather than channels, so sound naturally occurs where it’s meant to. To cater for Dolby Atmos, there are two extra pairs of speaker terminals. Connect Atmos speakers to the High and the Wide outputs and you’ll be listening in 5.1.4 mode. If you were hoping to use all the speaker outputs simultaneously for 7.1.2 sound, you’ll need a nine-channel receiver like Onkyo’s TX-NR1030. Two subwoofer pre-outputs make 7.2 or 5.2.2 configurations possible.
- Comprehensive connectivity.
- Wide format compatibility.
- Ace sound from all seven channels
- Auto set-up not foolproof.
- 7.1.2 not possible
Onkyo TX-NR838 Specifications
- Supports New Dolby Atmos
- Cinema THX Select2 Plus certified for Cinema Reference Sound
- HD 4K/60 Hz-capable HDMI terminals for Ultra HD
- Connectivity Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Multi-room Zone 2 HDMI for video in a second room
- HDCP Supports HDCP 2.2*2 copy protection