Onkyo TX-NR3030 Review
Onkyo’s brawny TX-NR3030 boasts an indulgent 11.2-channel design. Without the need to resort to any extra amplification (which is currently the solution proffered by its main rivals), you can install the TX-NR3030 in a premium 7.2 configuration with four Dolby Atmos channels (literally) on top. That’s like ordering a sticky toffee pudding and adding a spotted dick garnish.
Design-wise, the TX-NR3030 emulates the clean lines found elsewhere in the brand’s 2014/15 lineup. An info-packed status display is flanked by volume knob and power button while menu functionality and bonus inputs (HDMI/MHL, USB, phono AV and digital optical audio) are tucked behind a fascia flap.
Rear-placed connectivity includes seven HDMI inputs, all 4K compatible up to 60fps, with one input (HDMI 3) being HDCP 2.2-ready. These route to three HDMI outputs, which typically would be used to feed TV and projector in a cinema room, with the third providing video to a second viewing zone. HDMI passthrough lets any designated connected source journey through the AVR when it’s in standby, so the system doesn’t need to be powered just to watch Loose Women from a connected STB.
You can network the Onkyo via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi; two antennas sit on the rear. You can also stream over Bluetooth. If your source material is more old school, take comfort from the forest of legacy inputs. There are two component video inputs and six digital audio options (three coaxial, three optical). Helpfully, anything you connect will be upscaled and squirted out over HDMI, courtesy of a Qdeo chipset from Marvell. There are also 11.4-channel pre-outs and balanced stereo XLR pre-outs.
Build quality is admirable. The chassis itself is nicely finished, while beneath the bonnet you’ll find a trio of transformers (maybe they’re called Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Ratchet…), decoupled amplification and processing modules, plus seven 32-bit Burr-Brown D/A converters. Functionality is similarly impressive – streaming service support includes internet radio, Aupeo!, Spotify and Deezer – while file compatibility is broad. The receiver is DLNA-ready, enabling it to stream from connected NAS devices, PCs and connected USB drives. All common audio codecs and containers are supported, including MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC and DSD. For those living in a time warp, there’s also an analogue radio tuner.
The TX-NR3030 boasts many labels, one of which is THX Select2 Plus (Ultra2 certification is found on Onkyo’s separate power amp/processor pair). This means you can take advantage of THX post-processing should you like that sort of thing (and who doesn’t?). THX Surround EX, for 7.1 from 5.1 sources, is particularly effective, and Dolby Surround will map incoming sources to an Atmos speaker array. There’s also an assortment of Movie, Music and Game modes, as well as a Pure Audio mode which turns off both the video display and analogue video circuit. To simply hear all content as delivered by the source, opt for Direct.
AVR setup is via Onkyo’s own AccuEQ system, using a supplied mic. It’s not the most sophisticated auto-calibration in the world, but necessary to help the renderer in the AVR know what loudspeakers are attached. Don’t feel obliged to keep the resulting system settings. I got my best results when I went off -piste. Tweaking can be a pleasure.
Bring on the bombast
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Blu-ray) may not be big on inflammatory action sequences, but the subtle embellishments evident in its Atmos soundtrack really add to the viewing experience. When Katniss hops in a hovercraft to visit bombed-out District 8, you feel as if the ship’s gusting turbines are blowing debris into the corner of your room. When her ride takes off, you’ll expect the roof to follow.
The ensuing hospital action sequence is a sonic thriller: air raid sirens fill the Atmos height channels before anti-aircraft fire throws rubble behind your head. As if the Panem bomber flyovers aren’t visceral enough, goosebumps are well and truly raised when Everdeen scene-steals with her retaliatory arrow take-down. The downed craft smashes centre left, causing a chimney stack to fall the length of the viewing room. It’s enough to make you want to throw your popcorn in the air.
Heard in a commercial theatre, Atmos delivers unparalleled image placement. The sound fields circular, with seamless steering between a conventional sonic bed and canopy like height channels. It’s an uncanny, intimate experience. When heard in this 7.2.4 config, the Onkyo iteration comes remarkably close. When the twig breaks in the front right-hand channel during the Atmos trailer Leaf, the snap is preternaturally crisp. Said leaf then circles the listening space, demonstrating seamless image panning.
When it comes to power output, Onkyo plays Wattage close to its chest. For the TX-NR3030 it boasts 185W into six ohms with one channel driven, but this will round down when the amp is in full flight. I’m doubtful the Atmos channels are getting anything like that headline figure. That said, there are Putin-like power reserves available. Not only is the TX-NR3030 addictively dynamic, it’s also incredibly light on its feet, delivering delicious detail with a delicacy that belies its AV hulk status. But when it needs to raise hell, Lucifer himself is on hand to crank up the volume.
If you’re pondering an Atmos upgrade, it’s worth noting that there’s a very noticeable difference between an x.x.2 and x.x.4 setup. When you’re running a single pair of Atmos height channels, immersive balance can be a challenge to achieve unless you’re in a relatively small room. What’s more, if you upgrade from a standard seven-channel receiver to a 5.1.2 Atmos equivalent, you’ll quickly become aware that there’s a gaping hole at the back of the sound field where your rear backs used to be. Thankfully that sacrifice doesn’t apply with the 11-channel TX-NR3030. The traditional wraparound DTS-HD MA and TrueHD 7.1 sound field is still available, augmented by a four-channel fug of Atmos which doesn’t so much pour from the ceiling as permeate the ether.
Sans Atmos, the AVR’s DTS-HD MA performance (there’s no DTS:X provision here) is exemplary. When the Golden Army rise in Hellboy 2, the clattering, thumping automatons have all encompassing, rafter-raising weight. This is classic multichannel home cinema at its best. It’s also a solid hi-fi performer – two-channel hi-res audio offers pronounced articulation. There’s nothing heavy-handed or gloopy about its imaging.
Specifications of Onkyo TX-NR3030
DOLBY ATMOS: Yes. Plus Dolby TrueHD
DTS: X: No. DTS-HD Master Audio
THX: Yes. Select2 Plus
MULTICHANNEL INPUT: No
MULTICHANNEL OUTPUT: 11.4 pre-outs POWER OUTPUT (CLAIMED): 11 x 185W (6 Ohms)
MULTIROOM: Yes. Three zones
AV INPUTS: 4 x composite; 6 x digital audio (3 x optical and 3 x coaxial)
HDMI: 8 x inputs; 3 x outputs (v2.0)
VIDEO UPSCALING: Yes. To 2,160p
COMPONENT VIDEO: 2 x inputs; 1 x output
DIMENSIONS: 435(w) x 466.5(d) x 199(h)mm WEIGHT: 22kg
ALSO FEATURING: AccuEQ auto-calibration with setup microphone; Bluetooth; integrated 2.4GHz Wi-Fi; Spotify Connect; internet radio; AM/FM tuner; HDCP 2.2 copy protection input/output; Qdeo video processing; twin LFE outputs; 12V trigger for zones 2/3; RS232; balanced L/R pre-outs.