Onkyo TX-NR414 A/V Receiver Page 2

The supplied remote is preprogrammed with a list of codes for a range of video displays and source components. You can also try your luck with HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) that’s part of the HDMI spec, but your mileage may vary depending on your equipment. As usual, my recommendation is to do yourself a favor and buy a quality universal remote to simplify your life and unclutter the coffee table.

Like most every other AVR I’ve used, the network interface uses the video monitor to display the onscreen interface for streaming music from the Internet or your home computer. Fortunately, Onkyo has iDevice and Android apps that let you control the AVR using your touchscreen phone or tablet device. The apps let you control the volume and choose an input and give you access to each of the network streaming features the AVR supports. If you don’t want to stream music from over the network, the USB port is Made for iPod/iPhone to support iDevices as well as mass-storage-class USB devices loaded with music.

I have to say the InstaPrevue feature, available in this and other 2012 Onkyo AVRs, is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in some time. Instead of having to remember whether your DVR is on HDMI-1 or HDMI-2, you can get a live picture-in-picture video preview of each connected device, making it simple to switch to the proper one. To access it, hit the Home button on the remote and then scroll down to InstaPrevue. Perhaps future versions will include a direct access key on the remote.

At the Movies
Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, is another paint-by-numbers Hollywood production that features inconsistent acting, an unoriginal screenplay, and its fair share of predictable twists and turns. But it has one thing going for it—an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. I paired the TX-NR414 with my usual reference speakers, 4-ohm M&K S-150 studio monitors, which are lower impedance than the recommended 6 to 8 ohms for this budget AVR and represent a more difficult load than it’s likely to see in most installations. To its credit, the Onkyo did a great job with the soundtrack and its pinpoint imaging. Pans from front to back and side to side moved seamlessly throughout the room, and the LFE packed plenty of punch. The AVR only ran out of steam as I approached reference levels—as would be expected with any other budget model at this price point.

One of my favorite Blu-rays of 2012 is Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. Not only is it wildly entertaining, but the audio and video encodes are demo showpieces. When Ethan Hunt and gang infiltrate the Kremlin, the bad guy sets them up for a big fall when he detonates a bomb to frame the MI team. As Hunt makes his escape from the facility, the explosion reverberates throughout the room and all hell breaks loose as the tourists flee the scene. Once again, as long as I kept the volume below ear-crushing levels, the Onkyo held its own against the many higher-priced AVRs I’ve had in my system.

The TX-NR414 also performed well with two-channel music, and only when I tried to drive all five channels at once with demanding audiophile recordings did it start to really show its budget chops. Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence DTS multichannel disc shows off the popular singer’s golden voice, but the Onkyo couldn’t quite deliver the title track with that “in the studio” experience I’ve heard from my own reference equipment. Vocals were a little harsh and the piano flat and lifeless, an indication that the amp was probably working close to its limits, and a condition that may have been exacerbated by the more demanding load represented by my 4-ohm reference speakers. I can say the same for the Every Breath You Take SACD by the Police; the TX-NR414 just couldn’t convey the wow factor that higher-resolution audio tracks usually bring to the table. When I switched back to the two-channel CD layer, with three channels silent, the AVR performed quite well by comparison. But this kind of behavior is typical of budget receivers and their relatively modest power supplies.

It was a breeze to stream stereo tracks either from the cloud or from my Windows Home Server to the Onkyo. Setting up Pandora is a simple matter of entering your user name and password. And while the compressed audio won’t blow you away in critical listening sessions, it’s great for background music while you do household chores or gather with friends.

The TX-NR414 won’t satisfy the needs of a serious enthusiast for his main system, but then, it’s not intended to. What it offers at its attractive price point is the ability to easily connect up to six HDMI components (with InstaPrevue to choose among them), while providing access to an excellent mix of networked and Internet radio sources. Having iOS and Android apps is another nice plus. While this AVR won’t have the power reserves that higher-priced components offer, it held its own quite well at reasonable volume levels, especially on movie soundtracks, and even with my demanding reference speakers. I’m sure it’ll do even better with speakers more closely matched to its price range. For a basic AVR for a bedroom or summer home, or to get in the home theater game on a super-tight budget, the Onkyo TX-NR414 deserves your consideration.

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