For buyers on a budget, the Onkyo TX-NR509 home theater receiver has a lot to like. The unit packs in all the HD audio decoders you need to listen to the major surround-sound formats, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. A pair of zone 2 analog outputs are also provided. Though it only provides five channels of surround sound, reports say it does a great job of creating a terrific-sounding sound field in a small to mid-sized room and a great job of passing along video that's as clean going out as it is going in. Unfortunately, it lacks advanced video processing, so don't look for any video upscaling or analog-to-digital conversion. Connectivity could be better as the TX-NR509 sports just four HDMI inputs, but that's plenty for a typical home theater setup. On the plus side, those inputs comply with the HDMI 1.4a standard, which includes support for 3D, audio return channel and HDMI pass-through.
Besides the excellent video and sound, the TX-NR509 also offers a bevy of useful features, such as iPod and iPhone connectivity (either via USB or a separate $150 iPod dock), DLNA networking capabilities and tons of Internet radio and streaming music options. HD radio is also available with the purchase of a separate tuner (*Est. $150). If your budget is a little bigger, the Onkyo TX-NR609 (*Est. $500) draws tons of compliments, has a little more pop (100 watts per channel vs. 80 watts), and is even more feature packed -- including full seven-channel surround-sound support and THX certification.
The most helpful professional feedback for the Onkyo TX-NR509 comes from About.com and HomeTheaterGears.com, although About.com's review of the product seems more specification based than the result of any actual hands-on testing. Users at Amazon.com, Newegg.com and AVSForum.com also weigh in with their opinions.
The anonymous editors at HomeTheaterGears.com have little negative to say about the Onkyo TX-NR509, though they do caution readers that the receiver doesn't offer any kind of video conversion. The audio and video capabilities of the unit blew away the editors during hands-on testing sessions with the recent "True Grit" remake and Diana Krall's "Girl in the Other Room" SACD. "As an entry level receiver the Onkyo TX-NR509 exceeded our expectations," the website says in the closing lines of its review.
Review: Onkyo TX-NR509, Editors of HomeTheaterGears.com
Robert Silva's review of the Onkyo TX-NR509 receiver seems more of a review of the unit's features than of the actual unit itself – no testing is mentioned, nor does he provide his feedback on the receiver's AV capabilities. Still, the TX-NR509's features impress Silva enough that he names it as the best sub-$400 receiver you can buy. "The TX-SR509 really packs in both features and performance at a very reasonable price," Silva says. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Best Home Theater Receivers -- Priced at 399.00 or Less, Robert Silva
User-written reviews of the Onkyo TX-NR509 are beginning to accumulate at Amazon.com, and the majority of owners look to be pretty happy with their purchase. At last look, all but two reviews rate the receiver at either 4 or 5 stars. A few users chime in with mild gripes about HDMI handshake issues and the lack of video conversion, but even those consumers rate the TX-NR509 fairly well. The least positive review complains about network issues and a hum from the receiver, but says the sound is excellent.
Review: Onkyo TX-NR509 5.1 Channel Network A/V Receiver, Contributors to Amazon.com
The incredibly dedicated users at AVSForum.com lump the TX-NR509 into a thread earmarked for discussion on all of Onkyo's budget or mid-range 2011 receivers. For the most part, users are happy with their new home theater receiver as they talk about the nuances of its use. A couple do complain that sound quality is not quite as good as earlier versions.
Review: Onkyo TX-NR609, TX-NR509, TX-SR309 Thread, Contributors to AVSForum.com
Consumer reviews of the Onkyo TX-NR509 are slowly beginning to trickle in at Newegg.com. The vast majority of users give the receiver a perfect score, but some found themselves wanting the video conversion capabilities that are missing in this receiver. One user gives the receiver a poor score, seemingly because he didn't understand the limitations of the unit before buying; he complains about the lack of video conversion and the audio-only streaming capabilities of the DLNA networking feature.
Review: Onkyo TX-NR509 5.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver, Contributors to Newegg.com