Onkyo TX-RZ820 Review by Dan Bland

It has been some time since I’ve even entertained an Onkyo in the shop, over the past few years they seemed to have lost their way a little and until recently I had removed all semblance of products from our website. The recent partnership and takeover of Pioneer AV seems to have them back on track with decent UK support using the Pioneer infrastructure in the UK which was already very solid, so given their track record in the past of producing fantastic ground breaking AVR’s it seemed only sensible to re-visit the brand again after a couple of years to see what had changed, if anything.

Onkyo sent us an TX-RZ820 for demo with no commitment from us, if it didn’t measure up it would go back. The TX-NR820 is currently the flagship unit of the new models with the higher end unit’s due for replacement at some point next year, so this will eventually sit somewhere in the middle of their range I believe when it all comes out in the wash. It is a 7.2 amplifier featuring Dolby Vision, HLG & HDR10, BT2020 & full 4K passthrough. The unit has no video processor on board to manipulate or alter the incoming/outgoing image. It is also THX Select 2 certified amplifier and has a plethora of streaming options built in (more than you could wish for).

For its part, the Onkyo is a very simple unit to get up and running, it shares the same on-screen menu system as the new Pioneer amplifiers which is a huge improvement over the old dot matrix style they used to use. I made a similar comment about the Pioneer SC-LX901 amplifier I reviewed some months ago and it truly does bring them into the 4K age looks wise, well overdue. It makes set-up of the amplifier very simple. Internally set-up options are kept to a minimum, and the concise layout make it clear what you are changing and what effect it will have. The omission of a video scaler makes set-up even easier, it being straight pass through with no changes.

One of the major omissions this time round is the lack of the Audyssey XT32 EQ system which was so prevalent on Onkyo amplifiers of the past, instead it features Onkyo’s own AccuEQ automated set-up system. I remember a lot being written at the time that this would be a very bad move for Onkyo and that their auto setup system couldn’t be a match for the Audyssey. While Audyssey is good if you know how to get the best from it, it does have a lot or quirks which can, if set-up wrongly, give a poor sound. So at the time I took this omission and these comments with a large pinch of salt. So, In reality, this was my first experience with AccuEQ and overall I have to say it was a very positive one. Very simple to use and to be honest a pretty accurate result after the automatic stage, distances were slightly off as were channel levels but after checking with a laser measure and an SPL meter, the sound was bang on. I have experienced this with every other Japanese AVR with exception of the Pioneer which adjusted everything pretty much perfectly. Once manually adjusted for a “hot seat” after the auto set-up, the sound was excellent, very good integration of the surround speakers, excellent bass management and integration of the subwoofer and the overall timing of the system was superb, very entertaining. The most positive thing I found was that it didn’t really sound like anything else I have heard for a while. The best way I can describe it is that it had a somewhat dry midrange to it, but not in a negative way at all. I actually kept the Onkyo at home for some time and I think if they had a model with the same specification that could do four height speakers I might seriously consider one for the house on sound quality alone.

While very good the Onkyo isn’t perfect. I could find no way to change the amplifiers display to tell me what surround mode I was listening to, all it would display was the input. I had to keep checking the onscreen menu for confirmation in the initial set-up stages. I found that the display on the front was almost the same as the one they were using 10 years ago, a strange kind of green colour which personally I feel needs updating, although I’m sure there are fans of it out there. The remote is extraordinarily basic and cheap feeling, which is not the best in the world. Finally, there was no in-depth manual in the box, all you are given is a basic set-up manual which seems to be becoming a trend with manufacturers these days. To give the Onkyo TX-RZ820 it its due though, these issues take nothing away from the sound of the unit, and some may call these issues minor.

Overall it was a pleasure to have it in the house for the two or three weeks it was there and I think I would have no problem recommending it to a customer who required a 5.2.2 or a 7.2 set-up in their home. The Onkyo TX-NR820 is now available for home demonstration or in our cinema in central Edinburgh.