Onkyo TX-NR515 AV-receiver

Onkyo campaigns to function as people's champ in regards to AV receivers. Every year its entry level models come packaged to the hilt with characteristics, sporting a competitive price and, more times than not, a nailed -on sound quality, too. This obligation to worth has made Onkyo the best-selling home cinema receiver brand for four years which sorta tells you all you need to learn.

And with the TX-NR515, the second-best specced version in its present bunch of entry level AV receivers, Onkyo appears to be continuing down the same trail. For GBP500 it offers nearly all of the latest mod cons internet-radio and DLNA streaming, 3D passthrough and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. It is also 'futureproofed' for another generation of hi def TVs, courtesy of the 4K of Marvell -upscaling QDEO technology.

This 7.2-channel affair replaces the TX-NR579. Onkyo says it kicks out 130W-per-channel, although that is quoted with only just one channel, into 6 Ohms. As usual with AVRs that are affordable, you are able to assume a more realistic five- or seven-station performance to be considerably less.

Elsewhere about the spec sheet the TX-NR515 represents more of a subtle tweak than a revolutionary overhaul, with Onkyo certainly taking an 'if it ain't broke...' tactic. There are several new features to report, though, mainly MHL (Mobile High Definition Link), which allows you to playback 1080p video and pictures with surround sound from smartphones and other portable devices.

On the exterior there is very little difference, too. As there's a sartorial choice of silver or black and build quality is pretty much what you'd expect - fairly solid but without reaching the bullet proof levels which you get from more expensive versions. The front panel is nice and tidy, confining most of the buttons to the fascia's ridges and grooves. The leading HDMI is the conduit for MHL and is labelled as such.

On the back are seven more HDMI inputs and dual output signals allowing simultaneous video on two screens. A total of eight HDMI inputs may sound like connection overkill, but nonetheless, it certainly makes sense - there is nothing more irritating than running out of digital interfaces on what is made to be the pulse of your setup. Via this medium, the TX-NR515 supports MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, AAC and LPCM.

Other characteristics that could interest contain Spotify music streaming. This is something that some AVR makers find as a huge draw, but notice that you will need a subscription to utilize it. Other audio streaming options are vTuner, SIMFY, Last.fm! As well as the cloud-based service MP3tunes.

Burr Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs are provided for many channels.

Using the TX-NR515 does not throw too many curveballs up. The GUI is a measure above the blocky, basic onscreen display of yesteryear with the House menu using a row of coloured icons, and all other menus simple and exemplifying their options with images -to-read fonts. Not cutting edge, but barely offensive.

Other factors to grease the set up wheels contain HDMI standby passthrough and InstaPrevue, which provides a live video thumbnail of every source connected via HDMI. There are management Programs available for Android and iOS devices, too - but these do lack the sense of the offering of rival Pioneer of dash and fun.

In activity the TX-NR515 is every bit guaranteed as preceding Onks. There isn't a massive bound upward in quality - rather, Onkyo has just copied the commendable sound of the TX-NR579 and its ilk, offering the same entrancing mix of polish and power.

With Super 8 on Blu-ray it proves adept for the money. It provides the pounding delights of the train crash sequence without any signs of struggle, from the thumping bottom end as the train passes to the sharp crackle of the fires in the wake.

When the impact occurs it launches full throttle to the melee of effects - clanking metal panels, wooden buildings being ripped to shreds - hammering them out with gusto. Effects delightfully placed within the soundstage and are whipped from speaker to loudspeaker at speed.

It is not all about brute force either - give it a romantic scene or a peaceful establishing shot and it will still draw out the detail like iron filings to a magnet. Dialogue has authority.

The TX-NR515 is thus something of a catch, with plenty of likeable characteristics and remarkable sound quality. It is worth of its 'best-buy' status. But at the same time, you may get a slight feeling that the world's best selling AVR brand (and presumably the most well-off) could be doing more to drive the meek home cinema receiver forwards, instead of simply going over and improving old earth.

Onkyo TX-NR515 AV-receiver photo