Onkyo TX-NR609 AV-receiver

Onkyo's home cinema hubs top the bestseller lists, appealing to punters seeking an amp that produces maximum bang for their dollar, really year.

And this year, the organization certainly intends to retain its place towards the very best. The 7.2-station TX-NR609 is the most innovative model in Onkyo's first wave of 2011 receivers, offering complete network capacity and a couple of exciting world firsts.

Chief among these is the way it can stream music right from Spotify. With over 10 million tunes available in 320 quality that is k, it might put your MP3 player out of a job, but you will require a Premium account to be used by it.

All of them are accessed in the touch of a button using menus that were simple. The Spotify interface is not very bad, exhibiting cover art and providing access to features and playlists like 'What's New' and 'Starred'.

This might have no practical use but could be useful when sets like Toshiba's 4K glasses-free TV hit the shops within the next 12 months.

Headline-grabbers aside, it's pretty much untouchable at this cost in regards to such principles as audio processing, amplification and performance. Like its predecessor, the brilliant TX-SR608, the NR609 is THX Select2 Plus certified, decodes any HD audio format and offers 7 x 160 W with two LFE pre-outs should you'd like to bulk up bass guitar having another sub.

There is even a selection of 'perpendicular surround' processing, with Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX both vying for your own attention. The latter offers greater flexibility, enabling you to utilize the surround back speakers as front height or front channels that are wide (although with just seven stations, you will have to give up those surround backs no matter what.)

Other highlights come in an analogue RGB input signal for PCs the shape of powered Zone 2 output signal plus a USB port. Onkyo is placed to start a wireless USB adaptor, although the Ethernet connection is currently your only manner of getting online. There are really no multichannel analogue input signals.

Build quality is spot on and Onkyo has revamped the external layout, to include a flat fascia with buttons discreetly tucked over the grooves. While classy, the outlets that are exposed are asking for trouble if you have kids.

The Audyssey 2EQ automobile setup works its magic using the supplied mic and evaluation tones, or you can DIY by delving into the onscreen setup menu, which uses the same rational layout as last year's models but with swanky new fonts and images.

Its performance is brilliant, managing Bluray soundtracks with consummate management, roof-raising precisely the same deftness of touch that graced its predecessor along with power.

Along with the expository dialogue is pronounced with body and admirable clarity. But as the dream begins to fall apart, the Onkyo manages the epic-scale action with thunderous power, swift, decisive steering and effects placement that is terrific.

Debris crashes to the ground with a chandelier- shaking thump, while the wave of water cascading to the room blends top end detail that is clean and awful low-frequency presence. It's a top-drawer movie performer, we doubt you will hear many GBP500 amps that are better in 2013 and although you'll get even greater power and subtlety from more expensive versions. The TX-NR609 is a force to be reckoned with.

Onkyo TX-NR609 AV-receiver photo