It's a Web, Web, Web, Web world out there, so it's no surprise Onkyo's latest A/V receiver, the TX-NR901, joins that company's family of Net-Tune products, which currently include another surround sound receiver and a compact desktop "client" stereo receiver. Net-Tune lets you stream audio from the Internet over a home network to a conventional audio system or home theater instead of having to listen on a computer sound system - a double-edged sword if ever there was one, given the quality of most Web radio. More significant, it also enables the TX-NR901 (and other Net-Tune clients) to treat any Windows PC on the network as a music server so you can stream MP3 or WMA (Windows Media Audio) files from its hard drive.
Except for a couple of significant upgrades, the TX-NR901 is virtually identical to the Onkyo TX-NR900 that I dissected in a three-receiver comparison last year ("Giving Receivers," June 2003). That means it's a very capable 7.1-channel receiver with a full menu of Dolby Digital and DTS modes, plenty of power, an intelligent selection of features, and valuable flexibility, all detailed in our "fast facts" and "key features" boxes.
|RATED POWER 110 W x 7, channels driven independently, into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with no more than 0.08% THD
DIMENSIONS 17 1/8 inches wide, 6 7/8 inches high, 18 inches deep
WEIGHT 42 1/2 pounds
MANUFACTURER Onkyo USA, www.onkyousa.com, 201-825-7950
About those upgrades: Besides some internal ones, like updated, higher-resolution digital-to-analog converters, there are two main enhancements. First, the TX-NR901 can upconvert composite- and S-video input signals to component video before they're output - and it routes its onscreen menus and displays to the component output, too. This means that whatever motley array of sources you have connected to the receiver's video inputs, you can connect the receiver to your TV using just the component output and never once have to switch inputs on your TV. Hallelujah!
The TX-NR901's second major enhancement is packed with it in the box: an all-new remote control. Its predecessor's button-pusher was lackluster. But the new model comes with a larger, more sophisticated preprogrammed/learning remote with a scroll-wheel selector and a small two-line LCD readout showing both the receiver's currently selected input and the component the remote is set up to control. The remote can even be switched between infrared (IR) and radio-frequency (RF) modes - the latter is useful not only in a second-room setup but also if the receiver is installed behind a cabinet door.
Like its predecessor, the TX-NR901 will pump out more-than-ample real-world power for any multichannel challenge liable to come down the pike. In my tests, it delivered outstandingly accurate, dynamic surround playback from virtually any source, whether it was multichannel digital or two-channel analog.
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