Onkyo’s second-from-the-top AVR is a nine-channel movie-lover with a healthy selection of bonus features, says Mark Craven. Read our ONKYO TX-RZ50 Review.
1. Buttons on the right of the fascia, above the volume rotary, handle input selection
Onkyo’s TX-RZ50 continues the brand’s ethos of taking the basic notion of an AV receiver and adding a plethora of bells and whistles. Yet this isn’t a budget model. Although the more affordable of two top-tier AVRs in the brand’s stable, it costs £. Good news for Onkyo then, that it still feels like good value for money.
Due to the recent corporate machinations surrounding Onkyo, discussed previously in HCC, the RZ50 is new to the UK, but not fresh from the factory – it was first announced in 2021. This means if it were a TV it would be deemed old hat, but the AVR market – beset by issues with the production of HDMI chipsets and other factors -hasn’t moved at a striking pace in the last few years. Subsequently, the RZ50’s specification looks up-to-date.
For example, this is a model with HDMI 2.1 connectivity onboard, albeit only on three of its seven inputs. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ passthrough are provided, as is support for VRR, ALLM and QFT gaming features, plus eARC.
The amp’s design differs from the more affordable TX-NR6100 (HCC #342) and matches that of Onkyo’s more recently announced TX-RZ70 flagship. There’s plenty of visible front-panel buttonry, although some controls, plus mic, headphone and an HDMI input, are concealed behind a pull-down door. The brushed aluminium fascia is rather fetching, although the overall look is a bit ‘boxy’.
The RZ50’s remote is arguably unbefitting of a receiver at this price point. It’s the same handset supplied with the NR6100, and its lightweight feel doesn’t match the more robust nature of the amp itself. There’s a more premium zapper included with the RZ70, and it would be nice to have that here too. Oh well.
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Like the TX-NR6100, this is proclaimed a ‘Smart AVR’, meaning it carries an array of wireless connection options, from DTS Play-Fi to Chromecast and Apple AirPlay. It’s also Roon Tested, should you be running the music curation playback platform, and there’s two-way Bluetooth in addition to wired and Wi-Fi networking. Setup to your network can be managed via the Google Home app, and -once logged in through Onkyo’s Controller app – you can view streaming services via your TV display, using the handset to navigate. It’s pretty slick.
The power rating of the RZ50 is 250W into each of its nine channels, but as with all of Onkyo’s models, this is a 6ohm measurement, into one channel, with a high (10%) THD. Better to approach it from its 8ohm, two-channel, 0.8% THD measurement of 120W, and scale down ultimate power expectations from there. Onkyo’s discrete Dynamic Audio Amplification output stage is fed by a custom ‘low-noise, high-current’ transformer, and custom capacitors, adjacent to an aluminium heat sink to maintain operating temperature.
|PRODUCT:||Nine-channel Atmos/DTS:X receiver with Dirac|
|POSITION:||One rung below Onkyo’s RZ70 flagship|
|PEERS:||Denon AVR-X4800H; Yamaha RX-A4A|
The nine-channel amp stage outputs via binding posts variously labelled for support of 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 systems, or setups with Zone 2/3 audio or bi-amping. Next to this are numerous non-HDMI connections, including component (‘we still have some customers using component-based satellite receivers’, Onkyo tells me) and MM phono for a turntable.
Where the RZ50 stands out from the competition is its implementation of Dirac Live. Adoption of this third-party room correction tool has expanded from high-end (Datasat) to the mass market, so Onkyo now joins Pioneer, Denon, Marantz and Arcam in the field. The RZ50, however, delivers the full Dirac Live (20Hz to 20kHz)
‘ A great sense of control, widened dynamics and a stronger bass response across the speaker array’
out of the box, whereas some rivals only integrate the base (sub-500Hz) iteration, or ship Dirac Ready for the end user to add the upgrade via a license purchase. Moreover, Onkyo’s receiver can run Dirac either from a laptop or a smartphone app (using the supplied microphone, not the one on your handset). Some will find this preferable to bringing a computer into their movie room.
There’s still the option to use Onkyo’s own quick-fire AccuEQ platform, but as this is less advanced and the results less impressive, I can’t see any RZ50 owner choosing this over Dirac.
Auditioned not long after the TX-NR6100, this costlier receiver makes for an interesting comparison. Listening to both music and movie material, it’s easy to discern a sort of Onkyo ‘house sound’, but the RZ50 clearly ups its game. There’s a greater sense of control, widened dynamics and a stronger bass response across the speaker array. Compared to some rivals, both at and above this price point, there’s a bit of an edge to its presentation of impact sounds, the RZ50 landing on the attacking end of the spectrum. This wasn’t an issue with the KEF R Series Meta 5.1.2 array I used (plus a B&W 705 S2 pair on rear surround duty), but might make it slightly fatiguing with brash-sounding budget models.
Post Dirac calibration (via the app), Onkyo’s receiver spun a large, wide and cohesive Dolby Atmos soundstage, with a gutsy low-end and plenty of snappy detail. It was a sound well-suited to the frenetic, stylised audio of Bullet Train (Sky Cinema). The film’s credit sequence is backed by a stonking Japanese cover of The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive while Brad Pitt walks the busy, bustling streets of Tokyo at night. The sound design is layered and expansive, with background crowd noises swirling around Pitt’s dialogue and that of his phone call companion, and the RZ50 painted a lively, detailed picture. And while it’s all rather serene, when the soundtrack explodes with a passing truck, or a bellboy plummeting from a hotel window into a car roof below, the dynamic nature of this AVR is thrillingly apparent. >
2. Compact (nonbacklit) handset has vocal, bass and treble tone controls
3. The RZ50’s front flap conceals an auxiliary HDMI input, plus full-size headphone socket
When we’re introduced to The Wolf (Benito A. Mart^nez Ocasio) he’s accompanied by latin music with crisp highs and, again, an impressive undercurrent of rich bass. The soundfield becomes more focused as the knife fight begins in the train carriage, with each hit of blade against Pitt’s metal briefcase eliciting a high ping. These don’t quite ring out with the airy, smoothness you might hear from a more accomplished receiver or processor, but are sharp and to the point. And the sound design here bounces around the room as the protagonists onscreen do the same.
There’s a more spooky, atmospheric bent to the DTS:X mix on Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (4K BD) as the wizards navigate the mist-shrouded maze. The RZ50 needs to be more deft here, and it obliges with gentle, soft effects that stand free of the physical speakers, seeming to emanate from each corner of the room. Again, though, it’s the way it leaps confidently into action when Cedric is suddenly attacked by, er, a hedge that earns the biggest grin.
Throughout the movie, the orchestral score (not by John Williams this time around) is conveyed with weight and texture to the low strings and brass, and space around the various instruments. It’s stirring and evocative.
For two-channel music listening, the receiver’s Pure or Direct Modes are perhaps the way to go, as these both disable processing (the former also shuts down the display and the analogue video circuits), but note that Dirac is also disabled with both).
In Pure mode, the RZ50 put on a fulsome, punchy and largescale performance with KEF’s R5 Meta floorstanders. Aerosmith’s ‘Same Old Song and Dance’ (CD) was given a well-rounded and extended bassline, and Joe Perry’s guitar
4. Plenty here, including MM phono, component video and 11.2-channel pre-outs
|MULTICHANNEL PRE-OUT:||Yes. 11.2-channel|
|MULTICHANNEL OUTPUT (CLAIMED):||9 x 120W (8ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% THD, two-channel)|
|MULTIROOM:||Yes. Zone 2/3|
|AV INPUTS:||2 x digital audio (1 x optical and 1 x coaxial); 6 x analogue stereo; component and composite video in|
|HDMI:||7 x inputs and 2 x outputs|
|DIMENSIONS:||435(w) x 201.5(d) x 398(d)mm|
|FEATURES:||Certified THX Select; Dynamic Audio Amplification; Dirac Live (20Hz-20kHz) with app setup; AccuEQ calibration; FM/AM/DAB tuner; dual subwoofer outputs; MM phono stage; 6.35mm headphone; Ethernet; Wi-Fi; two-way Bluetooth; tone controls; HDMI 2.1 on three inputs; Apple AirPlay 2; Chromecast; DTS Play-Fi; Onkyo Controller app; 192 kHz/24-bit DAC|
BULLET TRAIN: Coming across a bit like a live-action anime, this Brad Pitt hitman action/comedy is a real blast, as is its AV presentation. Sony’s 4K Blu-ray delivers an incredibly refined (and Dolby Vision-graded) image with gorgeous colour and HDR enhancements, while the Atmos soundtrack rocks. All aboard!
playing was biting and distinct. Better yet was the wash of high-energy sound it evoked with Paul Van Dyke’s trance anthem For An Angel (Tidal stream), which turned my room into a nightclub.
Take me for a spin
This is an accomplished receiver from Onkyo, not just in specification terms but in its lively performance, which showcases strong dynamics and steering. It’s not the final word in smoothness, and the supplied remote could be better, but the Controller app is a decent alternative and the inclusion of full-fat Dirac Live (again with an app) really sweetens the deal. At this price it begs to be auditioned!
The inclusion of full-bandwidth Dirac Live helps the RZ50 stand out, as does its battery of streaming options. Multichannel performance is gutsy and immersive!