A tale of two receivers (Onkyo NR818 and Denon X4000)

Discussion in 'Write Your Own Review' started by agarwalro, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    This is not really a review per say. I played with two awesome AVRs and this is me recapping the fun experience for my AH brethren.

    My apartment’s living room HT is about 12 ft. across and 22 ft. long, when including the open floor plan kitchen. My MLP is about 9 ft. from the TV/brickwork. Both speakers are 2.5 ft. from the side walls, Left side is 2.5 ft. from the painted wall and Right is 3.5 ft. from the brickwork. The tweeters are 7 ft. apart and I'm about the same distance away when sitting in my MLP.
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    It was the best of times...
    For some time I was going to be 2.0, running the Behringer monitors from my laptop's headphone out (with all enhancements/eq/etc. turned off). I wanted to acclimate my ears to the sound of the monitors because I wanted the addition of an AVR to make an easily discernible improvement, or degradation, in the sound. I got the speakers dialed in using REW and a calibrated MiniDSP UMIK-1 from Cross Spectrum Labs, I had them as close to flat as possible. It took 15 or 20 measurements per side painstakingly eeking out the most from the monitors and meanwhile determining the best MLP. (The Behringer monitors are downright awesome budget monitors. Even in my previous setup they had provided near flat FR in a small home office. Here though, the room response is not nearly as flat as it was in the home office. That said, it is not too shabby for an untreated small room, $300 ($200 on sale) speakers and no eq/processing whatsoever. But, I digress…) Playing with the toe-in, I settled on a pleasing balance between imaging and soundstage while keeping the FR as close to flat as possible. The monitors have been locked in place since then, with the exception of having to move them once to place the carpet and tidy up the cables. I was OCD about resetting them back to exactly the way they were and confirmed matching before and after using REW.

    Meanwhile the SVS sub had been patiently waiting for over a month to even get powered up at my place. (A Craigslist find, from a guy with a jaw dropping, ear to ear grin inducing, dedicated HT. He demoed the Star Trek - Into Darkness, Khan vs. Klingon squad battle scene and blew away my understanding of thump in the chest bass. He was running 4 15” subs powered by a Face Amp. But, I digress again...) Time to get a receiver and go 2.1.

    Things started to get fun with the hunt for an AVR. The only decision making logic was, to have the most features at the least price. Duh! Then I decided networking and Audyssey were a must. The list of choices still seemed big and the websites not being consistent in formatting of AVR details meant, a laborious process of going through every Owner Manual before including or disqualifying options. The network capabilities I wanted squarely put me in the $400-1000 bucket and yet the list was 5 deep. It came down to wanting Audyssey XT32 because of the sub-optimal room. The cheapest AVR with XT32 was the Onkyo TX-NR818 on Accessories4Less and after reading the entire Owners Thread on AVS Forum (I'm an Audioholic or what!), the purchase was made. After a few days of stalking the package via tracking updates, the NR818 was delivered on a Saturday. Perfect!

    The Onkyo arrived nicely packed though not double boxed.

    [​IMG]

    The AVR itself had nothing on it to remind me it was a refurbished piece, except for a sticker on the back panel. Got everything hooked up and ran through some rudimentary functions to make sure it was fully functional. Everything worked as expected, no abnormal sounds or anything. The relays on the NR818 seemed louder than any other receiver I had come across. Heck, I liked the authoritative clicks too. After playing around a little it was time to square up the wires, put things back in their final locations to run Audyssey calibration.

    [​IMG]

    It was a big heavy sucker!

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    I ran Audyssey with no hiccups or issues and it sounded fantastic right away. This was a great buy! It was time to kick back and do some listening. Audyssey considerably improved the imaging, but, I lost some soundstage and the patient Sub finally got to sing its baritone notes. Switching between Audyssey on (with Dynamic Eq and Dynamic Vol disabled) and Audyssey off, I felt the Sub volume was a little low. At times Audyssey Music sounded a bit harsh in the treble frequencies and Audyssey Movie seemed to be better suited to my untreated room. But, I really loved the imaging in Audyssey Music and it was relatively less likable in Audyssey Movie (but, even with Audyssey Movie it was much better than Audyssey disabled). I played with the Dynamic Eq settings and was immediately in love with the feature. It completely removed any feeling that the Sub was not loud enough, at any volume. Playing with the Sub trim and Dynamic Eq's Reference Level Offset setting I got the 2.1 blended seamlessly. At times though, the bass sounded a bit boomy and sometimes it felt like the Sub was hotter than I expected. A little bit of critical listening made me realize that it was mostly during movie scenes with really deep bass and some of my DnB music that the Sub seemed to jump in too much, making me want to lower the trim or Dynamic Eq setting. No matter how much I tweaked the level trim and Dynamic Eq Reference Level Offset, I was not fully satisfied. The Sub never bottomed out, but something was amiss. It was time to pull out the REW-UMIK rig.

    The Pure Direct setting allowed me to measure the 2.0 sound and the Sub was measured with Ausyssey Off and Crossover set to 200Hz.
    [​IMG]


    Audyssey did a great job with the Left channel. It was +/- 10 dB, more or less to begin with, but with Audyssey Music it was +/- 3 dB across the entire range (with a couple of dips and blips that would be nary inaudible). With an untreated room I was impressed to say the least. I was jubilant that the decision to go with XT32 was a wise move and the NR818 was a great amp.
    [​IMG]

    The Right channel did not fare as well. The room response issues were seemingly less severe on this side and there was plenty improvement after running Audyssey (up to 600Hz). Yet, it overcompensated and made the situation worse between 1000Hz and 5000Hz.
    [​IMG]

    Something weird was going on with the Sub. While it flattened the bass response in a very impressive manner and even tackled the trench between 70Hz and 100Hz, it introduced a high Q peak at 25Hz superimposed with a low Q hump from 20Hz to 40Hz. It seemed odd, so I redid the REW run and confirmed that it was not an anomalous measurement. This might also have explained why movie effects seems to suddenly jump in really hot whereas most music was fine.
    [​IMG]

    Time to rerun Audyssey and re-measure. (Since I never got around to rerunning Audyssey on the NR818, it gets a hall pass on the bass issue.)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
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  2. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    It was the worst of times...
    Before I got to the point of rerunning Audyssey, I came home from work in the second week of NR818 ownership and found a strange crackling noise emanating from the Right monitor, while the receiver was off! I did a soft reset by yanking the power chord for 15 minutes. After plugging it back in, no noise, so I gingerly pressed the Power button and there was no boom. Phew! Dodged a bullet there, I incorrectly assumed. After heartily pounding the neighbors with block rocking beats, I went to bed and the next morning, was greeted with that crackling noise again. Disheartened, I pulled the power plug and left for work. Long story short, after several hours of head scratching, a firmware update, resets and troubleshooting I figured out that the noise only manifested when the receiver had Network Standby enabled and started about 2 minutes after power off. RMA time.

    Initially, my RMA request was summarily dismissed. This was partially my fault. My brevity in the RMA request had led the Accessories4Less person to incorrectly assess my setup to be a dedicated amp with passive speakers. Yet, the options I was given with the dismissal, were somewhat odd. 1) To not use Network Standby 2) Turn off the amp when the receiver is off. I ROFL'd on the first one and thought the second was reasonable, albeit, incorrect for my setup. Somewhat brazenly, in my RMA request, I stated that the NR818 was no longer in stock at Accessories4Less and in light of my defective unit needing to be replaced with a like featured AVR, I should be given the Denon X4000 at no extra cost ($300 difference). I conjecture Accessories4Less staff must have ROFL'd at this one, but, very professionally, this was dismissed as an option. Rather than get into an e-mail ping-pong match, I called the person who responded to my RMA request, whose direct number was in the signature. (If someone from Accessories4Less is reading: Good job on personalizing that RMA response. I was impressed that it did not come with a generic no-name signature at the end). After spending 30 minutes on the phone with the Accessories4Less Tech (Mark and I had a conversation with respect to my issue, even chatted about AVRs in general and guffawed at my request to be upgraded to the X4000 at no extra charge), the RMA request was approved and the Denon AVR-X4000 was on the way. For my "troubles", I was even given a discount on the advertised price, not charged shipping and allowed to hold on to the NR818 till the X4000 showed up. After a few days of stalking the package via tracking updates, the X4000 was delivered on a Saturday. Perfect!
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    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  3. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    It was the age of wisdom...
    First off, the X4000 what not boxed nearly as securely as the NR818. Actually, it was shockingly badly packaged. Ugh! I hoped nothing was broken in shipping.
    [​IMG]

    But, it seem to be fine and only had a light scratch towards the rear of the top (nothing bothersome). Fortunately, the front fascia was pristine. I wished it did not have the In Command Series sticker (placed in a recess, so I cannot even get rid of it!) under the MV (lower corner right side).
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    The NR818 dwarfs the X4000 in size and weight.

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    I kinda liked how imposing the Onkyo was on the rack. The Denon, looks sleek and draws much less attention to itself. It was easy putting it into the rack and I was off.
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    I loved the X4000 overlays. The setup process has moved forward in leaps and bounds. While the NR818 had a nice Menu system too, the Denon was much more polished.
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    Further, the Denon would let me save the configuration details. It would be handy if I needed to so a hard reset. Fingers crossed that I never need to, and I will still do this when everything is the way I need it to be.
    [​IMG]

    Whoa there! Here was something new, I did not want to send someone at D&M Holdings my data (who knows what), irrespective of how anonymized and private they claimed it to be. [​IMG]
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  4. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    There was another interesting option in the X4000 Menus, though there was nothing available to add.

    [​IMG]

    After running through some features to make sure everything worked on the X4000,
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    I was ready to run (rerun) Audyssey Calibration.

    No review or Owner Manual I had read informed me that the X4000 showed a visualization of the Audyssey filters and so this was a surprise.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    So after Audyssey, it was time to bring out the REW-UMIK setup again. Just to be sure everything was comparable, I redid the Pure Direct measurements and they looked almost identical to the NR818.
    [​IMG]

    This time around, the post Audyssey Sub’s response is not as flat. The FR after 100Hz is not as flat and the valley between 70Hz and 90Hz is deeper than with the NR818 after Audyssey. Most importantly, the high Q peak at 25Hz and low Q hump from 20Hz to 40Hz did not manifest again. The bass sounds tighter. It could be real or psychoacoustic. In all fairness, the issue may have been resolved if I reran Audyssey on the NR818 too, but we will never know.
    [​IMG]

    With the X4000 post Audyssey, the Left and Right measured worse than the NR818 post Audyssey. For the life of me I cannot tell the difference except for the Bass.

    Left on X4000,
    [​IMG]

    Right on X4000,
    [​IMG]

    I have been using Audyssey Flat on the X4000 (equivalent to Audyssey Music on the NR818) and the higher frequencies do not feel harsh at all. Fwiw, the graphs have spoiled it for me. Now, I desperately need room treatments. My waterfall plots are not included for a reason ;-).
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  5. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    It was the age of foolishness...
    While I tried to keep the mic locations consistent (for REW measurements and Audyssey runs), it is arguably the biggest variable.
    With the UMIK-1, I used the 0 degree narrow band calibration with mic horizontal and aimed at tweeters for Left and Right measurements, and pointed along center axis for sub measurements.
    I did not have an SPL meter handy and did not calibrate the REW SPL readout. Consequently, absolute SPL scale is not correct, or indeed, relevant to this write-up.
    Also due to the aforementioned laziness, relative SPL cannot be compared across Onkyo and Denon measurements.
    The speakers and sub did not move across measurements.
    Onkyo Music Enhancer/Denon Restorer, Dynamic Eq and Dynamic Vol were disabled for all measurements.
    Speaker measurements for 2.0 when used with the laptop was identical to AVR Pure Direct mode. I deleted the measurements when the Onkyo was set up and cannot post them, but, trust me on this :).
    Thanks to the Star Trek demo, I desperately want to upgrade the PC 20-39 to dual SVS PC13 Ultras, neighbors be damned. As a bonus I get to play with Audyssey SubEq :D.
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  6. afterlife2 Audioholic Spartan

    afterlife2
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    First off nice apt. very similar to my apt setup and same folding table in brown too.:cool: Is there a function on the 818 where you can set the bass on music and one for movies, so you don't have to keep adjusting both? Have you had neighbors complain yet? Very nice writeup by the way.
  7. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    Thank you for the compliments on the apt. Yeah, those are from WallyWorld, I know two others how have them too :).

    The NR818 can store settings per input per signal type. It also has 9 configurable quick select banks. So, between the global settings and quick select banks, one could have presets for types of music or movie. For example, I used Audyssey off, Music enhancer On, Dynamic Eq on for internet streams and Audyssey Movie on, Dynamic Eq on, Enhancer off and Sub +2dB for Wav files from my laptop. Incredibly flexible.

    I'm in an old building with thick concrete for floor and ceiling. It feels like a solid floor and I rarely hear the upstairs people. Luckily, the unit adjoining my living room is vacant. No complaints yet, but the PC13 Ultras might change that ;).
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  8. panteragstk Audioholic Chief

    panteragstk
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    Nice job. Makes me want a Denon over my 809. I don't see any mention of you using SubEQ? I know the 818 doesn't have it, but the x4000 should.

    Interesting that the same version of Audyssey would have different results.
  9. afterlife2 Audioholic Spartan

    afterlife2
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    Oh I thought the 818 did have Subeq. Does the 929 have it?. Not that it matters I always do it by ear anyway.
  10. agarwalro Audioholic Ninja

    agarwalro
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    Thanks! I could not comment on SubEq since I'm running only one sub :). The difference in Audyssey results can only be attributed to the mic locations not matching. I'll be redoing it so see if things improve.

    The 818 does not have SubEq for sure. Looks like the 929 doesn't either. SubEq is good for folks who's subs are not equidistant from MLP. SubEq will adjust the subs for distance and phase independently, but, applies a correction curve to the combined response of both subs. IMO, something like a MiniDSP in the sub chain will be much more powerful and therefore effective.
  11. cisco kid Audioholic Intern

    cisco kid
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    Great review of both. I have been struggling as to which of these 2 units I will buy, the Denon is down to 799 refurned at acc4less and using my cc doubles warranty to 2 yrs. The 818 can be had new now with 2 yr warranty extending that to 3 equal to Denons new 3 yr but no SUBEQ which I think I should get since I plan to run dual Emp Tek es1010i's that have arrived, at least one did today the second to follow tommorrow.

    I assume you are liking the Denon, if it drops a bit more with Xmas pricing I think I will just pull the plug and grab it, above my budget but I will not be upgrading again for a while...
  12. m3ng Audiophyte

    m3ng
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    Great write up! I currently have the 818 for almost 2 yrs. I purchased it from from acc4less as well. Had no issues until this past month. There is no sound at all from all inputs as well as in the speaker level calibration menu. Luckily, I was approved by onkyo for a one time out of warranty repair since there are plenty of people with this exact issue(all types of other models). I am having it fixed sometime this week. I'm hoping I wont have to go through this again. If it happens one more time, I am switching to the x4000. I myself like the xt32 feature. I previously had the nr809 and had the same exact issue. Very disappointing for onkyo for this price range. How are you liking the Denon so far?
    m3ng,
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  13. ReUpRo Full Audioholic

    ReUpRo
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    Man that was a close call, good thing you didn't have to foot the bill.
    I have no complaints and don't foresee needing a change until something truly revolutionary confess along.

    At this time, I cannot even put a finger on what that might be. Maybe, a combined solution for HDbaseT, power over Ethernet and wireless HDMI rolled into one WITH, 4 independent sub eq AND 11 channel processing and amps.

    Do you see, the X4000 is going to serve me for a long long long time.
  14. AcuDefTechGuy Audioholic Slumlord

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    Audyssey XT32 + Dual Sub EQ + D........... Just kidding. :D
  15. TheHills44060 Junior Audioholic

    TheHills44060
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    Thanks for taking the time to write this thread agarwalro. It was a pleasure to read. I was just doing some random AV Receiver research, as I haven't owned one in over 20 years, and i stumbled across your post. Love the room too.
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  16. afterlife2 Audioholic Spartan

    afterlife2
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    Yall need to stop playing and put fans on your receivers. They all run hot. All you need is a laptop fan for less than 15 bucks. I had the Onkyo 707 with no problems after I read they run hot.
  17. AcuDefTechGuy Audioholic Slumlord

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    Yeah, all AVRs should come with a USB slot for the fan. It comes in handy.

    My Denon 3312 runs hot as hell. I use a fan for it. Too bad there is not a USB in the back panel.
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