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A more-than-competent heart to a home cinema system
on 26 October 2014
This looks to be a fine piece of kit. Housed, interestingly, in pretty much the same case as its cheaper NR414 cousin, all the extra features and build quality are inside.
The unit comes in a stout box, held in place by two strong polystyrene ends and covered in a protective bag. It's front panel design is understated and unobtrusive.
Set up is vastly improved over earlier models. Instead of having to use the human ear to balance the speakers, a microphone is supplied. Having connected all your speakers, it invites you to connect the microphone through the front panel and place it in your expected listening position. It then outputs noise through the speakers, gauges how loud the noises will be at the listening point and adjusts the relative volumes. For me, this was a 'work first time' experience and the balancing was pretty effective. It can, of course, be overridden.
As part of the set-up routine, I achieved a wireless connection to my router with no fuss at all. Simply input your encryption code when requested and you're up and running. A wired, Ethernet, option is available too.
The receiver supports 7.2 set-ups. I am using 5.0 at the moment (no sub-woofer). It caters for that easily, detecting what is and what is not connected and even telling me to change the wiring of the rear speakers as I had used the wrong pair of connections for them. It is also one of the first receivers to support the new Dolby Atmos format, designed to offer height as well as width to the listening experience. Up-firing speakers are needed for this, which can stand on the front speakers if those are large enough or be wall mounted.
The set-up menus are clearly based on the old user interface but improved, with a clearer structure and on-screen explanations as to what the settings mean, which makes a world of difference. They still take a bit of learning, but they're easier than before.
TV pass-through is great and the receiver also allows for 4k pass-through. It will perform 4k upscaling too if you have the latest ultra-high definition TV. The only problem I had with the pass through was the need to switch off an eco setting which was turning pass through off after 3 minutes.
Sound quality is excellent. To test it I went back to an old stereo CD with which I am very familiar: the separation of the channels is good, the clarity of the instruments is brilliant and the full range of sound is there without any sense of straining when pumping out the bass and treble notes. I find the sound very natural, and that is what I like.
I then set about playing old favourites to get the sound right in terms of bass and treble. I played a budget classical recording: it sounded very disappointing. After a few minutes I realised that, like never before, I was reacting to the limitations of the CD, not the receiver. A more modern CD sounded much better. Then Deep Purple: well, my excuse was the need to set up the amp: very good bass, absolute clarity. Everything was reproduced with ease and without 'boominess'.
There's a lot of getting used to to find one's way round this receiver. I shall post more here as I get to know it better, but initial impressions are entirely favourable: this is a more-than-competent heart to a home cinema system.
Update: I have recently added a subwoofer and this receiver drives it most effectively. On Blu-Rays especially, where there is a dedicated effects track, the difference is stunning. But even with standard broadcasts, the extension of the bass is a real improvement, and it all seems effortless with this set-up. I use the receiver to achieve the cross-over between the subwoofer and the front speakers, rather than rely on the crossovers built into the speakers.