The Onkyo TX-NR555 Dolby Atmos Home Theater Receiver Reviewed

01
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Introducing the Onkyo TX-NR555

Onkyo TX-NR555 7.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Package Contents
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

With the increasing demands of audio, video, and internet streaming, home theater receivers are called upon to do more and more these days, and you would think this would result in sky-high prices.

However, although you can find very high-end/high-priced home theater receivers, there are an increasing number of affordably-prices receivers that can provide everything most consumers would need to serve as the centerpiece of a home theater setup.

Priced at less than $600, the Onkyo TX-NR555 sits in the mid-range home theater receiver sweet spot and packs in more than you would expect.

As shown in the above photo, it comes packaged with a remote control, AM/FM antennas, a microphone for the AccuEQ speaker setup system (more on that later), and basic user manual.

However, before digging to how this receiver performs, you need to know how to set it up and what is inside its big, black, box.

Audio Decoding and Speaker Configuration

First up, the TX-N555 provides 7.2 channels (7 amplified channels and 2 subwoofer outputs) to work with and includes audio decoding and processing for most common surround sound formats, with the added bonus of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio decoding (DTS:X may require a firmware update).

The 7.2 channels can be reconfigured into a 5.1.2 channel setup, which allow you place two additional ceiling mounted or vertically firing speakers (that is what the .2 means in 5.1.2)  for a more immersive surround experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X encoded content. Also, for content that is not mastered in Doby Atmos or DTS:X, the TX-NR555 also includes the Dolby Surround Upmixer and DTS Neural:X Surround processing which allows standard 2, 5.1, and 7.1 channel content to take advantage of the height channel speakers.

Connectivity

On the video connection side, the TX-NR555 provides 6 HDMI inputs and 1 output that are 3D, 4K, HDR pass-through compatible, supported by the receiver's capability to perform up to 4K video upscaling. This means that the NR555 is compatible with all current video formats in use - but it is also important to note that the NR555 can be connected to any TV that has an HDMI input.

Another convenient HDMI connection option is referred to as Standby Pass Through. This feature allows the user to designate the audio and video signal of one HDMI source to be passed through the NR555 to a TV even when the receiver is turned off. This is great for times when you want to watch something from a media streamer, or cable/satellite box, but don't want to turn on your full home theater system.

The TX-NR555 also provides powered and line-output options for Zone 2 operation. However, keep in mind that if you use the powered Zone 2 option, you cannot run a 7.2 or Dolby Atmos setup in your main room at the same time, and, if you use the line-output option, you will need an external amplifier to power the Zone 2 speaker setup. More details last in the audio performance section of this review.

Additional Audio Features

The TX-NR555 has full network connectivity via Ethernet or Built-in Wifi, that allows you to access music streaming content from the internet (Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, and TuneIn), as well as your PCs and/or media servers on your home network.

Apple AirPlay is included and GoogleCast will be added by a forthcoming firmware update.

Additional audio flexibility is provided by an included rear-panel USB port, as well as built-in Bluetooth (which allows direct wireless streaming from compatible portable devices, such as most smartphones and tablets).

Hi-res audio file playback compatibility via local network or connected USB devices is also provided, and there is even good ol' fashioned phono input for listening to vinyl records (turntable required).

One additional audio feature that TX-NR555 has is compatibility with FireConnect By BlackFire Research. However, this feature will be added by a forthcoming firmware update. Once installed, FireConnect will allow the NR555 to send internet, USB or Bluetooth audio wireless, to compatible wireless speakers can be placed anywhere in an average size home. More details on firmware update and wireless speaker available are still forthcoming as of the original publication date of this review.

Amplifier Power

In terms of power, the Onkyo TX-NR555 is designed for use in a small or medium-sized room (more on that later). Onkyo states the power output as 80wpc when measured delivering 20 Hz to 20 kHz test tones to 2 channels, at 8 Ohms, with 0.08% THD). For more details on what those stated power ratings (and technical terms) mean with respect to real-world conditions, refer to my article: Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.

Next: Setting Up The Onkyo TX-NR555

02
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Setting Up The Onkyo TX-NR555

Onkyo TX-NR555 Home Theater Receiver - Speaker Setup Menu
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

There are two options provided for setting up the TX-NR555 to best match your speakers and room.

One option is to use the built-in test tone generator with a sound meter and manually make all your speaker level distance and level settings manually (manual speaker setup menu shown in the above photo).

However, a faster/easier way to the initial setup is to take advantage of the receiver's built-in AccuEQ room calibration system. Also, if your calibrating the room for a Dolby Atmos setup, an additional setup feature, called AccuReflex, which takes into account any sound delay issues when using vertically firing height speakers, is provided.

In order to use AccuEQ and AccuReflex, first, in the Speaker Settings menu, go to Configuration and tell the NR555 what speakers you are using. Also, if you are using a vertically firing Dolby Atmos speaker module, go into the Dolby Enabled Speaker option and indicate the distance of your speaker to the ceiling and then turn on the AccuReflex option.

Then, place the microphone at your primary listening position at seated ear level (you can simply screw the microphone onto a camera/camcorder tripod). Next, plug the provided microphone into the designated front panel input. When you plug in the microphone, the AccuEQ menu shows up on your TV screen

Now you can start the process (make sure there is no ambient noise that could cause interference). Once started, AccuEQ confirms that the speakers are connected to the receiver.

The speaker size is determined, (large, small), the distance of each speaker from the listening position is measured, and finally the equalization and speaker levels are adjusted in relation to both the listening position and room characteristics. The entire process only takes a few minutes.

Once the automatic speaker setup process is completed, the results are displayed, if you want to keep the settings, hit save.

However, it is important to note that automatic setup results may not always be precisely accurate (for example, the speaker level may not be to your liking). In this case, do not change the automatic settings, but, instead go into the Manual Speaker Settings and make any further adjustments from there. Once the speakers calibrated to your room and all your sources connected, the TX-NR555 is ready to go - but how does it perform?

Next: Audio and Video Performance

03
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Digging Into The Audio and Video Performance of the Onkyo TX-NR555

Onkyo TX-NR555 Home Theater Receiver
Onkyo TX-NR555 Home Theater Receiver. Image provided by Onkyo USA

Audio Performance

I ran the Onkyo TX-NR555 in both traditional 7.1 and Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 channel setups (Note: I ran the AccuEQ setup system separately for each setup).

The 7.1 channel performance was pretty typical for a receiver in this class - content encoded with the Dolby Digital/TrueHD/DTS/DTS-HD Master Audio audio formats sounded fine and was on par with other receivers I have worked with in this class.

Changing the speaker setup and re-running the AccuEQ system for a 5.1.2 channel speaker setup I proceeded to check out both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound formats.

Using Blu-ray Disc content in both formats (see listing at the end of this review), I found the surround sound field opened up, released from the horizontal constraints of traditional surround sound formats and speaker layouts.

The best way to describe the effect is that content encoded with Dobly Atmos and DTS:X definitely provided a more immersive listening experience with fuller front stage and more precise placement of objects in the surround sound field. Also, environmental effects, such as rain, wind, explosions, planes, helicopters, etc... were accurately placed above the listening position.

The only drawback, in my case, is that since I was using vertically firing, rather than ceiling mounted speakers for the height channels, I did not sense that sound was actually coming from the ceiling - but with the setup used, it was definitely a more vertically expanded surround sound experience.

In comparing content provided in Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X, I thought that DTS:X provided more precise object location in the sound field, but I am keeping in mind the possibility that there may be differences in how specific content is mixed. Unfortunately, the same Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles are not available in both formats that would enable a direct A/B comparison.

On the other hand, one comparison I could make is how the Dolby Surround Upmixer and DTS Neural:X surround sound processing formats made use of height channels with non-Dolby Atmos/DTS:X encoded content.

Here the results were interesting. Both the Dolby and DTS "upmixers" did a credible job, sort of more refined versions of Dolby Prologic IIz or DTS Neo:X audio processing. In my opinion, DTS Neural:X had slight a slightly fuller center channel and more presence in the higher frequencies than the Dolby Surround Upmixer, giving in the impression of more defined object location. I also found that DTS Neural:X sound brighter with music than the Dolby Surround Upmixer.

NOTE: Unlike Dolby Atmos/Dolby Surround Upmixer, DTS:X/DTS Neural:X Surround does not specifically require the use of height speakers, but the results are more accurate if they are part of the setup, and since all DTS:X/DTS Neural:X capable home theater receivers are also Dolby Atmos equipped, the Dolby Atmos speaker setup is the best option for both.

For standard music playback, I found the TX-NR555 did very well with CD, and digital file playback (Bluetooth and USB) with very listenable quality - although I found that Bluetooth sources sounded thinner - However, using some of the additional audio processing options helped bring out a more fuller sound.

Accessing the streaming music providers was easy, sounded good, but, for some reason, in TuneIn, although the internet-based channels were accessible, when I tried to select from its local radio station offerings, I got a "cannot play" message on my TV screen.

Finally, for those that still listen to FM radio, the sensitivity of the FM tuner section provided good reception of the FM radio signals using the provided wire antenna - although results for other consumers would be based on distance from local radio transmitters - you may need to use a different indoor, or outdoor antenna than the one provided.

Zone 2

The TX-NR555 provides Zone 2 operation, which allows it to send a separately controllable audio source to a second room or location. However, it is important to note that with either option, you cannot have separate sources playing in both the main and 2nd Zones if you select NET or Bluetooth, and you cannot listen to two different radio stations (the NR555 only has one radio tuner).

There are two ways to take advantage of the Zone 2 feature.

The first way is to use the dedicated Zone 2 speaker terminals. You simply connect Zone 2 speakers directly to the receiver (via a long speaker wire run) and you are set to go. However, even though there are dedicated Zone 2 speaker connections, when you direct a source to Zone 2 you are prevents from using a full 7.1 channel or 5.1.2 channel Dolby Atmos speaker setup in your main room at the same time.

Fortunately, another way to take advantage of Zone 2 operation is using the provided preamp outputs instead of the speaker connections. However, using this option require the connection of the Zone 2 preamp outputs to a second two-channel amplifier (or a stereo-only receiver if you have an extra one available).

Video Performance

The TX-NR555 features both HDMI and analog video inputs, but continues the trend of eliminating S-video inputs and outputs.

The TX-NR555 provides both video pass-through of 2D, 3D, and 4K video signals, as well as providing up to 4K upscaling (Depends on the native resolution of your TV - 4K upscaling was tested for this review), which is becoming more common on home theater receivers in this price range. I found that the TX-NR555 provides near excellent upscaling from standard definition (480i) to 4K. Keep in mind that upscaling will not magically convert lower resolution sources to 4K, but they certainly look a lot better that you might expect, with minimal edge artifacts and video noise.

As far as connection compatibility goes, I did not encounter any  HDMI handshake issues between my source components and the TV used for this review. Also, the TX-NR555 had no difficulty passing 4K Ultra HD and HDR signals from a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player to a Samsung UN40KU6300 4K UHD LED/LCD TV.

Next: The Bottom Line

04
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The Bottom Line On The Onkyo TX-NR555

Onkyo TX-NR555 7.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Remote Control
Onkyo TX-NR555 7.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Remote Control. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Using the Onkyo TX-NR555 for over a month, here is a summary of my Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • Excellent Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Surround sound. Good results from the Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X Upmixers.
  • Flexible Speaker Setup Options - Surround Back Channels can be reassigned to Front Height or Bi-Amp. Separate Zone 2 speaker connections provided.
  • Incorporation of WiFi, Apple Airplay, and Bluetooth. Access to several popular internet music streaming services.
  • DLNA compatibility (Also access to content stored on PCs, media severs, and other network-connected devices.
  • 3D, 4K, HDR and Audio Return Channel compatible.
  • Up to 4K video upscaling provided.
  • Inclusion of dedicated phono turntable input.
  • Good FM/AM radio reception.
  • Easy-to-use remote control and onscreen menu interface. The setting options on the onscreen menu interface are also duplicated on the receiver's front panel display, which means that you can also also make settings and adjustments without having to turn your TV or projector on (although the onscreen menu is visually easier to navigate).
  • Clean, uncluttered, front panel design.

Cons

  • Amplifier power output a little lean - had to turn volume level up about half-way (48 to 58 on Onkyo's scale - depending on content source) to fill a 15x20 foot room with satisfactory immersive surround sound.
  •  No analog multi-channel 5.1/7.1 channel inputs or outputs - No S-video connections.
  •  No digital optical/coaxial input options on front panel (rear panel only).
  •  No analog Video, HDMI, or USB connections on front panel (rear panel only).
  •  No perceived, difference in performance using Bi-Wire/Bi-Amp speaker connection options.

Final Take

The Onkyo TX-NR555 is a prime example of how home theater receivers have changed in recent years, morphing from being the audio centerpiece of a home theater system to controlling audio, video, network, and streaming sources.

However, with the incorporation of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the TX-NR555 brings added emphasis and flexibility to the audio equation.  On the other hand, I did notice that to get a satisfying immersive surround sound experience for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, I had to turn the volume up more than I would have expected.

The TX-NR555 did very well on the video side of the equation. I found that, overall, that is 4K pass-through and upscaling capabilities were very good.

However, it is important to note that if you replacing an older receiver with the TX-NR555, it does not provide some legacy connections that you might need if you have (pre-HDMI) source components with multi-channel analog audio outputs, a dedicated phono output, or S-Video connections.

On the other hand, the TX-NR555 provides enough connection options for today's video and audio sources - with 6 HDMI inputs, it will definitely be awhile before you run out. Also, with built-in Wifi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay, and FireConnect still be added via firmware update later, the TX-NR555 provides a lot flexibility for accessing music content that you may not have possession of in a disc-based format.

The NR555 also features a very easy-to-use remote and onscreen menu system - in fact, you can download Onkyo's Remote Control App for iOS and Android smartphones.

Taking all into consideration, the Onkyo TX-NR555 is a very good value for those that can't afford a high-end receiver, but still want a lot of same features for use in a small to medium size room. Even if you aren't ready to take the plunge into Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, the NR555 can still be used for 5.1 or 7.1 channel setups - Definitely deserves a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Buy From Amazon.

Additional Components Used In This Review

Disc-Based Content Used In This Review

  • Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs: Deadpool, Kingsman, The Huntsman - Winter's War, Exodus - Gods and Kings, and X-Men Days of Future Past
  • Blu-ray Discs (Dolby Atmos): 10 Cloverfield Lane, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, American Sniper, Gravity: Diamond Luxe Edition, In The Heart of The Sea, Jupiter Ascending, Mad Max: Fury Road and Unbroken.
  • Blu-ray Discs (DTS:X): Ex-Machina, The Huntsman - Winter's War, and Gods of Egypt
  • Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, John Wick, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.
  • CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Norah Jones Come Away With Me, and Sade Soldier of Love

Original Publish Date: 09/07/2016 - Robert Silva

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer, unless otherwise indicated. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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