(Pocket-lint) - Onkyo is a brand more typically associated with AV receivers. Some boast price tags that only the most serious of movie-lovers would consider. But what about those who want a good, standard, stereo amp? The TX-8050 might just be the answer.
The Onkyo is fairly hefty, unlike some of the more slimline and affordable stereo receivers starting to make their way on to the market. It isn't so big though that it won't fit into any decent Hi-Fi set-up, so this shouldn't be an issue. All the heft is forgiven when you feel the 8050's build quality.
Onkyo has nailed a standard not normally seen in hardware at this price. Every dial is smooth to turn, every button pushes with a satisfying click. The subtle shiny black of the version we had sits perfectly against a set of separates and doesn't look so overbearing as to distract in a living room or study. The small screen can be dimmed or left bright and is reserved only for the most necessary pieces of music information.
In fact the only thing we can really fault about the Onkyo's build is the way each button is marked on the black version. Simply put - and we know this might sound stupid - it can be annoying, the text is marked too dark to see in a dimly lit room. We regularly found ourselves hitting set-up rather than enter on the 8050 when we had the lights dimmed. A minor irritation, and one that can be forgiven when put against the rest of the Onkyo's build.
The Onkyo isn't overloaded with connections on the back, but offers more than enough to keep a decent Hi-Fi in order. Two speaker sets can be hooked up, there are two optical inputs, a direct digital connector on the front for your iPhone or Android handset, four composite video inputs, four digital audio inputs, a phono input, zone two "pre" outs so you can play music in another room, and a headphone jack.
For us, the direct connection to mass USB storage media or an iPhone or Android handset was the real clincher. There is also the facility to playback music using the Onkyo Remote 2 app when the receiver is hooked up to a network via Ethernet. Having that direct connection is just a bit easier and has the added bonus of charging your phone. When things are connected, the receiver will give you the option of playing back from the source directly, in stereo, in mono or under a music enhancer mode.
This is where things really matter. We had the receiver hooked up to a set of Dynaudio Excite X12 bookshelf speakers and it performed beautifully. All the connectivity aside, at its core, the 8050 is just a good stereo receiver. It pushed out a very clean sound that meant we really got the most out of our speakers. Rather than being fussy and risking doing something wrong, Onkyo has clearly set the 8050 for those who just want to enjoy their speakers and not worry about the cost of an expensive receiver.
For the most part it works, delivering plenty of punch and power, but don't expect any audio magic here. Value for money is definitely spot on and the 8050 leaves you enough cash to grab a better pair of speakers for it to drive. The EQ is fairly limited in that it is just two hardware knobs - treble and bass - but you get more than enough flexibility to fine tune the sound to exactly what you want.
Before you start here, make absolute sure you have the Onkyo 2 remote app and that it has automatic lock and auto connect within the settings, otherwise you will be treated to an unstable connection. Once it is up and running, the Onkyo is very good indeed. We already mentioned the ability to control it using your phone, but things go further with built in Spotify connectivity.
You do need to be a premium member, but it's worth it, as you can stream audio straight from the receiver without needing to connect your phone or other device. It makes for a handy extra feature should you be getting bored of whatever music collection you have hooked up to the receiver. Vtuner is also thrown in should you opt to use that for listening to one of thousands of online radio stations. Don't forget as well that there is DLNA thrown in should you fancy it.
A great stereo receiver with some decent network functionality as an added bonus. The clean sound makes it a great piece of kit to drive a few bookshelf speakers and the levels of connectivity on the back should let you route decent amounts of audio through them. Throw in Onkyo's traditional build quality and good looks and you have a cracking piece of hi-fi kit.