Onkyo TX-8150 networked amp / DAB radio review
We’ve not reviewed much from Onkyo here on GadgetyNews but we’ve had the TX-8150 networked amp to check out.
The Onkyo TX-8150 looks like a classic amp but it has so many features that it covers many duties.
Looking for a stereo receiver? It will do it. Looking to drive two pairs of speakers and a sub? Yup, the TX-8150 can. How about Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Ethernet? Sorted.
Is it all too good to be true though?
Onkyo TX-8150 design
If you were around in the 80s and 90s then the style of the TX-8150 might seem familiar. I quite like its throwback appeal but to those looking for sleek and minimalist, it might feel a little dated.
You have a choice of finish, silver or black, and to me both look good.
The faceplate has a neat brushed finish. The centerpiece is undoubtedly the wide dot-matrix display. This is extremely clear, even to shortsighted me. One main benefit of having such a large screen is that there’s no need for abbreviations.
The main dial is the oversized volume control situated top right. To the left of this, hidden in the screen section, is a 4-way selector for radio stations. A further four ‘BGM’ preset buttons provide instant access to your saved stations.
Still at the front of the TX-8150 you are offered a USB port and 6.3mm headphone jack.
Flip the amp around and then you’ll find a whole array of connectivity options.
There are six sets of analogue stereo inputs as well as a grounded phono input. You also get an analogue line output and a subwoofer pre-out.
Speakers are treated to not one, but two pairs of banana plug-compatible speaker terminals. These are handily labelled A and B – good for feeding another room or filling a large space. So, the TX-8150 has the ability to drive two pairs of speakers of 2×55 watts at 8 Ohms. Nice.
It’s not all analogue either.
There are four digital inputs (two optical, two coaxial). That should be enough to connect an HDTV, a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray player, a gaming console… Stereo audio streams up to 24 bits and 192 kHz are handled.
The USB port is compatible with DSD and PCM files up to 24 bits and 96 kHz as well as DSD. It will play nice with flash drives and FAT format hard drives. It is also possible to browse the content of the USB peripheral device via the Onkyo Remote app.
The receiver can be paired up with any device loaded with a Bluetooth transmitter (smartphone, tablet, computer, portable player, etc.).
You also get an Ethernet port and Wi-Fi connection. This plumbs you in to internet radio as well as other online niceness.
AirPlay, DLNA, Internet radio, Spotify, Deezer, FLAC and DSD playback via USB, FM and DAB+ (RNT) tuners are all welcome here.
Onkyo TX-8150 performance
The tech specs for the TX-8150 states that it packs 135 Watts. While that might indeed be true, this is on one channel at 1 kHz and with a distortion 12 times over the hi-fi standard.
Set-up and in use
The amount of inputs and buttons might be daunting but TX-8150 is a breeze to set-up and use.
My only niggle is that, because Onkyo crammed in all those RCA inputs, things get a little snug back there if you haven’t the slimmest of digits.
The app was simple to connect once downloaded from the Google Play Store.
I did find myself using the physical controls more than the app. But then, I am in my mid-40s.
I have tested the unit through both the lovely DALI Menuets as well as the reliable Tannoy Mercury V1i. The speakers were joined to the amp by Chord Elite cables. I have left the bass, treble and balance zeroed just for the review.
The Pure Audio button is a neat touch. This deactivates the tonal correction and the balance, as well as the front panel display. This is to protect the audio signal against any possible interference.
I started off with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ being fed from my NAS via DNLA and the wired Ethernet. The TX-8150 proved to be agile and dynamic through both sections of this classic.
Impressed with this first play I moved on to ‘Talking Drum’ by Japan. Karn’s bassline was impressively taut and controlled. I found the playback detailed and revealing. Sylvian’s vocals especially grabbed me as his relaxed, breathy voice came across with an abundance of character.
Moving on to some orchestral tracks and these sounded huge. The instruments had space to breath with the string section being full of texture and nuance.
The same goes for anthemic rockers, Rush. Synth parts weaved between Geddy’s bass lines and Alex’s riffs without getting muddied or confused. I did find the drums lacking impact though. This was perhaps more noticeable when slinging on some Tool and the rhythmical ‘Grudge’.
Unplugging the Ethernet cable and running purely on Wi-Fi, the TX-8150 did not suffer any drop-out during the week-or-so I had it in use.
Going over to silver discs played on my Oppo using digital optical now. To kick off I played ‘Grudge’ again for comparison. The reproduction actually sounded thinner to me. Saying that, PJ Harvey’s ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’ album sounded engaging as ever.
Bluetooth and Spotify
Intrigued by the Onkyo’s phono stage, I could not wait any longer. After seeing Lazarus at Kings Cross Theatre it was obvious that Bowie’s last album should come out to play first.
I might have been expecting too much after the decent showing from the other sources but the moving-magnet phono stage was a tad underwhelming.
The title track is quite a work-out for any system but Bowie’s vocals lacked the depth I am used to through my usual rig.
The track, ‘Lazarus’ lost some of the subtleties in both the instruments and vocals.
To be fair, whilst reading back over this review, I may have been too harsh on the phono stage. Looking at all the other options packed in to this receiver, a phono stage is quite an added bonus. It is capable but I can see vinyl-lovers incorporating a separate stage such as the little Rega Fono or similar.
Sound quality overall impressions
The TX-8150 is more than competent. Timing and tone are engaging and clear. There are more vivid and dynamic amps out there but at higher prices and/or with fewer capabilities. I have really enjoyed my time with the Onkyo and it has proved to be a great all-round performer.
Onkyo TX-8150 review conclusion
The Onkyo TX-8150 has really set its stall out as being a Jack-of-all-trades. You know what, I really think it is too!
Yes, the phono stage was found lacking a little, but it does so many things right. It is a well put together bit of kit and its companion app is clear and user friendly – not just an after-thought, as many are.
I didn’t look at the price before, or during the review and I am glad I kept it as a surprise. Not only could this have coloured my judgement but it has made me smile at the end. Given that the amp in my system has an asking price of five-times more than this box of tricks, I cannot really fault the TX-8150 at all.
The Onkyo TX-8150 is not only a musical, agile, and enthusiastic amp, it’s an intuitive networked and Bluetooth streaming system, DAB radio and phono stage all in one. The fact that you can run a second stereo pair of speakers as well as a subwoofer from the same amp, all at the same time, just continues to poke fun at all the other systems in this price bracket.
I can see the TX-8150 becoming the cornerstone of many home Hi-Fi systems.
Onkyo TX-8150 availability and price
Now, here comes the crucial bit. All of this flexibility and capability can be yours for under £500! In fact, Amazon has the silver one at £480 right now! Other retailers seem to be pitching it at £499.
That’s a bargain for something that will certainly work for the majority of households.