Jump to content


Photo

Onkyo Pr-sc5509


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 DaveH1

DaveH1

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 99 posts

Posted 19 November 2011 - 10:25 PM

Hi everyone,

I thought Iíd post my initial thoughts about the new Onkyo PR-SC5509 in my system.


Equipment:

Speakers: Ascension 8883PRMTL, 252PRM, 502PR, 1222PTL (Hypex amp).
Pre-amps/amps: Onkyo PR-SC5509, Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE, XPA-5.
Sources: Oppo BDP-95, PS3, Apple TV, Dune Smart D1, Beyonwiz DP-Lite.
Cables: A mixture of Ezyhd HDMI cables for digital and Blue Jeans Cables for analogue inputs/outputs.
Remote: Harmony One
TV: Samsung PS63C7000


Background:

I bought the Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE stereo pre-amplifier earlier this year as I was in search of better stereo sound than I was getting through my Yamaha RXV-1800 using my Oppo 95 for CD playback.

The STP-SE made a significant improvement to my system. Music was more accurate and enjoyable and the balanced outputs of the Oppo 95 provided me with a very low noise floor. However, it introduced a problem into my system and that was that I discovered that my Yamaha 1800 was very noisy when connected via stereo analogue cables to the STP-SE in HT bypass mode. I could hear all sorts of extraneous EMI being introduced into the system. I tried a number of things: Cardas caps on all unused inputs on the STP-SE helped greatly, attention to cable management helped somewhat and an isolation transformer between the Yamaha and my subwoofer seemed to help a bit. It took a long time to work out that the Yamaha was the villain and not the new STP-SE. Anyone who's had a ground loop problem will sympathise. Despite everything I did, during quiet passages of movies/music, I could still hear hissing, squawking and all sorts of electronic junk through my system when the Yamaha AVR was in use, even in pure direct mode. Whilst I donít know what impact this EMI had on the overall audio quality of the system at higher volume levels, it certainly reduced my enjoyment of my system just knowing that it was there.

So I was basically looking for a Pre-amp or an AVR that fixed this problem. There were a number available in my budget but the Onkyo fitted the bill. It had no amp section to introduce noise, XLR outputs with a low noise floor (say compared to the Marantz AV7005 where the RCA outputs appear to have a lower noise floor), and Audyssey XT32, whilst not essential to me, potentially promised some improvement in multichannel audio.

The PR-SC5509 to me is essentially a PR-SC5508a. An aesthetically more appealing reincarnation with hopefully (and more importantly) the electronic rough edges and bugs of the 5508 ironed out but in terms of features essentially the same product. Iíve never owned an Onkyo product, and it did concern me that Ambertech and people like Steve Neil were warning those about buying grey imports, because at the same time they seemed to be admitting to what seemed like a high failure rate of Onkyo devices making local warranty essential. In the end I decided that HDMI is such a flaky platform that if I went with Marantz, Denon or Emotiva for example, I could end up with warranty issues just the same.


Purchase and delivery

I ended up buying from Sunnybank Hifi. Iím not going to disclose the price I paid. You can call Chau Luu and negotiate for yourself. Sunnybank offered a slightly lower price than Eastwood Hifi but not enough for me to buy from interstate when I live about a 25 minute drive from Eastwood Hifi. What convinced me to buy from Sunnybank was the fact that Chau called me at 7PM one night to discuss the sale, as I had emailed her and she knew I couldnít talk during business hours. I figured you have to reward that kind of service and commitment. Everything about the rest of the order was dead easy.

The Onkyo arrived by Safeway courier. The outer part of the carton showed some signs of damage. However the inside of the box was undamaged with the Onkyo suspended in the foam moulds. I would of thought that a product of this quality and price would be double-boxed but I suppose the moulding does protect it.

General

The unit itself is huge, presumably to accommodate all the various inputs and outputs on the front and back. Some of you have no doubt read about the planned Emotiva XMC-1, which will omit most legacy inputs. I think this is a good idea. However, the PR-SC5509 has got everything that anyone could want, I imagine, including two HDMI outputs. Unlike the mythical XMC-1, the PR-SC5509 is also available to purchase.

The unit looks neat and tidy with itsí hidden front panel. It is quite deep too, which actually makes it a bit easier to connect to the XPA-5 which is almost 500mm deep.

The unit doesnít get that warm. It probably reaches the same temperature as the XPA-5 after watching a movie.


Power consumption:

Who cares. Those who do will buy an iPod dock and play MP3s believing themselves to be at the pinnacle of audio enjoyment.


Setup

Setup was easy enough. The OSD and menus are easy enough to follow. In fact, there are almost too many options. The full 8 point XT32 setup was straightforward.

I like the ability to tell the Onkyo what to do with different tracks eg play PCM in pure direct but apply Audyssey to bitstreamed DTS-MA, for example.

The other feature I like but havenít used yet is the 3 independently assignable 12v triggers. This is nice in the sense that my Apple TV is only ever used to play 2 channel music, so therefore I donít want the Onkyo to trigger my XPA-5 on for this input (when I get dedicated amps for the front two channels), but for the Dune, the Oppo and the PS3, I want multichannel sound and the XPA-5 on. If you had a DAC attached, this would be just as useful as you may only want the amps for the front channels turned on too.


Remote control

The remote is sleek and solid enough. Itís well laid out. Different DSP modes are easily switched on the Onkyo remote. My only criticism with it is that I think there should be a button for the Pure Direct mode. Itís only a small criticism in any event, as I mentioned above you can pre-set pure direct in your input setup for a given track. Most Iím sure would be implementing Audyssey anyway. For me, a universal remote means that the Onkyo remote is only around for the first couple of months anyway whilst youíre doing most of your tweaking.

The only fault I could find with the remote was that sometimes the Onkyo doesnít respond to remote commands. Mine, on occasion, refuses to enter Setup until I have either shut down the unit, or entered the home button and the exited the home menu and gone into setup again.


Noise

The Onkyo has a very low noise floor. What a relief to hear nothing at all when nothing is all you should hear! There is a very slight hiss from my ribbons when the Onkyo is sitting there switched on but not playing anything, however it is only fractionally louder than that from my Oppoís XLR outputs to the STP-SE. I canít hear anything from my sitting position. Halleluiah!


CD playback
Sources: Oppo BDP-95 via HDMI (for CD), Dune Smart HDMI (for streamed .wav files), Oppo BDP-95 via XLR outputs to STP-SE (for CD).

This was probably the most surprising and unexpected part of my review. The (digital) stereo playback of the 5509 was fantastic. Iím used to the Oppo via XLR to the STP-SE being vastly superior to anything else in my system and was pleasantly surprised how close the 5509's performance came to the analogue output of the Oppo. Iíd go so far as to say that 90% of the time youíd be hard pressed telling which was which in a blind test.

The Onkyoís DACs do have a different character to the Oppoís DACs however. Whereas the Sabre DACs are very accurate, the Onkyo was a little less accurate in all parts of the frequency range but a bit more engaging as it tended to emphasize the mid/lower frequencies a bit more.

I like the very accurate and controlled sound at any volume level that the combination of my Oppo and my STP-SE produces so I wonít be moving the STP-SE out of my rack. However, if I ever go to a separate 2 channel system, Iíd happily leave the 5509 to do the stereo duties in a predominantly multichannel/HT setup if that makes sense.

One final thing I could say about the Onkyoís stereo playback was that I found the Pure mode to be the best and didnít think much of the other modes. Direct mode probably would equally have sounded good in a 2.1 system.


Multichannel Playback

Multichannel analogue inputs
Sources: Oppo BDP-95 via HDMI and analogue, Dune Smart D1 via HDMI

I kind of agree with the concept that one measure of a pre-pro/AVRís ability and quality is itsí analogue performance. I hooked up my Oppo via both HDMI and via itsí multichannel outputs for comparison.

The RCA connections on the back of the Onkyo were nice and solid. The analogue performance of the Onkyo was somewhere between neutral and transparent :) i.e. great.

I played a few of my SACDs, music Blu rays and movie Blu rays and thought that for passages of music, the Oppo analogue performance was superior to the 5509 playing the same music bitstreamed via HDMI, but as youíll read below, for movies, I really did like the Audyssey implementation. Perhaps Iím just used to the Oppoís sound.


Multichannel digital inputs

Audyssey XT32 as many others have commented is really very good. Audyssey did seem to give a more seamless presentation and soundstage than the Oppo via analogue for movies. For example, in the movie Heat, there is a scene where a helicopter flies past the viewer with a music soundtrack in the background. I couldnít tell where the sound was coming from (obviously the speakers ;) ) so good was the implementation of all channels and the subwoofer. In the same movie, during the shootout at the drive-in movie place, the gun-shots made me jump in my seat despite having watched the movie many times. It was actually much more accurate and realistic than the Oppo.

I enjoyed watching in THX mode, direct mode and also the Pure Direct mode. The THX mode sonically made the Onkyo-decoded audio sound more similar to the Oppoís analogue sound. Perhaps itís because the crossovers are the same at 80Hz and thatís just the sound Iím familiar with. Iím not sure.


Features not tested Ė perhaps others will comment in time

Video Processing
XLR stereo inputs
USB inputs
Internet streaming


Final thoughts

Iím very happy with this purchase and the overall improvement in my system.

Iím yet to decide if my Audyssey calibration is just poor or my Oppoís analogue outputs are just more musical. Certainly, I agree with what others say about Audyssey and movies. In the meantime Iím just going to keep experimenting.

I donít know how in my mind to resolve the glaring contradiction. If either the Oppo or Onkyo DACs were clearly superior to the otherís DACs, shouldnít one or the other just be better in all areas? Why is music or passages of music within a movie more musical/enjoyable via the analogue outs on the Oppo? Is it Audyssey XT32 that makes all the difference? Perhaps I'm just used to that sound?

Thatís the great thing about audio though, isnít it? You can move your speaker five centimetres and get something totally unexpected, good or bad.

Cheers,

Dave.

#2 DeathPoobar

DeathPoobar

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • 62 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 12:50 AM

Great review, Dave. It's answered a lot of questions for me. Your setup has so many similarities to my current & upcoming build (Oppo>Onkyo>Emotiva). I think this combo produces a good cost-benefit achievement.

1) I don't plan to buy a stereo pre-amp and would like to use the XLR's or RCA's on the Onkyo for 2 channel duties. However, I'm going for a 2.1 setup with bookshelves. Since you conclude that the Sabre DAC's sound better to the Burr's, do you utilise the bass management of the Oppo or are you just going 2.0 with your full range speakers? If wanting to use the bass management of the Onkyo, would you connect the Oppo via RCA or HDMI?

2) On the Oppo, when playing SACD's in pure audio mode via analogue, can I still incorporate bass management on that unit?

3) On the Oppo, you can designate the XLR's as the FL/FR outputs instead of using the standard RCA's for multi-channel sound (I think). Can the Onkyo combine the XLR and RCA 'ins' into one input? Would you recommend this or is the sound with the 5.1 RCA or HDMI adequate?

Right now, I'm trying to achieve the best all round musical production for both stereo and multi-channel playback. My book shelves only go to 50-60Hz hence the need for a good sub. So I'm trying to find out which interconnects I need to order.

#3 DaveH1

DaveH1

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 99 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 11:12 AM

Thanks.

1) I don't plan to buy a stereo pre-amp and would like to use the XLR's or RCA's on the Onkyo for 2 channel duties. However, I'm going for a 2.1 setup with bookshelves. Since you conclude that the Sabre DAC's sound better to the Burr's, do you utilise the bass management of the Oppo or are you just going 2.0 with your full range speakers? If wanting to use the bass management of the Onkyo, would you connect the Oppo via RCA or HDMI?


I've been using full range for my stereo listening. I reckon if you need to employ bass management in the Onkyo then HDMI is probably the way to go. If you get full range speakers down the track you could always use the XLR inputs on the 5509, although I haven't tested them.

My conclusion that the Sabre DAC's are better than the Burr's was a guarded one though. Certainly for movies, letting the 5509 do the decoding and applying Audyssey XT32 delivered great results which leans towards using HDMI. I think there also a number of factors there in my system that will never apply to your proposed setup and would balance my conclusion that the Sabre DACs are superior. I'm sure you could get equally as good results from HDMI to the Onkyo in a 2.1 system.

2) On the Oppo, when playing SACD's in pure audio mode via analogue, can I still incorporate bass management on that unit?

Yes. I have the crossover in the Oppo set at 80Hz.

3) On the Oppo, you can designate the XLR's as the FL/FR outputs instead of using the standard RCA's for multi-channel sound (I think). Can the Onkyo combine the XLR and RCA 'ins' into one input? Would you recommend this or is the sound with the 5.1 RCA or HDMI adequate?

I'm not sure. I don't know how you'd manage the volume? Presumably you set the volume on the Oppo to 100%. But then aren't you using two separate inputs on the Onkyo if you used the XLR inputs and then the multichannel inputs? So I suppose you'd have to use the stereo RCA outputs for FL and FR on the Oppo with the surround RCA outputs to the multichannel RCA inputs on the 5509.

Right now, I'm trying to achieve the best all round musical production for both stereo and multi-channel playback. My book shelves only go to 50-60Hz hence the need for a good sub. So I'm trying to find out which interconnects I need to order.

I think you'll be able to achieve that with the 5509. I was quite surprised with its' stereo performance and I think many would find the 5509s engaging/dynamic presentation more pleasing than the somewhat cold and accurate presentation I prefer when listening to CDs.

I don't think you can lose either way with the Oppo(s). I couldn't see from your signature but if you already own the '95 then you've got a number of options to try and all of them are good. If you haven't purchased yet, the '93 connected via HDMI is going to give exactly the same results for most configurations I can imagine and you could put the difference towards the 5509 or your subwoofer.

#4 DeathPoobar

DeathPoobar

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • 62 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 03:06 PM

Cheers, Dave.

Look forward to your 'Marvell Kyoto-G2' vs 'HQV Vida' video comparison... ;)

#5 yorac

yorac

    AV Forum Member

  • Senior Member
  • 24,524 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 03:19 PM

Outstanding review mate........

#6 Drizt

Drizt

    AV Forum Member

  • Senior Member
  • 5,930 posts

Posted 20 November 2011 - 03:47 PM

Outstanding review mate........


+1

Great effort.

#7 DaveH1

DaveH1

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 99 posts

Posted 21 November 2011 - 05:25 AM

Thanks for all your kind comments.

Although slightly off topic, I found a review of the BDP-95 where the reviewer has a discussion with an Oppo rep about analogue vs HDMI, which may explain the differences between the two for multichannel audio that I also found.

Cheers,

Dave

#8 DeathPoobar

DeathPoobar

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • 62 posts

Posted 21 November 2011 - 03:25 PM

Good link. It seems that every where I read, no one is able to attain DSD>Analogue>Output to 2.1 speakers easily.
It seems like my options for pure 2.1/5.1 sound are:

1) Send DSD from Oppo to Onkyo via HDMI - Onkyo which will convert DSD to PCM. Then apply EQ/Bass Management before using its own DAC's to transform the signal into the analogue domain. According to the article, this introduces issues with jitter and adds an intermediary step into the signal.

2) Use RCA 5.1 out from Oppo to Onkyo and use full bypass in preamp - This allows me to use the Sabre DAC's but I assume that DSD is converted to PCM by the Oppo so that it can apply its own bass management. Again this adds an intermediary step. Also, it would be hard to calibrate the distance for the subwoofer (negating delay of subwoofer's processing) since the Oppo does not possess an 'Audyssey' like tool.

3) Use RCA 5.1 out from Oppo to Onkyo and use preamp's bass management - This utilises the Sabre DAC's but then requires the Onkyo to perform an A/D and D/A conversion to apply the crossover. I'm perhaps leaning towards this method but will have to see how intrusive the Onkyo is with its conversions.

4) Use DSD>Analog in Oppo, send output to subwoofer and use subwoofer's internal crossovers - My JL does not have 5 channel crossovers and I've read that crossovers in subwoofers aren't that crash hot. I could use external crossovers from the speaker outs but I think the implementation becomes quite cumbersome.

5) Use DSD>Analog in Oppo and buy a second analog preamp which has bass management - This would most likely attain the best audio. However, I would also have to purchase XLR switches for when I want to swap between my Onkyo and analog preamp. Introducing the switch into the signal chain will most likely negate any aural benefits I have achieved by utilising a second preamp.

6) Buy some full range speakers and avoid this whole conundrum

Perhaps when finances permit, I will go with option 5. Unless someone can think of a better way to get the best SACD audio to my 5.1 setup.

#9 DaveH1

DaveH1

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 99 posts

Posted 21 November 2011 - 08:50 PM

Good link. It seems that every where I read, no one is able to attain DSD>Analogue>Output to 2.1 speakers easily.
It seems like my options for pure 2.1/5.1 sound are:

1) Send DSD from Oppo to Onkyo via HDMI - Onkyo which will convert DSD to PCM. Then apply EQ/Bass Management before using its own DAC's to transform the signal into the analogue domain. According to the article, this introduces issues with jitter and adds an intermediary step into the signal.



Tried this (DSD direct) again last night - in short, very pleasing results. I stuck with Pure Direct and Direct modes.

DeathPoobar, I feel bad that I've presented the information in such a way that you've interpreted my comments in a negative way and differently from how I'd intended. My early conlusions are that the Onkyo 5509 has performed above my expectations and has made a great improvement to my system and listening pleasure.

I think the important point I'd reiterate is that for 2 channel music, the Onkyo is fantastic and was at a level that far exceeded my expectations. For multichannel music, the Onkyo is fantastic although I'm not sure if it's the application of Audyssey or some other issue that makes the Oppo IMO superior via the analogue outs for music but not for movies. Again, in Pure Direct the differences are very small and I imagine many would prefer the Onkyo's presentation to that of the Oppo. In a 2.1 system, you'll could use Direct mode rather than Pure Direct to apply your bass management.

The reason I referred to that review was because the guy had a PR-SC885 and had noted somewhat similar findings. However, when I re-read it today I noted one important omission from his review was that he didn't specify what listening mode he used and importantly whether Audyssey was applied. The Oppo representative concluded it was jitter and that may explain the issue, but equally I'm coming more to the conclusion that choosing a mode free from Audyssey may yield better listening results for 2 channel music.

I'm not trying to be difficult or pedantic, it's just that sometimes you read a review where someone falls in love with their new (and expensive) purchase and is so infatuated with their new device that you never really feel the report is balanced or trustworthy.

If I was in your situation, I'd keep it simple and connect the Oppo to the 5509 via HDMI for everything and wouldn't look back. If/when you buy those full-range floor standers and/or an Emotiva XSP-1 or similar with analogue bass management you'll be in the driver's seat to use the XLR outputs.

Edit: Fleshed out response when I got home from work as the original didn't make sense.

Edited by DaveH1, 21 November 2011 - 11:16 PM.


#10 DeathPoobar

DeathPoobar

    AV Forum Member

  • Member
  • 62 posts

Posted 22 November 2011 - 01:09 AM

No reason to feel bad. Your comparisons have actually led me to an consequential investigative path of enlightenment. Put it this way - I am better informed after having read your opinions and have just about settled on the fact that we are always going to want to obtain perfection in the A/V realm. However, if we compromise in our implementation, we still have the potential to achieve audiophile-grade sound from a system which we can enjoy for a long time.

My goal was to achieve a do-it-all system from a limited set of components at an affordable price. All formats (DVD, BR, SACD, FLAC etc.) needed to be taken care of. After further research on this target, I've come to the conclusion that perfect playback of all formats is close to an impossibility. Even more-so because I've decided on my speakers (so important and different to each users' ears), and these happen to be bookshelves.

The reason I'd say that perfection is out of reach is because, after scouring forums, there seems to be an opinion that the weakness lies in the format itself. SACD & DVD-Audio reproduction rests on our ability to possess 5(or 5.1) full-range and equidistant speakers as part of our setup and this is too impractical for 99% of users.

Why? Because for absolute purity, we want to be converting that DSD signal directly to analog, untainted. From what I understand, no devices can apply proper bass management or delay in the DSD or analog realm, which is required to counter-balance our driver setup. Or, the devices which have this ability are too expensive or cause us to sacrifice some component of our 5.1 movie playback. Now I may be wrong on this and I hope someone will inform me otherwise.

I've come to a realisation that sometimes we focus too much on perfectionism when we should be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of our individual and well-thought-out systems. I still intend to buy all the items of my system list and perhaps in future, may also add an Outlaw Audio ICBM-2 if it ever gets released. The ICBM seems to be a good work-around for the bass management issue. Now, all I have to solve is the analog delay issue. *Sigh*