Article Index
Onkyo TX-NR3030
page 2
page 3
page 4 Sound Quality
page 5 Conclusion
page 6 Measured Performance
All Pages


From Hi-Fi World - February 2015  issue
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Charles Atmos


Martin Pipe bulks up his multichannel muscles with Onkyo’s TX-NR3030 AV receiver.


In the worlds of cinema – domestic and professional – Dolby’s new ‘Atmos’ audio technology is a hot topic of conversation. Launched in 2012, Dolby Atmos is intended to provide convincing localisation of sounds from all around the room. Commercial cinema-goers are literally-surrounded by speakers, Atmos-ready venues being equipped with up to 64 of ‘em - hidden in the ceiling, along walls and behind the projection screen. The basic idea is that you’re immersed in the sound, which comes from all directions – including overhead.

   Atmos starts at the production stage, the technology being radically different from the movie sound-mixer’s perspective. Instead of defining, via a conventional mixing-desk (or software application), the surround channels to which a particular soundtrack component should be directed,  Atmos is based on what Dolby calls sound ‘objects’. Up to 128 of these dynamic soundtrack elements (like ambient babble, gunfire, weather, screams...) can be placed anywhere in three-dimensional space alongside more traditional soundtrack components – like dialogue – that are carried via the regular audio channels (‘beds’ in Atmos-speak) that you’ll hear with non-Atmos gear.

   As far as the film-maker is concerned, the Atmos approach is thus a more intuitive way of working with sound. Atmos does have some potential for effects-rich rock/pop music – an example of which was on the excellent Dolby Atmos demo disc we managed to get our mitts on – but in my opinion there’s little it could do to enhance the comparatively-static classical-music experience. Atmos is, first and foremost, about enhancing movies – although ‘audio-only’ drama could by definition be similarly-enhanced (I’d love to hear a Drama on 3 radio-play given the Atmos treatment!). 

The first Atmos-encoded movie was Pixar’s Brave; others have since followed. 



Lots of things may be going inside, but Onkyo has neatly laid out the interior of the TX-NR3030. Note the use of three mains transformers for various power supplies - the middle one serves the eleven power amplifiers. Towards the top of the picture, the receiver’s sophisticated digital circuitry can be seen.


What starts off at the cinema usually ends up at home, and Atmos is no exception.  Atmos-encoded soundtracks can be included onto lossless ‘TruHD’ 7.1 audio streams of Blu-ray discs – the first of which was Transformers: Edge of Extinction. 

   It’s also compatible with the lossy Dolby Digital Plus codec (meaning that on-demand streams and HDTV broadcasts could be accompanied by Atmos-encoded soundtracks). Any Blu-ray player can be used – set its HDMI audio output to bitstream – although you’ll need new Atmos-ready equipment. 

   Of these, the most important is a decoder/amplifier capable of rendering those Atmos soundtrack objects.  All key manufacturers are beavering away on suitable product. 

In the UK, Onkyo was first to market with the TX-NR3030 receiver examined here – all 22kg of it! Although you can use any existing surround speakers (front, centre, surround and back) you’ll need new Atmos ‘height’ speakers for best results. 



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