Onkyo X9

FOR Scale and dy­nam­ics; can play hi-res files; built to last AGAINST Com­peti­tors of­fer bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion and de­tail

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

As any­one who’s stud­ied the laws of the school play­ground will know, be­ing first isn’t al­ways best. That hasn’t de­terred Onkyo, how­ever, which has billed the X9 as the first high-res­o­lu­tion au­dio por­ta­ble speaker.

It’s quite a USP: this Hra-ac­cred­ited speaker can con­nect to your PC or lap­top via USB to play PCM for­mats up to 24-bit/96khz and play (but down­sam­ple) 24-bit/192khz files. There’s still the op­por­tu­nity to stream via Blue­tooth or plug a source into a 3.5mm jack – it’s just there’s now the scope to go one bet­ter.

Some­thing sub­stan­tial

The X9’s scale and weight, al­most one-and-a-half kilo­grams, mean it isn’t the eas­i­est to carry around, but it feels sat­is­fy­ingly ro­bust.

Un­der­neath its slim, curved shell is a driver set-up that ap­pears to con­firm that no­tion. You’re look­ing at a pair of 5cm mid/bass driv­ers, two 19mm tweet­ers and two pas­sive ra­di­a­tors, one of which is vis­i­ble from the rear.

We be­gin con­nect­ing via Blue­tooth and stream 65daysof­static’s No Man’s Sky sound­track, Mu­sic For An In­fi­nite Uni­verse. The first thing we no­tice is the power and the scale of the sound, which is im­pres­sive not only in ab­so­lute terms but in that, for this price, the X9 can com­bine that sound­stage with such mu­si­cal sen­si­bil­ity.

The de­tail isn’t phe­nom­e­nal, but there’s more in­sight than from many com­peti­tors. What’s best about the sound, though, is what it does with that in­sight. The dy­nam­ics are as del­i­cate as they are en­ter­tain­ing, the tim­ing is pleas­ing and there are no hard edges or wob­bly low end.

We aren’t go­ing to pass up the op­por­tu­nity to play some hi-res files ei­ther. Plug­ging into a Mac, we play FLAC files of Óla­fur Ar­nalds and Nils Frahm’s Loon, down­loaded from Onkyo’s own hi-res mu­sic ser­vice. Com­pared with the same track played through Tidal but with lower bit-rate, there is a step up in terms of de­tail, but the X9 is still re­stricted within the con­fines of its own abil­ity. Be­ing teth­ered to a lap­top, it raises a ques­tion about the speaker’s pur­pose – are we striv­ing for the best-pos­si­ble sound, even at the ex­pense of porta­bil­ity? If played in the house we’d prob­a­bly go for the least-mo­bile op­tion.

Scale, range and res­o­lu­tion

Sit­ting the Onkyo next to the KEF Muo and Dali Katch, ad­mit­tedly each cost­ing more and more again re­spec­tively, re­veals im­prove­ments. Those busy record­ings are bet­ter or­gan­ised by the Muo, though with­out the scale or dy­namic range of the X9, whereas the Katch is a step up in each re­spect (though it doesn’t of­fer hi-res com­pat­i­bil­ity). But, what­ever the op­po­si­tion, Onkyo has de­liv­ered a prod­uct with scale and mu­si­cal­ity that mustn’t be ig­nored.

Not the eas­i­est to carry around, but the curved X9 is a ro­bust piece of kit

10-hour bat­tery life

Two pas­sive ra­di­a­tors

Hi-res ca­pa­bil­ity

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