Most of us have probably forgotten that Onkyo was once a hi-fi master before they ventured into the entry-level and mid-level audio market. To many audiophiles surprise they unleashed, not one but two hi-fi beings named the P-3000R preamp and the M-5000R power amplifier. Both these guys are what you called a ‘pairing made in heaven’, just by the looks of it.
OUT OF THE BOX
The P-3000R is as boxy as Onkyo’s previous products, except here, you can tell that a lot more time has been spent in getting that black finish and metallic chassis up to the hi-end audio standards. As usual, this guy is simple with only the needed essentials on the front panel arranged with as much as symmetry as the buttons and knobs will dictate. The M-5000R, is what you’d call a beast, because it looks larger and weighs far more than any of Onkyo’s previous receivers, and this is just a two-channel being.
The front panel contains two VU needles that light up in that retro way that never gets old. The chassis is again finished with the same amount of attention as the P-3000R’s, so this pair doesn’t look like an unconventional couple. The back panel of the preamplifier is dotted with several connectivity options with little room to spare. The power amplifier, although doesn’t have even half as many ports on its back, does have a whole bunch of writing and lines to explain the various options the amplifier offers.
It’s fascinating to see that Onkyo has used a Class A/B layout for the M-5000R as opposed to the conventional use of Class D in all the other Onkyo amplifiers out there. Class A/B is a more power hungry amplification mode, which has its fair share of positives when it comes to musicality. Plus, it comes with Dynamic Intermodulation Distortion Reduction Circuitry or DIDRC to counteract unwanted high frequency interference. And by high frequency, we mean, above the range of human hearing, because Onkyo believes that that these distortions generate beat interference* which in turn affects the character of the original sound.
The amplification design used in this power amplifier is AWRAT, which is Advanced Wide Range Amplifier Technology, something we’ve seen before in several other Onkyo receivers and amplifiers. It comprises DIDRC technology along with a low NFB (Negative Feedback) design, closed ground-loop circuits and high instantaneous-current capability. This architecture has been laid out under the hood in much the same symmetry as you see the VU metres on the front panel. By perfectly aligning the power devices for the left and right channels to symmetry, along with a new circuit board construction and separate chassis panels to eliminate unwanted vibrations, Onkyo has attempted to minimise errors in two channel playback. This amplifier can hit 80W at 8ohms but because of its remarkable current capabilities, it can drive the hell out of any loudspeaker, if given the chance, thanks to its dynamic power rating of over 450W into 1Ohm.
Embracing the modern era is truly the P-3000R that features a pair of 32=bit/192kHz Burr-Brown PCM1795 DACs that decode all the six digital inputs the preamplifier has to offer. The inputs range from a balanced AES-type fitting to a USB input port along with conventional coaxial and optical ports. These DACs are selected by the same rotary selector on the front panel as the analogue inputs. So when these digital inputs are not in use, the entire digital board shuts down and the digital inputs disappear from the list of available inputs on the dial.
The preamplifier has been built using the same DIDRC technology used in the power amplifier along with PLL or Phase Locked Loop Ultra-Low Jitter technology. During the digital-to-analogue conversion process, an unwanted side-effect called jitter emerges from fluctuations in the time domain of a digital signal. PLL reduces this by comparing the input and output phases of the digital signal, then creating an accurate clock waveform. The preamplifier also allows for bi-amping for compatible speakers that can be bi-amped. With this, you get better control over the high and low frequencies as the amplifier can amplify them separately and allow you to control it through its ‘Function’ option. With the help of a simple H to L fader, you can tell the amplifier how much to drive the highs and lows, or keep them balanced.
Both the power and the pre amplifier have been built with audiophile-grade components from gold-plated, machined solid brass terminals to high-quality power supply units. At the same time, you get AES/EBU digital inputs in the preamplifier that help a great deal in preventing signal degradation and noise. The preamp comes with an XLR output while the power amplifier has an XLR input, in case you want to use this guy as a mono-block. However, what doesn’t make sense is why do we not have two XLR output/inputs instead of having to resort to the unbalanced RCA ports for stereo amplification? Nevertheless, let’s check out just how good these two beats fare in the field of battle.
The controller is long and sleek, looking about as modern as the preamplifier it controls. The buttons are of a higher quality than you usually find on Onkyo remotes and since this is a stereo amplifier we’re talking about, the spacing between the buttons can be a lot more due to only a handful of functions it needs to be able to carry out. It took charge of the preamplifier as fast as we wanted and its range was wide enough to cover our entire sofa set. That’s really all we need from a controller—simple ergonomics and dependable responsiveness.