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Onkyo A-9010 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

  • Whether you want to break out the vinyl, discover the thrill of hi-res audio, or just want an amp that's versatile enough for a bit of everything? From big TV sound on movie night to CDs on Sunday morning, the A-9010 is ready to inspire. The latest addition to Onkyo's range of Pure Hi-Fi separates boasts high-current WRAT (Wide Range Amp Technology), generous digital and analog audio inputs, a built-in phono equalizer, and the top quality Wolfson DAC. Inside the chassis are discrete low-impedance amplifiers, an extruded aluminum heat sink, and capacitors designed to support high current delivery with low distortion. The independent headphone amplifier, gold-plated transparent speaker posts, and chunky knobs will further help bring all your digital and analog sources to life.

Recent Reviews

  1. Redcarmoose
    Not Your Average Entry Level Integrated Kids
    Written by Redcarmoose
    Published Sep 16, 2017
    Pros - Dedicated And Powerful Headphone Amplifier Separate From The Speaker Amplifier.
    A Wonderfuly Implemented Wolfson DAC.
    Cons - Ahhhhhhhh?.........None!
    The Onkyo A9010B Integrated Amplifier And Separate DAC/Headphone Amplifier


    Japanese Audio Corporation Onkyo has gone slightly retro in recent years with the reintroduction of past legends. The $5000 3-Way Reflex Speaker called the D-77NE has brought back the glory days of high school with pounding 12 inch woofers! The retro Direct Drive CP-1050 turntable also harks back to those 1980s LP parties which are now halfway remembered. But mind you, this reintroduction is regarded not only as cutting edge audiophile art today but a return to audiophile values possibly long forgotten.


    The Onkyo A9010B Integrated Amplifier And DAC:
    Along with the above gear they also introduced a new el-cheapo two-channel amplifier. An entry level amp which includes both a turntable RIAA preamp and a warm but magical Wolfson DAC.........................all for the silly entry price of $299.

    Now if that doesn't get your attention it touts a 44 W/Ch (8 Ohms 1 kHz 0.08% THD 2 Channels Driven FTC) stereo speaker amp. And...........a built in MM phono RIAA EQ pre (MM 1 kHz 0.5%). Oh.............it's got a cool IR remote too! The remote is imperative to have so you can stay in your easy chair, possibly even falling asleep!

    Now the above is all fine and dandy, but us folks here are primarily interested in headphones and most high current amps we have listened to just don't do headphones right. Go to a Head-Fi meet and look around, rarely somebody is running their gear off a 7.1 Denon home theater amp. This is just how things have evolved. Of course many headphone enthusiasts have home theater rigs, they just don't use them for headphones. And while amp topographies can come as class A, AB, B, D ect........ect.......High Currant nomenclature started as a great marketing ploy, the words "high current" now refer to cheaper entry-level cinema amps among talks in audiophile circles. Class A amplification is typically regarded as the better sounding and more expensive route though no list here could have one single correct answer.


    My personal ownership history of high current theater integrates has been a long list, starting with 1990s "Surround-Sound".........going to 5.1 then 7.1. Many times the cinema receiver can act best only as the signal processor allowing extra sets of better (class-A) or (class-AB) amplifiers being dedicated to power the home cinema speakers. Home Theater amplification never sounded right with headphones always due to being slightly on the thin and analytic-cold side of the street. Being the nut I am, I was always plugging my headphones into any-and-all home theatre amps I came across. I had luck at times but rarely the musical charm we find even in our budget headphone rigs. Our entry level dedicated headphone rigs are simple in a way. Headphone amps normally don't have to switch HDMI channels, offer multiple DSPs or even ever power countless theater speakers. Most of the time home theatre amplifiers have the headphone jack output quality delineated as an afterthought in design. As you know 2 channel headphone listening is not the reason people get into home theater in the first place.

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    Onkyo Decides To Simplify The AV Reciever:
    But here someway............the Onkyo A9010B is different. When I say it's different it simply doesn't sound like any AV receiver I have ever heard over the years. Going coaxial in from a CD transport and putting on my Austrian built AKG 701s my ears are met with a warm relaxed but yet still detailed and comfortable sound character. Anyone with any experience around here knows normally plugging the k701s into any typical Cinema High Current amp is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Normally the slightly bright, mid-treble bumped analytical monster the AKGs are simply show how bright home cinema amps can be. The Onkyo A9010B power reserves help in this instance too, allowing 50% volume to get as loud as anyone would want. The power also helps generate the bass control and bass delineation the k701s demand from an amp.

    So what's written above is my complete review of the Onkyo A9010B, yep.....that's pretty much it. Now if your more interested in the why's and how's, keep reading. Still be warned, as most of what's to come is somewhat convoluted and opinionated audiophile information which the common enthusiast really has no need for. My suggestion? Get a chance to hear one of these amps with the right source and headphones, you'll be glad you did. If speakers are your gig the same goes too!


    Your still reading? I knew you would............................anyway.
    My guess is that difference in sound results from an entirely separate headphone amplifier section? It may also end up as a direct result of our Wolfson WM8718 DAC decoding PCM signals to 192 kHz/24bit from the coaxial input or optical 96 kHz/24 bit? The amplifier only does two channels and even offers a processor direct mode which bypasses any tone control or loudness switch. The great sound may be simply the result of all the above, which is usually the case in audio sound: the sum of parts? Or the sum of the lack of parts? Who really knows at this point? It's most likely the implementation of design and quality of parts? Yes?

    How Does It Sound?
    And better yet, how does it compare to the ever-changing audio-darlings regularly used and loved here at Head-Fi? Making my tests simple, I was able to go direct line-out (from the Wolfson DAC) to the Schiit Asgard One headphone amp as a slightly unfair but practical opponent to the built-in Onkyo headphone amp. I also used only three test songs and two different headphones to try and ascertain why anyone here would even want this piece of equipment. Later in this review I'll list the three songs and why they were chosen to try and confirm the audio quality at hand.

    In forums other than Head-Fi I had read about the Onkyo A9010B winning out over any sub $300 Schiit Stack, but then the added feature of a speaker amp seemed to get my juices going. On pure power from the 1/4 inch headphone jack output alone this model beats most if not all the stuff I have heard in the $200 price point. Add to that you get a great DAC and a speaker amp where value starts to become apparent.

    I actually had a UHD big-screen TV in another room and just the thought of having an amp work for both headphones and 2 channel room speakers seemed like the way to go. Another option of course is the output from the amp allowing the addition of a sub woofer.

    No USB:
    Before you read further it should be noted that no computers or USB implementation has been decidedly used in our testing methodology. I'm slowly getting away from computer audio and discovering alternative solutions for better or worse. This integrated amplifier does not accept USB, only Optical and Coaxial digital inputs. Introducing non-computer FLAC files, 320kbps MP3s and Redbook 16bit/44.1 kHz compact disc software music file sources have been used. Additional source digital sound information was simply smart TV YouTube streams and various online movie playback audio streams. In addition there are a number of line in analog inputs making the possibility of the A9010B being the center controller for a small desktop or living room/bedroom rig. Of course this style of home AV component screams for the simple addition of the regular Blu-ray player.

    The Sound Overall:

    I will get to the side by side amp tests later, but let's just say you picked this up off Amazon.com, got it home and plugged it into the optical out of your TV for speakers or headphones; what would you get? Or in another instance, plugged the digital coaxial-out of your stand alone CD player and bypassed your CD players internal DAC; what would you get? Of course you could also simply use the RCA single ended outputs of any source be it radio, CD player or streaming device.

    I don't use computers for my critical listening usually and this equipment has no way to interface with a computer, though conversion from USB to optical or coaxial would be an easy route to go with an add-on-box, if you so desire.

    Funny too as it makes you wonder how much of this perception-placebo-stuff of sound comes from the slightly retro look of a large integrated amp siting in front of you? For many of us older Head-Fi members, audiophile listening started in the 1970s and 1980s from big 30 pound integrated amplifiers.

    For starters it really has that older sound. It's warm, it's fluid. It has the sound of receivers I used to find at garage sales. Only slightly laid-back and slightly warm, I ended up looking for CDs to test that needed a little forgiveness from their inherent coldness simply due to the mastering. Most of the time a lot of us already have clear and critically resolving equipment that simply shows us a bad master or brick-walled compression run. But I was simply wondering if I could live with this as musical as I thought it was day in and day out? Critical listening started after two days of burn-in, and for what ever reason the biggest changes seemed to takes place after the first four hours of continuous use.

    Amazingly when the speakers are not being pushed (as in switched off) the unit runs almost cold as ice. Such discoveries elaborate how the second headphone amplification area maybe completely separate from the high-current speaker amplifier section inside?
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    Many of the older amps found at garage sales (for $30) needed new capacitors and garage sale equipment hounds always have to keep in mind that normal capacitors only last 20 years. Add to that, many of the old amps found have volume knobs with crackles and display lights which are normally burnt out. Here our A9010B listening session starts off from a dead black quiet background. Those romantic hums of years gone by are gone with much of todays new gear. First off I did notice a little less definition in the bass region. Funny too as it was that lack of perfect-perfect quality in bass sculptures which reminded me of audio receivers from days gone by. If anything it wasn't like this discovery was that much of a bad thing, it was just that upon first listening I was mentally comparing it to the clarity of my reference gear. But somehow I could listen to this amp for hours on end, an easy listening experience in sublime smoothness! First impressions have you guessing that Onkyo really did have a retro sound signature in mind. And mind you it doesn't sound old as in worn-out and out-dated, but old as in romantically reminiscent of receivers from days long gone. It doesn't though sound exactly like a Class A amp or exactly like a High Current amp, maybe like something somewhere in the middle. With speakers it has plenty of power, air and reserve reminding me of the days when you could blow your speakers up if some small human crawled along and maxed out your volume control before you hit the on switch. Lucky too upon close inspection we find a fuse to replace if any leprechauns cross the speaker wires.

    The sound was still lively and musical but my idea was to get this warm Wolfson DAC direct out to another amp. I was curious to where this lack of bass quality was originating from..................was it from the DAC or amplifier section? It ended up being from the amplifier section, more on that later.

    So what do you want for $299 kid? And keep in mind this review is in no way trying to discourage the fun of someone finding (and using) that mint Pioneer receiver found by chance at your neighbors Saturday garage sale. I mainly liked this thing at first cuz I thought it touted a cool Wolfson DAC.

    But my overall question I kept asking myself was if I would I be happy with this sound, could I live with this sound? Probably the biggest surprise was how versatile the unit was as a whole. I plugged in the optical toslink out of my TV, plugged in my hardest to drive headphones, the AKG k701s, and sat back with the volume-control-remote in my easy chair. The warmth of the DAC and amp character impedance did the k701s a service. So in reality that is what this unit is for! You plug your optical from your smart TV in, plug in any headphone or IEM you own and listen away. It's really in it's domain streaming Net Flicks hours on end with no fatigue or fuss. The latest audio trend is to try and keep the faceplate LEDs from lighting up the room. Here the distractions of LED are kept to a bare minimum simply getting you the source information and tone control bypass setting information at a glance from across the room. If you were using the tone controls all you would notice would be a single green or orange micro-LED about the size of a BIC ballpoint pen tip. This form of LED placement ends up a great relief and a far cry from those giant LEDs that seem to illuminate the entire room in moonlight.

    The k701s played great with the A9010B using a TV optical source, as in many ways...........again, this unit was now in it's zone doing what it was made for. OK time to change up the test methodology. I grabbed my old Rega Planet for the transport and some old CDs going directly in via coaxial. The Redbook 16bit-44.1 kHz files brought it all to another level. Still I needed to start doing bass comparisons, which the K701s are not always best for. I now bring in the 1More Triple Driver IEMs. The Triples don't always have a reputation for the deepest bass but their bass always gets better when used with home equipment or top of the line portables. It's not that the Triples get more bass from a home rig or high end DAP, but the bass response they perform ends up to have slightly more control and detail, they appear to be spreading the bass over to their own area in the mix and making the bass in general simply easer to study.

    The Triples do allow for some pretty good understanding of lower bass detail and texture. They can be kind of a microscope to try and critically hear into a lower bass signature, helping to determine possible sonic flaws in a DAC or amplifier. With the Triple Driver IEMs I could actually hear more of the bass character but then finally decided it was time to bypass the amp section and find out what this stand alone DAC section was or was not capable of.

    The Introduction Of The Schiit Asgard One:
    Remember too that this closely profiles adding a class A power-amp trying to get better sound from a high currant cinema amp in home theatre! Going back to the AKG k701s the amps had their volume at around 12 o'clock with the Asgard One needing about 12:30 to volume match with the A9010B. Yep, it appears that the amp section of the Onkyo has ever so slightly more power than the Asgard One, at the 12 o'clock area anyway.

    In this test the AKG k701 open-back full size headphones sounded loud at about 12 o'clock with the Onkyo but going back and plugging into the Schiit Asgard showed a better overall bass detail. The 1More Triple Drivers were listened to at right about 10 o'clock on both amplifiers, and again better bass detail was noted. In this test configuration songs could be restarted and headphones could be interchangeability plugged into either the Asgard or the Onkyo moment after moment. This testing procedure worked well as the Onkyo DAC to the internal amplifier and Onkyo DAC to the line out were surprisingly both working simultaneously! At times starting the songs over and at times simply continuing with the song playback and switching headphones helped hear the differences.

    To Summarize The Results:
    It's not a totally fair fight but in the end the Asgard One amp won over on the Onkyo amp section. Interestingly too, performing this series of tests over the course of days had experiences where both amps would actually sound pretty close in quality. Still depending on the song chosen slight differences could arise at times. Even though the Schiit Asgard One had the task of being connected with $15 Monster interconnects, and the A9010B's DAC section was hard-wired inside the Onkyo, the Schiit Asgard won. Somehow the Schiit showed more detail and clarity. With the Onkyo the instruments and vocals were slightly more flat and dry sounding. Still without this side by side comparison, the differences were so slight it may never have been noticed? Still there was such a nice continuity from the Onkyo, and the personality was simply so darn enchanting, I simply didn't care which amp I matched this Wolfson DAC with.

    Here again an example of the diminishing returns concept in audio. Probably the tightness of the bass was the overall wining character of the Asgard, along with what sounded like less THD. Interestingly the best thing the Onkyo did was what it didn't do: It didn't sound at all like a theatre amp! Gone was any hint of treble harshness, replacement came with nice lower midrange and low end (though not that refined).

    The lows when using the Onkyo by itself were slightly laggy but were reminiscent of the early days of HI/FI, when big boxy 12 inch woofers lagged a little. There was a nice sparkly treble which held notes at times in consistent placement out and about the soundstage. When going back and doing A/B testing sending the DAC signal to the Schiit Asgard for amping the soundstage remained the same. Not a giant or super spacial soundstage but cohesive and coherently natural out of both amps. The best explanation here finds the WM8718 being not the end-all in resolution but makes up for any loss with a nice charm and musicality. It's also this musicality which could allow someone to sit back and listen to movies for hours on end. Really the perfect balance of warmth and enough smooth detail. For $299 simply a great deal in the world of entry level audio. Also it should be noted this ends up my first rodeo with the WM8718 chip, not knowing if the tales of sound character are the result of the Onkyo implementation or the chip itself? Anyone else with a track record running WM8718 Wolfson chips, feel free to comment below.

    The Misleading Part About A New DAC:

    Much of the time a new sound signature resulting from a new and different audio acquisition can play tricks with the mind. Really different DAC chips can affect emotions and mislead a reviewer to label them much more than they are. That said, after living with the WM8718 for awhile, I still find it charming and balanced, though it's one of the warmest colors of DAC I have yet to meet. All the detail is there but somehow glossed up with a gold light.

    Neither of these amps sounded too bright and digital with the WM8718 in front, though they performed right in the middle getting a nice listenable treble experience going. If anything the Wolfson DAC was a good match for the Asgard One. I've heard the Asgard sound more detailed and bright resulting in a faster character before though here I'd say we are simply rolling along in middle of the road warmth.

    That said I could still live with the Onkyo as a single piece of equipment, considering that for the price of the Schiit Asgard One, you only get a headphone amp (Schiit Asgard Two, a headphone amp and preamp). Where the Onkyo A9010B gives you a DAC, a headphone amp, a speaker amp, a remote and an entry level phono preamp. The Onkyo also does what receivers did years ago being a Swiss Army knife of inputs and outputs, heck it even takes a front faceplate mini-jack-cable input from your phone or DAP. The Onkyo has all this switching and versatility at your fingertips across the room via remote too! Ease of use kicks in being you choose your source with a rotary knob and it gets confirmed across the front faceplate with micro sized color coded LEDs. If a digital signal is not present, the micro orange LED flashes to let you know your source feed is not sending. Once a consistent optical or coaxial digital feed arrives the orange LEDs stop flashing and remain on. Other than that are the small green multiple analogue input display lights to let you know which analogue one you have turned to. In use after you have memorized the order of your inputs (if in total darkness) you simply dial scroll across within the single micro LED row, finally landing on one LED on as your source. Of course each source is noted in white writing if viewing in bright light.

    In The Dark:
    Somehow this configuration works perfect in a completely dark room if you choose not to use the remote. Other than the single source micro LED there ends up being a larger regular blue LED which shows that the loudness and tone controls are bypassed. The oversized volume knob rotates via being servo driven by remote with a tiny round blemish so you can visually note the volume level with the source not feeding. Again the minimal use of LED lights and lack of traditional displays comes off as a nice option here.


    Onkyo attempted to arrive at a days gone by warm sounding amplifier and headphone amplifier. The designed sound of the A9010B amp section was further attenuated by the included warmth of the WM 8718 onboard DAC unit. This sound may not be everyone's cup of tea. One alternative is to feed the amplifier section the signal of a brighter DAC attempting to arrive at a slightly faster and more treble personality. The aforementioned modification could have been performed during this review but was receded with risk of adding convolution to an already complicated review. That said, sound personality is a very subjective personal experience, and your results may very from what is described above.

    Optical and Coaxial Disclaimer:
    Every source sounds different, some sounding much better and some much worse. Many different Optical or Coaxial feeds are going to make or break the user experience with this DAC/amp combination; your results may vary. Best to try a wide range of file players going Optical or Coaxial as each will sound different. You can read reviews and specific numbers all day, still your only proof is in the testing. Playing FLAC files even from the same manufacturer of TV is going to vary dramatically from model to model, resulting in a sound quality which could actually work and a sound quality which would fail. This same concept goes for stand alone desktop music file transports and digital outputs from portable DAPs.

    Phono Preamp Disclaimer:
    This unit is promoted as an MM cartridge RIAA equalization preamp. The results are going to be marginalized at best and many should maybe consider other choices if simply getting a unit like this only for use in LP playback, unless of course, someone is strictly on a budget and values having an all in one unit to do everything. Finding a phono preamp with switchable DIP switches is going to allow the user to get a better impedance cartridge match, winning in the end over this entry level plug and play phono preamp.

    Music Tracks:

    dd.PNG am pie.PNG h of the h.PNG

    1. Led Zeppelin- "The Song Remains The Same" This ends up as the first song on Houses Of The Holy studio release. This 1993 box CD set was part of "The Complete Studio Recordings Box Set" Mastered by George Marino and consequently considered the thinnest and most "digital" edition CD of the song. A grand challenge for most DACs and amplifiers is if they are up to the task of bringing listenability and musicality from this disk. In this regard the equipment in question here does a fine job, adding the needed warm but still parlaying detail.

    2. Madonna- "American Pie" This ends up as a CD single released in 2000 showing an electronic "dance" example of the classic Don McLean original. Chosen here for it's deep dark and complex dance bass lines in contrast to Madonna's heavy textured and processed vocal rendition of the lyrics, it's actually much clearer on other systems showing a wonderful 3D mix and soundscape. Still having what we have to work with, the Onkyo does produce a warm musical and listenable replay. Though here we start to arrive at some sonic congestion which simply shows how difficult a song like this is to get right even on the best of systems.

    3. Finally Duran Duran- "Is There Something I Should Know?" The non-album single release from "Greatest" pressed in 1998 shows a perfect opening with panned synth-drums. The qwerky bass line and multiple instrumentation ends up being a serious challenge for most systems. Much of the quality of sound here comes from the introduction of processed electronic digital reverb and pan effects which obviously can be heard very different in comparison with use of the k701 full size open back headphones as well as the difference found with the 1More Triple Driver IEMs. Probably nowhere in the test did it become apparent how different the external Schiit Asgard One accomplished greater delineation of this congested mix than here. In conclusion the first two songs were fine but slightly better using the Schiit Asgard One with the included Onkyo Wolfson DAC as the source. But the third song proved with out a doubt the Schiit Asgards ability to delineate layers found in more complex and fast changing tracks.

    In Ending:

    Most of the time listing to current video songs on YouTube has the Onkyo A9010B working great with a wide variety of headphones. Just the fact that you can stream any of the modern block buster hit movies and enjoy a fairly warm and bass centric response from such a difficult headphone as the AKG k701 is nothing short of a gift. Having a one box solution hooked-up in another room to a single optical cable and single set of headphones makes the amp a nice, simple and good looking value in today's market. Subjective audio tests have shown it's not always going to be the cat's pajamas going up against more expensive gear and it does have it's noted flaws. Still considering how well it powers speakers, how easy it is to integrate with existing gear and the fact it's simply $299, I figure it needs some limelight here at Head-Fi!

    In many ways the A9010B comes off as a one-of-a-kind unit, doing music and movies in it's own special personality. Fairly forgiving of source quality, it exudes fun and musicality. As far as stereo components go it's a fairly large appliance and ends up being a great aesthetic edition to any room with keeping the LED light level low, or turned off via the remote. The amp/DAC ends up being a jack of all trades playing IEMs and headphones well, while simultaneously playing both big and small speakers in a polite, nice and easy fashion. Be it 12 inch woofer floor-standers or tiny desktop speakers, this amp does them all a service proving to be an easy addition for any gear laying around needing to be put into use.

    The Computer Desktop Experience:

    Though keep in mind this amp is actually fairly large and may require a section of desktop space if used on a desk. That said it actually does much of what a desk top computer user could ask. Plugging an optical computer toslink or coaxial allows perfect integration with game sound as well as computer audio playback. Though different than many desktop amp options, your going to need to leave about two-thirds of the vented top area left unobstructed for air-flow when powering speakers.

    If you think you want a multichannel cinema system look elsewhere. In many ways this amp does only what amps did years ago with the only new edition of a modern day DAC. Ultimately the Onkyo can find itself as the heart of both a 2.1 home theatre set-up......................and a fairly warm and powerful headphone amp. All and all simply the facts make this purchase a no-brain-er!

    Page 16 has the down and dirty. http://www.intl.onkyo.com/downloads/manuals/pdf/a-9010_manual_en.pdf

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