Best Listening Mode for Onkyo Receivers

Norvan Martin

Determining the best listening mode for Onkyo receivers ultimately depends on personal preferences and the nature of the audio content.

If you prefer music that sounds clean and pure, you might go for Stereo or Direct Mode, which plays sound mainly through the front speakers. Movie buffs typically enjoy Dolby Digital or DTS Surround Modes because they create an immersive experience. for three-dimensional audio, Dolby Atmos or DTS:X can provide a captivating experience.

In essence, the optimal listening mode varies based on individual taste.

In this in-depth guide, we not only explore the recommended listening modes but also delve into the intricate details of each mode to help you make informed decisions based on your unique preferences and content.

Whether you’re a home theater aficionado, an audiophile, or a devoted gamer, understanding the intricacies of these modes can profoundly elevate your audio experience.

onkyo receiver thx cinema mode

While there are plenty of listening modes for Onkyo receivers, and all of them have been designed with your varied needs in mind, in general, below are some of the best Onkyo listening modes:

  • THX Cinema Mode
  • Direct/Pure Audio Mode
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Mode
  • Dolby Digital TV Logic
  • Game Mode

Read on to learn more.

1. THX Cinema Mode

Best For Cinematic Experience

THX Cinema is proof of how dedicated Onkyo is to bringing you a home movie-watching experience that’s just as impressive as what you’d get in a big movie theater. This listening mode is important if you are connecting your Onkyo receiver to a TV.

THX certification means the device offers super precise sound, with beefed-up bass, clear speech, and all-around awesome sound that makes you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action. It’s like having an epic movie adventure without ever leaving your couch. Now, let’s dig deeper into the details:

  • Frequency Response: THX Cinema mode makes sure all sounds, whether high-pitched or low, work together in perfect balance to create a rich and even audio experience.
  • Dialog Enhancement: The lines spoken by actors (dialogue) are made clearer and more distinct, which helps make the movie more engaging and lets us feel closer to the characters.
  • Surround Sound Precision: The surrounding sounds are accurately played back, crafting an immersive three-dimensional sound space that surrounds you.

2. Direct/Pure Audio Mode

Best For Music Enthusiasts

If you love great sound, the Direct/Pure Audio Mode is perfect for you. It skips any extra processing to give you clean, top-quality sound. Let’s look at the details:

  • Signal Path: This mode makes sure the path the audio takes is straight and short, which means nothing messes with the original sound.
  • Analog Purity: If you’re into the rich and real sound of analog, this mode focuses on keeping that intact, giving it special attention.
  • Minimal Coloration: The goal here is to keep the music sounding real and unaltered, so you can hear it as the artist intended.

3. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Mode

Best For Immersive Surround Sound Experience

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X take classic surround sound to a new level by adding a 3D audio effect.

These modern sound technologies let sounds move all around you, making you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action. Here’s what they’re all about:

  • Object-Based Audio: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X work with audio in a way that each sound is an object that can be placed anywhere in a room, even above you.
  • Height Channels: A cool thing about these systems is they have height channels. This means they can make sounds seem like they’re coming from up high, such as raindrops or a helicopter in the sky.
  • Compatibility: If you want the full experience of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, you need the right setup. This includes having movies or shows that are made for these sound systems, which you can find on Blu-ray or certain streaming services.

4. Dolby Digital TV Logic

Best For  TV Content

Made for TV lovers, Dolby Digital TV Logic makes the sound of shows recorded in Dolby Digital better.

It improves how clear talking sounds, gives a richer audio experience, and makes sure TV programs are lively to listen to. Let’s look at what it does:

  • Dialog Enhancement:: Dolby Digital TV Logic uses special methods to make spoken words sharp and easy to understand.
  • Dynamic Range Control: This helps keep the volume steady, so there aren’t any sudden loud or quiet moments. This is handy when commercials come on.
  • Virtual Surround: Some versions might add a type of sound that makes it feel like you’re surrounded by it, making everything seem more real, even if your speakers are simple.

5. Game Mode

Best For Gaming Enthusiasts

For players who love gaming, Game Mode tweaks the sound settings to make your gaming time more engaging.

It makes sure you can hear everything perfectly by improving how you tell where sounds are coming from and the details in them. Let’s look at what it offers:

  • Low Latency Processing: In Game Mode, sound is processed super fast so there’s barely any wait between what you see on the screen and what you hear.
  • Spatial Audio Enhancement: This setting helps gamers figure out where sounds are coming from in the game. This is super important when you’re playing against others and need to react quickly.
  • Dynamic Soundscapes: Game Mode can change how the game sounds based on what’s happening inside the game, making it feel like you’re there.

Other Onkyo Listening Modes

Here are the types and differences of Onkyo listening modes in detail:


There are plenty of Onkyo listening modes that are suitable for TV and movie programs. They fall under the first category of listening modes.

Some of the most common selectable listening modes in this class are:

  • All Ch Stereo
  • Direct
  • Dolby D
  • Dolby D+
  • Dolby EX/Dolby D EX
  • Dolby TrueHD
  • DSD
  • DTS
  • DTS 96/24
  • DTS Express
  • ES Discrete
  • ES Matrix
  • Full Mono
  • PLIIz Height
  • T-D
  • TV Logic


Here are a few of the selectable listening modes for music that you can consider:

  • All Ch Stereo
  • Direct
  • Dolby D
  • Dolby D+
  • Dolby EX/Dolby D EX
  • Dolby TrueHD
  • DSD
  • DTS
  • DTS 96/24
  • DTS Express
  • Orchestra
  • PLII Music
  • PLIIx Music/PLII Music
  • PLIIz Height
  • Pure Audio
  • Stereo
  • Studio-Mix
  • Unplugged


Here are some of the selectable listening modes for games:

  • ES Matrix
  • Full Mono
  • Neo:6
  • Game-Action
  • Game-Rock
  • Game-RPG
  • Game-Sports


There are two main selectable listening modes under this category. They are:

  • All Ch Stereo
  • Stereo

It’s important to note that you can use All Channel Stereo whether you want to listen to your favorite music, watch movies or TV shows, play games, or listen to anything else.

Best Onkyo Listening Mode for Movies

We’ve seen many listening modes for movies and other types of content above. In this section, we pay closer attention to a few of them that you can use to watch your favorite movies.


The Direct mode can serve you best when you want the audio from your input source to be output as-is.

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos could be the best if you want to enjoy a revolutionary sense of immersion and dimension in your home theater. It reproduces audio as objects or independent sounds that you can accurately position and move dynamically throughout the three-dimensional space during playback.

Dolby D

This model is the most suitable option for sources recorded in Dolby Digital. However, you can only select it if your Blu-ray Disc/DVD player is digitally connected to your unit or if bitstream is your audio player’s output setting.

Dolby D+

You should choose this listening mode if you want to play sources recorded in Dolby Digital Plus. The Blu-ray Disc/DVD player should be digitally connected to the unit or bitstream to be your player’s output setting for that to happen.

Dolby Surround

This is the best option if you want to intelligently up-mix stereo; 5.1 and 7.1 music for playback via your surround system. It’s compatible with most traditional speaker layouts and Dolby Atmos-enabled playback systems.

Dolby TrueHD

It’s most suitable for all your sources recorded in Dolby TrueHD. You can opt for it if the Blu-ray Disc/DVD player is digitally connected to the unit or if bitstream is your player’s output setting.


This model is designed to play sources recorded in DSD. You can select it if your Blu-ray Disc/DVD player’s output setting is DSD.


This mode suits you if your sources are recorded in DTS your Blu-ray Disc/DVD player is digitally connected to the unit, or bitstream is your player’s output setting.

DTS 96/24

This listening mode plays sources recorded in DTS 96/24. It can become DTS depending on the settings. You can select the listening mode if the Blu-ray Disc/DVD player is digitally connected to the unit or if bitstream is your player’s output setting.


1. How do you change the listening mode on the Onkyo receiver?

  • On the remote controller, press RCV.
  • Always press RCV first to shift it to RECEIVER mode, which is the mode to run the device.

2. What is PCM on the Onkyo receiver?

Different forms of digital audio recordings use Pulse-Code Modulation (PCM). The traditional method for converting analog audio to digital audio is PCM. PCM audio is a two-channel digital, stereo audio track recorded on DVD.

3. Should I turn on Dolby Atmos for music?

Yes, Dolby Atmos does make a difference when it comes to using it for music. You receive a wider soundstage, which makes your audio more dramatic and alive. Dolby Atmos is an advancement above previous technologies and a step forward from surround sound systems. Its ultimate goal is to place you in the middle of the action, whether watching movies or listening to music, providing you with the most immersive sound imaginable.

4. Is DTS HD better than DTS?

DTS is often found on a DVD Disc, whereas DTS HD is typically found on a Blu-ray Disc. In terms of quality, the DTS HD is undeniably superior to the former. Therefore, you can expect a higher quality. To fully decode the DTS-HD, a sonic decoder may be employed; a DTS Core track can be decoded using the libavcodec. The DTS file is somewhat smaller than DTS HD.

5. Which is Better DTS or Dolby Digital?

This is a fairly common question since there are conflicting reports about their efficiency. From our experience, both DTS and Dolby Digital can deliver a fantastic experience. So, you can test each of them and go for the one that gives you the best result.

It’s also important you note that Dolby Digital compresses 5.1 digital audio to 640 kbits/s for Blu-ray discs. At the same time, it supports up to 448 kb its/s for DVDs, which is a slightly lower bit rate.

On the other hand, DTS is much less compressed, and it supports up to 1.5Mb/s, which is much higher bit-rates. It also supports up to 768 kbits/s for DVDs.

From these figures, you can expect a fine cinema experience from Dolby Digital and DTS. So, perhaps all you need to consider when choosing your soundtrack is the one that your source material supports.

6. How To Select Listening Modes on Onkyo Receivers?

To select the listening mode you prefer on your Onkyo receiver, you should follow the steps below.

  1. On your supplied remote controller, press RCV: This will help you change the remote to RECEIVER mode, which is the mode for operating the unit. Remember, you can change it to operate another component.
  2. Press the MOVIE/TV, MUSIC, GAME, or STEREO button, depending on your preference: By doing this, you change the listening mode to the one you’ve chosen.  
  3. Listen to the sound and set your listening mode of choice.

7. How To Fix Onkyo Listening Mode Not Available?

Sometimes you may get an Onkyo listening mode not available error or notification. This may happen when your system settings go out of wack (if a child presses random buttons for example).

A typical case is if you changed the Remote Mode/Input Selector from Game/TV to CBL/Sat but your box is connected to the TV. To fix this, you need to check the settings. Check the following settings:

  1. The Remote/Input Selector
  2. Cancel the DIRECT function if enabled
  3. Check all HDMI settings


Think of these suggestions as just the beginning. Choosing the “best” way to listen is all about what you like and what you’re watching or playing. Try out different settings, pay close attention, and think about how each mode works with what you’re listening to, whether that’s an action-packed film, beautiful classical music, or an intense video game.

Look at your Onkyo receiver’s guide for more on each sound setting. Also, see if your model has special modes you can use. When you get to know your Onkyo receiver well, you can shape the sound just right for any moment. As you explore the world of audio, don’t forget that the little choices make a big difference. Picking the right way to listen is how you’ll find all the amazing sounds waiting for you.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin