Insignia NS-R2000 Stereo Receiver Review
getting harder and
harder to find a simple stereo receiver these days. I don't know why
this is, because from my point of view, it's very silly to spend the
money on even a basic home theatre receiver when all you want to do
is play the radio or listen to music from another source, such as a
(a house brand of electronics sold at Best Buy stores in the US and
probably elsewhere) has addressed the dearth of simple 2-channel
stereo receivers on the market by offering the NS-R2000 stereo
NS-R2000 is a
reasonably full featured receiver claiming 200 total watts of output
power (100 watts per channel RMS x 2 channels, presumably into an eight ohm load), an AM/FM tuner, CD player
input, tape player input/output, and an AUX input (and curiously
enough, an AUX output—intended mainly for use with a minidisc
recorder). You also get an input for a magnetic cartridge equipped
turntable, something that also seems to be a rare inclusion.
Functionality-wise you get what you'd expect most modern stereo
receivers to have—digital tuning (of analog radio broadcasts only),
station memories, balance and tone controls, and a remote control.
You can hook up four speakers at most, and of those, you may enable
only a single set or all of them at once.
that I wasn't very
impressed with the Insignia NS-HDTUNE HD Radio tuner, I wasn't sure
what I would think of this receiver. While it retails for
approximately $120 new, I saw a shelf demonstrator unit marked down
to $90 at a nearby Best Buy store. It didn't have a manual, remote or
any of the antennas that are packaged with a new unit, so I passed it
by after being told that they wouldn't sell it at less than the
As I got the idea that having a stereo in the house I lovingly (and only half jokingly) refer to as The Roach Palace, I turned to eBay and found a lot of these receivers being sold in used condition, and a few being offered for parts or repair. I finally happened across someone selling a few NS-R2000 receivers new in box for $65 and shipping. Well, that I'll spring for.
NS-R2000 receiver is
actually manufactured by Sherwood for Best Buy. It's a slightly
reworked version of Sherwood's RX-4109 receiver. Sherwood is an old
but not all that well known (compared to the really big names) manufacturer and designer of audio
equipment. Originally founded in Chicago, they were bought out in the
1980s by the Korean-based Inkel Corporation.
Sherwood is (as of this
writing in March 2010) also manufacturing stereo receivers for some
well known names in audio equipment as well...currently, just about
every Pioneer Electronics stereo including their “ELITE”
line is clearly
being made by Sherwood. Some Denon receivers show strong signs of being
made by Sherwood. So...if Sherwood is good enough for a company
like Pioneer Electronics and Denon, a product they produced under a
ought to be good enough for everyday music listeners such as us,
right? This review aims to answer that question.
hooked the NS-R2000 up
to an inexpensive set of KLH-branded 40 watt indoor outdoor
loudspeakers. I've had these speakers for years, and Best Buy sells
basically the same thing today under the Insignia Products house
brand. They're obviously not capable of filling a room with
bass-filled powerful sound but for average music-listening needs,
they will do the job well. (If you need a good indoor/outdoor
speaker, I would recommend these or the equivalents sold by Best Buy
as of this writing.)
They're also pretty tough--I've used mine indoors, outdoors, through
cold, heat and even in a room where chunks of wet wallpaper fell on
them while I was removing it. And still they keep right on playing.
The audio coming from the NS-R2000 is of decent quality. It's free of excess distortion, and when playing from any source, was more than capable of driving the KLH speakers right up to their limits (or as close as I dared to push them). At first, I did agree with other reviewers that have cited this unit for its lack of bass output¹. The little KLH speakers and their four inch woofers (a generous measurement, I assure you) can't be expected to boom the house down, but they can produce more (if rather boxy sounding) bass than this receiver was willing to give them. A loudness circuit or more range to the bass control would be nice, although using a set of speakers better able to reproduce the bass did improve things to the point where the bass control could get things thumping.
If you had some speakers with really big woofers (the largest I tried were six inchers in Sony and Boston Acoustics speakers) things ought to get even better. I only have one speaker with a big woofer--a floor standing Technics behemoth that I found sitting out on trash day. Turns out it works fine, and would make a great speaker system if only I had another just like it.
There is some soft hiss in the output that I could just hear when the PHONO input was selected. In an average room, I doubt you'd ever hear it--I had to put my ear within inches of the tweeter in the speaker enclosure to hear it. Certainly a turntable record will produce more noise than what little this input seems to be producing. The other inputs are basically silent to the best of my perception.
far as the tuner goes,
using the included FM wire antenna and AM loop, performance is really
pretty good. I set the unit up in the second story of the Roach
Palace and attached the wire to the ceiling using a pushpin. The
antenna is built to accept a fastener at the end, so this was easy to
do and did not result in damage to the wire. The end result was
decent reception of numerous stations within a 30 mile radius of my
current location. Some were clearer than others, but all were
certainly listenable and most were very clear.
an outdoor antenna,
FM performance is even better. I have this receiver hooked up to an
Antennacraft FMSS omnidirectional FM antenna and tons of stations come
I've heard it said that
nobody listens to AM radio on a hi-fidelity set. While it may be true
that nobody would choose to
do so, sometimes necessity dictates that you use what is available.
This set can hold its own on AM, although it's not the best AM radio
I've ever used. The loopstick antenna is more than adequate for the
reception of any reasonably powerful AM station in your area, and it
did well receiving some of the stronger stations such as WLS-AM and
WGN-AM in Chicago.
AM stereo is not supported on this receiver, and a proper (outdoor) antenna should improve performance even further, possibly to the point where you could do at least some AM DX listening with the NS-R2000. Later, I may make a long wire AM antenna, but I have to investigate the feasibility of doing such a thing.
Inputs and Audio Controls
from CD and tape worked perfectly well, and functioned for their
intended purposes, as did the AUX input. I didn't get a chance to try
the PHONO input due to the lack of a turntable over at the Roach
Palace, but I'd expect it to work fine as well. It is a feature I
would find useful, as I do have a turntable attached to the $0.50
Pioneer SX-253R over in my computer lab, and I may try to pick up a
secondhand turntable for this receiver in time.
controls are reasonably easy to figure out. Insignia includes a basic
instruction manual with the receiver, and it's clear enough about how
to make the basic hookups to your audio equipment. It's also
reasonably clear and well written with regard to the operating
controls of the unit. And the controls themselves are pretty well
laid out and implemented. A minor complaint about them is the way
that the station memory works. To store a station in memory, you have
to press the MEMORY button and then the number of the preset you want
to use. It's not immediately obvious that you've stored the station
in memory, as the receiver gives very little confirmation. Fortunately, the other controls do result in their function appearing on the display (it's an alphanumeric display).
A tone lockout control is provided to immediately defeat any modifications you've made to the bass or treble adjustments. When you have the tone locked (this is the so-called "tone direct" mode, indicated by the appearance of the word "DIRECT" in the display) adjustments to either bass or trouble are prohibited. Attempting to adjust either one results in the receiver display showing a flashing "TON DIR" message. This is handy for many reasons, including any desire you might have to see what the "uncolored" sound of a given source is like without adjusting the customized bass and treble settings you are using.
Perhaps a bigger complaint is the inability to directly enter station frequencies into the tuner for immediate tuning. My good old Pioneer SX-253R has this feature, and while its numeric keypad is not well laid out, being able to directly enter and tune the desired station is a nice time saver. The NS-R2000 does not support direct station entry, doesn't have buttons on its front panel (though there really is no place for them) to access presets or enter station frequencies directly, and the buttons on the remote only recall the presets assigned to each number.
Insignia--or whoever did the majority of the design work on this receiver--did have the sense to make every function available from the front panel. Practically every other equipment manafacturer out there puts only the most major functions on the actual control panel of the device. (And that's what Sherwood did with the RX-4109 that this receiver is related to.) It won't matter if you lose the remote, as you can still do everything from the front panel.
there is a curious hard power switch on the unit. (Sherwood didn't put
this on the RX-4109.) Although the soft switch effectively shuts down
the majority of the unit, I suspect the hard switch is there to help
the unit earn the Energy Star logo that is displayed on the front
panel. It is also useful if you're the kind of person who likes to
ensure that nothing is drawing power prior to leaving your home for an
extended period of time. It's not clear if leaving the hard power
switch turned off will eventually result in the station and preference
memory of the receiver being cleared.
It's hard to judge the reliability of a device that you
haven't owned for very long. As per my comments above, if Sherwood's
build quality is good enough for Pioneer Electronics or other big names in audio, it ought to be
good enough for the rest of us. I doubt there is any major difference
in the quality of units based on what brand is placed on the front
panel and who sold them.
Some reviewers of this receiver have reported
only lasted a short period of time before something went
from the inside, sometimes with sparks. The same has also been reported
of the very closely related Sherwood RX-4105 (a 4109 without the phono
input). Others have reported
unexpected shutdowns when playing at higher volumes. One review that
I read said the unit shut down within minutes every time it was
played with the volume set to level 30, and the reviewer claimed that
such a setting was not excessively loud.
Sound is a funny thing. What's not loud to some people
is practically deafening to others, and one must also consider the
efficiency of a set of speakers. Some speakers are much more
efficient than others at converting electricity into sound.
Volume setting 30 was about as far as I dared to turn the NS-R2000 set's volume up to when I first tested it². It was painfully loud to me in a moderately sized room and it was clearly more power than my little speakers wanted to deal with, as they started to distort. I didn't want to ruin the speakers, so I stopped and turned the set down.
When I tried some other speakers (see the footnotes below for an example) I found that even though I had to turn the volume dial up higher, I could still get the NS-R2000 to belting it out pretty good. It's not unlikely to think that this thing might attract the police if you let it rip in the dead of night. And it could hold its own with decently sized speakers if you were having a party.
I bought a Sherwood RX-4109 (the same thing internally as the Insignia NS-R2000 reviewed here), allegedly broken, for use in an exploration of the build quality of these receivers. You can read that here. It's mostly good news. If you don't go and read it, the main thing to know is that Sherwood was being awfully stingy with the amount of metal they used for the heatsink on the power transistors. They could and should have used more metal. Turns out it wasn't broken--and I didn't manage to break it--so now I have two receivers. And otherwise, the design is very good--astoundingly so, considering the price.
The NS-R2000 has a power
supply section that certainly ought to be up to pumping out plenty of
power to meet the amplifier section's demands. There is a very heavy
power transformer and an ample amount of filtering in the form of two
very large filter capacitors...so large, in fact, that they'd cause
my room lights to dim just ever so slightly when the set powered on
after spending some time turned off. So the power supply's almost
certainly good for whatever you could throw at it.
What's a little more of an issue is the cooling of the amplifier. There is a vast amount of open space on the NS-R2000's main circuit board, most of it covered with wire shunts and jumpers that probably go around unused features in this model. Despite this, the heatsink attached to the power transistors is nestled up against the front control panel far enough that it really cannot benefit from convective airflow through the unit. It's located mostly past the ventilation holes cut into the top cover. This is a surprising choice to make—at high output power, the otherwise nicely designed final section may well not be able to cool itself enough to prevent thermal shutdowns or maybe even outright component failures.
I never could get the NS-R2000 to get particularly hot, but he who tests with speakers that won't present much of a load to the amplifer and have a power rating well under that of the amplifier should not expect that a decently designed amplifier will get excessively hot³.
Although I didn't do so at first when I wrote this review, I have since gone back and tried multiple speakers with the receiver. I paired up a set of Boston Acoustics bookshelf speakers and some very expensive Wharfdale Modus 8 speakers, both with a listed impedance of eight ohms. As such, the receiver would be seeing a four ohm resistance in the best case with these speakers all operating. I wound it up to "pretty honking loud" (volume level 30 with every speaker playing) and left it there for a while. The power amplifier section still didn't appear to get very hot, so I cranked it up higher (volume level 44, a level at which I began to wonder if the police would be summoned). It didn't skip a beat.
I can only think that either some of these receivers are bad in the box
(and it does happen, folks) or that people are doing dumb things with
them. This receiver does differ from many others in the way that
additional speakers are switched into circuit, which you will have
already noticed if you have some familiarity with electrical circuits
and if you happened to read what I wrote above concerning my experience
with four speakers operating at once.
The problems might also have to do with parallel speaker wiring arrangements. Some receivers use parallel circuits to operate multiple pairs of speakers because it's easy and cheap (compared to having a separate power amp section for each set of speakers). It also makes the speakers appear as less of a resistive load (lower impedance) to the amplifier as you start switching more sets of them on. Most receivers wire multiple pairs of speakers in series, so that the impedance goes up as more speakers are switched into the circuit. Each method has its advantages. (If you have a stereo receiver with support for multiple speakers, you can determine which method your receiver uses by switching on the second set of speakers if the connection is unused or you're not opposed to momentarily unplugging a set of speakers for this check. Have a program source playing and turn on the unused set of speaker connections. If the sound keeps on coming out of the speakers that are hooked up, your receiver puts the speakers in parallel. If the sound stops, your receiver puts multiple sets of speakers in series.)
This receiver supports a total of four attached speakers, and when all four are switched on, the total impedance of the connected speaker load drops. If you have eight ohm speakers, and they are wired in parallel (two speakers to a channel), the overall impedance of the speakers will drop to four ohms. This is on the edge for a lot of home stereo receiver amplifiers. It's not inconceivable to think that this unit might be on the edge stability wise at four ohms resistance per channel, and that it might blow up when dumping a lot of power at low resistance levels into an inefficient speaker.
The speakers may play into this as well. Some speaker manufacturers have pretty high tolerances for variations in the electrical resistance of their speaker systems. The different drivers (woofer, midrange and tweeter) may have differing resistances as well. You might find a set of speakers with an advertised "eight ohm" resistance that only measure six ohms resistance.
It's also not unrealistic to believe that some of the people who have experienced failures used four ohm speakers wired in parallel. This would result in the resistance dropping to only two ohms and that is well beyond the ragged edge for any stereo receiver that I am familiar with. The only place I've seen speaker resistance ratings that low are with regard to car stereo subwoofers and the amplifiers that drive them, some of which claim to be stable at only one ohm.
If that is what has happened in those cases, one can hardly blame the amplifier for failing in a potentially exciting way. While the amplifier itself may well have failed, I was unable to turn up any reports of the amplifier actually damaging speakers when it failed. This is a good thing—outside of overpowering a pair of speakers, an amplifier should be well protected enough to not damage any attached speakers if something else goes wrong.
At least one person suggested putting a fan in or on the unit to keep it cool.
This idea has merit. Semiconductors live longer, happier lives at
cooler temperatures. Quiet fans that would not adversely impact stereo
listening can be had. The main power relay could run the fan only when
it's turned on.
There's also the highly pessimistic approach, which
makes the assumption that the operator is a blockhead and would do
anything short of filling their stereo receiver with sand and setting
their speakers on fire.
Would Be Nice If...
There are lots of things to like about this stereo
receiver. It's a simple, well built unit that does what it says on
the box, and appears to do a very good job of it. For the price you'd pay, it would be difficult to come up with something that is a better value for the money.
There are some things that would be nice to have, and I
find it curious as to why they were left out.
One of those things is support for RDS. Although this receiver has the needed characters in the display, and probably the needed support in the tuner and system controller, it doesn't make any use of them. RDS itself doesn't see much use in the US, but a number of stations in this area do use it, and the number is only getting bigger as time goes on. It's nice to be able to see the title of a program or song when radio announcers are almost criminally lax in telling you what's playing.
matching receivers in Sherwood's line up do
have RDS functionality when sold in European regions. RDS functions
are handled entirely through the remote, and it appears that you have
to operate them manually. (Therefore, I'd hold out hope that with the
right remote—meaning one sold originally with a European market
receiver—the RDS features could be used on this unit. If you've got such a remote, and it has the RDS buttons, I'd be interested in acquiring it to see what happens. Write me an e-mail.)
A clock would also be a nice touch, and it's hard to understand why one wasn't included when a sleep timer is. The display has all the needed characters for clock functionality as well.
or attempting to contact, Sherwood has proven hit and miss and best. I
haven't called them, but I did write a few e-mails to the addresses
posted on their site and only got a reply from Jeff Hipps. Even then,
he only replied once and I still don't have the service manual I
inquired about obtaining. Of course, with this receiver, Best Buy
should be handling the support.
Other than that, and maybe some more bass, this is a
very good receiver at a decent price.
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¹ Later (as in a day later, or 3/04/2010) my dad came along with some Sony SS-B1000 bookshelf speakers. I'd told him not to buy them right now, but he found an “open item discount” set at a lowered price and grabbed them. The bass output from these was a lot better, and definitely helped to move my perception of the receiver's bass output and adjustments from “lacking” to “entirely adequate”. This could suggest the Sony speakers have a high amount of bass output.
These speakers have an eight
impedance rating, where the indoor/outdoor speakers I'd been using
had a four ohm rating.
The NS-R2000 receiver also had
problem whatsoever driving these Sony speakers well into an unwise
level of sound output. It might not be unreasonable to suspect that
if I'd have continued playing them as loudly as did, that the police
might have been summoned.
² The Sony speakers also changed this characteristic as well. Volume setting thirty was still an “assertive” setting but it wasn't as loud as the cheap indoor/outdoor speakers had been.
³ Curiously, the heat output from the amplifier went from low to practically nil when
I hooked up the Sony speakers. Where heat had been generated (at the
power transformer, a voltage regulating transistor on the board and
near the power amp heatsink) it dropped off. Although the neighbors
seem content to annoy the living hell out of me, I didn't feel like
returning the favor by cranking the tunes while reviewing this receiver
in the dead of night.