Onkyo TX-SR608 7.2-Channel A/V Home Theater Receiver (Black)Manufacturer: Onkyo
List Price: $599.00
Street Price: $599.00
Onkyo TX-SR608 Review
Ever since we talked about Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX in Episode 425, we’ve had a strong desire to experience them for ourselves. And what better excuse is there to buy a new receiver than 9.1 surround? That brought us to the Onkyo TX-SR608 home theater receiver. It’s a 7.1 receiver that will do just about everything you want, and a little more.
Onkyo bills the unit as a “7.2-Channel 3-D Ready Home Theater Receiver.” For specific features, it sports:
If you’ve already upgraded to a receiver and TV with HDMI, you know how easy it is to setup a home theater these days. If you haven’t, you’ll be amazed at the simplicity. Simply connect one HDMI cable from your television source (cable/satellite box) to the receiver, another from your Blu-ray player to the receiver, and one from the receiver to the TV. And you’re done. Of course if you have more sources, you’ll need a cable for each of those, and you need to connect speakers and a subwoofer. But all in all, you’re looking at about 5 to 10 minutes of wiring.
To setup this particular model, you can use the included microphone and allow it to run the Audyssey auto-calibration. It takes a while, so be patient. For most people, it’ll get things dialed in pretty well. For more advanced users you may want to tweak it after, or just skip it altogether. One really convenient feature is that all on-screen displays, including menus, are available on the HDMI output. That isn’t always true of the budget units, but it make setup much, much easier.
As a home theater receiver, this unit performs very, very well. We compared it with Braden’s older Denon 3806, which cost quite a bit more back in its day, and the Onkyo outperformed it in just about every aspect. You’d be surprised how much the newer electronics add to the experience. Dialog is crisp and very clear, effects are pronounced, not muddled like you sometimes hear, and the Onkyo really uses the subwoofer – so much we actually ended up turning the sub itself down. Is there such thing as too much sub?
But we didn’t really buy it to be just another run of the mill 5.1/7.1 receiver. We bought it for the 9.1 channel options. Because the unit has built-in amplification for 7 channels, with the SR608 you have your choice of how you want to use the 2 extra speakers. If you want to go beyond 7.1, and use a 9.1 setup, you’ll need an external amplifier. If the receiver you’re replacing with the Onkyo happens to have discrete 5.1 inputs, you could use it pretty easily to run your extra 2 channels, saving the cost of buying a new stereo amplifier.
We found all three modes, Pro Logic IIz, DSX wide and DSX height, to be extremely subtle. The wide speakers were tough to place in our room, so we listened to it, but didn’t find enough benefit from it to justify putting the extra speakers in. Watching HDTV there were very few scenes that actually seemed to take advantage of the two speakers. Blu-ray movies, which tend to have a better discrete mix, fared slightly better. Occasionally we’d hear something as if it was further off in the distance, but for the most part, the wide channels didn’t do much for us.
From the wide speakers, we tried to compare the two height modes, Pro Logic IIz vs. DSX. Again, both were very subtle. We found that with some content the Dolby processing was better, while with other content content the DSX seemed to do a better job. It’s very subjective, but it felt like Dolby did better with falling objects and like rain or falling rocks while the DSX did a better job with stuff flying overhead like airplanes and arrows. Again, this is really subjective and both effects were quite subtle. We struggled to hear anything when using basic HDTV content as the source.
In addition to the 9.1 surround options, the SR608 also includes Audyssey’s volume levelling technology. You can combine Dynamic EQ, which is intended to level out the EQ at lower volume levels so you don’t lose subtle effects, and Dynamic Volume, the one that actually keeps volume levels consistent from scene to scene in a movie. Dynamic Volume automatically includes dynamic EQ, so you don’t have to dial them both in. You can run Dynamic Volume in 3 different modes: Light, Medium and Heavy. Light worked well to keep things level and not change the mix too much. In some cases Medium was perfect, in others it emphasized surround effects too much and we lost the dialog in the noise. The Heavy setting seemed too aggressive for us and we didn’t enjoy it.
Odds and ends
The remote included with the SR608 is fine. Use a universal remote and put it in a drawer. Having the on screen display over HDMI is awesome. It doesn’t have a network interface, so you can’t stream music with it directly, you need an external source, like a Squeezebox, for that. It can control an iPod and do Sirius and HD Radio, but only if you buy extra parts or adapters for them. It doesn’t have bluetooth support, nor can you buy an extra bluetooth module to add it.
Overall, the Onkyo will meet or exceed most expectations. It has enough power to fill just about any average sized home theater, and has the features you need for serious home theater entertainment. If you want to go to 9.1 surround, just to say you have it, the SR608 can make it happen. It lacks some of the newer network/digital audio features were starting to see on receivers, but as a dedicated home theater receiver, it’s a great choice for the money.
Posted by The HT Guys, August 5, 2010 7:00 PM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.