There is one key reason why Onkyo has come to dominate the middle market for home cinema receivers – its designers have worked harder than most at packing in cutting-edge features at irresistible prices. So what has the brand added to its TX-SR607 over last year's best-selling TX-SR606?
A reasonable amount, you might well conclude after scanning the specs. The TX-SR607 provides an extra HDMI input, an additional subwoofer pre-out, Audyssey's Dynamic Volume technology and the new Dolby Pro Logic IIz post-processing mode.
Accessorise you AVR
Ease of use is good. The receiver comes with a clearly-illustrated quick setup guide and a set of colour coded self-adhesive speaker cable identiﬁers. Okay, so probably neither amounts to a deal breaker, but they help those who are upgrading their kit after a long absence.
The brand has also announced new accessory add-ons, the UP-A1 iPod/iPhone dock (£80), and a DAB+ module, the UP-DT1 (price TBA). These plug in via the Onkyo's new U-port connector on the rear panel.
Be aware that the higher-quality DAB+ standard is being mooted for adoption in the UK, so the UP-DT1 (also compatible with ordinary DAB) offers futureprooﬁng. Also, the TX-SR607 includes a perfectly serviceable preset FM/MW radio as part of the package, so you might not want the extra tuner after all.
The ampliﬁer section is a full-on seven-channel design, which includes a multiroom facility. The amps claim to deliver a 145W per-channel at six Ohm.
As stated, the TX-SR607 is the launch vehicle for Pro Logic IIz, which adds two front height channels above the L/C/R. Non-directional (mono) elements of a mix are fed to these height speakers, to enhance presence, depth and airiness, adding a vertical dimension to the soundstage.
The value of this codec is debatable. From where I sit, it adds precisely nothing to the Onkyo's appeal. I found it works with some material featuring a strong mono element, falling rain for example, but without properly encoded source material the effect is inconsistent, and ultimately fails to do what its says on the tin, namely provide a meaningful height dimension to the listening experiences.
Dolby is actively promoting the technology to video games developers, but concedes it's unlikely to ﬁnd support amongst ﬁlm studios. Elsewhere, the TX-SR607 includes various acoustic modes re-purposed to ostensibly enhance the gaming experience.
Audyssey's microphone-driven 2EQ room/speaker setup system takes some of the pain out of installation.
Get a room
The SR607's multi-room support (more an American enticement I think) is modest. In a second room, the Onkyo will drive a single set of stereo speakers, but this reduces the number of enclosures operating in the main room to ﬁve plus a subwoofer or two. There is no video feed in the second room, but different sources can be selected for each of the two zones.
The six HDMI inputs (ﬁve on the back and one on the front) are all version 1.3a with 36bit DeepColour, support. Analogue video can be upscaled to 1080i, but not 1080p, via Faroudja DCDi Edge technology
The conventional analogue inputs are less exciting. There are more than enough of them to cope with most big, well-endowed systems, but a couple of omissions point to where Onkyo has saved a few quid. The lack of multichannel analogue audio inputs is a fatal blow to anyone wanting to spin Super Audio CDs or DVD-Audios. S-video has kicked the bucket, too.
Onkyo's propaganda also talks of improved build quality and a new visual design, though this model crams a lot of buttons onto its front panel, in an arrangement that can only be described as artless, and is far from easy to get to grips with without the remote control. And, unless I'm missing something, it looks alarmingly like the Onkyo SR606. And the SR605. A few millimetres have been shaved off the depth, however, and it's lost half a kilo in weight. Not necessarily a good sign.
Clean and transparent
Despite everything I've said about the versatility of this receiver, it strikes me that there are too many toys for comfort. Maybe you want a range of modes to enhance your gaming experience, but I regard many as gimmicks. What the Onkyo does well, however, is its basic functionality. Although it weighs marginally less than its predecessor, it still feels like a solid unit, and it behaves as one using its standard settings.
The Audyssey system employed here has proven its effectiveness in a number of models from different manufacturers. Although some more costly ampliﬁers take the setup much further, the Onkyo still manages to sound clean and reasonably transparent when setup using the supplied microphone, especially with a matching set of speakers. No speaker equalisation system, Audyssey or any other, can make an ill-matched set of speakers sound like a consistent whole.
After living with the Onk for while, I found the best way to use it was as a straightforward 5.1-channel ampliﬁer, without rear effects or front height speakers. I was never able to achieve a properly homogenous sound with seven cabinets (mainstream KEFs in this case, which have performed well in other circumstances).
Of course, as a 5.1-channel system, with no add-ons, it is possible to drive the main front speakers using two ampliﬁer channels (bi-amped), which, for a speaker of any size, provides a real boost to sound quality.
I heard this time and time again, with a varied range of source material, including big high-octane features like Quantum of Solace, and much quieter, more subtle fare like Charlotte Grey. In both cases, adding the extra main front ampliﬁcation generated a bolder, more muscular and ultimately more believable sound.
Interestingly enough, the actual muscle proved difﬁcult to measure by the HCC Tech Labs. Protection circuitry throttles ampliﬁcation when driven over hard. Will this prove problematic in the real world? Onkyo says no, we say... dunno.
The upscaled video channel worked well enough, though, without being obviously special. HDMI adds a crispness that was not apparent using component video (from Sky+), but it was still no match for a good Blu-ray deck.
A good bet
For around £500, the Onkyo TX-SR607 is an over-achieving AVR that should keep the brand ahead of its competition. It's capable of bold, solid, and immersive sound quality. My advice is use it in 5.1- or 5.2-channel conﬁguration with bi-ampliﬁed front main speakers – in this form it delivers in spades
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