The new Onkyo TX-SR505E AV receiver is a remarkably flexible home cinema model for the money. Its looks are eye-catching for all the wrong reasons, but the cheap and rather plasticky styling is the only sacrifice to keep pricing low.
Underneath the flimsy exterior, the TX-SR505E squeezes in the kind of facilities and performance usually associated with more upmarket AV receivers, and claims a potent 130W to each of its seven channels.
There's even provision for a second set of stereo speakers to be added for second zone listening - as long as you're happy to stick with a 5.1 surround setup in your main listening area.
Auto installation, HDMI pass-through and video switching are all included and the impressive feature and specification sheet easily outclasses similarly priced rivals. There's no built-in DAB tuner, though, and an RDS FM/AM tuner is all that's incorporated for radio fans.
Audyssey 2EQ makes integrating the Onkyo receiver with your room and speakers child's play. It automatically adjusts settings for the optimum listening condition by taking acoustical measurements in three seating positions via the supplied microphone.
It's a quick and simple procedure that accurately tunes the system to your speakers and environment. Manual adjustments can easily be made via the setup menu.
With its HDMI connectivity (two in, one out), the Onkyo is able to act as a home cinema hub for high definition video sources as well as standard definition sources, synchronising video and audio switching.
Picture signals routed through the HDMI or component video sockets show no sign of degradation, and images are as good as the original. S-video and composite video signals exhibit their inherent weaknesses, and sadly there's no video upconversion.
The TX-SR505E can accommodate just about any speaker package that it's partnered with, driving full range floorstanding and sub/sat speaker packages with equal aplomb.
Movie soundtracks are expertly balanced with power and detail, and the Onkyo copes well with the energetic dance tunes inside the Japanese night club and the contrasting ambient sounds of the Moroccan desert while watching Babel on DVD. Surround effects are expertly placed around the room and ensure that you don't miss subtle details, while bass levels are well controlled.
Breath of fresh air
The Onkyo doubles well as a music amp too, and two-channel music sounds clean and punchy without becoming over strident with Air's Pocket Symphony. It's fully compatible with the optional RI (Remote Interactive) DS-A2 iPod dock too, costing £70, offering superb sound quality and onscreen control using the amp's handset.
The TX-SR505E offers stunning flexibility and performance, and the button festooned front panel and flimsy build quality shouldn't weigh too heavily against it when you consider the bargain price.