In the past five years or so, something amazing has happened in the audio/video industry. Just like our counterparts in the computer industry, we've seen prices drop and performance rise, and the consumer is the greatest beneficiary of these developments. More and more features are included and pricing seems more and more affordable.
We have seen this trend recently with DVD players, and now we're seeing it with full- featured audio/video surround sound receivers.
Many receivers now feature 6.1 surround sound processing, DTS-compatible playback, DVD-Audio/SACD compatibility, upgraded processing chips for better sound, improved video switching resulting in better picture quality, ProLogic II processing, and much, much more. All this, and the prices just keep coming down. To my absolute amazement, Onkyo's new TX-SR700 A/V receiver retails for just over eight bills, and offers a ton of features for the money (at least on paper). It was my job to see if, in fact, it offers just as much in the real world as it does on paper.
As I have already alluded, the TX-SR700 is loaded with all the features you'd want, like component video switching (for hooking up your high-definition satellite receiver and DVD player), 6.1 surround sound processing, multichannel analog inputs for DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD compatibility, S-Video switching for improved picture fidelity, a bevy of digital audio inputs and outputs (outputs are used for recording onto a CD-recorder), and line level outputs to upgrade the sound via outboard amplifiers. However, you're probably not going to need extra power, since the Onkyo comes standard with six 100-watt per channel amplifiers built in. This is plenty of power for a medium sized home theater setup, and should offer plenty of slam with this package.
Another neat feature that the TX-SR700 offers is the ability to play a separate source in another room of the house, once wired correctly. This flexibility allows the user to play, for example, a CD in the living room while the kids are watching Harry Potter in 6.1 channels of surround sound at full volume in the den. Many A/V receivers omit this convenient feature, but the Onkyo did not, much to my delight.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Setting up the TX-SR700 (or any A/V receiver, for that matter) is quite a task. I've been doing it since I was in the womb, so it comes easy for me. For most people, though, I expect it may take some time and serious concentration to hook up any A/V receiver correctly. As far as A/V receivers go, however, the Onkyo TXSR700 is really well labeled, and the manual explains the hookup methodology pretty well.
For my purposes, I hooked up the Onkyo A/V receiver to my high definition satellite receiver, progressive scan DVD player, CD player and DSS/TiVo combination receiver. For audio connections, I used the optional digital audio inputs on the back of the TX-SR700 for my TiVo, high definition satellite receiver and DVD player. I used the analog outputs from my Linn CD player to connect to the Onkyo, as my Linn CD player has better digital to analog conversion than virtually anything else on the planet. On the speaker front, I hooked up my reference 6.1 Definitive Technology PowerMonitor 900 speaker package with adjoining subwoofer to the TX-SR700 for full surround sound capability. Within about twenty minutes of lifting, concentrating and sweating, I had my connections in line, and was good to go.
Read more about the performance of the TX-SR700 on Page 2 . . .
Finally resting and recuperating comfortably on my sofa, I was able to revel in my success, watch a few movie clips and listen to some surround sound music.
The accompanying remote control compliments the TX-SR700 , but since I have a Crestron touchscreen universal remote (and therefore am completely spoiled), nothing else seems worthwhile. However, I did give the Onkyo remote a good run. On the whole, I found it pretty straightforward to use, and had no problems. It works well, and is able to be pointed off-axis with good results. The layout of the remote is fairly natural, without the clunky feeling that so many remotes have. Switching from one input to another is simple, and switching between the component video and S-Video sources is easy enough, as well.
Sound quality on movie material was very impressive, to say the least. Watching the DVD Lord of the Rings was quite an experience. The TX-SR700 steered the audio signals to their intended destinations, and filled the room with a wonderful palette of sound. Dialogue from my center channel speaker was amazingly crisp and resolute, sounding as it was intended, much like a real person speaking in the same room. Music and surround sound effects were equally inspired, making for a very dynamic and pleasing viewing experience. Bass extension was also very good and, since I tuned the receiver to full range for all channels (since my speakers can handle it), the result was a perfect match to my. Definitive Technology speaker package, producing a wonderful sound.
On 5.1 music material, like Sting's Brand New Day in DTS, the results were just as pleasing. I sat there thinking, "how can this thing cost only $800?" The surround music soundstage was inspired, and really gelled the music together in a way that you'd think only a receiver costing twice as much would be capable of.
I enjoyed listening to stereo music as well. On Peter Gabriel's new release Up, the recording is so clean and well-recorded that it will really show the problems in a sound system. On this system, the CD was tight and smooth, resulting in a very pleasant performance. On the harmonic track "Sky Blue," the stereo track sounded like a 5.1 mix (which is on its way, by the way), with sounds seeming to emanate from all around the room. The Onkyo's ability to present stereo music in such a meaningful way is also a real plus.
Using the multiroom feature was a cinch and it's a really nice feature. It allows you to play different music selections in different rooms of your home simultaneously. So, you could play Sting through your outdoors speakers powered by the receiver, while something else was playing in the family room. This is such a nice feature and it works well. It's straight-forward, and easy to use. All it's missing is a remote that works through walls to control the CD player from outside (although my fancy Crestron remote does this, but I digress).
In the end, the Onkyo TX-SR700 offers more than it should for this price. It offers better performance than many receivers costing hundreds more and has all the features you'll want or need. The TX-SR700 is easy to use and sounds great. What more is there?
Suggested Retail Price