"True" home theater fans may look down on home-theater-in-a-box systems, but sometimes that elitist attitude is unwarranted. The Onkyo HT-S7200 may technically be an HTIB, but that's just because it comes in a giant box; the system is composed of two separate components, the SKS-HT870 7.1 speaker package and HT-RC160 AV receiver; both devices are also sold separately. The result is a powerful-sounding home theater system that can deliver on both movies and music--most HTIBs don't cut it with music. The receiver is packed with five HDMI inputs, plus an iPod dock for easy access to your digital music. The HT-S7200's weakness is aesthetics and bulky size. The included speakers are boxy, relatively big (at least compared with other HTIBs) and the black wood finish won't suit everyone's taste. If you're looking for an unobtrusive home theater system, this isn't it. On the other hand, if your priorities are performance, features, and value, you can't go wrong with the HT-S7200. Our only note is that you might save money by purchasing the HT-S7200 like a true component-based system; we've seen the SKS-HT870 and HT-RC160 offered for less online than the all-in-one HT-S7200 system.
The Onkyo HT-S7200 includes a 7.1 speaker package, which Onkyo sells separately as the SKS-HT870. The SKS-HT870 features a pair of slender tower speakers, a dedicated center channel speaker, four surround channel speakers, and a powered subwoofer.
All eight pieces are encased in medium-density fiberboard cabinets that are nicely finished in wood-grain black, and the speakers have irremovable black cloth grilles. The towers and center speaker's come with gloss black panels fitted to their tops and sides (respectively). The towers' circular metal bases are packed separately; you attach them with four screws each, and while you're assembling the speakers take a peek inside the rear-mounted, bass-enhancing port. You'll see Onkyo's engineers used the speakers' full internal volume to maximize the bass-producing potential of the speakers (few HTIB towers do the same). The towers and center speaker are two-way designs outfitted with twin 3.25-inch woofers and a 1-inch dome tweeter. The surround speakers each have one 3.25-inch woofer, but don't have tweeters.
Speaker connectors are spring-clip types that only work with stripped bare wire ends or cables terminated with pin connectors. In either case, spring clips don't provide that secure of a grip on the wires, so they can fall out with a slight tug. We prefer banana connectors, but they're probably too expensive to be used in this budget priced system.
The matching subwoofer's glossy black front baffle makes for an upscale look; a large port on the baffle augments the bass supplied by the 10-inch down-firing woofer. A 290-watt amplifier drives the woofer and the sub's rear panel has a single RCA, line-level input, and a volume control. Measuring 10.8 inches by 19.9 inches by 16.2 inches, the sub qualifies as a full-size model and weighs 25.6 pounds. The cabinet is well built, but when we rapped our knuckles against the sides or top of the cabinet, it didn't feel as well braced as more expensive subs do.
The HT-S7200 also includes the Onkyo HT-RC160 AV receiver; it's available separately, and worth considering if you already have a worthwhile set of speakers. For more information on its design, read our full review.
Even before we tackled the HT-S7200's automatic speaker calibration, the sound was pretty good; so if you'd rather not bother attempting calibration you'll still hear decent sound. That said, it was even better post setup.
Like all of Onkyo's HTIBs of recent memory, the HT-S7200 features Audyssey's 2EQ automatic calibration system. The comprehensive system confirms the wiring polarity for each speaker is '+' to '+' and '-' to '-', adjusts each channel's volume level and time delay/distance setting, and determines the speaker "sizes" and the speaker/subwoofer crossover settings. The Audyssey 2EQ also provides equalization corrections to the speakers, which may improve the sound. The system uses a microphone to analyze the speakers and subwoofer's sound from three listening positions.
The setup process took about 14 minutes to complete. While running the test tones, we noted the seven speakers were unusually well matched, even before the 2EQ applied equalization corrections to the speakers. The sound balance of the tone/noise heard from each speaker was very consistent. That's a good thing because when a movie mixes pan sound from speaker to speaker, the transitions will be smooth.
Once the Audyssey 2EQ setup was complete, it was easy to confirm the results, which were accurate, overall. Its speaker and subwoofer measured distances were spot-on and the volume levels, including the subwoofer, were perfect. We were less happy with the subwoofer to speaker crossover settings: Audyssey 2EQ selected 50Hz for the tower and center channel speakers, which we think is too low (a low setting would result in a lack of midbass).
So we changed the crossover for the towers and center speaker to 80Hz in the manual setup after listening with the 50Hz setting. The 50Hz sound was fine, but we preferred the sound with the 80Hz setting. Audyssey 2EQ properly determined the four surround speaker channels crossover settings as 150Hz, so we left those alone.
We definitely liked the Audyssey 2EQ setup results, overall, and recommend taking the time to perform the auto setup.