Onkyo HT-S7200 review:

Onkyo HT-S7200

HDMI inputs 5 Optical audio inputs 2
Component video inputs 2 Coaxial audio inputs 2
Max connected HD devices 8 Stereo analog audio inputs 2
Composite AV inputs 5 Analog multichannel inputs No
Max connected video devices 8 Phono input No

The HT-RC160's five HDMI inputs are excellent at the price range, bested only by its sister product, the TX-SR607. We were also impressed that it's possible to connect eight simultaneous HD sources, which means there are enough input "slots" to cover all five HDMI inputs and the two component video inputs. The rest of the connectivity options are standard at this price range, although there are some notable omissions. There are no S-Video inputs on the HT-RC160--which is becoming common--but there also isn't a 7.1 multichannel analog input, which may disappoint some buyers with older gear. Like most receivers in this price range, the HT-RC160 also lacks a phono jack.

The HT-RC160 has some missing connections, but it's mostly made up for by its five HDMI inputs.

It's also worth pointing out the HT-S7200 includes the Onkyo UP-A1 iPod dock--a feature not included in the more expensive Onkyo HT-S9100THX system. When you add the price of the iPod dock to the HT-S9100THX, it's significantly more expensive.

Multiroom features
Line level 2nd zone outputs Yes Line level 3rd zone outputs No
Speaker-level 2nd zone outputs Yes Speaker-level 3rd zone outputs No
Second zone video output No Second zone remote No

Multiroom functionality is standard on the HT-RC160, with second-zone functionality offered using line-level or speaker-level outputs. Note that using the second zone speaker-level outputs require you to use the would-be surround back channels of a 7.1 configuration; you can't have a 7.1 setup and a second zone.

Audio performance
We've favorably reviewed many Onkyo HTIBs over the years, but even so, we were surprised by the HT-S7200's sound. Maybe that's because it was so "right" we had to work to find things to complain about. In other words, the HT-S7200 didn't sound like a HTIB, more like a budget-priced component home theater system. That's high praise indeed.

The HT-S7200's speakers and subwoofer played well together and created a totally coherent, room-filling sound. The speakers have the sort of "open," unboxy sound we associate with pricier models. The subwoofer's deep bass extension is good, but its real talent was providing a perfect blend with all seven speakers. Maybe that's why we didn't think about the sub when watching movies or listening to music; the bass seemed to be coming from the speakers (even when it wasn't). Few HTIB subs do that as well as the HT-S7200's sub.

The DTS Master Audio soundtrack on the "Sunshine" Blu-ray Disc has overwhelmed some of the punier HTIBs we've tested, and its low frequency effects can beat up small subwoofers. With the HT-S7200, the thundering rumble of massive spacecraft flyovers from the rear of the CNET listening room over to the front three speakers were as smooth as can be. We listened with and without Audyssey EQ (equalization) and preferred the sound with it on because it improved the speakers' detail and resolution.

Pushing the HT-S7200 to play "Sunshine" really loud revealed the limits of the system's performance. Beyond certain, fairly loud volume the sound grew strained and bass definition went south. Still, the HT-S7200 will handily outgun all of the more compact HTIBs from Panasonic, Samsung, or Sony in the loud wars.

Yamaha's stellar YHT-791 is a possible contender for best HTIB sound, so we directly compared the two systems while watching the "Quantum of Solace" Blu-ray Disc. The two HTIBs performed similarly. However, we'd give the nod to the HT-S7200 since it sounded like a larger, more capable system that makes for a more effortless home theater experience. Some of that can be attributed to the Onkyo's more substantial subwoofer. Overall, the YHT-791 is right up there, but the HT-S7200 is better. Also, since both HTIBs come with component grade receivers, their sound can be upgraded with better speakers or a better subwoofer.

Then again, Onkyo's top-of-the-line HT-S9100THX is still the best sounding HTIB we've heard to date, it outclasses the HT-S7200, mostly thanks to its bigger, more powerful subwoofer and greater overall volume potential.

The HT-S7200 shined with all types of two-channel music: Rock, jazz, and classical. We listened, mostly in stereo, with just the towers and the subwoofer. The skinny towers didn't sound the least bit anemic, and the soundstage of Leonard Cohen's "Live In London" CD was big and deep. Listening to Cohen's weighty baritone voice, it was hard to believe it was coming out of a HTIB. The HT-S7200's musicality makes it a safe bet for buyers who intend to listen to as much or more music than watch movies.

Video performance
Editors' note: In our testing, we observed virtually identical performance from HT-RC160 as we did from the Onkyo TX-SR607. Therefore, this section of the review is similar.

The included Onkyo HT-RC160 AV receiver is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Oppo BDP-83 via component video to the HT-RC160, with the BDP-83 set to 480i output. The HT-RC160 was set to output at 1080i over its HDMI output and connected to the Samsung PN50B650.

We've complained about Onkyo's upconverted image quality on previous models, and the HT-RC160 suffers from the exact same issues. First we looked at test patterns from Silicon Optix's "HQV" test disc. The initial resolution pattern told the whole story, as the HT-RC160 was clearly not depicting the full resolution of DVD. On every image we saw, there appeared to be comblike artifacts on nearly everything, indicating how much resolution was actually missing. The HT-RC160 failed the other jaggies and 2:3 pull-down tests we looked at as well, but the limited resolution was almost always the more obvious deficiency.

We switched over to program material, and the HT-RC160 continued to struggle. Generally we look at titles like "Star Trek: Insurrection" and "Seabiscuit" for issues like excessive jaggies or faulty 2:3 pull-down processing, but again the loss of resolution was visible in every scene and for many it would be considered unwatchable.

To be clear, the problems we saw were only on analog video signals upconverted to the other resolutions listed above over the HDMI output. If you're only planning on using the HT-RC160 for HDMI sources, you won't run into these issues at all.

Additionally, these issues only occur if you're trying to upconvert analog signals to 1080i. You can set the HT-RC160 to "through" mode, which means the HT-RC160 will convert the analog signals to HDMI, but leave it at 480i for your HDTV to do the upconversion. In nearly all cases, this will result in better image quality, as long your HDTV can accept a 480i signal over HDMI.

The main takeaway is that you shouldn't buy the HT-RC160 if you're looking for an AV receiver with excellent upconversion video quality. However, with almost all new gadgets (except the Nintendo Wii) featuring HDMI, we expect fewer people actually need that capability.

What you'll pay

Editors' Top PicksSee All


Discuss: Onkyo HT-S7200

Conversation powered by Livefyre