Onkyo TX-SR500 (black) review: Onkyo TX-SR500 (black)

  • 1
Compare These
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Superb-sounding budget receiver; A/B speaker switching.

The Bad Lacks onscreen setup menus; minimal connectivity options; spring-clip connectors for the B speakers.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for a budget receiver, put the SR500 on your short list.

7.0 Overall

Budget receivers that exceed mere functionality are pretty rare, and truly outstanding budget models such as Onkyo's latest, the TX-SR500, are something else again. The design engineers not only wrung out every last bit of sonic performance from this one, but it's also a joy to use, and it looks nice. Budget receivers that exceed mere functionality are pretty rare, and truly outstanding budget models such as Onkyo's latest, the TX-SR500, are something else again. The design engineers not only wrung out every last bit of sonic performance from this one, but it's also a joy to use, and it looks nice.

The essential receiver
Onkyo didn't load up a pile of engineering breakthroughs, but all home-theater essentials are present and accounted for; you get Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS 5.1-surround decoding. The receiver delivers 65 watts to each of its five channels, and the power stage uses all-discrete output devices with extruded aluminum heat sinks for high-current capability. This is one budget receiver that can handle low-impedance (less than 8 ohms) speakers without distress.

The 5.1-speaker setup doesn't use the standard naming conventions of Large and Small, so we were a bit puzzled at first. The lack of onscreen menus didn't help the situation either. However, once we read the manual, we had the TX-SR500 up and running in less than 30 minutes.

Connectivity choices are ample for basic home-theater fun. Onkyo managed to sneak in 5.1 DVD-Audio/SACD inputs, as well as front-panel-mounted A/V and digital inputs for easy connection of camcorders or game consoles. Absent are component/HDTV-video switching, preamplifier outputs, and a phono input, so vinyl fans are out of luck. Onkyo makes up for that loss by throwing in a set of color-coded speaker cable labels that match the receiver's color-coded speaker connectors. You can hook up a second set of remote B speakers, but they're relegated to spring-clip fasteners rather than the more secure binding-post-style connectors used for the rest of the speakers.

The smallish, silver-faced preprogrammed remote is far from the best we've seen, but it is fairly easy to read and use.

Sounding out the TX-SR500
We mated the TX-SR500 with our Energy Take 5.2 satellite/subwoofer system and cranked up the Fight Club DVD. This disc has it all--fearsome dynamics, very natural-sounding dialogue, and lots of low-level detail--and the TX-SR500 took the sonic assault in stride. Its easygoing acoustics also brought out the best in less than pristine-sounding DVDs such as Jaws and Vertigo.

As we were dialing in the sound, we noted one rather unusual feature in the TX-SR500's setup menu. You can select one of three sat-to-sub crossover frequencies: 80Hz, 100Hz, or 120Hz. Whereas most receivers are fixed at either 80Hz or 100Hz, the Onkyo's flexibility offers the potential to enhance the performance of sub/sat systems. Our little Take 5 sats, for example, played a bit louder and with more energy when we employed the 120Hz setting.

A brief shoot-out with the next model up in the line, the , proved the superiority of the more expensive receiver. The difference in rated power is a mere 15 watts per channel, but the TX-SR600 put more low-end oomph through our Dynaudio Contour speakers. Relative to the TX-SR600, the TX-SR500 definitely scaled back the action on The Thin Red Line DVD. If your room is large and/or you like to play your CDs and DVDs at fairly high levels, spend the extra money and buy the $500 (list price) TX-SR600. That said, the TX-SR500 carries a suggested retail price of just $320, so we consider it an absolute deal. It's perfectly suited to compact systems in small to midsized rooms.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Discuss: Onkyo TX-SR500 (black)

Conversation powered by Livefyre