Editors' Note: As of April 2008, this product has been replaced by the Onkyo TX-SR606, which adds additional HDMI ports and 1080i upscaling.
As they do with TVs, people like to invest in AV receivers for the long term, but for the past couple of years (at least), that's been a hard prospect. A variety of "must-have" upgrades have long been promised as being just around the corner, prompting cautious home theater fans to put off purchases until the next-generation features have become available. Well, we have good news, patient audiophiles: tomorrow is finally here. The Onkyo TX-SR605 is the first AV receiver that offers onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, the lossless digital-audio formats found on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. Moreover, the receiver has the potential to pass along the other egghead niceties associated with the HDMI version 1.3, such as xvYCC color. It also supports analog-to-digital video conversion (so you'll need just a single HDMI cable to your TV) as well as XM and Sirius satellite radio (with the appropriate add-on accessories and subscriptions). So what's not to like? Well, those long-awaited features--lossless audio decoding, xvYCC color--don't really have any real-world applications with current high-def video players. And there are certainly quirks that home theater enthusiasts should be aware of; the video-scaling performance will irk videophiles, for instance. But for the vast majority of users, there's not a better buy than the TX-SR605 in this price range. It's just $500, and it's widely available for less. Dollar for dollar, it's the best buy in the AV receiver market we've seen so far in 2007.
The Onkyo TX-SR605 fills out 6.75x17.125x14.81 inches of space, and it's available in black or silver. Across the middle of the receiver is the display; a variety of input selectors and other buttons litter the bottom half of the front panel, with two knobs--a small tuner and a larger volume knob--off to the upper right-hand corner. In other words, except for some new compatibility icons along the bottom of the left-hand corner, the TX-SR605 is a pretty standard-looking AV receiver.
The remote is similarly typical. It will intimidate the less tech-savvy, but it gets the job done. The main navigation pad is centrally located, and the main volume button is set off by its relatively light color. The source buttons light up when you hit a command, which is a nice reminder of which component you're controlling at the moment. Of course, we'd prefer true backlighting for the entire remote, but none of the competitors offer that. With the money you saved by getting the TX-SR605, it may be wise to invest in a quality universal remote.
The onscreen display is a slight step up from the usual blocky, white text on a completely black background, but not much, and certainly nothing like the snazzy menu on Sony's STR-DA5200ES or Denon's rumored new menu system. The bulk of the display is still essentially white text on a black background, but Onkyo has some blue lines and simple graphics to spice it up a bit. The changes are definitely minor, but we felt it was a welcome upgrade.
The TX-SR605's Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker-calibration system is smart enough to detect when you've plugged in the supplied measurement microphone, and the receiver will instruct you via the onscreen display to press the Enter button on the remote to initiate the setup procedure. Over the course of the 10-minute routine, the Audyssey 2EQ requires the user to run the setup program from three different microphone positions in the room. After the Audyssey finishes its tasks, the receiver automatically adjusts the speaker size settings, the subwoofer crossover points, the channel volume level, and the time delay settings for each speaker and the subwoofer. We noted the Audyssey 2EQ system was fairly accurate. The system also generates equalization "corrections" for the speakers. We didn't like the effect the EQ produced with our Dynaudio Contour speakers, but we've heard the Audyssey work wonders with other speakers. It's definitely worth a try.
Key features at a glance
|Connectivity||Audio soundtrack capabilities|
|HDMI inputs||2||Passes Dolby Digital and DTS via HDMI||Yes|
|Component video inputs||3||Passes LPCM via HDMI||Yes|
|AV inputs w/S-Video||5 (4 rear, 1 front)||Decodes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master||Yes|
|Optical inputs||3 (2 rear, 1 front)||Video capabilities|
|Coaxial inputs||2||HDMI version||1.3|
|Selectable HD sources||5||1080p via HDMI||Yes|
|Satellite radio||XM and Sirius ready||1080p via component||Yes|
|Network audio||No||Upconverts analog sources||Yes|
|Phono input||No||Deinterlaces 480i via HDMI||Yes|
|Analog multichannel inputs||Yes||Selectable output resolution||No|
The TX-SR605 is a 7.1-channel AV receiver, and Onkyo rates its output at 90 watts per channel. Like essentially every other receiver available, it offers a full selection of Dolby and DTS surround processing modes; however, the TX-SR605 is the first receiver also to support the newest high-resolution formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
What's so special about the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding? Theoretically, the benefit of having onboard decoding is that HD DVD and Blu-ray players could send these soundtracks to the receiver to be decoded, instead of the players needing onboard decoders themselves. Unfortunately, that's not currently possible. At the time of this review, there are no HD DVD or Blu-ray players that are capable of sending Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in bitstream format. Instead, some (but not all) players decode these formats internally, and then send the decoded signals to attached receivers via HDMI (via uncompressed linear PCM) or multichannel analog-audio connections.
Since there are no players (to date) capable of feeding encoded Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks to the TX-SR605, the feature is only useful insofar as you are "future-proofing" your AV receiver. On the other hand, the TX-SR605 is offering all of these features at a price point that's far below that of its competitors, so you're essentially getting this feature for free.
Another feature that is mostly about "future-proofing" is the HDMI 1.3 compatibility. In addition to allowing the bandwidth for the uncompressed digital-audio soundtracks mentioned above, HDMI 1.3 allows the TX-SR605 to deliver xvYCC color and advanced lip sync options with compatible high-def disc players.