To date, Onkyo has been the go-to manufacturer for component-based home-theater-in-a-box systems. For 2009, the company has introduced just two new products to the category: the $500 HT-S5200 and the $350 HT-S3200 (reviewed here). The entry-level HT-S3200 may lack some of the niceties we're used to in pricier home theater systems, but for the price, it's tough to find such a comparable, solidly performing system.
The HT-S3200 is a 5.1 surround-sound system with a completely black design. The speakers themselves have a polished plastic finish and carry some weight with them. The cloth grilles covering each are not removable.
The front left, right, and center speakers are the largest of the bunch, with the left and right standing almost 11 inches tall. The center channel is basically the same size, just lying on its side. The surround left and right speakers are a bit smaller, standing just 7 inches. Each speaker has a 3.25-inch driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter.
The box subwoofer comes in at 16.13 inches tall by 9.63 inches wide by 14.63 inches deep and features an 8-inch woofer. It's a passive design, so it doesn't require its own power connection.
The receiver is covered in a matte black that is sure to blend in with most entertainment centers. It's a bit large, measuring 5.88 inches by 17.13 inches by 14.5 inches and weighing almost 20 pounds. The front display is littered with shortcuts to each input source and some basic audio adjustments.
The included remote control is laid out very logically though we did get a bit frustrated having to continually hit "receiver" before sending the system commands. We wished the remote "remembered" which device it was controlling. As always, we'd recommend picking up a good universal remote instead.
The first thing we noticed about the HT-S3200's setup was that it's not automatic. While that's unusual, the HT-S3200's out-of-the-box sound was so good, the usual speaker volume-leveling requirements were not even necessary.
We adjusted the sonics manually and noted that the HT-S3200 lacks an onscreen display. Instead, the menus are available over the HT-R370 receiver's display, one line at a time. We felt no need to adjust the speaker or subwoofer volume levels, though we did input the speaker and subwoofer distances to the main listening position. This function sets minor delays that help improve surround imaging. It makes a small, but noticeable difference for listeners seated in the "sweet spot." Other listeners seated a few feet away from that main listening position probably will not hear a difference whether the delays are set or not.
If the HT-R370 receiver is used with speakers other than the ones included with the HT-S3200, we'd recommend performing the full manual setup. The entire process shouldn't take more than five minutes to perform.
The Onkyo HT-S3200 home theater system doesn't include a disc player, but that's almost the point: it's ideal for anyone who's already got a few video sources--say, a game console or standalone DVD or Blu-ray player. It has enough inputs to satisfy various devices and the system is mostly customizable so that you can assign inputs to work with your personal setup.