Comparing the features of competing AV receivers is already a difficult chore, but many manufacturers, such as Denon and Yamaha, invite more complexity by offering two lines of nearly identical AV receivers: a custom-install-friendly line and a more-consumer-based line. For better or worse, Onkyo has followed suit with the HT-RC160, which is the consumer-friendly analogue to the TX-SR607. As much as we dislike the confusion created by the duplicated models, the HT-RC160 is a good deal. The differences between TX-SR607 and HT-RC160 are simple: no front panel HDMI input, no onboard Sirius support, and slightly less power. Otherwise, they are virtually identical and the HT-RC160 is selling for about $100 less online. The HT-RC160 isn't our favorite midrange receiver (that would be the Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K), but taking value into account, it's the next best choice.
The trend in home audio is to make gear smaller and sleeker, but Onkyo receivers are unapologetically big and bulky, coming in at 17.13 inches wide by 6.94 inches high by 12.94 inches deep. You'll want to leave plenty of space in your home theater rack to fit the receiver, especially since it tends to run hot. The front panel offers the standard assortment of buttons and knobs; the focus is definitely on function over form. We're not picky about aesthetics when it comes to AV receivers, but if you are, you'd probably be better off looking at options like the Sony STR-DN1000 or Pioneer VSX-1019AH.
Front panel input
There's a standard-def video input on the front panel, but no HDMI input, like there is on the TX-SR607.
In addition to Dolby Pro Logic IIz, the HT-RC160 has onboard decoding for both of the new high-resolution soundtrack formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Analog upconversion is provided up to 1080i, although we really weren't satisfied with the image quality--we'll get to the details in the performance section. The onscreen display for the HT-RC160 is primarily text-based, although there are some basic graphics accompanying the menus. Unlike the TX-SR607, the HT-RC160 lacks Sirius support, although you can add it with a standalone tuner (or a streaming-audio unit that utilizes the online XM Sirius stream).
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.
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 requires 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.
The included remote control is the same as last year's and we generally like its simple design. Instead of offering all the functions directly on the remote, the HT-RC160's clicker uses a simpler design that relies more on navigating onscreen menus. While some old-school home theater fans may prefer having all the buttons at their fingertips, we felt like this design was much less intimidating for the average user.