Onkyo HT-RC260 review:

Onkyo HT-RC260

Audio connectivity
Optical inputs 2 Coaxial inputs 2
Stereo analog audio inputs 6 Multichannel analog inputs No
Minijack Yes Phono input No

The Onkyo's audio connectivity is also extensive, with four total digital audio inputs. We were happy to also see a minijack input, which is a decent substitute for lacking out-of-the-box iPod connectivity. Like nearly all other midrange receivers, the HT-RC260 doesn't have analog multichannel inputs--if you need them, check out the competing Yamaha RX-V667.

Additional features
iPod connectivity $80 dock Satellite radio Sirius
USB port No IR input/output No
Other: HD Radio tuner with $150 adapter

Though the HT-RC260 is strong in video and audio connectivity, it is less impressive when it comes to extra features. It's disappointing to buy $350 AV receiver in 2010 and still need to purchase an $80 dock to listen to an iPod. None of the other missing features are as significant, but it would have been nice to at least see one additional feature, whether it's a USB port or IR input/output functionality.

Multiroom features
Line level 2nd zone outputs Yes Powered 2nd zone outputs Yes

A few midrange receivers have dropped true multiroom functionality, but not the Onkyo. The HT-RC260 has second-zone functionality, using either line-level RCA audio outputs or powered, speaker-level outputs. It's a step up over the Sony STR-DN1010 and Marantz NR1601, which don't have traditional second-zone functionality. (The STR-DN1010 does support a second zone using Sony's proprietary S-Air products.)

Audio setup
The HT-RC260 features Audyssey's 2EQ automatic calibration system that confirms that all of your speakers' wiring polarity is correct, adjusts each speaker and the subwoofer's volume level and time delay/distance settings, and determines the speaker "sizes" and the speakers/subwoofer crossover settings. Audyssey 2EQ also applies equalization corrections to the speakers in an attempt to improve their sound.

The Audyssey 2EQ system uses a microphone to analyze the speakers' and subwoofer's sound from three listening positions in your room, so it's easier and less time-consuming to use than the Denon AVR-1911's Audyssey 2EQ system, which recommends taking measurements from six mic positions. Plugging the mic into the HT-RC260 automatically brings up the autosetup onscreen display. From there you initiate the Audyssey 2EQ program; it's a painless procedure and takes about 12 to 15 minutes to complete.

After the Audyssey 2EQ setup was over, we checked the results. Speaker-to-mic measured distances were accurate, but the sub measurement was off by 3 feet, which is about average for sub measurements. The subwoofer was also too loud, at least for our tastes. Audyssey correctly judged all of our speakers to be "small," and its sub-to-speaker crossover settings were in the ballpark: 50Hz for the main front speakers, 80Hz for the center channel speaker, and 100Hz for the surround speakers of our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD reference speaker system.

Audyssey's Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume processing are also provided to improve sound quality for quiet/late night listening, but we felt they thickened and muddied the HT-RC260's sound. Your results, as always, may vary.

Audio performance
We've had more confidence in Audyssey's abilities to improve the sound of the receivers we've tested this year, but the HT-RC260's sound was near the bottom of the pack. So much so that we tried listening with the 2EQ turned off, which sounded different, but not distinctly better or worse. In either case the receiver's sound was overly warm and lacking in detail.

Starting our HT-RC260 auditions with the White Stripes' "Under Blackpool Lights" concert DVD immediately demonstrated that the receiver's power reserves were up to snuff. The heavyweight tonal balance pushed Meg White's bass drum to the forefront, so much so that it sounded thick and bloated. Turning the subwoofer volume down 4dB helped smooth out the HT-RC260's sound balance, but even so we felt that the sub still stood out from the sound of the speakers. On the upside, Jack White's vocals and guitar were fine, and the receiver didn't object when we turned up the volume really loud.

We next compared the HT-RC260 with a Denon AVR-1911 receiver while watching the "Talladega Nights" Blu-ray. The two receivers sounded quite different; the Onkyo was warmer and less clear overall. Dialogue during the racing scenes was harder to follow on the Onkyo, and when the racing cars burn rubber and slam into the track's retaining walls, the Denon receiver definitely conveyed greater dynamic "impact." Even after we adjusted the HT-RC260's subwoofer volume, the bass was still soggy and muddy compared with the AVR-1911's higher-definition bass. The HT-RC260's front soundstage and surround speakers' sound didn't jell, so there was a gap between the front and surround speakers. The AVR-1911 created a more continuous, front-to-rear soundfield.

We moved on to some classical music SACDs, and the Onkyo's sound was pleasantly warm and rich, but the AVR-1911's clarity again trumped that of the HT-RC260. The Denon's soundstage depth and dimensionality were superior to the Onkyo's. We listened with and without the Audyssey's equalization turned on, and it didn't change our impressions of the HT-RC260's sound.

Listening in stereo to CDs told the same story: the HT-RC260's sound was lackluster.

What you'll pay

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