Onkyo TX-SR605 review:

Onkyo TX-SR605

Along with allowing analog signals to be output over the HDMI output, the TX-SR605 converts standard-definition 480i signals to 480p, a process also known as deinterlacing. This is important because many HDTVs cannot accept a 480i signal via HDMI. On top of this, the TX-SR605 has some hidden functionality that allows you to upscale analog signals to 720p. The details to access the menu are in our Tips & Tricks section, and we'll get to its performance later, but the short answer is that it's best to leave this feature off.

While the analog-to-digital video conversion is overall a nice feature for convenience, there are a couple of quirks on the TX-SR605. For example, those planning to use the TX-SR605 with 1080i signals via a component video input will be disappointed to find out that all 1080i signals via component are downconverted to 720p when output over the HDMI output. Furthermore, 1080p signals via the component video input cannot be output via the HDMI output at all. There are certainly work-arounds for these issues--see our Tips & Tricks section--but they involve complications that HDMI-equipped receivers were supposed to avoid.

The TX-SR605 boasts plenty of inputs and outputs.

Connectivity is pretty solid on the TX-SR605, especially when you consider the price. There are two HDMI inputs, both of which are capable of accepting a 1080p signal plus high-resolution multichannel audio. For the rest of your high-def needs, there are also three component video inputs. On the standard-def side, there are five AV inputs with S-Video (four rear, one front) including one recording loop for a DVR or VCR.

For digital audio, there are the aforementioned HDMI inputs, plus five digital-audio inputs--two optical and two coaxial in the rear, and an additional optical input on the front. Also on the front panel is a 1/4-inch headphone jack. For analog audio, there are two stereo analog RCA jacks (including one recording loop for a tape player), plus a 7.1 multichannel analog input. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity is both XM and Sirius jacks, so you'll only need to connect an XM Mini Tuner for XM service, or the Sirius SCH1 Sirius Connect for Sirius service--with the appropriate subscriptions, of course. The TX-SR605 also has the ability to send line-level audio to a second zone, via analog stereo outputs.

To assign its inputs, the TX-SR605 has five selectable high-def sources, which means that there are five different source names that can be applied to high-def inputs (HDMI and component). If you have a lot of AV gear, note that five is actually the total number of AV source names, so you can't have five high-def sources plus a couple of standard-def sources.

Those with a keen eye will note that in a few cases, the TX-SR605's connectivity is actually a step down from last year's TX-SR674. There's one less optical digital-audio input, no digital-audio output, and one less AV recording loop; also, there are spring clips for the Zone 2 speaker wire instead of banana plugs. None of these are deal breakers, but buyers should be aware of the compromises that presumably were made to keep the TX-SR605 at its low price point.

Where the TX-SR605 really stands out is in comparison to other receivers in its price range. Denon (AVR-2807), Yamaha (RX-V1700), Sony (STR-DG1000) and Pioneer (VSX-81TXV) all have current models that are similarly equipped, but they cost several hundred dollars more and lack the various future-proofing HDMI 1.3 features. The only other current contender is JVC's RX-D412B, but it lacks onscreen menus and we weren't that impressed with its sound quality. Denon's upcoming AVR-2808 will be comparable, but we're still in the dark about its pricing and when it will even be available. Simply put, the TX-SR605 is an unbeatable value compared to the competition now and for the foreseeable future.

Power wasn't an issue when we throttled up the Talladega Nights DVD, so the TX-SR605 handled the displays of all-American horsepower Nascar racing scenes with gusto. When Ricky Bobby's (Will Ferrell) car flips up and falls end over end, we were treated to the violent sounds of twisting metal before the car made its final impact. Home theater hedonists will love the TX-SR605's muscle.

The DVD that comes with Wilco's new Sky Blue Sky CD demonstrated a more nuanced side of the TX-SR605's sound. The disc features rehearsals of the CD's tunes, and the sense of being in the room as the band is creating the music was a thrill. Jeff Tweedy's vocals and acoustic guitar were utterly natural, and Glenn Kotche's drums had great presence.

The CD soundtrack to Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus proved the TX-SR605 mettle on straight stereo sound. This dense film music is orchestrated with piano, harp, guitar, drums, strings, and all sorts of percussion instruments. The detail was exceptionally clear, and yet we never felt the TX-SR605 was giving us too much of a good thing.

We next tried to listen to SACDs with our Sony DVP-NS975V SACD player over the TX-SR605's HDMI input, but we couldn't get that to work. Oh well; the multichannel analog inputs did the trick and gave us the best sound we heard from the Onkyo. SACD's resolution/detail was a little bit better than CDs and DVDs.

The TX-SR605's onboard Sirius Satellite Radio tuner's sound was a big step down from that, but it was more or less on par with what we get from our Sirius SR-H550 radio (which sounds like a low-bit MP3). We've never been all that impressed with Sirius' sonics, and if anything its gotten worse over the years. The music programming is great, so we're still listening.

In terms of video performance, we weren't too impressed. The most disappointing aspect of the TX-SR605's video performance is that it either lacks or has poor 2:3 pull-down processing. This was evident with Silicon Optix's HQV test disc, as well as on Star Trek: Insurrection and Seabiscuit. Without 2:3 pull-down processing, we found film-based movies were filled with jaggies when the TX-SR605 was responsible for deinterlacing. For example, we ran our tests from the Samsung BD-P1000 to the TX-SR605 via S-Video, and then out to the Sony KDL-46S3000 using the HDMI connection. In this configuration, the opening sequence of Seabiscuit was filled with jaggies on almost every image that the camera panned on, with artifacts that would be noticeable to even those who aren't picky about video quality. Similarly, on the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection, the boats on the riverside clearly had jaggies instead of being represented by a smooth line.

We also noticed that the TX-SR605 was softening the resolution of images that it deinterlaced; this was confirmed on the HQV test disc as well. In areas where there should have been detail, there was just a solid color. On the other hand, the TX-SR605 did a very good job with several other tests on the HQV test suite, including tests with a rotating white line, three pivoting fingers, and footage of a waving flag.

While the video performance of the TX-SR605 was disappointing, in our experience subpar video processing by AV receivers is common. We've mentioned it in reviews of the Sony STR-DA5200ES, the Yamaha RX-V1700, and the Pioneer VSX-82TXS. The irony is that the more receivers take advantage of the single-cable HDMI convenience, the more important proper video processing becomes. For example, you can bypass much of the processing in the TX-SR605 by running a separate cable for component video and changing the input on the TV when using analog sources. In our tests, this often produced better image quality (it depends on the ability of your HDTV), but you need to fumble with remotes when you change sources or program some macros into a universal remote. So while we were disappointed by the video performance, the criticisms should be weighed against the fact that receivers in general struggle with video processing and that it's possible, albeit inconvenient, to bypass it altogether. For serious improvements, you'll need to go toward the top of Onkyo's line, where the receivers such as the TX-SR875 and the TX-NR905 offer superior HQV video processing, but those models cost $1,700 and $2,100, respectively. Considering that the TX-SR605 is readily available for less than $500, we're far more forgiving of its foibles and doubly appreciative of its amazingly dense feature set.

What you'll pay

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