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Onkyo HT-RC260 review: Onkyo HT-RC260

Onkyo HT-RC260

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Matthew Moskovciak Steve Guttenberg
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Matthew Moskovciak

Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater

Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.

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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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3 min read

Onkyo HT-RC260
7.1

Onkyo HT-RC260

The Good

Great value compared with other midrange receivers; six HDMI inputs; graphical user interface; analog video upconversion; audio return channel supported; 3D compatible; second-zone functionality.

The Bad

Lackluster sound quality; iPod dock costs $80 extra; does not support standby pass-through.

The Bottom Line

The Onkyo HT-RC260 offers an extraordinary value for a receiver with six HDMI inputs, although its sound quality isn't what we expect from an Onkyo.

Each of the midrange receivers we've tested this year has shined in one specific area, and the Onkyo HT-RC260's overwhelming strength is value. It comes in at more than $100 less than its competitors and still manages to offer six HDMI inputs, which is enough to cover virtually every home theater. On the downside, the HT-RC260 features a traditional bulky Onkyo design, and its graphical user interface doesn't live up to the eye candy of the Yamaha RX-V667 or the Pioneer VSX-1020-K. We were also surprised that the HT-RC260's sound quality wasn't quite up to the level we generally associate with Onkyo, although that might be because of sacrifices to hit the rock-bottom price. The bottom line is that if you're on a tight budget and want to maximize your HDMI connectivity, the Onkyo HT-RC260 is an easy pick. If you've got other priorities--like sound quality or iPod connectivity--there are better options for your home theater dollar.

Design
If you've seen one Onkyo receiver, you've pretty much seen them all. The company hasn't changed the exterior look of its receivers in years, favoring a big, boxy approach that makes no attempt to be sleek or slim. It features a matte-black finish, with a strip of glossy black plastic that runs through the center, where the LCD display is. There are quite a few buttons cluttering up the front panel; if you're into a more minimalist look, check out the Marantz NR1601. The HT-RC260 also has several ports on the front panel, including HDMI, minijack, and AV inputs. Onkyo's always been about value, performance, and features, so it's not surprising that the design is somewhat of an afterthought on the HT-RC260.

Onkyo AV receiver remotes continue to be among our favorites. The HT-RC260's clicker has a simple design, with a central direction pad and a clearly marked volume rocker above it. There are buttons for switching inputs and just a few more controls, which is fine by us; a remote cluttered with options gets confusing in a hurry. Even though the included remote is one of the better ones, it's worth considering a universal remote if you have a component-based home theater.

Onkyo HT-RC260's graphical user interface
The HT-RC260's graphical user interface is a step above the very basic text-based interface included with some competing receivers.

Onkyo HT-RC260 graphical user interface
Although it's primitive, even the simple graphics help in the setup process.

The Onkyo HT-RC260 does include a graphic user interface, which is a slight step up from the text-based interface included on competitors like the Denon AVR-1911 and Marantz NR1601. We had no problem performing simple setup tasks like assigning inputs, and the basic onscreen diagrams during speaker setup were helpful. However, if spiffy graphics are important to you, competitors like the Yamaha RX-V667 and Pioneer VSX-1020-K are even better.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key AV receiver features
Channels 7.2 Analog video upconversion Yes
Graphical user interface Yes Automatic speaker calibration Yes
Warranty 2-year

The HT-RC260 is solid on its collection of key features. Though its graphical user interface is just slightly better than a text interface, it does have all the other features we like to see at this price range, including analog video upconversion and a two-year warranty.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">HDMI features
HDMI version 1.4a 3D pass-through Yes
Audio return channel Yes Standby pass-through No

HDMI functionality isn't the HT-RC260's strong suit, although it's still a step above the Pioneer VSX-1020-K. Like the Pioneer, the HT-RC260 supports 3D pass-through, but it also supports audio return channel, which the Pioneer lacks. The Onkyo doesn't support standby pass-through, which is supported by most competitors, such as the Sony STR-DN1010, Yamaha RX-V667, Denon AVR-1911, and Marantz NR1601.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Audio decoding features "="">Other: Audyssey Dynamic Volume; Audyssey Dynamic EQ
Dolby TrueHD Yes DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
Dolby ProLogic IIz Yes

As is standard, the HT-RC260 includes onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DST-HD Master Audio, plus decoding for Dolby ProLogic IIz. There's also support for Audyssey Dynamic Volume, which limits volume spikes, and Audyssey Dynamic EQ, which improves sound quality at low volume levels.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Video connectivity
HDMI inputs 6 Component video inputs 2
Composite video inputs 5 Max connected HD devices 7

Video connectivity is one of the HT-RC260's strong suits. Its quantity of six HDMI inputs is outstanding, especially considering its price is several hundred dollars less than other receivers with six HDMI inputs. Analog video is also nicely covered, and as mentioned before, analog video signals can be upconverted over the HDMI output. Using all of the input "labels," the HT-RC260 can switch among seven HD inputs.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">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.

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

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.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">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.

Onkyo HT-RC260
7.1

Onkyo HT-RC260

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6
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