All 144 pounds of the HT-S755DVC come packed in a rather large box. Inside, you'll find one of Onkyo's better six-channel receivers; a separate progressive-scan, five-disc DVD changer; and a seven-piece sub/sat system.
We've heard lots of wonderful little speakers, but they always sound, well, little. The S755's grown-up speaker set can fill large rooms with annoy-the-neighbors-type volume. The black-oak-finished system includes six large speakers. The two most imposing of the bunch, the 16.5-inch-tall left- and right-front speakers, are endowed with dual 5.25-inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter. The center speaker is plenty substantial, as are the three surround speakers. A 150-watt powered subwoofer with an 8-inch driver rounds out the group.
The S755's full-fledged receiver is a good deal more evolved than typical kit fare. It has two up-to-the-minute 6.1-surround formats--Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES (Matrix and Discrete)--along with the now-routine 5.1 Dolby Pro Logic II. The SR600 also boasts six 80-watt, high-current power amplifiers.
This receiver's 50MHz component-video switching can accommodate two HDTV sources. Connectivity choices far outstrip even those of the better kit competition: generous A/V inputs, a 5.1 input for DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD sources, four digital-audio inputs, A/B speaker switching, and front-panel audio/video connectors for video cameras and game systems.
The DV-CP500 DVD player's smooth-running, five-disc-changer mechanism handles DVDs, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs. This player's four-disc play-exchange capability allows it to swap discs without interrupting playback. The CP500 is a progressive-scan player--unusual for a home-theater kit--and the S-Video and composite parallel outputs are always active.
It didn't take too long to hear that the normal "good for a kit" criteria don't apply to the S755. No, we judged the sound to be on a par with that of a component-based system. This Onkyo was at home with the gentility of Gosford Park and didn't inhibit the ferocious effects populating The Matrix DVD. Denzel Washington's latest gripping drama to make it to DVD, John Q., sounded right: dialogue was balanced and natural, while the roaring police cars, the swooping helicopters, and the throbbing score were all well served by the S755. The sub conveys fairly deep yet very tuneful bass. We don't usually rave about video quality, but we swore that the S775's color palate on Gosford Park was deeper and richer than that of any kit that we've tested.
With the Onkyo back in stereo mode, we auditioned a few audiophile CDs. On The Coryells, the S755 unfurled a holographic soundstage. The recording presents three jazz guitarists--Larry Coryell and his two sons, Julian and Murali--improvising with near telepathic communication. Even classical music, which usually sounds thin and hard on most kits, was sublime when played over the S755.
The S755 wowed us, but we're not about to trade in our high-end system just yet. The Onkyo speakers are nice and balanced, but they're nowhere near as poised and effortless as our Dynaudio Contours, which are five times more expensive than the S755. Back in the real world, Onkyo's HT-S755DVC sets the kit standard for audio and video quality, first-rate construction, and abundant features. Its $999 (list) price seems like an astonishing value to us.