Editors' note: The rating of the Onkyo HT-S9100THX has been changed since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing home theater systems.
Most of the home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems that we review provide the convenience of an all-in-one package, but come up short on features and flexibility. Leave it to Onkyo to offer up the HT-S9100THX--a highly customizable HTIB that offers countless features and the kind of sound quality that is usually reserved for component-based systems. The HT-S9100THX is a 7.1 system, including full-size speakers and a 290-watt subwoofer. The package also features a full-blown AV receiver (it's very similar to the TX-SR606), which offers up four HDMI inputs and onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Our nitpicks are minor; its upconverting video performance is mediocre, and the sheer size of the total system means it's not an option for smaller rooms. But if you've got the space and demand outstanding sound quality, the Onkyo HT-S9100THX is about as good as it gets for an HTIB.
The HT-S9100THX's receiver looks exactly like a standard component-style Onkyo AV receiver. The 25-pound unit is somewhat of a beast for a home-theater-in-a-box unit, measuring 6 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 15 inches deep. The majority of the device is covered in black plastic except for the unit's display that runs along the middle of the receiver. There's also some connectivity available right on the front of the HT-S9100THX, consisting of a composite video AV input and a headphone jack.
The included speakers are as bulky as the receiver. The front left, center, and right speakers take up a bit of real estate--each measuring 17 inches high by 6 inches wide by 8 inches deep--so we really can't recommend the system for small rooms. Ideally, you'll want this system in a larger home theater room, where you can comfortably lay out the system.
We really liked the included remote, which is the same as the one bundled in with the TX-SR606. Instead of offering all the functions directly on the remote, the HT-S9100THX'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.
Like most midrange AV receivers, the HT-S9100THX features a text-based onscreen display in order to change various settings for the system, such as assigning inputs. While some standalone receivers like the Sony STR-DG920 offer a true graphical user interface (GUI), Onkyo's menus feature blocky white text that looks a bit out of place on an HDTV. That being said, it's easy to navigate and is laid out logically.
The HT-S9100THX receiver features Audyssey's 2EQ automatic speaker calibration system that determines speaker sizes, volume levels, and sets the subwoofer to satellite crossover frequency. The system is also able to measure the distance from the speakers to the listener, confirms that all of the speaker cables are correctly hooked up, and uses equalization to balance the frequency response of all the entire system.
The HT-S9100THX owner's manual and onscreen display remind the user to place the included calibration microphone at the seated listener's ear height to ensure more accurate results. We also noted the instructions in the owner's manual specify the subwoofer's exact volume control setting to ensure more accurate setup. The Audyssey 2EQ system runs the test tones three times, and our entire automated setup was completed in less than 15 minutes.
|Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA||Yes||Onscreen display||Text|
|Analog upconversion||1080p||Source renaming||No|
|Selectable output resolution||Yes||Satellite radio||No|
For an HTIB, the HT-S9100THX is fully featured. Onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio is rare in such systems, as is upconversion for analog video signals. Unlike some competing HTIBs, you'll have no problem upgrading your home theater at a later date, as it's easy to swap out the speaker or receiver for updated components.
|HDMI inputs||4||Optical audio inputs||2|
|Component video inputs||2||Coaxial audio inputs||2|
|Max connected HD devices||6||Stereo analog audio inputs||2|
|Composite AV inputs||4||Analog multichannel inputs||7.1|
|Max connected video devices||6||Phono input||No|
The HT-S9100THX's connectivity is generous. You can hook up four HDMI-based sources, and there are two component video inputs for high-def video as well. If you've got a ton of video components, you'll be happy to note that you can hook up six HD sources (four HDMI and two component video) simultaneously, thanks to plentiful input "slots." There are also four standard composite AV inputs, three of which can also be used with S-Video; those can be assigned to the same six input slots.