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Onkyo HTX-22HDX review: Onkyo HTX-22HDX

Onkyo HTX-22HDX (black)
6.7

Onkyo HTX-22HDX

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Stylish 2.1 design; AV receiver built into subwoofer; three HDMI inputs; can be upgraded to a full 5.1 system.

The Bad

Subpar sound quality; no minijack input or iPod connectivity.

The Bottom Line

The Onkyo HTX-22HDX is a slick-looking 2.1 home theater system with good features, but its sound quality leaves a lot to be desired.

When people look into buying home theater systems, they tend to focus either on a full 5.1 system or a sound bar. That's unfortunate, because for many people a standard 2.1 (two speaker and a subwoofer) system might be the best compromise. The Onkyo HTX-22HDX is one of the few home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs) that offer this configuration, with two petite front speakers and a subwoofer that does double duty with a built-in receiver. The price is exceedingly affordable (available online for about $250 at press time) and the style is right, but the question for any small home audio system is whether it can offer good-enough sound quality. Ultimately, we felt the HTX-22HDX fell short on this account, which makes it tough to recommend--at least for discriminating listeners.

Design
The HTX-22HDX is a 2.1 home theater system, featuring two small speakers and a subwoofer with an integrated AV receiver. Onkyo may be known for its brawny HTIBs, but the HTX-22HDX is decidedly a lifestyle system, focusing more on being compact and stylish than on performance. Instead of big and boxy speakers, the two front speakers come in at only 4 inches wide by 6.31 inches high by 4.38 inches deep. The subwoofer is also small (by subwoofer standards), even though it also houses the amplifier and AV connectors.

Onkyo HTX-22HDX's front panel controls
The Onkyo HTX-22HDX's front panel controls.

The main subwoofer/receiver combo unit has a black finish, with the front look particularly glossy. There's a LCD display on the front and the top has a few buttons, including volume, input selection, and power, which are handy in case the remote goes missing. The back of the subwoofer contains all of the inputs and outputs, which can lead to some subwoofer placement issues. If you want to place the subwoofer in the corner to improve bass response, you'll need to run cables all the way from your home theater cabinet--not the most convenient arrangement.

The included remote gets the job done, but the buttons are tiny. We appreciated that the volume control was clearly set aside and got larger-than-average buttons, but the rest of the controls aren't as well-designed. Besides the small buttons, there's not enough button differentiating, so it will be difficult to control anything but volume by feel.

Features

Onkyo HTX-22HDX's back panel
The Onkyo HTX-22HDX's back panel.

All of the HTX-22HDX's functionality can be inferred by checking out the back panel. There are three HDMI inputs, which should be enough for the majority of basic home theaters. The HTX-22HDX is also well supplied with audio-only connections, including three digital inputs (two optical, one coaxial) and two stereo analog inputs.

The only input we really felt was missing was a minijack input for easily connecting an iPod or other digital audio player (though a cheap adapter cable to the analog inputs will get the job done just as well). You can also buy the Onkyo DS-A3 ($130 list price) for iPod connectivity, but that's an expensive add-on for a system that is selling online for $250. You'll also notice that--except for the HDMI ports--there are no dedicated video inputs. The HTX-22HDX doesn't have analog video up-conversion, so any analog video signals you have will need to be connected directly to your HDTV.

You'll also notice the back panel has speaker jacks for surround speakers and a center channel. Although the HTX-22HDX ships as a 2.1 system, it's possible to purchase the Onkyo SKS-22X speaker add-on package to make it a full 5.1 system.

Audio setup
Since our HTX-22HDX review sample was the plain 2.1 channel version, we initially thought it wouldn't require any setup or speaker calibration adjustments.

As we listened we felt the subwoofer volume was too low, so we turned up the sub with a few taps on the remote's Ch Sel button. As we continued listening we also noted movie dialogue was a bit hard to follow. Since there's no center channel volume adjustment possible in a 2.1 channel system, Onkyo offers a Center Image adjustment in the HTX-22HDX's onscreen setup menu. The Center Image control attenuates the right and left channels' volume to effectively raise the center channel volume. It improved dialogue intelligibility to the point where it was about average for a stereo or sound-bar system.

The setup menu also has a couple of potentially useful features like a user-adjustable Max Volume setting, and Power On Volume, with which you can predetermine the HTX-22HDX's initial sound volume.

Performance
We started our HTX-22HDX auditions with Ben Affleck's heist movie, "The Town." Set in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, the film's on-location scenes supplied a very realistic soundtrack for our listening tests. The gunfire exchanges between the robbers and the police in a garage at Fenway Park had good impact, and the screams of the wounded robbers echoing in the garage were chilling. But the HTX-22HDX's subwoofer didn't have enough power to produce the heavyweight sound of an armored truck crash and the massive thud when it flipped over. Turning up the sub's volume and the EX Bass enhancement function didn't help matters; the HTX-22HDX's low-end power was consistently lightweight during all of our music and movie listening tests. The Zvox 430 HSD sound bar doesn't come with a separate subwoofer, but that speaker produced more and better bass, and played louder than the HTX-22HDX.

With the HTX-22HDX's two speakers set up approximately 6 feet apart, Diana Krall's "Live in Rio" concert DVD projected a large, open soundstage that we judged as superior to what we've heard from most sound-bar speaker systems, including the 430 HSD. Krall's piano, the acoustic bass, and the orchestral strings sounded fine, but her voice and the drums' cymbals had a harsh, tinny edge, and the applause had an oddly hollow sound. Lowering the volume to a more moderate level tamed some of the harshness.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Mojo" Blu-ray high-resolution DTS Master Audio soundtrack felt lackluster. The HTX-22HDX can play fairly loud, but rock music sounds strained when pushed. Dynamics were limited, though bass definition was reasonably good.

The HTX-22HDX is probably best suited to very small rooms (less than 200 square feet), and for buyers who just want a small step up from built-in TV speakers.

Wrap-up
We almost always love the sound quality of Onkyo's home theater systems, so we were surprised that the HTX-22HDX was underwhelming sonically. Although the design, feature set, and price are nice, it's really only suited for buyers who don't demand a big home theater sound.

Onkyo HTX-22HDX (black)
6.7

Onkyo HTX-22HDX

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 5