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Onkyo TX-SR576 review: Onkyo TX-SR576

The Onkyo TX-SR576 aims to provide epic movie sound at a reasonable price: it's a 7.1-channel surround-sound decoder and amplifier, with support for Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. It offers loads of features for people who want involving surround sound in their lives

Ian Morris
4 min read

Surround sound is the essential companion to a good TV. There really isn't any point in spending thousands on your screen and using the built-in speakers: you just won't get the best out of films. It's like being a double-hard marathon runner and wearing a pair of crocs to race in -- people who know about running will laugh at you, and ultimately your feet will hurt.


Onkyo TX-SR576

The Good

Movie surround sound is fantastic; music performance is very good; plenty of power; easy to use and configure.

The Bad

Massive heat generation; a bit on the chunky side.

The Bottom Line

By avoiding the pitfalls of expensive Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding while still effectively supporting these codecs via LPCM over HDMI and analogue audio inputs, you save money and still get brilliant sound in every department -- the Onkyo TX-SR576 put numerous smiles on our faces during testing

The Onkyo TX-SR576 aims to provide a good solution: it's a 7.1-channel surround-sound decoder and amplifier, with support for Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. It offers loads of features for people who want involving surround sound in their lives. It's available now for around £270, but of course you'll have to add speakers to that.

The Onkyo SR576 is a little under £100 cheaper than the SR605, which is the company's cheapest Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoder. It's really very important to remember you don't need a receiver capable of decoding the two Blu-ray lossless codecs. All you need is a player that can output analogue 7.1 or LPCM via HDMI -- the PlayStation 3 is a great example of a player that decodes digital audio and then passes it unpacked to the decoder over HDMI.

This means if you have the right playback hardware you can save money by not buying the top of the range receiver. And this makes the SR576 seem like a particularly good buy.

For our tests we used some Jamo speakers from the company's A 400 range. The left and right front and surround speakers are the A 402, the centre speaker is an A 400 CEN and the sub an A 400 SUB.

First off, we should point out that surround-sound systems are rarely very good with music. Generally speaking, they're designed for multi-channel audio and that means good old stereo music gets neglected slightly. So when we listened to some tunes, we really weren't expecting that much from the SR576, but boy were we wrong.

Music, especially in the stereo and Dolby ProLogic II Music mode sounded truly amazing. There was a clarity and richness to everything we listened to and the receiver directed sound to the rear channels and centre channel in a way that felt engaging instead of clinical, while preserving the fine detail in the music. Our FLAC lossless music sounded especially lovely, with plenty of subtleties you wouldn't notice on cheaper hardware.

As you'd hope, movie soundtracks sound genuinely great too, but without being too overwhelming. We fired up some of our favourite Blu-ray movies, including Batman Begins and Spider-Man and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We never felt that any channel lost balance and dialogue was especially crisp, without destroying the subtle effects.

We're also big fans of the simple set-up procedure. In common with some other similar AV receivers, the Onkyo has Audyssey built-in. This system couldn't be easier: you simply plug in a microphone, stick it in your usual sitting position and press the auto-setup button. The receiver pumps out some random noises, and then configures itself. This reduces the need for any sort of speaker placement expertise.

Like any amplifier, the Onkyo TX-SR576 gets as hot as hell during operation, and it kicks out a fair amount of heat even when it's in standby. We'd suggest that you place it in an open area, away from the rest of your electronics equipment. This isn't much of a problem, but if you're short for space, it's probably worth bearing it in mind.

If we had any real criticism we'd say that the auto-setup procedure didn't quite nail the level of the rear surround channels -- we thought they were a touch too loud and slightly overwhelming. Generally, people will sit closer to their rear channels than the fronts, and while this is bad speaker placement, the layout of most people's living rooms make this the only practical setup. Speaker levels can, however, be manually adjusted with relative ease.

The lack of built-in decoding for DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD might put some people off, but it really shouldn't. Your Blu-ray player should be able to decode these signals and pass them out of the player, via HDMI, as linear PCM. There's no quality penalty for sending audio this way, as long as the Blu-ray player doesn't downmix to two-channel or something silly. Before you buy though, check your Blu-ray player can send audio data in this way -- look for the DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD logos -- or that it has analogue 5.1 outputs.

All in all, it's hard to find any reasons not to recommend the SR576. It's big, bold and beautiful and crammed to the limit with power. Setting it up is child's play and using it's hassle-free too. You might prefer a decoder with TrueHD and DTS-HD support, and if that's the case, we can recommend Onkyo's higher-end models.

There isn't that much competition at this price -- the only things likely to come close are all-in-one systems designed as a single package, but those rarely handle music and movies as well as this Onkyo does. It's a long way ahead of similarly priced competition, and if you already have speakers, it's an even better deal.

Edited by Nick Hide