The SR601's brushed-aluminum faceplate looks clean enough, yet it still houses all of the necessary buttons and controls. It comes in your choice of black or silver. The receiver puts out a fair amount of heat, so don't plan on placing it in an enclosed cabinet or on closely spaced shelving--it needs breathing room. The SR601 is almost 17 inches deep and weighs 26.7 pounds.
Onkyo has been using the same large, partially backlit remote for years. We don't have a problem with that--it's easy to use.
As A/V receivers are complicated devices and can be confusing to hook up and use, Onkyo now provides a toll-free customer-service number--technical-support personnel are standing by, seven days a week to answer your questions. You also get a two-year parts-and-labor warranty.
The SR601 employs Onkyo's Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT) to deliver 85 watts per channel into 8-ohm loads, and 110 watts into 6 ohms. The High-Current Power Supply (HCPS) transformer and high-capacity filter capacitors allow the SR601 to drive low-impedance speakers without strain. You also get the full complement of 6.1-channel Dolby and DTS processing modes.
We liked the speaker setup program's versatile satellite/subwoofer crossover control. You can select between 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, 120Hz, or 150Hz crossover options to help fine-tune your subwoofer/satellite system's sound.
The receiver's Zone 2 capability can power stereo speakers in a second room and process separate stereo sources simultaneously for each zone/room, or it can send the same signal to both. A 12-volt trigger output can activate a component (such as a separate power amp) located in the second zone.
Speaking of connectivity, the SR601 can handle five A/V sources and two audio-only sources. The 5.1-channel analog input for DVD-Audio or SACD sources and one of the four digital inputs (three optical, one coaxial) are assignable as well. There's also one optical digital output. On the video side, you get five composite and S-Video inputs, two assignable HDTV-compatible component-video inputs, and one component-video output. That means you'll be able to toggle between two high-def video sources, such as a set-top box and a progressive-scan DVD player, in addition to the five standard video sources. Moreover, the front-panel A/V input with S-Video provides an easy connection route for a camcorder or a portable MP3 player. For speaker connections, heavy-duty banana-plug-compatible jacks are available for all channels.
Those looking for a comparable model at a similar street price should check out the Harman Kardon AVR 325. It has a more comprehensive feature set, but at 50 watts per channel, it's somewhat less powerful than the SR601.
We used the SR601 with a set of Klipsch reference speakers and were bowled over by the sound. Every DVD and CD we demoed was lively and very present-sounding. The sound wasn't warm or laid-back, just wonderfully detailed and alive. And thanks to the SR601's flexible bass-management skills, we achieved the perfect subwoofer/satellite blend when we opted for the 60Hz setting. Few $500 receivers can equal that level of precision.
On the second Sessions at West 54th DVD, Lyle Lovett's "Step Inside This House" sounded wonderfully warm and natural. This is a purely acoustic tune, and the SR601 let us hear the spaces between the guitars, the fiddle, the cello, the bass, and the drums--it sounded real. Lovett's vocal against the instrument balance was perfect. Lou Reed also appears on the DVD, and his harder-edged electric sound erupted from the speakers with remarkable verve.
The SR601's poise under pressure was even more evident when we checked out the surfing extravaganza DVD, Blue Crush. Reproducing pounding Honolulu waves and ocean spray takes a lot of power, but the Onkyo was never fazed. Hot damn, we could almost smell the salt water! The surround effects whipping around our large home theater added to our enjoyment of the film.