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Onkyo TX-SR605 review: Onkyo TX-SR605

Onkyo TX-SR605

Matthew Moskovciak Steve Guttenberg
Matthew Moskovciak Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater
Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
11 min read
Onkyo TX-SR605

Editors' Note: As of April 2008, this product has been replaced by the Onkyo TX-SR606, which adds additional HDMI ports and 1080i upscaling.


Onkyo TX-SR605

The Good

Two HDMI 1.3 inputs; converts analog video sources to HDMI; onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding; XM- and Sirius- ready; automatic speaker calibration; switches as many as five high-definition video sources.

The Bad

Downconverts 1080i component video signals to 720p when outputting over HDMI; HDMI video quality converted from analog sources may not satisfy videophiles; Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding cannot be used with current crop of high-definition video players.

The Bottom Line

The Onkyo TX-SR605 raises the bar for AV receivers by delivering an amazing number of next-generation audio and video features at an unbeatably low price.

As they do with TVs, people like to invest in AV receivers for the long term, but for the past couple of years (at least), that's been a hard prospect. A variety of "must-have" upgrades have long been promised as being just around the corner, prompting cautious home theater fans to put off purchases until the next-generation features have become available. Well, we have good news, patient audiophiles: tomorrow is finally here. The Onkyo TX-SR605 is the first AV receiver that offers onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, the lossless digital-audio formats found on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. Moreover, the receiver has the potential to pass along the other egghead niceties associated with the HDMI version 1.3, such as xvYCC color. It also supports analog-to-digital video conversion (so you'll need just a single HDMI cable to your TV) as well as XM and Sirius satellite radio (with the appropriate add-on accessories and subscriptions). So what's not to like? Well, those long-awaited features--lossless audio decoding, xvYCC color--don't really have any real-world applications with current high-def video players. And there are certainly quirks that home theater enthusiasts should be aware of; the video-scaling performance will irk videophiles, for instance. But for the vast majority of users, there's not a better buy than the TX-SR605 in this price range. It's just $500, and it's widely available for less. Dollar for dollar, it's the best buy in the AV receiver market we've seen so far in 2007.

The Onkyo TX-SR605 fills out 6.75x17.125x14.81 inches of space, and it's available in black or silver. Across the middle of the receiver is the display; a variety of input selectors and other buttons litter the bottom half of the front panel, with two knobs--a small tuner and a larger volume knob--off to the upper right-hand corner. In other words, except for some new compatibility icons along the bottom of the left-hand corner, the TX-SR605 is a pretty standard-looking AV receiver.

The remote is fine, but power users will want to update to a more powerful universal model.

The remote is similarly typical. It will intimidate the less tech-savvy, but it gets the job done. The main navigation pad is centrally located, and the main volume button is set off by its relatively light color. The source buttons light up when you hit a command, which is a nice reminder of which component you're controlling at the moment. Of course, we'd prefer true backlighting for the entire remote, but none of the competitors offer that. With the money you saved by getting the TX-SR605, it may be wise to invest in a quality universal remote.

The onscreen display is a slight step up from the usual blocky, white text on a completely black background, but not much, and certainly nothing like the snazzy menu on Sony's STR-DA5200ES or Denon's rumored new menu system. The bulk of the display is still essentially white text on a black background, but Onkyo has some blue lines and simple graphics to spice it up a bit. The changes are definitely minor, but we felt it was a welcome upgrade.

Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker calibration makes setting speaker levels a snap.

The TX-SR605's Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker-calibration system is smart enough to detect when you've plugged in the supplied measurement microphone, and the receiver will instruct you via the onscreen display to press the Enter button on the remote to initiate the setup procedure. Over the course of the 10-minute routine, the Audyssey 2EQ requires the user to run the setup program from three different microphone positions in the room. After the Audyssey finishes its tasks, the receiver automatically adjusts the speaker size settings, the subwoofer crossover points, the channel volume level, and the time delay settings for each speaker and the subwoofer. We noted the Audyssey 2EQ system was fairly accurate. The system also generates equalization "corrections" for the speakers. We didn't like the effect the EQ produced with our Dynaudio Contour speakers, but we've heard the Audyssey work wonders with other speakers. It's definitely worth a try.

Key features at a glance

Connectivity Audio soundtrack capabilities
HDMI inputs 2 Passes Dolby Digital and DTS via HDMI Yes
Component video inputs 3 Passes LPCM via HDMI Yes
AV inputs w/S-Video 5 (4 rear, 1 front) Decodes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Yes
Optical inputs 3 (2 rear, 1 front) Video capabilities
Coaxial inputs 2 HDMI version 1.3
Selectable HD sources 5 1080p via HDMI Yes
Satellite radio XM and Sirius ready 1080p via component Yes
Network audio No Upconverts analog sources Yes
Phono input No Deinterlaces 480i via HDMI Yes
Analog multichannel inputs Yes Selectable output resolution No

The TX-SR605 is a 7.1-channel AV receiver, and Onkyo rates its output at 90 watts per channel. Like essentially every other receiver available, it offers a full selection of Dolby and DTS surround processing modes; however, the TX-SR605 is the first receiver also to support the newest high-resolution formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

What's so special about the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding? Theoretically, the benefit of having onboard decoding is that HD DVD and Blu-ray players could send these soundtracks to the receiver to be decoded, instead of the players needing onboard decoders themselves. Unfortunately, that's not currently possible. At the time of this review, there are no HD DVD or Blu-ray players that are capable of sending Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in bitstream format. Instead, some (but not all) players decode these formats internally, and then send the decoded signals to attached receivers via HDMI (via uncompressed linear PCM) or multichannel analog-audio connections.

The TX-SR605 is the first AV receiver to support onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

Since there are no players (to date) capable of feeding encoded Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks to the TX-SR605, the feature is only useful insofar as you are "future-proofing" your AV receiver. On the other hand, the TX-SR605 is offering all of these features at a price point that's far below that of its competitors, so you're essentially getting this feature for free.

Another feature that is mostly about "future-proofing" is the HDMI 1.3 compatibility. In addition to allowing the bandwidth for the uncompressed digital-audio soundtracks mentioned above, HDMI 1.3 allows the TX-SR605 to deliver xvYCC color and advanced lip sync options with compatible high-def disc players.

The TX-SR605 is capable of converting analog video signals to its HDMI output. This means that you can connect composite, S-Video, and component sources to the TX-SR605's inputs, and then just a single HDMI cable from the receiver's HDMI output to the TV. This is a nice convenience because it allows you to keep your TV tuned to one input when you change sources. Without video conversion, you need to change the inputs on the receiver and the TV each time you move from HDMI to analog sources and back again.

Along with allowing analog signals to be output over the HDMI output, the TX-SR605 converts standard-definition 480i signals to 480p, a process also known as deinterlacing. This is important because many HDTVs cannot accept a 480i signal via HDMI. On top of this, the TX-SR605 has some hidden functionality that allows you to upscale analog signals to 720p. The details to access the menu are in our Tips & Tricks section, and we'll get to its performance later, but the short answer is that it's best to leave this feature off.

While the analog-to-digital video conversion is overall a nice feature for convenience, there are a couple of quirks on the TX-SR605. For example, those planning to use the TX-SR605 with 1080i signals via a component video input will be disappointed to find out that all 1080i signals via component are downconverted to 720p when output over the HDMI output. Furthermore, 1080p signals via the component video input cannot be output via the HDMI output at all. There are certainly work-arounds for these issues--see our Tips & Tricks section--but they involve complications that HDMI-equipped receivers were supposed to avoid.

The TX-SR605 boasts plenty of inputs and outputs.

Connectivity is pretty solid on the TX-SR605, especially when you consider the price. There are two HDMI inputs, both of which are capable of accepting a 1080p signal plus high-resolution multichannel audio. For the rest of your high-def needs, there are also three component video inputs. On the standard-def side, there are five AV inputs with S-Video (four rear, one front) including one recording loop for a DVR or VCR.

For digital audio, there are the aforementioned HDMI inputs, plus five digital-audio inputs--two optical and two coaxial in the rear, and an additional optical input on the front. Also on the front panel is a 1/4-inch headphone jack. For analog audio, there are two stereo analog RCA jacks (including one recording loop for a tape player), plus a 7.1 multichannel analog input. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity is both XM and Sirius jacks, so you'll only need to connect an XM Mini Tuner for XM service, or the Sirius SCH1 Sirius Connect for Sirius service--with the appropriate subscriptions, of course. The TX-SR605 also has the ability to send line-level audio to a second zone, via analog stereo outputs.

To assign its inputs, the TX-SR605 has five selectable high-def sources, which means that there are five different source names that can be applied to high-def inputs (HDMI and component). If you have a lot of AV gear, note that five is actually the total number of AV source names, so you can't have five high-def sources plus a couple of standard-def sources.

Those with a keen eye will note that in a few cases, the TX-SR605's connectivity is actually a step down from last year's TX-SR674. There's one less optical digital-audio input, no digital-audio output, and one less AV recording loop; also, there are spring clips for the Zone 2 speaker wire instead of banana plugs. None of these are deal breakers, but buyers should be aware of the compromises that presumably were made to keep the TX-SR605 at its low price point.

Where the TX-SR605 really stands out is in comparison to other receivers in its price range. Denon (AVR-2807), Yamaha (RX-V1700), Sony (STR-DG1000) and Pioneer (VSX-81TXV) all have current models that are similarly equipped, but they cost several hundred dollars more and lack the various future-proofing HDMI 1.3 features. The only other current contender is JVC's RX-D412B, but it lacks onscreen menus and we weren't that impressed with its sound quality. Denon's upcoming AVR-2808 will be comparable, but we're still in the dark about its pricing and when it will even be available. Simply put, the TX-SR605 is an unbeatable value compared to the competition now and for the foreseeable future.

Power wasn't an issue when we throttled up the Talladega Nights DVD, so the TX-SR605 handled the displays of all-American horsepower Nascar racing scenes with gusto. When Ricky Bobby's (Will Ferrell) car flips up and falls end over end, we were treated to the violent sounds of twisting metal before the car made its final impact. Home theater hedonists will love the TX-SR605's muscle.

The DVD that comes with Wilco's new Sky Blue Sky CD demonstrated a more nuanced side of the TX-SR605's sound. The disc features rehearsals of the CD's tunes, and the sense of being in the room as the band is creating the music was a thrill. Jeff Tweedy's vocals and acoustic guitar were utterly natural, and Glenn Kotche's drums had great presence.

The CD soundtrack to Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus proved the TX-SR605 mettle on straight stereo sound. This dense film music is orchestrated with piano, harp, guitar, drums, strings, and all sorts of percussion instruments. The detail was exceptionally clear, and yet we never felt the TX-SR605 was giving us too much of a good thing.

We next tried to listen to SACDs with our Sony DVP-NS975V SACD player over the TX-SR605's HDMI input, but we couldn't get that to work. Oh well; the multichannel analog inputs did the trick and gave us the best sound we heard from the Onkyo. SACD's resolution/detail was a little bit better than CDs and DVDs.

The TX-SR605's onboard Sirius Satellite Radio tuner's sound was a big step down from that, but it was more or less on par with what we get from our Sirius SR-H550 radio (which sounds like a low-bit MP3). We've never been all that impressed with Sirius' sonics, and if anything its gotten worse over the years. The music programming is great, so we're still listening.

In terms of video performance, we weren't too impressed. The most disappointing aspect of the TX-SR605's video performance is that it either lacks or has poor 2:3 pull-down processing. This was evident with Silicon Optix's HQV test disc, as well as on Star Trek: Insurrection and Seabiscuit. Without 2:3 pull-down processing, we found film-based movies were filled with jaggies when the TX-SR605 was responsible for deinterlacing. For example, we ran our tests from the Samsung BD-P1000 to the TX-SR605 via S-Video, and then out to the Sony KDL-46S3000 using the HDMI connection. In this configuration, the opening sequence of Seabiscuit was filled with jaggies on almost every image that the camera panned on, with artifacts that would be noticeable to even those who aren't picky about video quality. Similarly, on the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection, the boats on the riverside clearly had jaggies instead of being represented by a smooth line.

We also noticed that the TX-SR605 was softening the resolution of images that it deinterlaced; this was confirmed on the HQV test disc as well. In areas where there should have been detail, there was just a solid color. On the other hand, the TX-SR605 did a very good job with several other tests on the HQV test suite, including tests with a rotating white line, three pivoting fingers, and footage of a waving flag.

While the video performance of the TX-SR605 was disappointing, in our experience subpar video processing by AV receivers is common. We've mentioned it in reviews of the Sony STR-DA5200ES, the Yamaha RX-V1700, and the Pioneer VSX-82TXS. The irony is that the more receivers take advantage of the single-cable HDMI convenience, the more important proper video processing becomes. For example, you can bypass much of the processing in the TX-SR605 by running a separate cable for component video and changing the input on the TV when using analog sources. In our tests, this often produced better image quality (it depends on the ability of your HDTV), but you need to fumble with remotes when you change sources or program some macros into a universal remote. So while we were disappointed by the video performance, the criticisms should be weighed against the fact that receivers in general struggle with video processing and that it's possible, albeit inconvenient, to bypass it altogether. For serious improvements, you'll need to go toward the top of Onkyo's line, where the receivers such as the TX-SR875 and the TX-NR905 offer superior HQV video processing, but those models cost $1,700 and $2,100, respectively. Considering that the TX-SR605 is readily available for less than $500, we're far more forgiving of its foibles and doubly appreciative of its amazingly dense feature set.


Onkyo TX-SR605

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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