Editors' note: The rating of the Onkyo TX-SR607 has been raised since publication to better reflect its value compared to competing AV receivers.
When Onkyo announced the TX-SR607, the company made a big deal that it was the first AV receiver to include onboard Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing. Dolby's new format relies on "height" speakers--two satellite speakers situated above the standard front right/left speakers--to create a more "airy" soundscape--or at least that's the idea. We tried our best to enjoy the extra atmospheric effects, but the reality is our ears had a tough time hearing anything beyond placebo effects. But honestly, who cares? The Onkyo TX-SR607 is a great midrange AV receiver without Pro Logic IIz, offering up six HDMI inputs and excellent sound quality at a street price that is already down to $500 online. If you're looking for more video-centric features like a graphical user interface or high quality analog video upconversion, it may be smart to hold off until the Sony STR-DN1000 and Pioneer VSX-1019AH are released. But if you'd rather maximize your HDMI connectivity and sound quality on a budget, it's tough to beat the TX-SR607.
The trend in home audio is to make gear smaller and sleeker, but Onkyo receivers are unapologetically big and bulky. Coming in at 17.13-inches wide by 6.94-inches high by 12.94-inches deep, the Onkyo TX-SR607 is available in black or silver finishes. You'll want to leave plenty of space in your home theater rack to fit the receiver, especially since it tends to run hot. The front panel offers the standard assortment of buttons and knobs, but it also features an HDMI port; the TX-SR607 is the first receiver we've seen with a front panel HDMI port. We're not picky about aesthetics when it comes to AV receivers, but if you are you'd probably be better off looking at options like the Sony STR-DN1000 or Pioneer VSX-1019AH.
The included remote control is the same as last year's and we generally like its simple design. Instead of offering all the functions directly on the remote, the TX-SR607'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.
While more AV receivers are starting to feature true graphical user interfaces, the TX-SR607 features a text-based onscreen interface. To be fair, there are some graphics accompanying the menus, but they're comparatively lo-fi--although they easily best the onscreen menus of the Yamaha RX-V665BL. Graphics aside, the menus are easy to get around and we didn't run into any snags during our setup. Our one nitpick is that there's no capability to change the upscaling resolution in the menu system; you need to use the button on the remote instead.
The Onkyo TX-SR607's Audyssey 2EQ automatic speaker calibration system uses a microphone to analyze the speakers' and subwoofer's sound from three listening positions in your room. The Audyssey 2EQ checks the wiring polarity for each speaker, adjusts each channel's volume level and time delay setting, determines the speaker "sizes," and subwoofer crossover settings. The Audyssey 2EQ also provides equalization corrections to the speakers.
We generally liked the TX-SR607's sound after running the Audyssey 2EQ setup, but the subwoofer volume was too loud. We turned the subwoofer's volume control down. We also checked out the Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Dynamic Volume processing features. Dynamic EQ compensates for frequency response losses that occur at quiet listening volumes. That's a great idea, but we felt Dynamic EQ muddied the sound, boosting the bass too much. We much preferred the TX-SR607's sound with Dynamic EQ turned off.
Dynamic Volume minimizes abrupt soft/loud volume changes in movies and other program materials; it does work, but again sound quality suffered. That said, you might feel Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume are helpful for late night listening sessions. There's no harm in trying them out, but you'll have to navigate through a few menu layers to turn them on or off. We wouldn't have minded if Onkyo added a little bit more remote clutter with direct access to Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume.
|Analog upconversion||1080i||Source renaming||Yes|
|Selectable output resolution||Yes||Satellite radio||Sirius|
In addition to Dolby Pro Logic IIz, the TX-SR607 has onboard decoding for both of the new high-resolution soundtrack formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Analog upconversion is provided up to 1080i, although we really weren't satisfied with the image quality--we'll get to the details in the performance section. Otherwise, the rest of these features are pretty standard.
|HDMI inputs||6||Optical audio inputs||2|
|Component video inputs||2||Coaxial audio inputs||2|
|Max connected HD devices||8||Stereo analog audio inputs||2|
|Composite AV inputs||5||Analog multichannel inputs||No|
|Max connected video devices||8||Phono input||No|
The TX-SR607's six HDMI inputs are outstanding at the price range. We've previously seen six HDMI inputs on high-end receivers like the Sony STR-DA5400ES, but this is the first time we've seen that many ports on a midrange AV receiver. We were also impressed that it's possible to connect eight simultaneous HD sources, which means there are enough input "slots" to cover all six HDMI inputs and the two component video inputs. The rest of the connectivity standard at this price range, although there are some notable omissions. There are no S-Video inputs on the TX-SR607--which is becoming common--but there also isn't a 7.1 multichannel analog input, which may disappoint some buyers with older gear. Like most receiver in this price range, the TX-SR607 also lacks a phono jack.
New this year on Onkyo receivers is the "universal port," which a is proprietary connection used to connect Onkyo-branded accessories. Current universal port-compatible accessories include the UP-HT1 HD radio tuner ($160), DS-A3 iPod dock ($140), and UP-A1 iPhone dock ($110). The accessories certainly aren't cheap, but they have some advantages over buying separate components in that they'll work with your AV receiver remote and can interact with the onscreen display. Also new on the TX-SR607 are two subwoofer outputs, for those who want to run a dual subwoofer configuration.
|Line level 2nd zone outputs||Yes||Line level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|Speaker-level 2nd zone outputs||Yes||Speaker-level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|2nd zone video output||No||2nd zone remote||No|
Multiroom functionality is basic on the TX-SR607, with second-zone functionality offered using line-level or speaker-level outputs. Note that using the second zone speaker-level outputs require you use the would-be surround back channels of a 7.1 configuration; you can't have a 7.1 setup and a second zone.
Dolby Pro Logic IIz
The TX-SR607 receiver is the first receiver we've tested to feature Dolby's new Pro Logic IIz matrix processing. The system uses front height speakers mounted above the main left and right speakers to create a large, more lifelike sound. (Although there are enough speaker jacks to accommodate nine speakers, only seven can be used at a time.) We used Aperion Intimus 4Bs as height channel speakers, the same model as our surround speakers. Ideally, the height channel speakers should be wall-mounted directly above and at least 3 feet higher than the tops of the main left/right speakers; we couldn't wall mount the height speakers so we placed them on tall speaker stands placed on our equipment cabinet.
Unfortunately, the TX-SR607's height channel speaker connectors (spring clip type) only accept stripped bare wire ends or cables terminated with pins. We didn't have pins handy, so we went with stripped wires. Because the spring clips are so tightly spaced, chances of accidental shorting with a stray wire strand are high, so be extra careful making those connections. The TX-SR607's other speaker binding posts accept banana plugs, bare wires or pins.
We started listening to a bunch of Blu-ray and DVD discs using Pro Logic IIz processing, including "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Golden Compass," but couldn't hear any difference when we switched between Pro Logic IIz processing and standard Dolby Digital (which doesn't use the height speakers at all.) Increasing the height speaker volume by 3 decibels didn't help, as we still couldn't hear the height speakers. At times it would seem like we were hearing sound from up above, but when we flipped back to standard Dolby Digital we heard the same effect from the traditional 5.1 setup.
Our listening position was about 8 feet from the front speakers, so we stood up and moved much closer to the front speakers to hear the height speakers. Getting close confirmed that there was sound coming out of the speakers, but when we moved back to the couch the height speakers' sound faded away.
After contacting Dolby, we tried some recommended scenes, such as the rainy beginning of "Ratatouille" or the orchestral swells of "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," but we still didn't feel like the height channels were adding anything. Otherwise, both films sounded excellent, with tremendous detail resolution. After our listening session, our conclusion was that the extra two speakers would be better served in a traditional 7.1 arrangement, with surround back left/right speakers. The bottom line is we didn't feel that Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing added much to the value of the TX-SR607, and we wouldn't recommend people going through the hassle of setting up their home theaters in that arrangement.
Moving our Aperion system back to a traditional surround sound setup, we found the TX-SR607's sound quality was well above average for its price class, and comparisons with our reference Denon AVR 3808CI receiver ($1,699 MSRP) were too close to call. The two receivers sounded alike, at moderate volume. Cranking the volume way up, the Denon had the edge, as the Onkyo couldn't quite keep up when driven that hard. That's no surprise, though, considering the Denon is more than twice the price of the Onkyo.
The "Vantage Point" Blu-ray came loaded with action, especially the full-on surround spectacular in a town square in Spain where a U.S. president is targeted for assassination. The gunshot blasts ricochet around the square, and the panicked crowd's screams, and the massive terrorist bomb explosions didn't phase the TX-SR607 one bit.
Rock, jazz, and classical CDs were auditioned in stereo, and the soundstage was impressively deep and wide. Even without the subwoofer's help, the Aperion Intimus 4T tower speakers produced a full, rich sound. Treble detail was delicate and natural, without the edgy glare we've heard from some receivers.
The Onkyo TX-SR607 is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Sony BDP-S360 via component video to the TX-SR607, with the BDP-S360 set to 480i output. The TX-SR607 was set to output at 1080i over its HDMI output, connected to the Sony KDL-52XBR7.
We've complained about Onkyo's upconverted image quality on previous models and the TX-SR607 suffers from the exact same issues. First we looked at test patterns from Silicon Optix's "HQV" test disc. The initial resolution pattern told the whole story, as the TX-SR607 was clearly not depicting the full resolution of DVD. On every image we saw, there appeared to be comblike artifacts on nearly everything, indicating how much resolution was actually missing. The TX-SR607 failed the other jaggies and 2:3 pull-down tests we looked at as well, but the limited resolution was almost always the more obvious deficiency.
We switched over to program material, and the TX-SR607 continued to struggle. Generally we look at titles like Star Trek: Insurrection and Seabiscuit for issues like excessive jaggies or faulty 2:3 pull-down processing, but again the loss of resolution was visible in every scene and for many it would be considered unwatchable.
Luckily, these issues only occur if you're trying to upconvert analog signals to 1080i. Instead, you can set the TX-SR607 to "through" mode, which means the TX-SR607 will convert the analog signals to HDMI, but leave it at 480i for your HDTV to do the upconversion. In nearly all cases, this will result in better image quality, as long your HDTV can accept a 480i signal over HDMI. The main takeaway is that you shouldn't go with the TX-SR607 if you're looking for an AV receiver with excellent upconversion video quality, but with almost all new gadgets (except the Nintendo Wii) featuring HDMI, we expect fewer people actually need that capability.