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Onkyo TX-SR674 review: Onkyo TX-SR674

Onkyo TX-SR674

Steve Guttenberg
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.
7 min read
Thanks to the introduction of Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, 2006 has been a memorable year in the home-theater/consumer electronics market. The new high-def players all sport HDMI outputs, and the A/V receiver manufacturers are slowly introducing models equipped with HDMI switching. Many entry-level HDMI receivers we've tested route only video over the HDMI connection from the video player. In those cases, the promise of HDMI's single-wire video and audio connection between the source--be it a DVD, a Blu-ray, or an HD-DVD player, or an HD DVR--and the A/V receiver hasn't been fulfilled: a digital audio cable is still required to transmit Dolby and DTS multichannel audio from the player to the receiver. But Onkyo's TX-SR674 receiver delivers all of the HDMI features one can readily expect--at least until 2007. It can handle all manner of audio (Dolby Digital, DTS, CD and DVD-Audio, and uncompressed PCM soundtracks) and all HD video formats (including 720p, 1080i, and 1080p). Additionally, the TX-SR674 is capable of converting analog component, composite, and S-Video source signals to HDMI, which means you'll need to run only one cable from your video source to the receiver and another from the receiver to your TV. Best of all, the TX-SR674 is available in black or silver finishes for just $700--and is even cheaper at many online vendors. The Onkyo TX-SR674 nearly clones the styling of every Onkyo receiver we've tested this year; the biggest difference is the blue light encircling the volume control. The front panel is loaded with buttons and controls, but they're logically organized. The onscreen menus offer a healthy selection of setup options and are conveniently displayed over all video outputs--and at all resolutions, including the HDMI connection. For a receiver as well-endowed with features as the TX-SR674, the chassis is reasonably compact at 17.1 inches wide, 6.8 inches high, and just 14.8 inches deep. It weighs 25.1 pounds.

The smallish remote is only partially backlit, but it accomplishes a lot with minimum button clutter. It's not the best remote, but it does the job, although we still recommend picking up a universal remote.


Onkyo TX-SR674

The Good

This 7.1-channel A/V receiver offers HDMI video and multichannel audio switching for two HDMI sources and converts analog video sources to the HDMI output. The Audyssey 2EQ automatic calibration is the most advanced autosetup ever offered by Onkyo. Extras include XM Satellite Radio capability with XM HD Surround, as well as an optional iPod dock.

The Bad

No phono input.

The Bottom Line

The Onkyo TX-SR674's stellar feature set and first-rate sound quality put it the top tier of midprice HDMI A/V receivers.

The TX-SR674's Audyssey 2EQ automatic system setup feature is the most advanced system ever offered by Onkyo. Unlike Denon's implementation of the Audyssey system that requires the user to run the setup program six times from six different positions in the room, Onkyo's analyzes the room's acoustics from just three positions. The autosetup is easy--just plug in the supplied microphone, and respond to the onscreen prompts. When we ran the Audyssey system in our somewhat noisy Brooklyn home theater, the Onkyo refused to progress through the setup--it informed us via the onscreen display that the ambient noise level of our theater was too high. We closed all the windows to block the street sounds and that satisfied the Audyssey, which then went about its business. The program then took about 10 minutes to run. After the Audyssey finishes sending test tones over all the speakers, the receiver adjusts channel volume level and time-delay settings for each speaker. Other than setting the subwoofer volume too high (not uncommon in autosetup systems), the setup was accurate. The Audyssey 2EQ automatic equalization produced some small tonal balance improvement to the sound of our Dynaudio Contour speakers, but they're already very accurate speakers. Perhaps with more typical speakers, the Audyssey 2EQ might make a bigger difference. It's a decent autosetup system, but Pioneer receivers' MCACC (Multi Channel Acoustic Calibration) is more accurate overall and easier to use. The Onkyo TX-SR674 is a seven-times-95-watt receiver, with a full selection of Dolby and DTS surround modes. Including the front panel's connections you get a total of five A/V inputs, with three component and two HDMI ins. Analog-to-HDMI video conversion is provided for composite, S-Video, and component-video sources. Moreover, the incoming analog signals are automatically deinterlaced--converted from 480i to 480p--if the HDMI input on the connected TV can't handle 480i resolution, something very common in HDTVs sold before 2006. High-def video sources plugged into the component inputs, meanwhile, are passed along at their native resolution (720p or 1080i). Together, those HDMI features make it possible to run just a single HDMI cable from the TX-SR674 to your HDTV, and still view all of your video sources--and that's a huge benefit in terms of convenience.

Digital audio connections run to six inputs--four optical, two coaxial--and one optical output. Analog audio inputs include a stereo CD input as well as a stereo input/output recorder loop--all that's missing is a dedicated turntable input. The TX-SR674 does pass Dolby Digital, DTS, and linear PCM (LPCM) soundtracks via HDMI. LPCM compatibility means you can get the uncompressed HD-DVD or Blu-ray soundtracks. Likewise, the 7.1-channel analog inputs will accept decoded soundtracks from those same next-gen HD disc players, as well as from SACD and DVD-Audio players.

The TX-SR674 is XM-Ready, which means you can just hook up an XM Mini-Tuner or XM Connect-and-Play antenna and receive the satellite signal--with a subscription, of course. The receiver can also process XM's HD Surround encoded channels, although the owner's manual is a little vague about how to actually engage the HD Surround--you have to toggle through the surround Listening modes to get to Neural Surround and thus hear the HD Surround channels at their best. We found the front-to-back surround separation is excellent on XM's two HD Surround channels.

The RI (Remote Interactive) jack can be used with Onkyo's DS-A1 ($100) iPod dock.

Instead of the usual B speaker outputs, the TX-SR674 features stereo Zone 2 speaker outputs, which can be fed a different source--say, XM radio--while the main 5.1 system is playing a DVD. Other multizone provisions include analog stereo outputs, a 12-volt trigger output, and infrared input.

Onkyo 2006 A/V receivers compared:
(These models will remain current through the first two quarters of 2007.)

Model Quick take Price
Onkyo TX-SR304 Onkyo's entry-level 5.1-channel A/V receiver offers component video switching between three inputs.
Onkyo TX-SR504 The step-up to the TX-SR304 is a 7.1-channel model that adds more power, more A/V inputs, and XM satellite radio capability.
Onkyo TX-SR574 The TX-SR574 improves on the SR504 by adding the ability to convert any composite or S-Video input to component-video output.
Onkyo TX-SR604 Replacing the earlier TX-SR603X, the SR604 is Onkyo's most affordable receiver to offer Audyssey auto speaker calibration and HDMI switching between two sources.
Onkyo TX-SR674 One-upping the HDMI switching on the SR604, the Onkyo TX-SR674 adds the ability to convert analog video sources (composite, S-Video, component) to HDMI.
Onkyo TX-SR703 A 2005 holdover, the TX-SR703 is THX Select2 certified, but it offers no HDMI connectivity and lacks support for the latest XM surround formats.
Onkyo TX-SR803 Also a holdover from the 2005 line, the TX-SR803 improves upon the SR703 by adding support for two HDMI sources but lacks the TX-SR674's ability to convert analog video to HDMI output.
Onkyo TX-NR1000 Onkyo's flagship receiver, released in 2005, offers plug-in circuit boards for PC-style upgradeability.
During our evaluation of the Onkyo TX-SR674, we used a Marantz DV9600 DVD player, allowing us to hookup only the single HDMI cable for audio and video (no separate coax or optical cable) to listen to DVD-Audio, CDs, and Dolby- or DTS-encoded DVDs. We didn't have to hook up the six analog cables for DVD-Audio, and since the Onkyo was receiving multichannel PCM signals, we could utilize its own bass management on DVD-Audio listening. But since HDMI 1.1 doesn't accept SACD signals--the player and receiver would need to be equipped with HDMI 1.2 or later--we wound up using the analog cables after all.

We used the United 93 DVD to evaluate the TX-SR674's home-theater skills. The film steers clear of flashy special effects, slowly building tension as the events of the fateful day unfold. The film's near-documentary style puts you inside the jet and the various air traffic control towers--the sound is low key, yet startlingly realistic, and the rising terror of the film is palpable. When the hijackers take control of the plane, the panicked screams of the flight attendants and passengers are chilling. The film doesn't overuse the surround channels, but the drama of the doomed plane is absolutely vivid. The TX-SR674's sure-footed clarity added immensely to the experience.

Taking advantage of the TX-SR674's HDMI switching for DVD-Audio, we listened to Led Zeppelin's How The West Was Won disc. Wow--the sound, especially on the acoustic tunes, had the sort of warm, natural detail that's impossible to replicate on CD. The live concert sound of the surround mix was beautifully rendered, and the electric tunes' uninhibited dynamics packed the sort of wallop that we don't expect from $700 A/V receivers. Bass was full, rich, and powerful with excellent definition, perfectly replicating the bottom heavy pulse proved by Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Since we had both the HDMI and six analog cables hooked up between the Marantz DV9600 player and the Onkyo, we compared the sound of the two connections. The differences weren't huge, but we definitely gave the nod to HDMI, because the bass had more weight and the surround mix seemed a little more coherent and seamless. The sense of being there at the concert was that much more complete with the HDMI connection.

CD sound, in plain old stereo, was also superb, and on the Persuasions Sing U2 disc, the TX-SR674 projected a three-dimensional soundstage. It was so good we never even bothered listening to the music in Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround. The Persuasions are an a cappella group, and each of their voices had its own distinctive presence.


Onkyo TX-SR674

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8
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