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Onkyo TX-SR805 review: Onkyo TX-SR805

Onkyo TX-SR805

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Matthew Moskovciak
Matthew_Moskovciak.jpg

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.

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11 min read

The release of the Onkyo TX-SR605 has changed the playing field for AV receivers, by offering a solid selection of cutting-edge features at a street price as low as $400. Of course, by offering such a powerful receiver at a low price, it becomes harder to justify step-up models, such as the Onkyo TX-SR805, when many consumers will start to wonder what is "good enough." For example, the SR605 and SR805 share many important features, such as onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, HDMI 1.3 ports capable of handling 1080p video, and video upconversion for analog inputs. For your extra money, the TX-SR805 ups the ante to three HDMI inputs, THX Ultra2 certification including THX Neural Surround processing, and a host of internal audio enhancements--such as Burr Brown digital-to-analog converters (DACs)--designed to make audiophiles drool. There's no doubt the TX-SR805 sounds great, and for those who put a premium on audio quality, the TX-SR805 fits the bill. If you're just interested in the extra HDMI functionality, check out the step-down TX-SR705 or--even cheaper--stick with the 605 and just get yourself an HDMI switcher.

8.0

Onkyo TX-SR805

The Good

Three HDMI 1.3 inputs; converts analog video sources to HDMI; onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding; THX Neural surround processing; XM- and Sirius-ready; automatic speaker calibration; switches as many as six high-definition video sources; multiroom functionality for second and third zones.

The Bad

Downconverts 1080i component video signals to 720p when outputting over HDMI; HDMI video quality converted from analog sources may not satisfy videophiles; current crop of high-def disc players lack bit-stream output, which is needed to utilize the receiver's onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding.

The Bottom Line

The Onkyo TX-SR805 is an all-around excellent AV receiver with plenty of audiophile appeal, but its less-than-ideal video performance may give HDTV aficionados a reason to hold out for higher-end alternatives.

Design
If you're into sleek and small gadgets, the TX-SR805 is not for you. Coming in at 7.625 inches high, 17.125 inches wide, and 18.25 inches deep, the TX-SR805 demands some serious shelf space in your AV rack--and we'd recommend leaving some extra ventilation space too, as it runs pretty hot. The design is standard for an Onkyo receiver, and the TX-SR805 is available in both black and silver. In the upper-right-hand corner is a large volume knob that is surrounded by a blue light. The bottom third of the receiver is covered by a large, flip-down panel that reveals many extra front-panel buttons, enabling you to change surround processing and access the setup menu, among other functions. The LCD display is above the flip-down tray and shows the input you're currently using, as well as the current surround-sound processing engaged.

Extra front-panel buttons are hidden under a flip-down tray.

The TX-SR805 certainly isn't as sophisticated as the Sony STR-DA5300ES when it comes to input naming and selection, but we appreciate that we could change the input names to our actual devices. This means that after naming all our inputs, "DirecTV" would show up on the LCD display instead of CBL/SAT. These touches are minor, but they go a long way to making ponderous devices like AV receivers easier to use.

The TX-SR805's onscreen display is a slight step-up from just plain text on a black background, but not much. You're still stuck looking at blocky text, with the only consolation being that you get some white-and-blue graphics on the side to spice things up. Navigating the menus is pretty straightforward, although we have to wonder why HDMI monitor output isn't turned on by default with a receiver like this--we're guessing that results in lots of calls to customer service. The real missing feature is a pretty graphical user interface--you can find one on the similarly priced Sony STR-DA3300ES ($1,000), as well as the higher-priced Sony STR-DA5300ES ($1,700) and Denon AVR-3808CI ($1,600).

The TX-SR805 has an included automatic speaker calibration microphone.

The TX-SR805 comes equipped with Audyssey Labratories' MultEQ XT eight-point automatic speaker calibration program, which you can run with the included microphone. For the most part, we were really satisfied with the results after running through the setup--especially with movies--but be warned that this process can take a while. We took measurements from three listening positions, and it took about 12 minutes from start to finish, including a 5-minute span when the TX-SR805 just said it was "calculating." You can actually take measurements at as many as eight different seating locations, which takes considerably longer.

The included remote has a lot of buttons, but they're logically laid out, which makes it fairly easy to use.

The included remote is pretty good, considering the fact that all AV receiver remotes can be confusing to AV newcomers. There's a button on the side that activates the backlight, which is crucial for dark home theaters. In the center of the remote is a joystick that is used to navigate the menu system. The joystick is flanked by larger volume and channel rockers, with menu and setup controls to the top and bottom. We also like how the remote separates input selection and choosing a device to control--mixing those functions together is something we complained about on the pricier Sony STR-DA5300ES. So while there are a lot of buttons--which occasionally makes it hard to find what you're looking for--overall, the TX-SR805's remote does a pretty good job.

Features
Key features at a glance:

Connectivity 
 
Audio Soundtrack Capabilities 
HDMI inputs3 
Passes Dolby Digital and DTS via HDMIYes
Component video inputs3 
Passes LPCM via HDMIYes
A/V inputs w/S-Video6 (5 rear, 1 front) 
Decodes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MasterYes
Optical inputs3 (2 rear, 1 front) 
Video Capabilities 
Coaxial inputs3 
HDMI version1.3
Selectable HD sources6 
1080p via HDMIYes
Satellite radioXM and Sirius ready 
1080p via componentYes
Network audioNo 
Upconverts analog sourcesYes
Phono inputYes 
Deinterlaces 480i via HDMIYes
Analog multichannel inputYes 
Selectable output resolutionNo

The TX-SR805 is a 7.1-channel AV receiver, and Onkyo rates its power output at 130 watts, which is a step up from the 100 watts per channel of the TX-SR705. Similar to essentially every other receiver available, it offers a full selection of Dolby and DTS surround-processing modes. Like the vast majority of new midrange and high-end receivers, the TX-SR805 also has onboard decoding for the newest high-resolution surround formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

The TX-SR805 sports logos for Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and THX Neural.

Theoretically, the benefit of having onboard TrueHD and Master Audio decoding is that HD DVD and Blu-ray players can 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 capable of sending Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in bit-stream format. Instead, some--but not all--players decode these formats internally, then send the decoded signals to attached receivers via HDMI (in uncompressed linear PCM format) or multichannel analog-audio connections.

There are now several high-def disc players (such as Denon DVD-3800BDCI and the Onkyo DV-HD805) that have been announced that claim the ability to send Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bit-stream format over HDMI to compatible receivers. However, we won't know for sure if these players will work with the new receivers because Advanced Content flags on discs may prevent bit-stream output. The bottom line is we won't know for sure the real-world usefulness of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding until we get our hands on these new bit-stream-output-capable players. In the meantime, however, owners can be confident that having the onboard decoding is as much of a degree of futureproofing as exists in home audio at the current time.

There's also support for THX's relatively new Neural Surround sound processing. Neural Surround processing encompasses several types of processing. First, it can act similarly to Dolby's Pro Logic processing in that it can take a standard stereo signal and process it into 5.1 or 7.1 channels, creating a faux-surround mix where none existed. For those with 7.1 systems, it can also make 7.1 audio out of a 5.1 soundtrack. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, THX Neural Surround can take special acoustically watermarked stereo signals and decode them back to the original 5.1 mix. This makes it possible for you to get surround sound out of older gear if content providers properly encode the audio. THX Neural Surround is currently supported by XM Radio and some FM stations, but overall adoption is still relatively small.

The TX-SR805's rear panel is filled with ample connectivity. There are three HDMI inputs, each capable of receiving high-def video to as high as 1080p along with high-resolution audio. For analog video, there are three component video inputs capable of receiving 1080p signals, along with six total AV inputs with S-Video (five rear, one front).

For audio, there are the aforementioned HDMI inputs, plus six total digital audio inputs--two optical and three coaxial inputs on the back panel, and one front-panel optical input. Analog audio is covered by two stereo analog RCA jacks (including one recording loop for a tape player), a phono jack for turntables, plus a 7.1 multichannel analog input. Rounding out the rest of the connectivity are both XM and Sirius jacks, so you'll need only to connect an XM Mini Tuner for XM service, or the Sirius SCH1 Sirius Connect for Sirius access--with the appropriate subscriptions, of course.

Three HDMI ports should be enough for the majority of home theaters.

Lots of high-def connectivity is great, but it's a whole lot less useful if there aren't enough source labels to assign components to. Luckily the TX-SR805 has six selectable high-def source names (DVD, VCR/DVR, CBL/SAT, Game/TV, AUX1, AUX2) that can be assigned to either HDMI or component-video inputs. That's pretty good, although we were disappointed that six is actually the total number of AV source labels available. That means that even though there are a total of 11 video inputs, only 6 video inputs can easily be connected at one time, without reassigning inputs when you want to watch certain devices. There are also additional source names for audio-only devices.

The TX-SR805 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-SR805's inputs, 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-SR805 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-SR805 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, but the short answer is that it's best to leave this feature off.

Like on the TX-SR605, there are a couple quirks regarding the analog-to-digital video conversion on the TX-SR805. For example, those planning to use the TX-SR805 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 via the HDMI output. Furthermore, 1080p signals via the component-video input cannot be output via the HDMI output at all. There are certainly workarounds for these issues--see our Tips & Tricks section--but they involve complications that HDMI-equipped receivers were supposed to avoid.

Multiroom capabilities are pretty decent, supporting second and third zones. Zone 2 can be connected either using powered speaker cable or using the line-level RCA outputs to an additional receiver in the second zone. The third zone is limited to using line-level RCA outputs.

While the TX-SR805's is fully featured, we can't help but feel that it doesn't offer that much more over the step-down TX-SR705--at least in terms of features. The TX-SR805 has an additional AV input, more power, and a third zone, but the rest of the specs are very similar. The TX-SR605 is a bigger step down, with only two HDMI inputs, but it still offers many of the more important features at only $400 street price--and you can add HDMI inputs by using an HDMI switcher.

In this price range, Denon's most comparable receiver is the AVR-2808CI ($1,200), which has only two HDMI inputs but also has Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, upconversion, and three-zone capability. Sony's STR-DA330ES ($1,000) also has three inputs and features their excellent graphical user interface, but lacks Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding--which may not be so bad for the reasons we stated earlier. Yamaha's RX-V1800 steps up to four HDMI inputs, but costs $1,300.

Audio performance
Given that many of the upgrades on the TX-SR805 are designed to improve audio performance, we were excited to sit down and listen to some music. We started off with The Derek Trucks Band's Joyful Noise and were not disappointed. Trucks' slide guitar was emotive as ever, and the TX-SR805 delivered rich, detailed sound. We switched gears and put on Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, which sounded particularly lively, with the horns having a rich and textured quality. Overall, the TX-SR805 compared favorably with the more expensive STR-DA5300ES, although we'd give the slight nod to the STR-DA5300ES, which sounded just a tad cleaner and more detailed to our ears.

Although we're not generally fan of faux-surround mixes via surround processing modes such as Dolby Pro Logic II, we spent some time comparing the differences between Pro Logic II Music and THX Neural 5.1 processing. Overall, we still preferred plain, old stereo for CDs, but on some songs, the THX Neural provided an interesting experience. For example, on the title track of Joyful Noise, THX Neural firmly planted Trucks' guitar in the center channel during the breakdown section, while placing the keyboard in the rear-channel speakers. At times, it gives the feeling more that you're playing with the band, rather than watching a live performance, but at other times it sounds unnatural, putting too much emphasis on the center channel and actually sounding cramped when compared with the stereo track. Although we won't be switching out of stereo for CDs anytime soon, generally we found ourselves preferring THX Neural to the Dolby Pro Logic IIx Music mode.

The TX-SR805 didn't run out of steam when we watched Batman Begins on our HD DVD. Batman Begins features an excellent Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which uses lossless compression, compared with the lossy compression on standard Dolby Digital soundtracks. Again, the TX-SR805 left us riveted; we could practically feel the ice under our feet during the training scene on the frozen pond. Dialogue was crisp and clear, and the TX-SR805 had no problems making us feel the subwoofer. Film fans won't be disappointed.

Video performance
In terms of video performance, we ran into the same issues with the TX-SR805 that we did with the TX-SR605. We began our tests running the Toshiba HD-A20 via S-Video to the TX-SR805 connected to the Panasonic TH-50PHD9UK via HDMI. This tests the TXSR805's ability to deinterlace the incoming 480i signal. We took a look at Silicon Optix's HQV test suite, with the TX-SR805 failing to pass the initial resolution test, which means that it can't deliver all the detail of 480i sources when upconverting. Moving onto the jaggies tests, the TX-SR805 performed better, handling tests involving a rotating white line, three shifting lines and footage of a waving flag with ease.

Where the TX-SR805 struggled the most was with any test that required 2:3 pull-down processing. We first saw this on the racecar test on the HQV test disc, and we saw plenty of moire in the stands as its film processing never kicked in. The same behavior was confirmed in actual program material. For instance, on the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection, there were jaggies on the hulls of the boats where there should have been a smooth, curved line. Similarly, the introduction to Seabiscuit was filled with tons of jaggies, and the image on the screen often seemed to pulsate because of how much the receiver was struggling. While many of the video-quality issues we mention are subtle, this is not and will bother anyone even mildly sensitive to video quality. To be fair, these artifacts will mostly show up only on video components that display film-based material, but we noticed them much less when using, for instance, an Xbox 360 in standard-def mode. However, while we were willing to overlook for the most part some of the video processing deficiencies of the TX-SR605 because of its low price, it's harder to overlook the same issues on a receiver that costs twice as much. Videophiles would be well advised to bite the bullet and consider one of the higher-priced receivers that offer built-in HQV video processing, such as the Onkyo TX-SR875 or the Denon AVR-3808CI.

8.0

Onkyo TX-SR805

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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