It seems like every TV review we write, we end up saying the same thing: "The sound on flat-panel TVs just isn't good enough." People don't usually see the investment in sound as anywhere near as important as that of the picture. And that's troubling, because sound is 50 per cent of the experience -- and what's more, bad sound makes Nate Lanxon sadder than a walrus who's lost his bucket.
So how do you keep Nate, and more importantly your ears, happy? The best solution is to get yourself an AV receiver, and the good news is that there are plenty of fringe benefits to getting something like the Onkyo TX-SR576.
The TX-SR875 is first and foremost a surround-sound decoder and amplifier, which takes the surround sound from a DVD or Blu-ray, amplifies it and pumps the resulting audio joy to as many as eight speakers. You get high-quality banana plug compatible speaker outputs for all channels except the subwoofer, which has an RCA jack connector. The Onkyo also has a second zone output, which means you can listen to music in a second room.
What you also get is a convenient switcher for all your video sources -- basically, you plug everything you own into this box, and then throw away the TV remote, because you can control everything from the Onkyo. With everything running though it, your ears will be constantly bathed in glorious high-quality sound. Hurrah!
The 576 supports video switching of up to 1080p, via its three HDMI 1.3 inputs. It can decode a variety of exciting surround-sound formats, including DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX and Dolby Pro Logic IIx.
The only really negative thing we could say about this receiver is that it won't upscale video -- it acts purely as a switcher, which is still very useful, especially for reducing the cable clutter going to your TV. The other downside is that it won't decode the newer HD audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD. To make use of the high-quality audio from those, you'll need to use a Blu-ray player with analogue 7.1 out, or use downscaled sound from the optical digital out.
The SR576 is available now for around £300, although you'll need some lovely speakers to go alongside it, which will bump the price up. -Ian Morris