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Onkyo HTS-L5 review:

Onkyo HTS-L5

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The Good Excellent sound quality; full-sized front speakers; feature-packed separate components.

The Bad Large speakers; single-disc player.

The Bottom Line This system represents a keenly balanced mix of features with superb build and sound quality.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

Onkyo's amazing HTS-L5 looks and sounds like a component system, and it operates like a set of matched components, but it's a home theater in a box (HTIB). This kit is, in fact, a package of full-featured Onkyo components and speakers. And what speakers they are! Most HTIB speakers are little, plastic things, but this system is packing wood-finished left and right towers that are nearly 35 inches tall. Onkyo's amazing HTS-L5 looks and sounds like a component system, and it operates like a set of matched components, but it's a home theater in a box (HTIB). This kit is, in fact, a package of full-featured Onkyo components and speakers. And what speakers they are! Most HTIB speakers are little, plastic things, but this system is packing wood-finished left and right towers that are nearly 35 inches tall.

Home theater in a big box
Most of the HTS-L5's combined shipping weight of 132 pounds is due to the solidly constructed, multidriver speaker package. The left, center, and right speakers feature dual 3.5-inch Onkyo Microfiber woofers, and all of the speakers use a sweet-sounding 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. The 60-watt sub employs an 8-inch woofer and has front-mounted variable-crossover and level controls.

The separate A/V receiver has all the usual trimmings, such as 96kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converters, Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro-Logic II surround decoding. Pro-Logic II works its magic on old videotapes and stereo CDs. The matching single-disc player handles DVDs, CDs, CD-R/RWs, MP3-encoded CDs, and VideoCDs. The video outputs include composite, S-Video, and a set of component connectors. Thanks to its softly illuminated, orange controls, you can operate this DVD player in the dark. The receiver and DVD player each come with easy-to-use remote controls, and, happily, either remote can control both components.

The receiver's rear panel is filled with three A/V inputs and one A/V output, plentiful S-Video connections, and three digital audio inputs. Beefy speaker-binding posts are limited to the left and right channels; the center and surround channels are relegated to the less secure spring-loaded connectors. However, you won't find Super Audio CD (SACD)/DVD-Audio ready 5.1 and phono inputs on this receiver.

A most musical system
Most HTIB systems are optimized for home-theater duty, but the HTS-L5 sounds equally wonderful on DVDs and CDs. Even difficult-to-reproduce classical and acoustic-jazz CDs raptly held our attention. True, we were initially a little concerned about the receiver's lightweight power spec--just 22 watts per channel--but we went ahead and pummeled our eardrums with special-effect-driven DVDs, along with hard rock and dance music CDs, and the HTS-L5 never lost its cool. We credit the carefully matched speakers for extracting stellar performance from such modest power reserves. Just don't expect this or any HTIB to fill a large space (400-plus square feet) with high-volume sound.

We checked out the Men in Black and The Thin Red Line DVDs and quickly discovered that the HTS-L5's picture quality and sonics equaled those of far more expensive rigs assembled from individual components. The video looks as good as you would expect from DVD. The sound never "stuck" to the speakers; it was always wide open, highly transparent, dynamic, and just plain fun. The bass authority was excellent but lacked the deep bass prowess of .

We loved pretty much everything about the $1,300 HTS-L5, but there's one catch: it may hog too much of your precious living space. In that case, we recommend checking out the JBL ProPack 600, or if you're looking for something less expensive, try Pioneer's HTZ-55DV.

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