I didn't require its services, but I was happy to see that the receiver has an option that lets you add an audio time delay to avoid perceptible sync problems between sound and picture. You can adjust it manually (0 to 100 milliseconds in 10-millisecond increments) or use the HDMI Lip Sync feature (another 1.3a feature), if your display supports it, to automatically adjust the delay.
The Short Form
|Price $499 (black and silver finishes available) / us.onkyo.com / 800-229-1687|
|This mid-priced receiver hits the sweet spot with robust audio performance, useful audio/video processing features, and HDMI 1.3a for the masses.|
|•Impressive 7.1-channel audio performance
•HDMI 1.3a inputs/output
•Auto room-tuning EQ from three mike locations
•Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding
|•Another HDMI input would have been nice
•No frills remote
|•7 x 90 watts
•2 HDMI 1.3a (1080p-capable) inputs, 1 output
•Transcodes composite, S-video and component video to HDMI
•Decodes Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD from HDMI/bitstream input
•Audyssey Auto 2EQ speaker set-up with a supplied calibration microphone
•Zone 2 audio pre out (7.1 in main room), and powered out (5.1 in main room)
•FM/AM tuner with 40 presets
•XM/Sirius-ready with presets
•iPod-expansion via optional dock
•Time delay for adjusting lip-sync
•17.1 x 6.9 x 14.8 in; 25.1 lb
Music & Movie Performance
When evaluating a receiver's sonic performance, there are two things of paramount importance to me: its ability to reproduce signals at moderate levels with inaudibly low noise and distortion, and its ability to reproduce signals at very loud levels with acceptable distortion. With that in mind, I turned to R.E.M.
Automatic for the People is a DVD-Audio disc everyone should have in their collection. Songs like "Everybody Hurts" are perfect showcases for surround audio, with mixes that enhance the mood and meaning of the music in ways stereo can't. "Everybody Hurts" is a simple, emotional song, and spreading out the sparse instrumentation over 5.1 channels emphasizes the loneliness and despair of the lyrics. By panning the electric keyboards hard left and the guitars hard right, there is space left for the lead vocal to be planted firmly in the center. The TX-SR605 was quite transparent, reproducing each musical line clearly, and giving each instrument clarity and air in its channel. The highlight of this song is the harmony vocals that ring out distinctly from the surround channels when 'everyone sings along' in the second verse. The effect was wonderfully enveloping.
The experience continues with the orchestral strings also featured in the surround channels (arranged by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones). The receiver's level-setting controls let me optimize the surround levels, so the front/rear balance was absolutely perfect. For a mix like this, with so many of the main components of the song in the surrounds, that kind of precise balance and setup is essential. Needless to say, I was pleased with audio performance, and features.
For movie fare, I started with The Illusionist, a magically intriguing film with a memorably haunting Philip Glass score. Set in Vienna in the 1900s, the film's soundtrack is very sparse, and not afraid of complete silence (check out the theater's creaking floorboards in the opening scene, or the croaking frogs after the love scene). This gave me the opportunity to keenly listen for any undue noise from the Onkyo. But, it was clean. Even when I cranked up the softly recorded room tone on the DVD tracks, I could not hear any electronics noise. The orchestral score sounded wonderful, with lots of dark, eerie instrumentation wandering back and forth between my woofers and subwoofer. The occasional orchestral climax was cleanly reproduced, even when pushed to loud levels. The sound was as transparent as the dove that vanished from the magician's hands.
To explore the upper limits of the receiver's output transistors, I turned to a DVD of T3 and its extremely high explosion-per-capita quotient. Just to harass the receiver and tax it a bit more, I turned down the powered sub and let the woofers do the work. Although not earth-shaking, the amplifiers did play loud, and even some fast peaks were cleanly reproduced. I prefer more watts for my large listening room, but this receiver will more than suffice for small and medium sized rooms.
Overall, I was satisfied with the receiver's video performance. The HDMI-output picture was sharp, with good detail and no apparent noise. The Illusionist has a distinctive sepia tint, and the DVD looked as warm as analog film. As I expected, the 1080p signal of HD DVD films like U-571 looked spectacular passing through the receiver.
With HDMI input, the receiver passes the signal unprocessed at its native resolution: what goes in is what comes out (for example, 480i in, 480i out; 1080p in, 1080p out). Meanwhile, analog video sources coming in via component-video or lesser inputs appear on the HDMI output as 720p irrespective of their input resolution. That means 480i/p inputs will be upscaled to an HDTV-format signal, but don't expect magical improvements. Still, these upscaled pictures did look pretty good, albeit not as good as I've seen on some pricier receivers. (If you want more sophisticated upscaling, and scaling up to 1080p, Onkyo will be happy to sell you a pricier receiver, such as the TX-SR875 we reviewed in October). One note: This one-rez-fits-all approach also means 1080i component-video inputs are output on HDMI as 720p, a downconversion that can yield mixed results. Whether you should send a separate component signal from the receiver to your display, or rely on the scaled HDMI signal, is a question of convenience (switching TV inputs) and how the two signals compare on your particular display.
Nothing is worse than overly complicated hardware and undecipherable menus. Thankfully, setting up and operating the TX-SR605 is quite straightforward. The TX-SR605 resides in the mid-price receiver sweet spot, somewhere between low-price frustrating lack of flexibility, and flagship bells and whistles bewilderment.
The front panel is easy to use with enough, but not too many, buttons to get the job done. The onscreen menus are standard fare: black background, white characters, and blue highlight. Nothing to write home about, but at least navigation is stone-cold simple, and set-up menus are output on the HDMI port.
The supplied RC-682M multi-component learning remote lacks a joystick, a display, and backlighting (potentially an issue in a darkened home theater). But, at least the principal remote mode buttons (receiver, DVD, CD, TV, etc) light up when accessed. The other button fields are color coded, and layout is logical. An awesomely wonderful remote? No. Serviceable? Yes. Incidentally, as with much electronic gear, this one has some hidden menus. For example, when the unit is powered, press and hold the Aux button, and press the Power button; you'll get some video tweaks.
Though I'll occassionally splurge big on speakers, the truth is I'm generally not a flagship kind of guy. Rather, I usually shop for gear that does the job at an affordable price and, bearing in mind the rapid rate of obsolescence of everything silicon, I pay careful attention to features that will prolong the product's lifetime. Of course, I demand strong performance. The Onkyo TX-SR605 fits all my criteria. I like its performance (particularly audio); I like its connectivity (especially HDMI 1.3a); I like its features (the triple-location auto-room tuning is great); I like its future-proofing (such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding); and I like its price. What's not to like? Any more questions?