I give Onkyo full credit for turning me into the home theatre enthusiast that I am today. That’s because the first great A/V receiver that I ever owned was a mid-range 5.1-channel Onkyo. Naturally then, I got quite excited when I was asked to evaluate the mid-price TX-SR674 A/V receiver together with the DV-SP504 universal disc player. The technology and features of both these components have come a long way from what I remember of my original Onkyo receiver.
The Onkyo TX-SR674 is a 7.1-channel, feature-packed A/V receiver that is ready for the high definition age. Its suite of video inputs includes 2 HDMI, 3 component, 5 S-video and 5 composite video. Both HDMI (version 1.1) inputs offer the full 1080p bandwidth and are capable of routing both audio and video from the connected source. This means that all the latest up-converting DVD players as well as Blu-ray and HD DVD players can be easily connected to this receiver. The TX-SR674 converts all component, S-video and composite video to HDMI, which means that only a single cable is needed to connect the receiver to a display. In addition to its HDMI output, the TX-SR674 also has a component video output to connect to displays that do not have an HDMI input.
On the audio side, the TX-SR674’s power amplifier delivers 95 watts per channel when paired with 8 ohm speakers. The back of the receiver states that it is capable of driving speakers with a resistance from 6 ohm all the way up to 16. The TX-SR674 has built-in decoders for all the common surround sound formats, except for the latest ones found on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs (although no other A/V receiver currently available has the capability to decode these). This is nothing to be concerned about because the high definition players perform the decoding themselves and output these formats via their analogue audio outputs. Music lovers will appreciate the 7.1-channel analogue inputs, provided for audio connections from SACD, DVD-Audio and high definition players. A feature that all users should appreciate is Onkyo’s latest auto speaker calibration system, called the Audyssey 2EQ, which simplifies the first-time audio setup. The system uses a supplied microphone to analyze the acoustical output at two positions in the listening area. The receiver sends test signals to each speaker in turn, then uses the signal from the microphone to adjust channel level and time delay settings for each speaker. Onkyo claims that this system provides better end results than systems that take measurements from only a single “sweet spot” in the listening room. The TX-SR674 is equipped with Zone 2 speaker outputs which can play a stereo source in another room while a 5.1 source is playing in the main room. For users interested in satellite radio, the receiver provides an XM radio connect-and-play antenna interface. The TX-SR674 uses an advanced 32-bit DSP circuit for digital processing, and high quality linear PCM 192 kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels.
The Onkyo DV-SP504 is a universal disc player capable of handling the CD, DVD, DVD-Audio and SACD formats. Other formats that this player can read include MP3, WMA, Video CD, JPEG and HD JPEG. The DV-SP504 up-converts standard DVDs to 720p and 1080i resolution through its HDMI (version 1.0) output. Of course, the player also provides component, S-video and composite video outputs. Analogue 7.1-channel audio outputs allow the DV-SP504 to deliver high resolution audio from SACDs and DVD-Audio discs to A/V receivers with analogue audio inputs. The player features 108 MHz/14-bit video DACS to deliver video and 192 kHz/24-bit linear PCM DACs for audio reproduction.
The styling of Onkyo components has changed very little over the last few generations, and I’m glad because I’ve always enjoyed the Onkyo appearance. My review set came in a brushed black finish but a silver finish is also available to match with other silver home theatre gear. Both components have a moderate number of buttons on their front panels, which allow quick access to some of the key functions. The only noticeable cosmetic change is the addition of a blue glowing light around the volume knob on the A/V receiver. I personally enjoyed it, but it can be turned off if it bothers you.
The remote controllers for both components are exactly the same size, about the size of a typical DVD player remote. They are comfortable to operate and I did enjoy the smaller-than-typical size of the A/V receiver remote - I often find receiver remotes to be unnecessarily large. Both remotes have logically arranged buttons but unfortunately neither remote has a backlight (with the exception of six buttons on the receiver remote).
The TX-SR674 receiver’s on-screen menu system, displayed through all video outputs, makes the first time setup a no-brainer. I set up the speaker sizes, distances and channel levels manually and listened to the system in this state initially. Then after a couple of days, I plugged in the supplied microphone and ran Onkyo’s Audyssey 2EQ auto speaker calibration system. The system took about 8 minutes to complete and produced accurate results. These auto calibration systems are a truly wonderful feature, although you should always verify the system’s results by going to the menu system and verifying the results.
I connected the A/V receiver with the universal player using an HDMI cable as well as multi-channel RCA cables. The HDMI connection transported CDs, Dolby Digital, DTS, and LPCM between the components. The analogue connections handled DVD-Audio and SACD signals, in addition to LPCM. Sound was delivered by our reference 5.1-channel Sinclair Audio Brighton series speaker system.
To evaluate this system’s home theatre performance I watched a few familiar scenes from the Saving Private Ryan and National Treasure DVDs. The TX-SR674 receiver produced a very dynamic sonic landscape during the Normandy beach approach, the dynamics never lacked behind the on-screen action. A combination of gunfire, explosions, voices and other sound effects filled my room from every angle. Instead of the sound layers being mashed together, I could hear each individual layer very clearly. The TX-SR674 had ample amounts of power to produce explosive deep frequencies. Sound transitions between all channels flowed smoothly. The TX-SR674 had the ability to create a realistic ambience in my room and placed me right in the middle of the action, just as a great receiver should.
The video up-conversion of the DV-SP504 player produced a substantially sharper, more defined picture than the standard 480p picture. Federation starships in Star Trek: Resurrection appeared noticeably sharper and cleaner overall. Character’s faces looked more natural and appeared to have more details on the screen. The resolution can be toggled between 480p, 720p, 1080i and Auto simply by pressing the Resolution button on the remote. This is a great feature that all users can enjoy.
To evaluate the musical talent of this Onkyo pair, I reached for few albums among which were Yin Xiang’s Impress on CD and The Beatles Love on DVD-Audio, both very well recorded albums. Yin Xiang’s voice sounded vibrant with a pleasant, warm character. The various instruments used in this album sounded crystal clear and were placed in a well defined space. The musical pace and dynamics were great. Listening to a few more stereo CDs, I came to a conclusion that the DV-SP504’s music delivery was a little closer to a standalone CD player than a music/movie disc player. Not bad! High resolution, multi-channel audio was right on par with other mid-range universal disc players that I’ve listened to. The higher resolution sound clearly exhibited a wider dynamic range and produced a deeper soundstage. The Beatles Love album completely immersed me with its well produced surround effects. The DV-SP504 does not offer bass management for DVD-Audio, but the bass can be tweaked using the receiver’s management. The DV-SP504 played all the SACDs and DVD-Audio albums that I placed on its disc tray - even the discs that other universal players refused to play. My one small complaint about this player is that it took a little longer than I’m used to when switching between tracks on DVD-Audio discs, although this varied between discs.
Using a matching A/V receiver and disc player has its advantages. First, the remote supplied with the receiver can be used to control both components, without any configuration. Then, there is the visual advantage. Most people place their components out in open view, on a TV stand or an A/V rack. Matching aesthetics of both components are certainly more appealing to the eye.
The Onkyo TX-SR674 A/V receiver and DV-SP504 universal player proved to be impressively versatile with home theatre material, and both multi-channel and stereo music. If you’re building a mid-range home theatre system in a medium or larger room, I suggest that you definitely audition this sweet sounding Onkyo pair - it may produce just the sound and video that you’re looking for.
Onkyo TX-SR674 A/V Receiver Highlights
• Power Output (8 Ohm): 95 Watts x 7 channels (0.08%, 20 Hz - 20 kHz/THD)
• 2 HDMI inputs and 1 output
• Converts all component, S-video and composite video to HDMI
• 7.1-channel analogue inputs
• Audyssey 2EQ auto speaker calibration system
• Zone 2 speaker outputs/XM-radio compatibility
Onkyo DV-SP504 Universal Disc Player Highlights
• Plays DVD, CD, SACD and DVD-Audio formats among others
• Up-converts standard DVDs to 720p and 1080i resolution through its HDMI output
• 7.1-channel analogue outputs