Onkyo TX-SR701

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Onkyo TX-SR701

Pros

  • Lightweight, attractive design, quality sound, good value

Cons

  • Not enough output connectors for high-end users, no automatic setup sequence

Bottom Line

The Onkyo TX-SR701 represents superb value for money and can't be faulted in terms of features or performance.

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Onkyo's TX-SR701 is one of the lighter receivers we have looked at, but even so it turned out to be quite a talent. Finished in sophisticated gold with matching golden LED display, the TX-SR701 certainly looks the business. It has a well-laid-out console that provides quick and easy access to all functions--even the volume control knob feels luxuriously silky to turn.

One-hundred-and-sixty watts per channel at 6 ohms (1kHz, 0.08% THD) means the TX-SR701 isn't wanting for power. Onkyo also indulges in the acronyms race, a sport all manufacturers seem to enjoy. WRAT, or wide range amplifier technology, is supposed to delivery a better signal-to-noise ratio and improved "momentary power peaks". VLSC stands for 'vector linear shaping circuitry' and tries to eliminate added noise from the digital-to-analog conversion process. Both the manual and the Web site have a run-down of these and the numerous other pieces of technology that contribute to the SR701.

Processing options include all the usual suspects, including Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES. It also features THX Surround EX processing but not the new Dolby Pro Logic IIx format. The TX-SR701 is, however, THX Select certified, which means it meets or exceeds a number of minimum performance levels in regards to distortion, power output and frequency response, as set out by the THX company. It's worth noting the THX requirement that bass management be limited at a fixed crossover of 80Hz has been relaxed; the TX-SR701 has a selectable crossover ranging from 40Hz to 150Hz.

A set of eight, colour-coded multi-way binding posts allow for the connection of a set of "zone 2" front speakers for listening to two different sources (each in a separate room, preferably) and the addition of a rear centre speaker for 6.1 discrete or matrixed soundtracks. While nearly all binding posts are somewhat fiddly to attach bare wire speaker cable to, the Onkyo was the fiddliest we've encountered, although it's not a big deal since you'll probably only have to do it once. Four digital inputs (one coaxial, three optical) are on the skimpy side compared to some receivers, but should be adequate for most users, while a plethora of analog AV inputs should see most bases covered in terms of input. There are two component video inputs and one output but no up-conversion of composite or S-Video inputs to allow for universal component output. There is, however, composite-to-S-Video conversion. A complete set of pre-outs for connecting to an external amplifier and a set of 5.1 inputs for SACD or DVD-Audio round out a comprehensive back panel.

Setup is completed using the excellent onscreen display, but has to be done manually (grab a tape measure and SPL meter) since there is no automatic routine to run through.

Operation couldn't be simpler using either the learning remote or the front panel. There's direct access to all sources and the "auto" signal detect function always picked the right digital processing option for movie watching. A "Pure Audio" mode bypasses all digital and analog stages for the cleanest possible audio reproduction.

Across the board, performance was superb and the Onkyo produced sound with real weight. In particular, our DVD demo scene (chapter four from Master and Commander) slammed home with a startling clarity, adding a harsh sense of realism to the violence of the 18-pound cannon attack. Musically the TX-SR701 was just as adept, that same sense of weight flowing right on into our musical selection. Guitar strings resonated warmly and the soundstage was beautifully spacious.

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