Receivers

Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1 A/V Receiver

Introduction

Onkyo has recently added a new line of receivers to its already long list of stellar audio/video equipment. The new TX-SR606 is the latest upgrade to the well reviewed TX-SR605.In one-upmanship, it has the added features of 4 HDMI (1.3) inputs and Audyssey 2EQ. SIRIUS and IPod docking are available, too. This is my first foray in using Audyssey and I was anxious to take it for a test drive in my upstairs, dedicated media room. MSRP is $599, which puts this receiver in the entry to mid range in price (though I have seen a street price as low as $399), and for the money, the 606 comes very well equipped!

Specifications

  • Codecs: Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Digital+, Dolby TrueHD, DTS (ES, Neo:6, 96/24), DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Precision: 24-Bit/96kHz A/D
  • 2-Zone Operation
  • Satellite Radio Capable
  • Audyssey 2EQ with Setup Microphone
  • Power Output: 90 watts RMS/Channel @ 0.08%THD, 2 Channels Driven into 8 Ohms
  • MFR: 5 Hz - 100 kHz (+1 dB, -3 dB)
  • THD: 0.08% (20 Hz - 20 kHz)
  • Dimensions: 6.9" H x 17.1" W x 17.1" D
  • Weight: 24.9 Pounds
  • MSRP: $599 USA
  • Onkyo USA

Design

Out of the box, the 606 weighs in at about 25 pounds. At first glance, it is slick looking and solidly built.

Onkyo TX-SR606 7.1 A/V Receiver

My unit was black, but silver is another color option. Black works well in a darkened HT environment, but I must admit the silver model looks striking with a jet-black stripe across the display face. On the front panel are the standard buttons for operating the 606. The buttons are small and barely legible from more than a foot away. If you are like me, you will use the remote to access most of the features on the receiver anyway. The large volume knob is not backlit. For that, you will need to upgrade to the TX-SR706. The front panel display is dimmable and easy to read from across the room.

On the back panel, all the usual inputs were in place. Analog inputs for 7.1, 4 HDMI inputs, 2 sets of component inputs, 4 sets of S-video (does anyone still use these?), and Sirius radio connection.

A nice feature was the inclusion of color coded 2 way binding posts and color coded labels that you can place on your speaker wires to ensure they wind up in their proper location. The binding posts are closely packed together, so using large gauge wire can be bit tricky. The posts will accept banana plugs, which is what I would recommend. Zone 2 has clips instead of posts. Front speakers can be bi-amped using the surround back terminals. This too is a nice added feature. Please note, the 606 is not recommended for use with 4 ohm speakers. At first, I thought that 4 HDMI inputs were enough. When I started to add things up with my Toshiba D3, Oppo 980H and a HDTV cable box with HDMI output and being in the process of adding a Vudu media streamer… suddenly four inputs were the bare minimum for my needs.

The remote is simple, functional, but not backlit or glow-in-the-dark. It does not allow direct access to the DSP modes, so you will have to scroll through all of them until you land on the one you want to use.


Setup

As technology continues its relentless april, even a mid-line receiver can become an intimidating piece of equipment for a novice to set up. The 606 on the other hand is fairly well laid out and the setup process was straightforward. I had my 5.1 setup running in less than 20 minutes (and using the 7.1 setup would not have added much to that timetable). The first thing I did was run the Audyssey2EQ. I was anxious to try this new (to me) technology and the result was very impressive! Once you plug in the supplied microphone, you simply follow the OSD instructions. After the initial test tones, the system noticed that I did not have a 7.1 setup and as it tested the next speaker, the two missing speakers were not shown on the OSD.

Within 10 minutes, my system was calibrated for loudness, distance, delay and EQ of basic room parameters. I had to correct the setting of my mains from large to small, but the rest of the settings were rock solid. Even my subwoofer had been integrated well with the other speakers. The bass was tighter and less boomy. After long sessions of listening, I have come to this conclusion about Audyssey. Though the sound "quality" was not as good as my reference system, the sound "field" was better than anything I had experienced. The panning of sound from left to right and forward to rear was seamless. The perception of being in the middle of the action was quite palpable and realistic. When I moved from my primary (middle) seat to the seat on my left or right, the sound field stayed remarkably stable.

I noticed that the Auddessy does not engage when a high-resolution format is used (SACD, DVD-A, DD True HD and DTS HD Master). My Toshiba will decode and send DD True HD as lossless PCM over HDMI, which the 606 displayed as "multichannel". The 606 will decode all of these formats and can display the sampling frequency. I allowed the Oppo to convert DSD to PCM and after some critical listening between PCM and direct DSD, which the 606 will also accept; I felt the Oppo did a better job with the PCM conversion than the Onkyo. All of my SACDs were displayed with a frequency of 88.2 kHz. The 606 will also take 7.1 analog inputs, but I could not resist the single HDMI input for SACD. Overall, the sound quality from the 606 was very good and passed the high-resolution sources through with no noticeable coloration or distortion.


In Use

I was anxious to see what refinements the EQ2 did on music that I was familiar with over the years. I started off by listening to Samuel Barber's "Toccata Festiva op. 36" (Linn CKD180) on SACD.

Onkyo-TXSR606-4

Besides being superbly recorded and performed, the sound engineer placed the organ in the surrounds and the orchestra in the mains. The result is a stunningly spacious sound field that places you in the middle of the St. Augustine's chapel. The Marcussen organ sounded solid, with great articulation. The orchestra was well panned across the front of my listening room. Though my subwoofer is in the front left corner of my room, it was seamlessly blended with the organ in the surrounds behind me. Next on my list was a DTS test disc on the Telarc label (CD-84402-DTS).

Onkyo-TXSR606-5

The opening montage is dynamic, exhilarating and comic (thank you Prof. Peter Shickle) with full use of all the speakers, all of the time. The panning and swirling of sound from front to back was dizzying. Maria Muldar's voice was quite natural and laid back on track six: "Thinking About You". Track 16 is entitled "F-16 Fighter Squadron" and it cleared the room of my cat! I was impressed with how well the speakers were working together. For added fun, I popped in The Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" in DVD-A (Warner Brothers 48489-2)

Onkyo-TXSR606-6

This recording is in 5.1 surround and they aggressively use all the speakers in the mix. The sound was rich and detailed with a throbbing synth beat and quirky lyrics. The 606 played all of this without a hint of stridency or compressed sound. I switched the output from the 5.1 analog outs over to HDMI and could not reliably hear a difference in sound quality. I eventually settled on HDMI, as it was easier to use and included a video signal at the same time. I played many different movies through the 606 and noticed no degradation of the HD-DVD video signal on my display. The landing and subsequent battle on Iwo Jima from "Flags of Our Fathers" was thrilling!

Onkyo-TXSR606-7

The 606 had no trouble reproducing the battleship salvos (the cat is now downstairs, under the couch). Switching from CD mode to DVD to cable was quick and easy with just the slightest pause for the audio to kick in. No handshake issues noted. Overall, I came away impressed, not only by the performance of the 606, but by all of the features that were packed into this unit at this price point.


On the Bench (JEJ)

All distortion measurements were conducted within an 80 kHz bandwidth and two channels driven.

In the CD Direct mode, 1 kHz into 8 ohms, THD+N was 0.03%

Switching to the VCR input, which uses DSP, the distortion spectrum was quite different. Distortion was higher, as was the noise floor. I used the CD Direct mode for all subsequent tests.

At 1 kHz and 20 volts into 8 ohms (50 watts RMS), THD+N was 0.025%.

At 10 kHz, distortion rose to 0.085%.

IMD at 50 watts output was 0.085%.

THD+N vs. Frequency is shown below. Distortion maxes out at 0.12% at 20 kHz with 50 watts into an 8 ohm load.

The 606 probably should not be used with 4 ohm speakers, judging from the fact that the knee of THD+N vs. Power output at 4 ohms is at 90 watts, which is the rated output into 8 ohms. At 4 ohms, clipping (1% THD+N) was at 160 watts.

Frequency response was 10 Hz - 200 kHz, - 3 dB at 50 watts RMS output into 8 ohms.


Conclusions

A little over a year ago, Onkyo delivered a real winner with the TX-SR605. The TX-SR606 is all that and more with 4 HDMI inputs and Auddessey2EQ. I recommend this receiver if you are in the market for an upgrade in performance and flexibility. If you are not looking for all the bells and whistles of Onkyo's flagship, the TX-NR906, this may be all you need in a moderate sized home theater. Its design and performance make it a worthy successor to the 605. Recommended!