One thing about this receiver that really impressed me was the second zone
feature. You can run an analog stereo line-out to a second amplifier in another room, or even
configure the rear surround channels to power a second set of speakers. This
does partially make up for the unfortunate omission of pre-outs. While you are
not able to add another amplifier to upgrade your theater down the road, you
can set up another room with tunes and it only requires two more speakers.
Another option on this receiver I liked was the source customization. Not only
can you set the default volume by source, you can also configure the stereo and
surround settings. My DVD player happens to do double duty as my CD transport,
and I prefer to listen to CDs in Source Direct mode (bypasses all processing
and tone controls). The Onkyo will automatically
change to Source Direct when a two-channel source is detected, and then Dolby Digital when a
DD encoded DVD is detected. This, of course, can be set to your own preference.
Remote controls often receive poor marks in reviews. The remote control
supplied with this receiver is no exception, as there are some problems with
it. The unit does not have specific DVD or VCR buttons, which requires you
to press multiple video buttons until you hit the right one.
As well, there are no
specific TV volume buttons, and strangely I kept trying to use the remote
upside down. Let me not forget to mention that the supplied RC codes did not
work with my three-year-old Panasonic DVD player or four-year-old Panasonic VCR.
did work with my eleven-year-old Proscan RPTV, allowing me to operate most
of the TV's controls.
Fortunately, the learning abilities of the remote allowed
me to program in all the necessary functions of all my components. Big points
are given to the fact that it has three macro buttons. These have quickly
become known as wife-savers around my house.
One big problem with any receiver these days, because they area all rather
complicated, is proper system set-up. The
average user is required to set speaker size and distances, determine optimal
crossover frequencies, and assign source inputs. One wrong setting and "poof"
you can't get it to work, and the the
fun's over. Fortunately, the TX-SR603 simplifies most of the connection
conundrums with its Auto Calibration feature. Using the supplied microphone,
you choose Auto Calibration, and in
a matter of minutes, your speaker levels, distances, and even equalization are
set for you.
For the most part, the Auto Calibration does a fine job. However it did seem a
little over-zealous when it came to applying equalization. While EQ can
correct some room issues, it can also mess up the sound if too much boost is
used. I prefer to only cut frequency peaks with equalization, rather than to
raise the dips, but the Onkyo
receiver applied more boost than cut. Fortunately, you are able to defeat (or
change) the EQ settings and keep all other auto calibration settings. One
other strange problem was the unit's inability to handle distance differences between
the front speakers. While my left and right speakers had less than 12 inches
of differences between them the unit still had difficulties, continually
displaying a "Distance Mismatch Error".
It is very nice to see such advanced auto calibration features even with their
shortcomings. It shows that manufactures and concerned about how the consumer
uses the product. It seems they now realize that unless it is easy to set up
the equipment, the average user will not get the most out of the product. If
you get stuck, there is an Onkyo toll-free help number sticker on top of
Features and options can only take a receiver so far. The whole reason you
slapped down your hard earned cash was to play movies in glorious surround
sound and music in sweet two-channel. This is where the great receivers separate from
the herd. Many receivers in the $500 class do a decent job with movies yet
tend to have troubles with music.
Throughout my time with this receiver, I had
four pairs of speakers at my disposal. This allowed me to test the Onkyo's
performance with different styles and speaker designs. I used a monstrous
sized tower, a slim revealing floor-stander, a highly transparent MTM, and my
trusty Paradigm Focus bookshelves. It was apparent with the range of speakers
used, that this receiver definitely puts movies first. While this receiver
doesn't do anything special with music, it does do a great job with movies on
With movies, the unit constantly delivered great dynamics and a believable
soundstage. I threw many different types of movies at it, and each time I was
With music, the
great at low to mid volume, with lots of detail and a nice warm sound. At higher
volume, the unit was fatiguing regardless of the speakers used. With
the more revealing speakers, it felt as if there were a veil over the music.
This was most noticeable with more complex music such as The Melvins and
If music at high volume is more
important to you than movies, I suggest you spend some time playing your
favorite CDs through this receiver to ensure that is sounds good to you
before you make the purchase. However, in general, receivers in the
entry-level (budget) price class will all likely tend to have problems at high
volume. Their power supplies have limitations because, in that low price,
they simply cannot be built to sustain constant high output. So, if you are
an Onkyo fan, and you like to play your music loud, then consider one of the
higher performance models in their line.
The Onkyo receiver has optional connectivity for your
iPod, through a product called the DS-A1, and XM Satellite Radio (you
purchase the antenna, which plugs into the receiver, along with a
Home theater consumers have many good receivers to choose from. It
is improbable that there will ever be one which has all the best features along
with an incredible
sound quality. At $499, though, the Onkyo TX-SR603 does pack in lots of great features for the
price, including an iPod link and XM Satelite Radio capability.
Most notable, for this low price, you get Zone 2
capability and Auto Calibration. Even given my disappointments with music reproduction at higher volume,
and the unit's lack of pre-outs, there are enough quality features to make this a
strong contender as a pretty good entry-level receiver.
- Jared Rachwalski -
Marantz SR5300 A/V Receiver
Panasonic RV32 DVD player
Paradigm System 3 Speakers
Raw Acoustics RA8, HT3, and HT2 Speakers
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