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Product Review
 

Onkyo TX-SR674 7.1 A/V Receiver

Part II

February, 2007

Matthew Abel

 

Remote Control and General Use

In the past, I have not particularly liked Onkyo remote controls, but the model supplied with the TX-SR674 is a vast improvement. The remote is much smaller than previous models, and this contributes to its excellent feel in my hands. Its rubbery buttons also give excellent feedback, while using a mix of lighted and glow in the dark buttons to make the remote very usable in a darkened room.

Controlling the receiver with the remote control was generally very effective, despite having fewer buttons. The one area where you lose some control is in the selection of surround modes, where all you have is a stereo button and two arrows to scroll through the surround modes. However, I found that with my favorite sound modes already assigned to each input, I rarely had to change a surround mode. The remote is also preprogrammed to be used to control up to five other components.

General operation of the receiver was uneventful, having no problems during my review period. I did find that the receiver runs on the hotter side, so be aware of this if you are thinking of putting this unit into an A/V cabinet. On the video side, upconversion worked well, with composite and S-Video sources coming through clearly on the component video output.

The one operational problem I had with the receiver and the remote was when I was using the XM radio tuner. XM radio has lots of channels, and I generally find the best way to move around between channels is to directly key in the station number. In order to do this with the Onkyo, you need to press the +10 button and then enter the station number within 8 seconds using the number pad. Unfortunately, if you forget to press +10, you will end up selecting a new input because input selection is also mapped to the number pad area. For such a frequently used operation, it is incredibly frustrating. I also did not like how the information was displayed when using the XM tuner. For other manufacturers' receivers, when you change channels, they will display the station name for a few seconds and then begin scrolling the artist and song title information. In order to get this information with the Onkyo, you have to page through this information using the Display button where the artist and song title are shown on different display screens. How much this will bother you will depend entirely on how much you use the XM radio.

Despite my issues with using the XM radio, I generally found using this receiver to be a very enjoyable experience.

Sound

One of the things I was most interested in when listening to the TX-SR674 was the Neural surround mode as this would be my first opportunity to spend an extended time listening to it. Neural surround's primary selling point is that it is the codec being used by XM for the XMHD channels which offer full 5.1 surround. Currently there are only two XMHD channels, XM 76, 'Fine Tuning', a free form music channel, and XM 113, 'XM Pops', a classical pops channel. My experience using Neural surround on the XMHD channels was generally positive. XM Pops with Neural surround worked well, adding a nice sense of spaciousness that is often lacking in XM broadcasts. Fine Tuning was more of a mixed bag, some songs worked well, others were more mediocre. The biggest problem I had was when I used Neural on the non-XMHD channels, like my personnel favorite, XM 43 'XMU'. When I used Neural on XMU, everything ended up in the center channel, and it was a significant downgrade from listening in stereo or using DPL-II Music. It was actually very similar to listening to music using DPL-II Movie, which is not something I like to do. This seems to be more of a problem with the Neural surround processing than anything with the TX-SR674.

Moving on to more standard fare, I started my music evaluation with Gustav Holst's "Fantasia on the Dargason" from Holst's "Second Suite in F" on Suites for Band (Telarc CD-80038). I set the receiver to Direct mode and fed it the digital input from my DVD player. The sound was very clean and detailed, and I was able to pick out all of the small musical cues I have come to come to expect when hearing this track reproduced well. Bass on this track was good, but not outstanding, and I would have liked a slightly harmonically richer sound at times, but overall the Onkyo sounded very good for a sub-$1000 receiver.

Next, I brought Super Speedway to do a little surround sound listening. Super Speedway is an IMAX film about open wheel racing in the US, and it features lots of very impressive in-car camera and sound work. This creates very loud passages where you have the engine blaring over a myriad of bumps and rattles from the road noise and the car itself. The Onkyo excelled at these scenes, giving me the dynamics one would expect from being in a race car, while resolving the subtle details of the soundfield. Overall, I was very impressed as to how well the Onkyo reproduced this movie.

Finally, I watched The Incredibles, which is becoming one of my favorite movies for equipment reviews. I loved how the Onkyo was able to resolve a dynamic and detailed soundfield during the action sequences. Dialogue was clear and intelligible throughout the movie, and was well integrated into the seamless soundfield that the Onkyo created.

I watched a number of other movies using the Onkyo as well, and the excellent results I experienced with Super Speedway and The Incredibles were repeated over and over again.

Part of this great sonic experience has to be attributed to the Audyssey room correction, which seemed to work well in my room. Since you have to dig through the menus to turn the EQ on and off, it is not easy to make a quick A/B comparison, but I generally preferred the sound with the Audyssey correction. Ultimately, throughout all of my listening, I found the Onkyo TX-SR674 to be a very capable receiver.

Conclusions

At $799, the Onkyo TX-SR674 offers good value when compared to other manufacturers. It is distinguished by HDMI repeater switching and HDMI upconversion, which most receivers in this price range currently do not offer, and Audyssey room correction, which none of its competitors offer at this price. The Onkyo TX-SR674's excellent sound and unique features make it a good option for a receiver at this price point and a product I can certainly recommend.


- Matthew Abel -

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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