Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Onkyo’s TX-SR674 home theatre receiver brings the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) down to a more affordable level, with the receiver selling for $1,699. Actually, the company also has a lower-priced TX-SR604, but while that model is limited to HDMI switching, the TX-SR674 also has the ability to convert analog video inputs to HDMI.
Unlike some competing brands, it doesn’t specifically support an iPod dock. Instead, Onkyo has developed an elegant solution to the problem of iPod access: the DS-A2 universal iPod dock, available for an additional $199 RRP.
The dock will work with any home theatre receiver, indeed, with any audio device with a stereo line input. It has stereo audio outputs along with a composite video output. Plug the latter into a TV and you get not just iPod menus on the TV, but also video and still-photo slide shows from your iPod. It has its own remote control.
But if you have an Onkyo receiver, such as the TX-SR674, you get increased interoperability, although this is limited on some older models. With the TX-SR674, though, you get full control of the iPod through the receiver’s own remote control, so long as you plug in the R1 interconnect.
The receiver has, of course, all current surround standards. For the new multi channel Blu-ray and HD DVD systems (such as the lossless compression systems from DTS and Dolby Digital) you will need to use the 5.1/7.1 channel analog inputs. It offers seven channels of power, each rated at 95 watts at audiophile standards of measurement.
All the features you’d expect are there, including a microphone for automatic loudspeaker calibration, and the widely adopted Audyssey EQ system for smoothing the in-room frequency response of your loudspeakers. There is also an adjustable crossover for the subwoofer, enhanced by the ability to have different settings for front, centre, surround and surround back.
At $1,699 the TX-SR674 seems fairly pricey, given its overall specification. But that’s just a raw calculation from the basic specifications. In practice, it constitutes good value for money on the basis of how well it actually works.
In my system, it worked flawlessly. HDMI can sometimes exhibit unexpected incompatibilities. None of this was apparent with this receiver. I just plugged everything in and, straight away, it all worked perfectly. Even the automatic speaker calibration system produced respectable results. After that, all worked precisely as it should.
The DS-A2 dock, likewise, was smooth and effortless in operation. It is also of considerably lower cost than the equivalent dock from another brand.
As to performance, both the receiver and the dock could hold their heads up against any of the comparably priced alternatives in terms of sound quality and convenience of operation. The receiver delivered a clean and engaging surround sound experience, as well as fine stereo. On the video front, the conversion from S-Video to HDMI was generally very good.
Perhaps the only significant disappointment is the lack of preamplifier outputs for the seven main channels. That makes it difficult to upgrade the power amplification in the future.