With Blu-ray leading the way in AV sources, the average AV receiver has had to lift its high definition credentials. Decoding all that Blu-ray offers has its own set of challenges for ancillary hardware and one of the first companies to offer an affordable AV receiver that was up to the task was Onkyo. This is its latest offering in the upper mid-market AV receiver arena, but does Onkyo still deliver what’s required?
Specs are fairly standard at this level, with four HDMI 1.3a inputs and one output (with upscaling to 1080p), rated power output at 7 x 100 watts and the THX Select2 Plus certification. The latest audio decoding is handled onboard, with DSD (for SACD), Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio all supported. The 706’s styling is standard-issue Onkyo, and a look the company’s been using for a while now. Build, like all Onkyo gear, is solid and instills confidence. A bit of a rarity these days, the ‘706 also includes a MM phono input as there are plenty of us out there that still want to spin a bit of vinyl.
A basic version of Audyssey’s auto-calibration setup takes care of the tricky bits – it’s accurate and works a treat. Plus Onkyo’s included some new DSP features on the ‘706, such as THX Loudness Plus and Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ that both (independently) maintain movie soundtrack dynamics at low volume listening levels; great for late night viewing. And when the lights are out at least the fairly standard issue remote is partly backlit and has learning capability.
If an AV receiver performs well in two-channel mode, it typically does the same when it comes to multichannel duties, so our first test was with music. To eliminate extraneous noise, a ‘Pure Music’ button bypasses all the internal circuits that are unnecessary for processing the audio signal and, in full voice, the ‘706 proves Onkyo’s record for very musical-sounding AV receivers. This Onkyo can hold a tune, and with receivers doubling as stereo and surround amps in most homes, this is a very good thing. The 706 is the sort of amplifier that is easy to listen to – the bass is lean and tight, mids bring out good vocal character and the highs never grate or leave you flinching. It achieves a good, balanced performance.
Switching to 7.1 channels and the Onkyo turns on the movie magic. Fed by a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player, the Onkyo handles all that the HD format has to offer. It’s Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding provides a high degree of multichannel audio dynamics and excellent channel steering. Effects seem to be generated from every quarter; the DTS-HD soundtrack on the Blu-ray version of Fantastic 4 is a treat for both the eyes and ears, with the audio action panning convincingly around the room. The Onkyo delivers impressive punch and weight with explosions while keeping a firm grip on surround sound placement; such action movies engulf the listener in a highly dramatic way. And as things quieten down the Onkyo doesn’t let the finer details disappear either – it’s here that the THX Loudness Plus and Audyssey Dynamic EQ come into their own.
While not quite as powerful or heavily featured as some models at this price point, there is no doubt that the TX-SR706 is an accomplished all-rounder. It puts in a solid performance with both movies and music, plus it’s still got what it takes to make the most of today’s high definition sources and displays.