Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Home theatre is in a time of flux, thanks to HD DVD and Blu-ray. Not only have these provided movie-on-demand high definition video, they have raised the bar on audio quality.
There are four new sound standards available on some of these discs: Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD High Resolution, Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The first two are like the standard Dolby Digital and DTS, but greatly improved, with with much lower levels of quality-sapping compression. The other two are so-called lossless systems. That means that none of the original sound is eliminated at all, so they provide the ultimate surround sound quality.
But how do you take advantage of these new formats?
That’s where the Onkyo TX-SR805 home theatre receiver comes in. Onkyo (and its affiliated brand Integra) is the first company to introduce receivers that can accept all four of those new signals – along, of course, with all the traditional digital standards – so that you can enjoy this glorious new sound.
That capability wouldn’t be of much value unless the rest of the receiver had all the stuff needed for great sound, and this one doesn’t disappoint here. It has seven channels of amplification, each rated at a very healthy 130 watts.
To ease the way in installation, it has an auto setup feature with a microphone, and includes the high quality Audyssey MultEQ XT equaliser to improve sound balance in your room.
The new digital audio formats can only be carried by a HDMI connection, so the receiver has three HDMI inputs. All the various analog video inputs are automatically converted to HDMI format as well, so you only need to run a HDMI cable from the receiver to your display.
I would love to tell you how absolutely brilliant Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio sound. I truly would. But I can’t. It isn’t the receiver’s fault, though. It’s just that Onkyo is so far ahead of the curve that none of the current generation of HD DVD and Blu-ray players are capable of delivering this sound to it (it requires HDMI version 1.3 outputs on the players, which none of them have).
But for the regular DTS and Dolby Digital sound, it was brilliant. Even better were Blu-ray discs with uncompressed multichannel sound. These have CD-like sound, but with 5.1 channels instead of the regular two. The blue singer (seems appropriate somehow) on the Blu-ray version of The Fifth Element was incredibly powerful with this receiver, while the drum-flicking scene in House of Flying Daggers was even more impressive.
Everything else on this receiver worked just the way it should: with complete reliability, with great sound, with excellent video handling, and with exquisite control.
Okay, today you cannot purchase a Blu-ray or HD DVD player that will allow you to take full advantage of this receiver. But they will be here within a year, so if you’re buying a home theatre receiver today, don’t you think it wise to anticipate their needs?
I certainly do.