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Onkyo TX-SR607

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Onkyo TX-SR607

Hi-Fi World - October 2009 issue


Pure

and Simple

onkyo_tx-sr607_avreceiver

Noel Keywood loves Onkyo's budget wonder, the £500 TX-SR607 AV receiver...

 

As AV receivers go, the new budget TX-SR607 is dinky; I could almost lift it from its carton with one hand. Shelf space required is little more than that of a stereo amplifier, so small and cheap it may be, but lacking in ability it is not. Onkyo flaunt their skill yet again in the AV receiver field, where they are UK market leaders, by dropping out a lot of AV tat and giving us what matters, much of it concerned with audio performance. So if AV on a shoestring, with no big compromise to sound quality, takes your fancy, this receiver is for you.


In spite of the low price it is a full 7.1 receiver, and our tests showed more than 100 Watts from each channel so there's no lack of power. Two channels can be used for stereo in another room, making it 5.1. It can be run in 5.1 and the front loudspeakers bi-amped for better sound quality, so audiophiles haven't been ignored. Centre channel refuseniks like me can de-select it for room-friendly, better quality frontal stereo supported by quadraphonic surround sound. I notice that Onkyo even place the Centre terminal out of the main grouping, effectively ostracised!


There is no phono stage and no Ethernet connection for internet radio, nor DAB, but there is a VHF/FM tuner and an AM tuner. It will handle digital signals from CD, DVD and Blu-ray because 24/192 convertors are used. It will also play SACD in conjunction with the Oppo DV-980H player that plays SACDs and outputs DSD code,


Simplicity suits audio and, shorn of much AV clutter, the little TX-SR607 is well suited to those who want decent sound without the paraphernalia of AV, especially from THX because there are no THX cinema enhancement modes. There's a swathe of DTS modes however, plus the usual and expected synthesised effects such as Unplugged, Orchestra, Studio Mix and various Games modes. Onkyo also include Theater Dimensional to give surround-sound effect from stereo loudspeakers, as well as the DTS version called Surround-Sensation.


Gone also are multichannel inputs, so you cannot connect up any multichannel player using analogue cables, which obsoletes a lot of decent old DVD and SACD players. But the brutal truth is a good modern BD (Blu-ray Disc) player like the Samsung BD-P1600 now costs £150, plays everything except SACD and DVD-A and connects up using HDMI. The Oppo BDP-83 player can handle every disc format and also uses HDMI, so old analogue connected players are getting to the end of their useful existence in this digitally connected world. The absence of multichannel analogue outputs simply means external power amps cannot be used.


Onkyo have also thrown out decent loudspeaker terminals, fitting shaky 1970s style screw posts that accept only bare wires and not 4mm banana plugs. The handbook says it has banana plug compatible 4mm posts, then appends a note saying they are 'prohibited' in Europe. I found the blanking plug inserts were not removable, even though I tried hard with various sharp implements. In contrast to these crude old connectors Onkyo have at last included a front panel HDMI input for HD camcorders. There are lines of HDMI inputs on the rear panel, all Version 1.3a, but gone are the lines of antiquated Composite and S-Video inputs and outputs that festoon every receiver - thank the Lord! Component video still gets a look in though: inputs and an output for a monitor are fitted.


In spite of the price the TX-SR607 has full processing from HDMI (i.e. it is not pass through) and it will decode losslessly compressed Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio from Blu-ray discs. It also has Dolby Digital Plus, an updated version of standard Dolby Digital (AC3) surround-sound common on DVD.


Surprisingly, Onkyo have also fitted new Dolby ProLogic IIz, in addition to IIx. The Dolby Pro Logic system turns stereo into surround-sound by vector addition and subtraction of Left and Right channels. It works well with many CDs, if not all, and gives interesting results with matrix encoded TV sound I have found in the past.  With 'z' Pro Logic synthesises frontal height information, bringing height to the forward soundstage, but to appreciate it you must fix loudspeakers to the walls and lead wires up to them! Somehow I don't think this will find many takers. Whilst this potentially gives 9.1 channels, the receiver has only 7 amplifiers onboard so Back loudspeakers must be forfeited if frontal 'heights' are used (see p16 of handbook). Since few Blu-rays have discrete 7.1 soundtracks, Back information is usually synthesised from the Surround channels in any case, so owners can choose between synthesised Back or Height channels.


DTS have a similar system to Pro Logic IIx called Neo 6 and it is included on the Onkyo. A full list of DTS processing schemes for those interested can be found on p67 of the handbook available at the Onkyo website.


onkyo-txsr607avreceiverwhit


Audyssey room tuning is fitted, with automatic equalisation in addition to the usual loudspeaker identification, level and distance settings. Unfortunately, the equalisation applied is not shown, although all other parameters are and were, as usual, spot on correct. It judged my speaker distances correctly and that I was not using a subwoofer, but that I was using full range Surrounds and Backs. As I have found before though, Audyssey sets the Surrounds too loud for effect, so they dominate, and it also boosts the upper midband to enhance detail and presence. I could hear this when switching from Direct to Stereo, but I also confirmed what was going on with a spectrum analyser, as I have done before. Audyssey can be switched out permanently and I prefer to do this, or it gets knocked out automatically by selecting Direct or Pure Direct, both of which bypass the internal DSPs that apply Audyssey correction.


Onkyo include tone controls and a five-band equaliser for those who would prefer to make their own adjustments and, as always, I set by ear and tape measure, and listening was in Pure Direct.


Connecting up the TX-SR607 was a fiddle as initially I had to abandon my usual Van den Hul Royal Jade front cables with their fixed 4mm plugs and make up heavy duty OFC Shark cable from Maplin but it was audibly a bit vague and incohesive, so I had to abandon it. Looking at the problem again I found I could squeeze 4mm plugs into the lower row of speaker terminals from below, and from the upper ones from above, as the entry holes are just big enough, so the Van den Huls were back in. Connecting up wasn't confidence inspiring because the terminals shook like a turkey at the approach of Christmas and the VHF aerial lead fell off immediately I plugged it in, because the panel plug was slightly undersize; I had to dress my stiff, twin screen coaxial aerial cable to force it on. At least the HDMIs were a decent fit, so the cables didn't fall out even though they are high quality, stiff Monster cables. With just one HDMI TV output owners won't be faced with a blank screen at switch on, something that can happen with twin outputs.


onkyotx-sr607-remote



The set up menus are unlike Onkyo's usual fare; quite why I don't know. Cheapy receivers usually come out of China and Taiwan (the factory producing U.S. brand Sherwood told me they make most of them) and the menus looked like a tarted up form of some basic proprietary menu layout. However, the TX-SR607 is made in Malaysia and has the stamp of Onkyo's design standards on it, including a very good VHF tuner and analogue output stages that run hot, suggesting they are strongly biased into Class A in a Class A/B system. This reduces crossover distortion and makes for a smoother sound at low levels. I was surprised at the heat streaming out under ordinary usage, but this is a feature of Onkyo receivers; the '607 was almost a match for my 300B valve amplifier!


Set up was easy enough, if not quite as easy as that of their more expensive receivers. Happily, the European version has a Pure Direct button on front which turns off the displays. There is also a Direct mode that similarly routes signals straight through without turning off the front display, bypassing the input ADC for analogue inputs, such as an external phono stage for example. The remote cycles through Pure Direct and Direct, amongst other selections and this was irritating. I like a Pure Direct panic button! But favourably, the remote also recognises cinema, audio and games buff requirements and separates them out, which is an excellent feature.


As always Onkyo make tuning the VHF/FM receiver easy, from the front panel and the remote. The tuner has a mono mode which lifts noise muting so weak, distant stations can be received and there are 40 presets that can be allocated between FM and AM.  The VHF/FM section has Radio Data System (Europe only) and will display radio text to identify stations - a useful feature I find. I had twelve London stations entered by frequency (to avoid weak relay transmitters) within a few minutes, Onkyo's tuning system was so easy to use – unlike many.


The receiver will also work with Onkyo's UP-A1 iPod dock and then the remote control can control the iPod.


Onkyo fit a video upscaling unit to turn low res. DVD pics into hi-res for 1080 TV screens, but since most modern Blu-ray players already have internal upscaling I am not sure it is especially important. A decent Samsung BD-P1600 costs just £150 from HMV and other outlets and will play CD, and upscale DVD. If you want to play SACDs and DVD-As as well then an Oppo BDP-83 (£520) is the weapon of choice.  There are both optical and coaxial digital inputs of course, for connecting CD players.

SOUND QUALITY

Spinning Carlos Santana's Supernatural DVD-A in 24/96 PCM from an Oppo DV-980H player showed the TX-SR607 to be talented. It isn't as smooth, cohesive and svelte as Onkyo's more expensive models, nor the Marantz SR-8002 I use, but it isn't far off. And in essence it is clear, dynamic and entertaining in the usual Onkyo style, Santana's guitar having most of its stark and sharply outlined presence, maracas coming from right rear from this 24/96 recording. Deep bass oozed out from the B&W 683s and '5s, showing the receiver has as much low end grunt as its more expensive brethren.


With the Trondheim Soloists Divertimenti SACD the Onkyo constructed a beautifully smooth sound field all around me. With this recording you sit in the ensemble and I really couldn't fault the TX-SR607 at the price. It revealed the characteristic smoothness of DSD code and I was impressed to see DVD DSD appear on the display when I polled it with the remote. Few receivers at any price resolve DSD so well and I enjoyed a wide range of classical SACDs through the Onkyo, always appreciative of its smoothness.


With Blu-ray from a Samsung BD-P1600, 24/96 recordings from Chris Botti, John Meyer and Elton John all sounded wonderfully clear and yet full bodied in typical Onkyo fashion. The 24/192 Divertimenti recordings in PCM and DTS-HD Master Audio played perfectly too, with lovely bite to the strings yet deep resonance from the violin bodies, especially evident with PCM. Unfortunately, Dolby TrueHD played at an obviously lower level than PCM or DTS-HD Master Audio and it seemed a bit lacking in body. However, Nine Inch Nails and John Meyer concerts in Dolby TrueHD played fine, both having plenty of low end punch so this may have been a disc related problem.


The VHF/FM tuner was superb in every respect. In particular it resolves low end information well, giving the bass good body and resolving the atmosphere of studios with live speech. Listening to Radio 4 I was made very aware of all the differing backgrounds to recordings of Russian and Georgian views on South Ossetia, as well as hiss free silences when the studio switched back to the presenter. Magic and Absolute came in in superb quality, as did Classic FM. The remote will step up and down the presets, or station numbers can be selected directly from the keypad. For those appreciative of VHF/FM quality this tuner is a very good one, better than most 'hi-fi' separates I have heard. Only Creek do it better. I can't help feeling someone at Onkyo listens to VHF/FM, and enjoys it.


CONCLUSION

For the price, the TX-SR607 is remarkable. It offers more than receivers costing twice as much. Sound quality is extremely good from every section and excellent from SACD. This is a modern receiver devoid of superfluous tat, yet able to cope with legacy formats: in conjunction with an Oppo BDP-83 it can play everything, and very well. It is remarkable value and something of an eye popper quality wise. I don't know how Onkyo do it.

 


verdict five globes

A budget AV receiver that offers fine results all round, amazing at this price!

ONKYO TX-SR607        £500

Onkyo UK

+44(0) 1494 681515

www.onkyo.co.uk

FOR

- handles all digital formats

- good VHF/FM tuner

- SACD

AGAINST

- shaky speaker terminals

- unlovely appearance

- runs hot



MEASURED PERFORMANCE

Small and cheap it may be, but the TX-SR607 produced no less than 120 Watts into 8 Ohms under test, and even more into 4 Ohms - 180 Watts. It soon ran hot when pushed this hard; the heatsinking inside is limited and relays tripped after a short period of 15 secs or so to limit output, but it survived heavy testing all the same. So this receiver has the power to drive almost any loudspeaker.


Distortion levels were low, reaching a maximum of 0.03% at 10kHz. The harmonic structure was extended and crossover dominated all the way up the power scale, so treble may lack real sweetness.


An analogue input signal through the A/D could not exceed 2.2V, a limit avoided by selecting Direct or Pure Direct. Whilst noise was low in these modes, it rose to -84dB through the input ADC. Input sensitivity was very high at 200mV so the Onkyo will accommodate external low gain phono stages; there is no phono input.

 

Frequency response of the VHF/FM tuner measured flat to 10kHz and is very accurate. There is an mpx filter to remove pilot tone at 19kHz, introducing -58dB rejection. Hiss was low at -70dB (IEC weighted) at full quieting but the TX-SR607 needed a high 1.8mV (p.d.) from the aerial to achieve this - double the usual 0.8mV or so, so it is insensitive and needs a decent aerial for minimum hiss. Measured IHF 50dB stereo sensitivity was poor at 120uV, unsurprisingly.

 

Frequency response for CD through the D/A convertors via the optical S/PDIF digital input was absolutely flat, reaching 21kHz (-1dB). Distortion was low too, measuring 0.21% at -60dB. With high resolution digital (24bit PCM) just 0.05% distortion was measured at -60dB, showing the SR607 is able to resolve high resolution digital audio. Bandwidth with 96kHz sample rate extended to 48kHz (-1dB) and 192kHz to 90kHz our analysis shows - excellent results. Sadly, with DSD code from SACD bandwidth reached just 22kHz (-1dB), a poor result. SACD almost matched PCM linearity at -60dB returning a 0.08% distortion figure - some consolation. It should sound smooth as a result.


The TX-SR607 measured very well in nearly all areas. The VHF tuner is insensitive, but will sound good with a decent aerial. SACD wasn’t reference quality, bit it was decent all the same and high definition digital from BD will sound very good. NK

Power 120 Watts

Frequency response 0Hz-122kHz

Separation 80dB

Noise (A/D, Direct) -84/-102dB

Distortion 0.005%

Damping factor 28

CD/DVD/SACD

Frequency

response (-1dB) 2Hz-21, 48, 90kHz

Separation 88dB

Noise -105/107/108dB

Distortion (-60dB) 0.21, 0.05, 0.08%

VHF TUNER

Frequency response 10Hz-10kHz

Stereo separation 40dB

Distortion (50% mod.) 0.15%

Hiss (CCIR) -70dB

Signal for minimum hiss 1.8mV

Sensitivity (stereo) 120µV

 


FREQUENCY RESPONSE 192k

onkyo-tx-sr607-192k-fr

 


DISTORTION, 24bit

onkyo-tx-sr607-24-96-thd

 

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