First Listen: Onkyo TX-SR608 A/V Receiver

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Onkyo TX-SR608
First Listen: Onkyo TX-SR608 A/V Receiver

As some of you know, Onkyo’s 2009 TX-SR607 receiver was one of The Perfect Vision’s favorite affordably priced AVRs, so we were eager to check out its successor, the new TX-SR608 (MSRP, $599). Like its predecessor, the TX-SR608 represents part of growing trend among A/V receivers, where the concept is to focus primarily on digital inputs (specifically, on HDMI inputs), while dispensing with all but a fairly rudimentary set of analog inputs. If you take a look at the rear panel of the TX-SR608, you’ll find that it has no multichannel analog audio inputs whatsoever (and also no onboard phono section), but that it offers no less than six (count ‘em) HDMI 1.4 inputs (five on the rear panel, with a sixth auxiliary HDMI input on the faceplate). 

To be perfectly frank, when I initially spotted this trend as embodied in the earlier TX0-SR607, I didn’t like it—perhaps because, as a card-carrying audiophile type of guy, I’m just plain used to working with analog inputs and am in the habit of seeking out source components that offer exemplary analog sound quality. But over time, I’ve warmed to Onkyo’s concept of a “mostly digital” (if not exactly “all digital”) A/V receiver, in part because I nosee how very well it fits the needs and desires of many enthusiasts. The logic behind the receiver’s mix of inputs and outputs make perfect sense, especially if you start with several basic assumptions:

Assumption 1: Modern source components serve primarily as A/V data retrieval devices. Their main job is to A/V play software disks or data files, or to receive broadcasts (via the airwaves or via satellite transmission), and then to deliver digital A/V program data to a receiver or controller.

Assumption 2: It’s really not necessary to worry about the audio or digital video quality of source components since you won’t be watching or listening through the source components’ outputs. On the contrary, you’ll be listening through your A/V receiver (or A/V controller/amp combo).

Assumption 3: It follows that the component that really does need killer audio and video output quality is you’re A/V receiver, because—when it comes to converting digital A/V data into beautiful sounds you can hear and images you can see onscreen—the receiver is pretty much “where the rubber meets the road.”

If you buy into this group of assumptions, and there are plenty of good reasons why home theater enthusiasts might want to, then there’s a good chance the TX-SR608 could become your new best friend.

The neat part about choosing a digital source-centric receiver like this one is that you needn’t waste money on costly analog inputs or circuits you’ll never use, while the resulting cost savings flow straight back into your bank account. But even though this little receiver is modestly priced, it is  remarkably full featured. Highlights include (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • *   THX-Select2 Plus Certification
  • *   HDMI v.1.4 inputs and outputs
  • *   3D-Ready
  • *   192 kHz/24-bit Burr Brown PCM1690
  • *   Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio support
  • *   A dedicated PC input
  • *   Onboard Faroudja DCDi Cinema video processing
  • *   Audyssey 2EQ room EQ system
  • *   Support for Audyssey DSX and Dolby PLIIx (for those who would like to experiment with adding “Height” or “Width” channels)
  • *   A new “power amplifier section that uses three-stage inverted Darlington output topology, and (provides) a power boost from 90 to 100 watts (per channel, relative to the earlier TX-SR607).”

How does the TX-SR608 sound at first blush? The answer is that it sounds pretty darned amazing--especially so in light of its price. It’s been a while since I had Onkyo’s TX-SR607 in The Perfect Vision listening room, but based on my recollection of that earlier model I would say the the new TX-SR608 has taken significant steps forward in terms of overall sound quality. There’s a sense of sonic smoothness, richness of detail, and of overall “ease” about the TX-SR608 that would do credit to AVR at almost any price point, but that seems even more impressive for a model selling for a tick under $600.

I’ll offer more detailed performance observations when I present a full review of the TX-SR608 in The Perfect Vision Guide to AVRs, Controllers & Amps, which will be released later this Summer. Until then, happy listening and viewing.

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