In my “The Long View” column for The Perfect Vision Issue 70, I suggested that advanced digital signal processing techniques could, in the future, help resolve complicated room acoustics and speaker equalization problems. Well, now that I’ve auditioned Onkyo’s $799 TX-SR674 receiver, which incorporates Audyssey Laboratories’ fuzzy logic-driven 2EQ auto-calibration system, I think it’s fair to say the future is now.
At first glance, the 7x95Wpc TX-SR674 appears to be a conventional, albeit very nicely equipped, mid-priced AVR. But as you look more closely, you’ll find technical details that set this receiver apart. For example, the XM radio-ready TX-SR674 provides built-in Neural Surround processing to take advantage of XM broadcasts of surround recordings or live surround sound events. In turn, the TX-SR674 supports Onkyo’s second generation DS-A2 iPod dock, which can handle video iPods and provides its own remote and onscreen display. Next, the receiver provides two HDMI inputs and one output, with full HDMI repeater functions that make the interfaces more useful. Finally, the receiver up-converts composite, S-video, and component video signals for output via HDMI.
The biggest news, of course, is the onboard Audyssey Laboratories 2EQ auto-calibration system, making the TXSR674 one of the first sub-$1k receivers to include the feature. Unlike other auto-EQ systems, 2EQ optimizes loudspeaker response curves to create multiple good listening positions within the listening space—not just one central “sweet spot.” Accordingly, the system takes multiple measurements, first at a central listening position, then at the seat farthest to the right, and finally at the seat farthest to the left. Then, the system applies proprietary Audyssey algorithms to calculate speaker-specific EQ curves and subwoofer crossover settings to optimize response across the room. Does this whiz-bang technology actually work? You bet it does. In fact, after 2EQ setup was complete and listening tests began, the TX-SR674 could in many ways hold its own relative to an expensive 200Wpc reference receiver, and in some respects the Onkyo actually sounded better. Here’s why. The Onkyo’s 2EQ system simultaneously smoothes frequency response and improves image focus, taming room acoustics problems that would typically have colored the sound. As a result, I heard across-the-board improvements in clarity and dialog intelligibility. One side benefit of these improvements was that the Onkyo also made the system sound more articulate at lower volume levels.