The evolution in high-tech A/V receivers is accelerating at a dizzying pace. Advanced features previously debuted in fl agship receivers and then trickled down into more affordable models a year or so later. Nowadays quantum leaps in technology occur seemingly overnight. A year ago you could not have found any receiver that offered the incredibly rich features provided in Onkyo’s $899 TX-SR705 AVR. But beyond impressive, high-profi le technologies, this receiver offers something even more important—satisfying core sound quality that makes it one of the sweetest bargains in today’s mid-priced receiver market.
The TX-SR705 is a dual-zone, THX Select2-certifi ed receiver that uses Onkyo’s signature WRAT (wide range amplifi er technology) circuitry to put out a healthy 7 x 100 watts per channel. In addition to the AM/FM tuner, it has facilities for adding Sirius and XM satellite radio antennas and provides THX Neural Surround processing for XM HD Surround broadcasts (and other Neural Surround-encoded programs).
The SR705 supports the latest HDMI 1.3a interfaces that can carry digital video signals at resolutions up to 1080p while simultaneously delivering up to 7.1 channels of high resolution digital audio offering better-than-CD-quality sound. It is also one of the fi rst receivers to provide decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.
Video buffs will be pleased to learn the Onkyo converts composite, S-video and component video signals for 480p HDMI output, while providing Faroudja DCDi video processing. Faroudja processing cleans up incoming video signals, helping to eliminate jaggies (a stair-step effect that mars the edges of objects) and other annoying picture problems before they ever reach the TV screen. For audio purists, the receiver provides both a DIRECT mode, which reproduces audio signals with minimal processing, and a PURE AUDIO mode, which turns off all display and video circuits, except for HDMI pass-through signals.
To simplify setup tasks and improve overall sound quality, the SR705 incorporates an updated version of Audyssey’s MultEQ XT room/speaker equalization system—one that lets you take calibration measurements from up to eight listening locations. For iPod fans, Onkyo offers the optional DS-A2X docking station. Finally, the Onkyo receiver includes a phono input—an old-school touch that acknowledges the fact that, for many music lovers, vinyl still rules.
The SR705 cleanly switched video from DVD, Blu-ray, and HD DVD players as well as from an HD satellite box, adding no visible noise or other artifacts of any kind. To try out the Faroudja processing we connected an inexpensive DVD player known to have decent but not great video performance, and found that image quality—especially on diffi cult jaggies tests—improved noticeably.
As fate would have it, we were able to compare the SR705 with the superb Anthem Statement D2 controller/Statement P5 amp combo in our reference system—a very tough act for any receiver to follow. I won’t tell you Onkyo was the equal of the mighty Anthem rig, but I will say it came closer than it had any right to, given its modest price. The most noticeable differences were very slight reductions in overall sonic detail, resolution, and focus vis-à-vis the more than ten times more costly controller/amp combo. I frankly didn’t expect the comparison to be as close as it was.
On movies soundtracks, three things stood out: Richness of detail, eerily coherent surround sound imaging, and a generally smooth and punchy sound. To appreciate what I mean, check out Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto on Blu-ray Disc with the soundtrack set for “5.1-CHANNEL UNCOMPRESSED” playback. On the chase scene from the “Man Who Brings The Jaguar” sequence, the Onkyo served up grippingly realistic, 3D jungle noises as Jaguar Paw sprinted for his life through the undergrowth. The illusion that I was dashing forward at breakneck speed through a dense tangle of vines and low hanging branches was downright spooky—an effect that was given added power by the Onkyo’s ability to render detailed sounds that appeared to emanate from directly beside the listening area.
Even at the height of the action, the TX-SR705 presented the fi lm’s exotic, Mayan-themed soundtrack with audiophile-grade clarity. The urgent sound of strange, ominous percussion instruments intertwined with haunting ceramic fl utes created a sonic backdrop that turbocharged the emotional impact of the fi lm. More so than other mid-priced receivers I’ve heard, this one can disentangle complicated soundtrack elements without breaking a sweat.
The Onkyo proved a satisfying performer on music, too, responding particularly well when fed high-resolution multichannel recordings. I tried one of my latest discoveries, Blue Chamber Quartet’s First Impressions [Stockfi sch, multichannel SACD], and marveled at the way the receiver teased out the distinctive voices of the quartet’s four featured instruments: piano, vibraphone, harp, and double bass.
On the performance of the beautiful Chick Corea composition “Children’s Song 16,” the song’s deceptively simple rhythmic theme is fi rst stated by the vibraphone, then picked up and reinforced by the piano and acoustic bass. Later, the piano and vibes drop away, allowing the main theme to be carried by the harp with a gentle touch of bass. Even though the ranges of the vibraphone, piano, and harp overlap, I never had any doubt as to which instruments were carrying the theme at any given moment. The SR705 effortlessly distinguished between the ringing, chime-like voice of the vibraphone, the penetrating attack and deeper sustain of the piano, and the luminous bloom of the harp. It’s exactly this sort of natural, almost offhand clarity and purity that really sets the Onkyo apart from competing receivers.