Comparing the features of competing AV receivers is already a difficult chore, but many manufacturers, such as Denon and Yamaha, invite more complexity by offering two lines of nearly identical AV receivers: a custom-install-friendly line and a more-consumer-based line. For better or worse, Onkyo has followed suit with the HT-RC160, which is the consumer-friendly analogue to the TX-SR607. As much as we dislike the confusion created by the duplicated models, the HT-RC160 is a good deal. The differences between TX-SR607 and HT-RC160 are simple: no front panel HDMI input, no onboard Sirius support, and slightly less power. Otherwise, they are virtually identical and the HT-RC160 is selling for about $100 less online. The HT-RC160 isn't our favorite midrange receiver (that would be the Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K), but taking value into account, it's the next best choice.
The trend in home audio is to make gear smaller and sleeker, but Onkyo receivers are unapologetically big and bulky, coming in at 17.13 inches wide by 6.94 inches high by 12.94 inches deep. You'll want to leave plenty of space in your home theater rack to fit the receiver, especially since it tends to run hot. The front panel offers the standard assortment of buttons and knobs; the focus is definitely on function over form. We're not picky about aesthetics when it comes to AV receivers, but if you are, you'd probably be better off looking at options like the Sony STR-DN1000 or Pioneer VSX-1019AH.
The included remote control is the same as last year's and we generally like its simple design. Instead of offering all the functions directly on the remote, the HT-RC160's clicker uses a simpler design that relies more on navigating onscreen menus. While some old-school home theater fans may prefer having all the buttons at their fingertips, we felt like this design was much less intimidating for the average user.
While more AV receivers are starting to feature true graphical user interfaces, the HT-RC160 features a text-based onscreen interface. To be fair, there are some graphics accompanying the menus, but they're comparatively low-fi--although they easily best the onscreen menus of the Yamaha RX-V665BL. Graphics aside, the menus are easy to get around and we didn't run into any snags during our setup. Our one nitpick is that there's no capability to change the upscaling resolution in the menu system; you need to use the button on the remote instead.
Like all of Onkyo's receivers of recent memory, the HT-RC160 features Audyssey's 2EQ automatic calibration system. The comprehensive system confirms the wiring polarity for each speaker is correct ("+" to "+" and "-" to "-"), adjusts each channel's volume level and time delay/distance setting, determines the speaker "sizes," and the speaker/subwoofer crossover settings. Audyssey 2EQ also provides equalization corrections to the speakers, which may or may not improve the sound. In our case, our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system was warmer and richer sounding with the EQ turned on. Does that mean better? Not to us, but it's a matter of personal taste.
The 2EQ system uses a microphone to analyze the speakers' and subwoofer's sound from three listening positions in your room. The setup process took about 12 minutes to complete, during which time the receiver sent test tones to all five Aperion speakers and the sub. After each series of tones was completed we were instructed (via the onscreen display) to move the measurement mic to the next room position.
Once the Audyssey 2EQ setup was finished it was easy to confirm the results, which were pretty accurate overall. Speaker and subwoofer measured distances were spot-on, and the volume levels, including the subwoofer, were perfect. We were less happy with the subwoofer-to-speaker crossover settings: Audyssey 2EQ selected 40 Hertz for the towers, 90 Hz to the center-channel speaker, and 60 Hz for the surround speakers.
The settings for the towers and surround speakers were too low (a low setting would result in a lack of midbass). So we changed the towers' crossover to 60Hz and the surrounds crossover to 90Hz in the manual setup. Granted, the sound, even before we made the changes was perfectly fine, but it was a smidge better after we made the changes.
We definitely liked the Audyssey 2EQ setup results overall and recommend taking the time to do the autosetup.
|Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA||Yes||Onscreen display||Text-based|
|Analog upconversion||1080i||Source renaming||Yes|
|Selectable output resolution||Yes||Satellite radio||No|
In addition to Dolby Pro Logic IIz, the HT-RC160 has onboard decoding for both of the new high-resolution soundtrack formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Analog upconversion is provided up to 1080i, although we really weren't satisfied with the image quality--we'll get to the details in the performance section. The onscreen display for the HT-RC160 is primarily text-based, although there are some basic graphics accompanying the menus. Unlike the TX-SR607, the HT-RC160 lacks Sirius support, although you can add it with a standalone tuner (or a streaming-audio unit that utilizes the online XM Sirius stream).
|HDMI inputs||5||Optical audio inputs||2|
|Component video inputs||2||Coaxial audio inputs||2|
|Max connected HD devices||8||Stereo analog audio inputs||2|
|Composite AV inputs||5||Analog multichannel inputs||No|
|Max connected video devices||8||Phono input||No|
The HT-RC160's five HDMI inputs are excellent at the price range, bested only by its sister product, the TX-SR607. We were also impressed that it's possible to connect eight simultaneous HD sources, which means there are enough input "slots" to cover all five HDMI inputs and the two component video inputs. The rest of the connectivity options are standard at this price range, although there are some notable omissions. There are no S-Video inputs on the HT-RC160--which is becoming common--but there also isn't a 7.1 multichannel analog input, which may disappoint some buyers with older gear. Like most receivers in this price range, the HT-RC160 also lacks a phono jack.