The release of the Onkyo TX-SR605 has changed the playing field for AV receivers, by offering a solid selection of cutting-edge features at a street price as low as $400. Of course, by offering such a powerful receiver at a low price, it becomes harder to justify step-up models, such as the Onkyo TX-SR805, when many consumers will start to wonder what is "good enough." For example, the SR605 and SR805 share many important features, such as onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, HDMI 1.3 ports capable of handling 1080p video, and video upconversion for analog inputs. For your extra money, the TX-SR805 ups the ante to three HDMI inputs, THX Ultra2 certification including THX Neural Surround processing, and a host of internal audio enhancements--such as Burr Brown digital-to-analog converters (DACs)--designed to make audiophiles drool. There's no doubt the TX-SR805 sounds great, and for those who put a premium on audio quality, the TX-SR805 fits the bill. If you're just interested in the extra HDMI functionality, check out the step-down TX-SR705 or--even cheaper--stick with the 605 and just get yourself an HDMI switcher.
If you're into sleek and small gadgets, the TX-SR805 is not for you. Coming in at 7.625 inches high, 17.125 inches wide, and 18.25 inches deep, the TX-SR805 demands some serious shelf space in your AV rack--and we'd recommend leaving some extra ventilation space too, as it runs pretty hot. The design is standard for an Onkyo receiver, and the TX-SR805 is available in both black and silver. In the upper-right-hand corner is a large volume knob that is surrounded by a blue light. The bottom third of the receiver is covered by a large, flip-down panel that reveals many extra front-panel buttons, enabling you to change surround processing and access the setup menu, among other functions. The LCD display is above the flip-down tray and shows the input you're currently using, as well as the current surround-sound processing engaged.
The TX-SR805 certainly isn't as sophisticated as the Sony STR-DA5300ES when it comes to input naming and selection, but we appreciate that we could change the input names to our actual devices. This means that after naming all our inputs, "DirecTV" would show up on the LCD display instead of CBL/SAT. These touches are minor, but they go a long way to making ponderous devices like AV receivers easier to use.
The TX-SR805's onscreen display is a slight step-up from just plain text on a black background, but not much. You're still stuck looking at blocky text, with the only consolation being that you get some white-and-blue graphics on the side to spice things up. Navigating the menus is pretty straightforward, although we have to wonder why HDMI monitor output isn't turned on by default with a receiver like this--we're guessing that results in lots of calls to customer service. The real missing feature is a pretty graphical user interface--you can find one on the similarly priced Sony STR-DA3300ES ($1,000), as well as the higher-priced Sony STR-DA5300ES ($1,700) and Denon AVR-3808CI ($1,600).
The TX-SR805 comes equipped with Audyssey Labratories' MultEQ XT eight-point automatic speaker calibration program, which you can run with the included microphone. For the most part, we were really satisfied with the results after running through the setup--especially with movies--but be warned that this process can take a while. We took measurements from three listening positions, and it took about 12 minutes from start to finish, including a 5-minute span when the TX-SR805 just said it was "calculating." You can actually take measurements at as many as eight different seating locations, which takes considerably longer.
The included remote is pretty good, considering the fact that all AV receiver remotes can be confusing to AV newcomers. There's a button on the side that activates the backlight, which is crucial for dark home theaters. In the center of the remote is a joystick that is used to navigate the menu system. The joystick is flanked by larger volume and channel rockers, with menu and setup controls to the top and bottom. We also like how the remote separates input selection and choosing a device to control--mixing those functions together is something we complained about on the pricier Sony STR-DA5300ES. So while there are a lot of buttons--which occasionally makes it hard to find what you're looking for--overall, the TX-SR805's remote does a pretty good job.
Key features at a glance:
|Connectivity||Audio Soundtrack Capabilities|
|HDMI inputs||3||Passes Dolby Digital and DTS via HDMI||Yes|
|Component video inputs||3||Passes LPCM via HDMI||Yes|
|A/V inputs w/S-Video||6 (5 rear, 1 front)||Decodes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master||Yes|
|Optical inputs||3 (2 rear, 1 front)||Video Capabilities|
|Coaxial inputs||3||HDMI version||1.3|
|Selectable HD sources||6||1080p via HDMI||Yes|
|Satellite radio||XM and Sirius ready||1080p via component||Yes|
|Network audio||No||Upconverts analog sources||Yes|
|Phono input||Yes||Deinterlaces 480i via HDMI||Yes|
|Analog multichannel input||Yes||Selectable output resolution||No|
The TX-SR805 is a 7.1-channel AV receiver, and Onkyo rates its power output at 130 watts, which is a step up from the 100 watts per channel of the TX-SR705. Similar to essentially every other receiver available, it offers a full selection of Dolby and DTS surround-processing modes. Like the vast majority of new midrange and high-end receivers, the TX-SR805 also has onboard decoding for the newest high-resolution surround formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Theoretically, the benefit of having onboard TrueHD and Master Audio decoding is that HD DVD and Blu-ray players can send these soundtracks to the receiver to be decoded, instead of the players needing onboard decoders themselves. Unfortunately, that's not currently possible. At the time of this review, there are no HD DVD or Blu-ray players capable of sending Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in bit-stream format. Instead, some--but not all--players decode these formats internally, then send the decoded signals to attached receivers via HDMI (in uncompressed linear PCM format) or multichannel analog-audio connections.
There are now several high-def disc players (such as Denon DVD-3800BDCI and the Onkyo DV-HD805) that have been announced that claim the ability to send Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bit-stream format over HDMI to compatible receivers. However, we won't know for sure if these players will work with the new receivers because Advanced Content flags on discs may prevent bit-stream output. The bottom line is we won't know for sure the real-world usefulness of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding until we get our hands on these new bit-stream-output-capable players. In the meantime, however, owners can be confident that having the onboard decoding is as much of a degree of futureproofing as exists in home audio at the current time.
There's also support for THX's relatively new Neural Surround sound processing. Neural Surround processing encompasses several types of processing. First, it can act similarly to Dolby's Pro Logic processing in that it can take a standard stereo signal and process it into 5.1 or 7.1 channels, creating a faux-surround mix where none existed. For those with 7.1 systems, it can also make 7.1 audio out of a 5.1 soundtrack. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, THX Neural Surround can take special acoustically watermarked stereo signals and decode them back to the original 5.1 mix. This makes it possible for you to get surround sound out of older gear if content providers properly encode the audio. THX Neural Surround is currently supported by XM Radio and some FM stations, but overall adoption is still relatively small.