|Onkyo TX-DS575 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Tony Kaklamanos|
|Wednesday, 01 December 1999|
This five-channel receiver has heavyweight features at the lightweight price of $529. That's right, just $529, which includes Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic and a whole lot more.
Discrete 5.1 processing is just the beginning for the TX-DS575. Starting from the ground up, all of the unit's technology is housed in a black solid-steel chassis with ribbed side panels to resist vibrations and is finished by a brushed aluminum black face plate. Moving inside, we find the power amplifier section which delivers 70W (minimum) of continuous RMS power to each of the five channels at eight ohms, from 20 Hz to 20kHz, with no more than 0.08% THD. The power section also utilizes Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT) that, in the past, has been reserved for Onkyo's high-end amplifiers. In short, WRAT technology uses non-fluctuating ground potential through low-negative-feedback topology. (Oh sure, easy for me to say.) Translation: WRAT helps accurately reproduce present and future high-resolution digital recording for an improved signal to noise ratio and delivery of power peaks. Also included are top-grade aluminum extruded heat sinks to reduce the potential for overheating.
Continuing our tech-tour, we come upon the digital-to-analog converter which provides full 24-bit/96kHz decoding from the latest high-resolution digital-audio sources including DVD-Audio. As previously mentioned, the TX-DS575 has built-in Dolby Digital, DTS decoding and Dolby Pro Logic. For those of you who have yet to hear Dolby Digital or DTS, just wait. Yes, there is a difference! Since we're in the digital processing domain, Onkyo has also included digital signal processing presets for source signals other than Dolby Digital and DTS. These include Orchestra, which is suitable for classical and opera by cutting the center channel and emphasizing the surround channels. The Unplugged preset may be utilized for acoustic instrumental, as well as jazz, by concentrating on the front stereo image. Studio-Mix simulates the acoustics that you may find in a small venue and is most suitable for rock and pop. The TV Logic preset emulates the acoustics of a TV program as it sounds in the TV studio. Last is the 5CH Stereo mode, which is useful for background music as the front and surround channels create the stereo image. You can also use the straight Stereo mode if you wish to bypass the surround effect entirely.
One very nice touch that some of the more expensive units overlook is the Dolby 3 Stereo mode that the TX-DS575 offers. With this mode selected, the signals from the right and left surrounds are mixed down to your front right and left mains. Pretty cool if you only want a nice-sounding front presence. And if these modes aren't quite to your personal specifications, you can adjust many of the parameters within some of the modes. You can also adjust the parameters for Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic. For instance, the Late Night mode for Dolby Digital encoded software allows you to narrow the dynamic range, which makes low-level signals easier to hear. However, be forewarned: some sounds or effects within DVD titles may be reproduced with little or even no effect. The Re-EQ preset was my favorite within the Dolby Digital and DTS domain. You may have experienced a friend or relative's home theatre system and notice that some or all of the movie sounded over-exposed or edgy. The primary reason for the exaggerated signal is that the sound was originally mixed for the theater environment, not for home cinema. The Re-EQ preset manages this aspect quite well, particularly in a "live" environment such as my living room (wood floors and plaster walls). The TX-DS575 also allows you to individually set gain and delay parameters for each channel, complete with test tone. Digital delays can also be implemented to tweak your sound into position
Moving around to the back panel we find a gracious number of inputs and outputs, including not one but two coaxial inputs, as well as a Toslink optical input. Also included are right and left binding posts (dual banana plug compatible) for the front mains and center channel, dedicated line-level sub-woofer pre-output, three audio inputs, four A/V inputs, one full input/output cassette loop, one full input/output VCR loop and even a phono input. For the surround section, there are right and left bare-wire speaker terminals. Also included within this section are the "B speakers" right and left bare-wire terminal inputs for secondary front right and left speakers. By the way, the TX-DS575 lets you drive both sets of speakers, "A" and "B," at the same time.
Circling around to the front panel, we notice a nice and neat layout with a series of button and knobs to control all of the aforementioned functions and more. A powerful learning remote control that gives you the "macro" ability to program up to 16 button operations into a single button is also included.
To evaluate the performance of the TX-DS575, I used Yamaha's DVD-S700 as my source, NHT SuperTwos for front mains, Mirage's AVS-100 and AVS-200s for center and rear surrounds, respectively. Musically, I threw a ton of options at this unit, from less-than-great production value CDs such as Vonda Shepard's The Radical Light (Vesper Alley Records) to XRCDs such as Johnny Griffin's The Little Giant (JVC Music). However, lately one of my favorite pieces of software to review equipment has been Michael Sherwood's Tangle Town (Skywriter Records). Michael uses a myriad of exotic and traditional instruments. The TX-DS575 kept pace with them all with very little tweaking. At the price point of $529, the unit definitely surpassed my expectations.
I also sampled a variety of feature films on DVD, including Payback (Paramount), L.A. Confidential (Warner Bros.) and In God's Hands (Columbia/Tristar). One stand-out scene from Payback depicts Mel Gibson's character taking a drag from his cigarette before tossing it into a stream of gasoline. The crackle of the tobacco and paper burning drew me into the moment and with a whoosh the gasoline trailed to a car and the explosion blew me out. The scene may be a bit sophomoric, but its execution and sound reproduction through the TX-DS575 is outstanding.
I have one major bone to pick with whoever sent me this unit: while reviewing the TX-DS575, its powerful remote control simply ceased to work. I checked the batteries to no avail. It just stopped. I know that manufacturers tend to send demo units for us to review, but they should really QC the product before it is shipped.
Personal and remote control feelings aside, there weren't too many downsides to this unit. The set-up was easy and the owner's manual is comprehensive. I wish the video input/output loop section utilized S-Video. I was told that at this price point, it wasn't possible. However, the TX-DS676 does have S-Video at the price of $829. I would have also liked for all of speaker terminals to be binding posts. I had to abandon my Camelot cables for the surround channels because of the bare-wire speaker terminals.
About two or three months ago, a friend of mind, Mike, called asking if I had heard of any A/V receivers on the market that cost around $500. I told him that I didn't - I made a couple of calls just to be sure. None of my contacts had heard of one. Then I was told that I would be reviewing the Onkyo TX-DS575. Not only did Onkyo make Dolby Digital and DTS available at this price point, they packed a ton of features into the unit, seemingly at no extra charge. Mike is coming over some night this week for a tour. I suggest that you do the same.