|Onkyo TX-DS989 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Friday, 01 December 2000|
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Drawing off the concepts and technology developed in their critically acclaimed Integra Research series of components, Onkyo has produced the TX-DS989 A/V Receiver ($3,199.95). It combines a high performance 130 watts per channel amplifier (x7), a sophisticated AM/FM tuner and a state-of-the-art, infinitely upgradable digital processor.
Boasting true 7.1 audio, the TX-DS989 was the first to go to market with THX Surround EX, which delivers an additional channel of surround. Requiring an extra set of speakers in the back of the listening area, the result is a more realistic 360-degree environment. The TX-DS989 provides amplification and speaker terminals for the extra left and right back surround speakers.
Capable of attaining a dynamic range of 120dB with a virtually jitter-free output, the advanced 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converters (one for each channel) assure top-end performance on all existing digital sources, as well as the up-and-coming formats DVD-Audio and SACD. Additionally, the Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WART) employed by Onkyo guarantees a flat response beyond 100kHz for superior reproduction of these newer high-resolution formats.
THX Surround EX
The inclusion of THX Surround EX circuitry on the Onkyo TX-DS989 makes it one of the most sophisticated receivers on the market today. Surround EX provides a back surround signal that is derived from the left and right surround channels of specially encoded DVD titles. This provides more accurate localization and seamless 360-degree pans.
The added THX circuitry redirects bass energy from the extra back surrounds to the subwoofer, for optimum bass performance. The re-equalization circuit, common to all THX receivers, is enhanced to timbre match the back surrounds to the front mains and the left/right surround channels. The left/right surrounds are synchronized (time and position) with the back surrounds to provide a totally seamless surround sound experience.
You may be confused by the difference between what some call 6.1, which Onkyo calls 7.1 audio. Technically, Surround EX is only 6.1 audio because the matrixed channel is only mono, so if you use two speakers, both carry the same signal. In fact, for purposes of symmetry and proper coverage, it’s best to use two speakers in the back of the room. Where most receivers supply a single channel of amplification for the back surround, making it necessary to split the signal if you want to run two speakers, Onkyo takes it a step further by supplying two channels of amplification, enabling you to run two rear speakers with equal power. This means that there are seven channels of amplification with preamp outs for a subwoofer.
Currently, only a few titles are encoded with Dolby Digital Surround EX. However, as more movies are mixed for theatrical release with the extra surround channel, there are sure to be more DVD releases. DTS is also planning similar releases in this new multi-channel format. Presently, the TX-DS989 is not capable of decoding DTS-ES Discrete discs, but a software upgrade to the processor will be possible in the early part of 2001. It may be necessary for the user to take the unit back to their dealer. Onkyo is researching alternative options for user upgrades via Internet downloads.
Before moving on, to avoid confusion, it should be pointed out that all other forms of DTS decoding are available on the TX-DS989.
Onkyo does offer some special DSP modes for using the back speakers when playing non-Surround EX sources (i.e. stereo, TV, Dolby Pro-Logic). As part of the Listening Modes Menu, there are four submenus called Action, Three-Dimensional, Enhanced 7 and Orchestra. These allow you to adjust for the amount of reflection or reverb level (in dB), plus general room size (i.e. large, mid-large, middle, mid-small, small), to create a uniquely different environment for each submenu. Of course, any one of these environments can be assigned to a specific input.
When it comes to inputs, the TX-DS989 is future-proof with six A/V inputs, all with S-video and three with component video. Of course, there are video outputs in composite, S-Video and component to integrate with older and newer-generation televisions. There is one additional A/V output with S-Video to facilitate multi-room/multi-zone operation.
There are three analog audio-only inputs, plus a dedicated phono input. There are even two analog stereo outputs for sending signals to analog recording devices.
When it comes to digital I/O’s, the TX-DS989 is better equipped than many super expensive digital processors. There are five coaxial and three optical inputs to incorporate up to eight digital devices into your A/V system. All positions are assignable, meaning that "coaxial 1" could be assigned to the DVD player that is plugged into the DVD video inputs and "optical 1" could be assigned to the satellite receiver that is plugged into Video 1. There are even two digital outputs, one coax and one digital, for sending digital data streams directly to digital recording devices such as CD-RW, MD or D-VHS recorders.
Offering up a feature that has been virtually eliminated from more recent processors and receivers is the RF demodulator, making it possible to decode Dolby Digital-encoded Laserdiscs. Fortunately, while Onkyo kept tabs on old technology, their vision was securely looking toward the horizon when they chose to provide a 5.1-channel input for both DVD-Audio and SACD players in the form of a DB-25 connector. They even supplied the DB-25/6-RCA adapter you need to hook up the device.
For software upgrades to the processor or the linking of a wired remote system such as Panja or Crestron, there is an RS-232 DB-9 connector. Preamp outputs are provided for all channels, including the extra back surrounds, to use external amplifiers. There are dual subwoofer outputs as well.
Establishing some sort of logical design to accommodate such a wide array of inputs and outputs must be a job in itself, but with regard to the layout of this particular unit’s back panel, I would have made some different choices. For instance, the component video I/O’s are placed horizontally above the speaker binding posts in the middle of the back panel. However, all the other video inputs are placed vertically on the left side of the panel. This arrangement separates the digital audio I/O’s from all other audio connectors. Personally, I would have preferred that all the audio (analog and digital) I/O’s were lumped together, with all video I/O’s placed in the same general area, but Onkyo felt it was necessary to keep them separated to reduce the chance of induced noise and interference.