|Onkyo TX-SR501 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Monday, 01 December 2003|
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Onkyo, a brand that has long been respected as one of the best mainstream Japanese audio manufacturers, offers powerful AV technology at an affordable price. The TX-SR501 is a six-channel receiver equipped for the most popular home theater and stereo formats: Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, and Multi-Channel Audio inputs for SACD or DVD-Audio, all for the svelte price of $299. This is not a typo.
The TX-SR501 immediately entices you with its black steel chassis and brushed aluminum faceplate, giving it a look that is easy on the eyes. Modest in size, the TX-SR501 stands five-and-seven-eighths inches tall, 17-and-one-eighth inches wide, and 14-13/16 inches deep. The sizable power supply in this receiver adds some noticeable weight, tipping the scales at just over 18 pounds. The front panel is well laid out, with sturdy buttons and a slightly resistive volume knob (flimsy volume knobs are a pet peeve of mine). The display is a modest size, adjustable to three levels of brightness. Being able to dim the display is a must feature for those of you who are going use this in a bedroom or in a rack in the front viewing area.
Like other superior receivers today, the TX-SR501 has more inputs and outputs than a telephone switchboard. The back panel is swarming with inputs for everything from a turntable to a multi-channel DVD-Audio or SACD player. All the inputs/outputs are thoughtfully color-coded for improved ease of set-up. Inputs include four S-video, two optical, one coaxial, two-component video and 5.1 multi-channel. Outputs include one component video, two S-video, subwoofer pre-out, and of course the six speaker connections. Another nice feature is the receiver’s use of multi-connection binding posts that include banana plug-compatible speaker terminals for all six speakers. This makes it easy to hook up any kind of speaker wire terminations. Also handy is the ability to hook up an additional set of speakers beyond the 6.1 in your theater, to be used in another room. Although they cannot run independent of the 6.1 set-up, it offers additional flexibility. An added bonus to consumers with the appetite for camcorder playback is the placement of A/V inputs for easy connection at the front panel of the unit.
Venturing into the heart of the receiver is the amplifier section. This is typically is where you will notice the difference between a $300 receiver and a $1,000 receiver. The amplifier of the TX-SR501 is modest at 65 watts (minimum) of continuous RMS power to each of the six channels at eight ohms, yet feels plenty powerful enough to drive any modestly efficient speakers to adequate volumes. I should mention that this model’s amplifier section also includes Onkyo’s Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT) and CinemaFILTER technologies. These technologies have a lower signal to noise ratio and much improved performance during higher power demands (i.e. when you are cranking out the kung fu fight scene from “The Matrix” for your friends).
So what other features lurk inside the TX-SR501? A 24-bit DSP chip provides five DSP sound-fields for analog sources (orchestra, unplugged, studio mix, TV logic, and all-channel). The digital-to-analog converter provides full PCM 24-bit/96kHz decoding on all channels from the most cutting-edge, high-resolution digital audio sources, namely 6.1 Home Theater formats, DVD-Audio and SACD. Mentioned earlier, the TX-SR501 has all the most common home theater formats: Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES (matrix and discrete) decoding, DTS Neo 6 and Dolby Pro Logic II. Legacy formats such as DTS and Dolby Pro Logic are also supported.
Some handy features include the ability to adjust the number speakers that you have in your current system. This is great if you are starting to build a new home theater system and do not have all seven speakers yet. If you just have a center and a front left and right, then this receiver’s digital signal processor will mix the surround sound speakers into the front left/right speakers. Furthermore, you can adjust the relative amplification to each speaker +/- 12dB. This is nice if you have wimpy low-power rears, but meaty power-hungry fronts. This receiver is incredibly flexible and feature-packed for its price.
The remote is pretty basic, but very functional and has most of the features available from the front panel. It allows for programming of other stereo components into the remote (i.e., your Sony VCR and Toshiba TV). The tuner has no trouble finding stations in my neighborhood and allows for 30 AM/FM presets.