|Onkyo TX-SR805 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Monday, 01 October 2007|
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Music And Movies
I decided to kick things off with one of my all-time favorite albums, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction (Geffen). Appetite just celebrated its 20-year anniversary and, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, was one of the last rock albums recorded completely in the analog realm, which gives it the signature sound I love so much. Starting with “Welcome to the Jungle,” the bass from the TX-SR805 was extremely well composed, with respectable depth and punch. At extreme volumes, the bass failed to become boomy or bloated. I was very impressed with the TX-SR805’s speed and control when it came to the bass, regardless of whether or not I ran my speakers full range or used my trusty Outlaw Audio subwoofer. The high frequencies, especially the cymbals, were very natural-sounding, extremely full-bodied and smooth, sounding more analog than digital. The midrange was equally impressive, rendering Axl Rose’s vocals faithfully with an excellent sense of weight and scale. The TX-SR805 can throw a soundstage unlike any receiver I’ve ever heard, painting a picture that is equal in both width and depth. More impressive still is that, unlike other receivers in the TX-SR805’s price class, the TX-SR805’s soundstage is wonderfully full from the center on out, filling seemingly every nook and cranny of the stage with sound, creating a seamless arc that extended well into my listening room.
Switching to the track “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the opening guitar solo was quite impressive. When the drums kicked in, their presence didn’t overwhelm the guitars; instead, they complimented each other beautifully, propelling the song forward to the inevitable explosion that kicks off Rose’s vocals. Rhythmically, the TX-SR805 can swing with the best of them, never robbing the pulse of the music of any of its blood and guts. The drum kit was accurately portrayed in both size and placement. The kick drum through the TX-SR805 was thunderously deep and seemed of no concern to the TX-SR805’s abilities as it easily pumped out strike after strike against the skins.
With my appetite for destruction sated, I decided to forgo further two-channel fare and went straight for multi-channel. I popped in the newly-released Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City (Sony) on Blu-ray. If this disc showcases anything, it’s how promising and important the high-definition disc formats are going to become to the music industry. With the disc’s menu set to Dolby TrueHD, I cued up the opening track “Bartender.” The opening guitars were hugely realistic and accurate, floating effortlessly out into my room. There was a fullness and dimension to the sound of the guitars not usually heard through receivers in the Onkyo’s price bracket. The TX-SR805’s surround sound performance was spot on, favoring discretion and detail throughout all five speakers vs. muddying up the soundstage with artificial trickery. This obviously has a lot to do with the disc itself. However, when playing back the same track on a competitor’s receiver, the sound was less composed and had a tinge of artificial echo to the sound. Matthews’ vocals were equally impressive. Beyond just sounding right to my ears, the TX-SR805’s biggest success was its ability to communicate the emotion of not only Matthews’ vocals, but also the musical duet itself. It was moving, which excited me, because I’ve heard this track hundreds of times, not only on disc but live, and had never had this reaction.
I skipped ahead to rambunctious new song “Cornbread,” which is a modern take on a good old down home song from the South. The TX-SR805, once again, proved it could swing and keep time with the toe-tapping rhythm of the track. Tim Reynolds' guitar skills weren’t robbed a bit by the TX-SR805, allowing me to hear every strum, pluck and slide down the frets with an in-room presence I would normally associate with separate components. The higher frequencies of Reynolds’ guitar were rich and airy, with just a touch of warmth, which gave the presentation a slightly fuller sound. The midrange was equally impressive, again sharing that richness found in the upper frequencies. While I found the TX-SR805 to sound rich and full, don’t mistake that for bloated, fat or slow, as it is anything but. While Live at Radio City isn’t quite a tour de force when it come to the bass frequencies, the sound was incredibly robust and three-dimensional, despite the missing bottom end.
Switching gears, I popped in The X-Files season three on DVD (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). Focusing on disc one and the episode entitled “Paper Clip,” I was able to give the TX-SR805’s video abilities a run for their money. The X-Files is one of my all-time favorite series, but it’s been hard to watch nowadays, as it aired before the onset of HD. That said, it is standard-definition. Interlaced video is a good test for any receiver’s video capabilities. I played video via my trusty Oppo DVD player, using a composite video connection straight into the TX-SR805’s front panel inputs. With the video settings set to 1080p via the single HDMI monitor out, I achieved similar results. The image was smoother through the TX-SR805 than without, although there was still some shimmer and stair-stepping in the vertical lines of the many city exterior shots. Noise levels were dramatically reduced through the TX-SR805. Overall, the TX-SR805 did an admirable job of taking a truly repulsive standard-definition image and making it viewable. When playing back the same video with my Toshiba HDA20 HD DVD player handling all of the video processing, the image was only marginally better than through the TX-SR805, which I believe speaks volumes as to how good the Onkyo’s internal video prowess is for the money, given the truly phenomenal chipsets found inside the Toshiba player. From a sound standpoint, the TX-SR805 didn’t disappoint. While not mixed in Dolby Digital, the various Dolby ProLogic and DTS audio DSPs worked wonders with the various audio elements. Dialogue was clear and intelligible. Mark Snow’s score was hauntingly effective and moved about the multiple speakers like a stalking predator. When the action kicked in, especially with the arrival of a UFO, the TX-SR805’s bass capabilities were impressive. Most receivers tend to rumble you out of your seat with slow, sloppy bass that’s more shove than strike. The TX-SR805’s rendering of the approaching UFO was furniture-rattling deep but very controlled, allowing me to hear the subtle changes in direction and speed in the craft as it settled over the abandoned mine.
I ended my time with the TX-SR805 with the animated TMNT (Warner Home Video) on Blu-ray. With both the 1080p video and uncompressed multi-channel audio being fed to the TX-SR805 via a single HDMI cable, I was in ninja turtle heaven. The image quality was amazing in every sense of the word. I couldn’t detect any loss of video quality of any sort through the TX-SR805 when compared to connecting my Sony Blu-ray player directly to my Sony projector. The detail was astounding, as were the colors. Edge fidelity, always a cornerstone of CG animated features, was superb, which helped lend a greater sense of depth to the image. Black levels were inky smooth and rife with detail, allowing me to see further than ever before into some of the dimly lit alleys and landscapes. White levels were equally impressive, with nary a sign of blooming. Sonically, the TX-SR805 was magnificent. In the scene where Raphael and the recently returned Leonardo fought on a rooftop in the rain, the aural canvas the TX-SR805 used for painting the image was immense. The high frequency slaps of the rain against the metal structures on the roof sounded organic and wet, and were nicely balanced by the dead weight thumps of the sparring brothers’ jabs. The buzzing neon sign in the background was subtle but present and a nice touch, as was the rendering of the city below, which helped to transport me into the heart of the action. The sound was enveloping yet not artificially so, and balanced beautifully between the multiple speakers. The bass prowess was again the TX-SR805’s party piece, anchoring the action nicely with taut, deep and rich bass, especially in the harder body shots dished out by the dueling brothers.