Onkyo TX-SR805 Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Andrew Robinson   
Monday, 01 October 2007

Introduction
My grandparents would often attribute greatness to the presence of “something in the water.” If there is something in the water, then the designers of today’s modern home theater receivers are a hydrated bunch. The latest crop of receivers from the likes of Denon, Yamaha, Integra, Sony and Onkyo has not only been rather exceptional but measurably better than their costlier rivals, separate home theater components. They’ve been more up to date with the changing marketplace (some, like the Onkyo TX-SR805, boast HDMI 1.3 specs), they’re less expensive than ever and even easier to use. Oh, and they sound freaking great. Add it all up and it’s no wonder why so many consumers and enthusiasts hip to the latest trends are snatching up receivers like candy from a piñata. Receivers make sense, and the latest offering from Onkyo, the TX-SR805 reviewed here, is no exception.

At $999 retail, the TX-SR805, at the time of its arrival at my home, represented Onkyo’s flagship efforts in the ever-crowded receiver landscape. Since the TX-SR805’s arrival Onkyo has released a new flagship model, the TX-NR905, which retails for $2,099, as well as a slightly better TX-SR875, which retails for $1,699. While the differences between the TX-SR805 and the TX-NR905 are very apparent, the differences between the TX-SR805 and the TX-SR875 are a bit more subtle.

The TX-SR805 is a beauty of a receiver. While not tremendously out-of-the-box in its design (it’s still a receiver, after all), it’s very elegant and clean, with a fit and finish not common amongst receivers in its price class. The TX-SR805 comes in either a semi-gloss black or silver finish and measures a little over 17 inches wide by nearly eight inches tall and little over 18 inches deep, while tipping the scales at an impressive 50 pounds. The TX-SR805 is a brute amongst receivers, yet due to its superior industrial design and clean façade, it appears much sleeker than its dimensions would have you believe. The front is the epitome of simplicity, with several small input buttons lining the bottom of the TX-SR805’s large LCD display flanked by a large volume knob bathed in a pale blue glow. The rest of the TX-SR805’s manual controls, including the TX-SR805’s set-up controls and Audyssey EQ microphone input, are hidden behind a substantial metal trapdoor that takes up the entire bottom of the TX-SR805’s face.

Turning the TX-SR805 around, I noticed the usual suspects in terms of connection options, i.e., component video, composite and S-video inputs, as well as analog and digital audio inputs, providing potential consumers with more than enough options to connect their gear. I won’t go on ad nauseam about each of the input options, but I would like to point out that the TX-SR805 has three HDMI 1.3 inputs and one HDMI 1.3 monitor output. The TX-SR805’s HDMI inputs are capable of carrying 1080p video, as well as converting all of its analog video inputs to digital via its HDMI output. The TX-SR805’s HDMI inputs are also capable of carrying multi-channel audio signals including, but not limited to, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. Beyond the TX-SR805’s HDMI capabilities, it also features nine sets of five-way binding posts, seven of which can be used for a 7.1 surround sound system, with two being used for a second zone and/or bi-amping your stereo or home theater mains. There are also analog audio outs for two zones, making the TX-SR805 a three-zone receiver, as well as providing inputs for both XM and Sirius satellite radio antenna.

Turning my attention towards the “guts” of the TX-SR805, I found a slew of state of the art features for both audio and video signals. For starters, the TX-SR805 is THX Ultra2 certified pumping out a substantial 130 watts per channel into eight ohms, across all seven channels into eight ohms and 160 watts per channel into six ohms, courtesy of its WRAT or Wide Range Amp Technology. The TX-SR805 uses Faroudja’s latest DCDi/Edge deinterlacing chipset to convert incoming interlaced video signals to progressive scan for the best possible image on your HD-capable display. Like I said before, the TX-SR805 can accept and decode the latest lossless multi-channel audio signals, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as featuring the latest in Neural Surround technology, which is a series of multi-channel DSPs that can be used in conjunction with non-HD broadcasts, stereo audio signals and video games. Lastly, the TX-SR805 features Audyssey Laboratories’ latest MultiEQ EX acoustic correction software to ensure the best possible sound, including bass response, in any listening or viewing environment.

Which brings me to the remote. While not beautiful by any means, the TX-SR805’s remote is supremely functional, rather omni-directional (at least in my room) and features full backlighting via a button on its right side. The TX-SR805’s remote is rather large. However, all of the controls and features are clearly and cleanly laid out and, once in hand, its girth is rather comfortable. I love it. Huge props to the folks over at Onkyo for making a proper remote that can be used seemingly anywhere in the room and can also be seen in even the darkest environments. Seriously, I love this thing.

Set-up
The TX-SR805 replaced the recently departed Yamaha RX-V861 which I raved about in the June edition of AVRev.com. The TX-SR805 fit into my reference system much in the same way the Yamaha did, except for the fact that I could now connect my modified AppleTV to the receiver via a single HDMI cable, due to its having an additional HDMI input. I would also like to point out that, because of the TX-SR805’s size, making the requisite connections between my Sony Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD-DVD player, Dish Network DVR and AppleTV was a snap due to its spacious and thoughtful layout. The TX-SR805’s placement of the binding posts made speaker cable management and routing a snap, which I thoroughly appreciated. All in all, with a fistful of XLO Reference and Ultralink audio/video cables, I was able to integrate the TX-SR805 into my reference system and connect it to my Sony VW50 “Pearl” projector and reference Meridian in-wall speakers in less than 15 minutes.

I’m not one to brag – okay, maybe I am a little – but integrating a receiver into my system is hardly “work.” However, more often than not, setting one up via onscreen menus really is work. Before I even got to the TX-SR805’s performance, its onscreen menu and set-up architecture was the best I’d ever encountered. I have never had an easier time navigating and setting up any piece of modern audio/video equipment. I even tinkered with the thought of having my girlfriend do the set-up to prove just how easy it was. Maybe next time, I will. Then again, not every receiver is the TX-SR805. Hell, no receiver is the TX-SR805 when it comes to set-up.

Minus the time it took me to calm down from the notion that the TX-SR805 may just be the best receiver I’ve ever had to use, I was up and running in less than 30 minutes, and that included the time it took to activate and use the automated Audyssey EQ software.

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.

The Downside
While the Onkyo TX-SR805 multi-channel receiver is rather exceptional, there were a few things about it that concerned me. For starters, it runs very hot – hotter than most receivers in its class. At times of extreme usage, it became too hot to touch. I had to re-rack my whole system to allow for more ventilation about a week into my review to combat the heat issue. Those of you with space constraints or enclosed racks should pay close attention or install a cooling system of some sort to lessen the effects. I would not stack components on top of the TX-SR805 under any circumstances, even for a short while.

While the TX-SR805’s HDMI inputs functioned without fail, passing every signal thrown at them, they were at times a bit sluggish to respond to changes on the fly between various HD sources, mainly my HD DVD and Blu-ray players. Because of handshake issues with just about all things HD and HDMI these days, it’s hard to say if this sluggish performance was the result of the TX-SR805 or the players themselves. Needless to say, it was present.

Lastly, and I am nitpicking, I would’ve liked to see the face-mounted input buttons backlit, much in the same way as the TX-SR805’s manual volume control. Despite its killer remote, I still manually operated the TX-SR805 from time to time, and the inclusion of lit input buttons would have been much appreciated.

Conclusion
With a retail price of $999, the Onkyo TX-SR805 is a juggernaut. How Onkyo is able to pack so much performance, technology and livability into such an inexpensive package is beyond me. A year ago, a receiver boasting half of what the Onkyo TX-SR805 delivers would have run you twice as much, which speaks not only to the sheer value of the TX-SR805, but also to the efficiency and prowess of the Onkyo designers themselves.

The TX-SR805 does so many things right technologically, and sounds more high-end than any other receiver I’ve heard in recent memory, that I have no inclination to remove it from my rack any time soon. As bowled over as I was with the Yamaha RX-V861, nothing could’ve prepared me for the TX-SR805. Don’t get me wrong, there are other great receivers out there, but it’s the completeness of the TX-SR805 that astounds me most. Be it music or movies, high definition or standard definition, adding or subtracting gear or even operating another zone, the Onkyo TX-SR805 simply shines. It is the first feature-packed receiver I’ve encountered that doesn’t appear to be preoccupied with its own technology. Instead, the TX-SR805 opts to entertain and, while the latest technology may play a role in the total enjoyment of your system, tearing your hair out to get to it isn’t entertaining. The Onkyo TX-SR805 is a wonderful receiver, one Onkyo should be proud of and one you’d be silly to pass up.
Manufacturer Onkyo
Model TX-SR805 Receiver
Reviewer Andrew Robinson
HDMI Version 1.3
# of Output Channels 7.1
Room Correction/EQ Yes
Extras FM/AM Tuner • Multi-Zone





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