Control and General Use
In the past, I have not particularly liked Onkyo remote controls, but the
model supplied with the TX-SR674 is a vast improvement. The remote is much
smaller than previous models, and this contributes to its excellent feel in
my hands. Its rubbery buttons also give excellent feedback, while using a mix
of lighted and glow in the dark buttons to make the remote very usable in a
Controlling the receiver with the remote control was
generally very effective, despite having fewer buttons. The one area where
you lose some control is in the selection of surround modes, where all you
have is a stereo button and two arrows to scroll through the surround modes.
However, I found that with my favorite sound modes already assigned to each
input, I rarely had to change a surround mode. The remote is also
preprogrammed to be used to control up to five other components.
General operation of the receiver was uneventful, having no problems during
my review period. I did find that the receiver runs on the hotter side, so
be aware of this if you are thinking of putting this unit into an A/V
cabinet. On the video side, upconversion worked well, with composite and
S-Video sources coming through clearly on the component video output.
The one operational problem I had with the receiver and the remote was when
I was using the XM radio tuner. XM radio has lots of channels, and I
generally find the best way to move around between channels is to directly
key in the station number. In order to do this with the Onkyo, you need to
press the +10 button and then enter the station number within 8 seconds
using the number pad. Unfortunately, if you forget to press +10, you will
end up selecting a new input because input selection is also mapped to the number
pad area. For such a frequently used operation, it is incredibly
frustrating. I also did not like how the information was displayed when
using the XM tuner. For other manufacturers' receivers, when you change
channels, they will display the station name for a few seconds and then begin
scrolling the artist and song title information. In order to get this
information with the Onkyo, you have to page through this information using
the Display button where the artist and song title are shown on
different display screens. How much this will bother you will depend
entirely on how much you use the XM radio.
Despite my issues with using the XM radio, I generally found using this
receiver to be a very enjoyable experience.
One of the things I was most interested in when listening to the TX-SR674
was the Neural surround mode as this would be my first opportunity to spend
an extended time listening to it. Neural surround's primary selling point is
that it is the codec being used by XM for the XMHD channels which offer full
5.1 surround. Currently there are only two XMHD channels, XM 76, 'Fine
Tuning', a free form music channel, and XM 113, 'XM Pops', a classical pops
channel. My experience using Neural surround on the XMHD channels was
generally positive. XM Pops with Neural surround worked well, adding a nice
sense of spaciousness that is often lacking in XM broadcasts. Fine Tuning
was more of a mixed bag, some songs worked well, others were more mediocre.
The biggest problem I had was when I used Neural on the non-XMHD channels,
like my personnel favorite, XM 43 'XMU'. When I used Neural on XMU,
everything ended up in the center channel, and it was a significant downgrade
from listening in stereo or using DPL-II Music. It was actually very similar
to listening to music using DPL-II Movie, which is not something I like to
do. This seems to be more of a problem with the Neural surround processing
than anything with the TX-SR674.
Moving on to more standard fare, I started my music evaluation with Gustav
Holst's "Fantasia on the Dargason" from Holst's "Second Suite in F" on
Suites for Band (Telarc CD-80038). I set the receiver to Direct mode and fed
it the digital input from my DVD player. The sound was very clean and
detailed, and I was able to pick out all of the small musical cues I have
come to come to expect when hearing this track reproduced well. Bass on this
track was good, but not outstanding, and I would have liked a slightly
harmonically richer sound at times, but overall the Onkyo sounded very good
for a sub-$1000 receiver.
Next, I brought Super Speedway to do a little surround sound listening.
Super Speedway is an IMAX film about open wheel racing in the US, and it
features lots of very impressive in-car camera and sound work. This creates
very loud passages where you have the engine blaring over a myriad of bumps
and rattles from the road noise and the car itself. The Onkyo excelled at
these scenes, giving me the dynamics one would expect from being in a race
car, while resolving the subtle details of the soundfield. Overall, I was
very impressed as to how well the Onkyo reproduced this movie.
Finally, I watched The Incredibles, which is becoming one of my favorite
movies for equipment reviews. I loved how the Onkyo was able to resolve a
dynamic and detailed soundfield during the action sequences. Dialogue was
clear and intelligible throughout the movie, and was well integrated into the
seamless soundfield that the Onkyo created.
I watched a number of other
movies using the Onkyo as well, and the excellent results I experienced with
Super Speedway and The Incredibles were repeated over and over again.
Part of this great sonic experience has to be attributed to the Audyssey
room correction, which seemed to work well in my room. Since you have to dig
through the menus to turn the EQ on and off, it is not easy to make a quick
A/B comparison, but I generally preferred the sound with the Audyssey
correction. Ultimately, throughout all of my listening, I found the Onkyo
TX-SR674 to be a very capable receiver.
At $799, the Onkyo TX-SR674 offers good value when compared to other
manufacturers. It is distinguished by HDMI repeater switching and HDMI upconversion, which most receivers
in this price range currently do not
offer, and Audyssey room correction, which none of its competitors
offer at this price. The Onkyo TX-SR674's excellent sound and unique features make it a
good option for a receiver at this price point and a product I can certainly
- Matthew Abel -
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