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Onkyo TX-SR608 Receiver Preview

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Onkyo TX-SR608 Receiver

Onkyo TX-SR608 Receiver

Summary

  • Product Name: TX-SR608
  • Manufacturer: Onkyo
  • Review Date: March 30, 2010 03:00
  • MSRP: $599
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now
  • Six 1080p capable HDMI inputs (V1.4 repeater) including 1 Front
  • THX Select2 Plus Certification
  • HDMI 1080p video upconversion by Faroudja DCDi cinema
  • WRAT technology and discrete amp construction for cleaner sound
  • TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding to support the latest Blu-ray technology
  • PC Input
  • Optional iPod Dock / HDradio module via U.Port
  • 4 DSP Gaming Modes: Rock, Sports, Action, and Role Playing
  • Audyssey 2EQ w/ Dynamic EQ & Dynamic Volume

Executive Overview

tx-sr608_frontWell, if you haven't noticed the flood gates have opened. Manufacturers are falling all over themselves to get on the 3D bandwagon. TVs, Blu-ray players, and discs have all hit the market touting their 3D. No matter that there is very little true 3D content out there and that consumer actual use of 3D in the home is completely untested. But hey, that's not going to slow them down because right now people want products with 3D on the box even if they can't use it yet.

Receiver manufacturers are actually in a very good spot right now. The HDMI group has just announced that only their HDMI 1.4 spec will be enabled to pass 3D info. So receiver manufacturers have to do very little other than include HDMI 1.4 ports on their products to slap a big fat 3D label on the side of their boxes. We've seen Pioneer do this with their entire line of Pioneer-branded receivers and Onkyo is doing the same. While the Onkyo announcement actually came about a week after the Pioneer one, their receivers will both ship in April.

Onkyo's new line is the '08 models. Coming in at $599, the Onkyo TX-SR608 is the first that we've gotten much information on. The entire line, according to Onkyo, will include native decoding of all the current audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD, 192-kHz/24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1690 DACs, on-screen overlaid GUI, and HDMI Thru.

HDMI Thru is a new feature for Onkyo receivers which allows content to pass through the receiver to the display even when the receiver is "off" (in standby mode). Many an Audioholic will shake their heads in confusion at this "feature" but take our word for it - there are those that occasionally don't want to use their surround speakers and sub. We know, baffling. We're not sure where this people live but we're thinking in the 1970's.

Like many of the newer Onkyo receivers, the TX-SR608 has two subwoofer outputs for 7.2 channels. The receiver is also THX-Select2 Plus certified and sports new 100 watt three-stage inverted Darlington output topology amps. Since Dolby already has a large presence, many manufacturers are supporting their ProLogic IIz with height channels. The TX-SR608 is no different through it adds Audyssey DSX support (DSX offers not only height but width channels). Video upconversion to 1080p is supported via HDMI using Faroudja DCDi Cinema. 

tx-sr608_back

Looking at the back of the TX-SR608 you'll notice a few things. First, they've opted for the spring-type binding posts for the assignable speaker outputs (if you aren't going to use the surround back channels). There are five 3D ready HDMI 1.4 inputs on the back and one on the front. There is a PC Input (15 pin D-sub) for direct connection to your HTPC/laptop. Two component video inputs and one output is available as are a slew of composite video/analogue audio inputs. There are two each optical/coaxial digital audio inputs and a Sirius radio port. The Universal port has a few uses - all of which require you to make an additional purchase. Onkyo currently offers an iPod dock and an HD Radio receiver for the Universal port. We have no information of additional add-ons at this time. 

In order to use Audyssey DSX, a few more Audyssey features have to be installed. Included in the TX-SR608 is the Audyssey 2EQ auto-setup and room correction system. Also included is Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. Dynamic EQ is designed to keep the frequency response of your speaker as flat as possible across volume levels. Dynamic Volume is designed to keep your volume constant across time. Dynamic EQ is good for getting an accurate listening experience even at low volumes while Dynamic Volume is good for keeping those loud commercials or explosive scenes from waking up the family.

Conclusion

Onkyo has long been known as a feature leader in the receiver department. They certainly are looking to maintain that reputation with the TX-SR608. While the feature-set is a bit different from other new offerings at the same price point, it definitely seems to us that the TX-SR608 will be very competitive. The question is what features are most important to you? If you are looking for iPhone/iPod integration, you'll need an add-on for the Onkyo. But if you are looking for all the latest audio features including Burr-Brown DACs, Dolby ProLogic IIz, many of the latest Audyssey features including DSX, and dual subwoofer outputs plus 1080p video upconversion and THX Select2 Plus certification, the Onkyo has what you need.

For more information, please visit www.us.onkyo.com or check out testfreaks.com.

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About the author:

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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Recent Forum Posts:

PearlcorderS701 posts on May 23, 2010 23:45
BriPhil, post: 720065
100 watts per channel is more than enough for my purposes. Even with the A/C running full blast, a volume of 70 (%?) or so is all I need to hear everything from any audio source. Cranking it up any higher than that results in dirty looks from the wife.

I hear you. No pun intended. I know what you mean about the dirty looks from the wife – I get the same exact thing. I was asking because I feel as if with my 605 at 90 watts a channel, I am now needing to crank my master volume up higher than I did in the past because the unit has been installed in a bigger room.

When you say “70,” did you mean percent, or “70” on the Onkyo's volume display readout?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the front main speakers are bi-amped and set for full-spectrum. The sub is getting 120 Hz and lower with the level set at -13db.

Wow – I cannot imagine “-13dB” on my system for the sub…at “+3dB” for my Polk PSW350, it's just beginning to heat up and rattle…

The center and surround channels are all getting 40 Hz and up with the levels at +1db. Other than the one tweak to eliminate the 40 Hz cutoff on the mains in order to spread out the bass a bit more across the front of the room, I haven't changed anything from what came out of the Audyssey 2EQ process.

Interesting. I didn't utilize my Audyssey routine because I simply prefer my own manual process and settings without any EQ. My mains and center are much higher in dBs than yours, though.

Rather than IntelliVolume, I'm making use of the Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ functions. I'm sure it's just a matter of personal taste and my (lack of) ability to manually tune the system for my living room, but I find I really like the automatic EQ and timing / distance settings. The post-Audyssey sound is much better than what I accomplished myself with just a handheld Radio Shack meter.

Your comments about the SPL meter and the way it comes out versus the Audyssey setup is basically what I was addressing before that paragraph with regard to my own setup – but IntelliVolume is not really the same thing as what you're using the Dynamic Volume and such for; IntelliVolume is supposed to level each INPUT you have active in the AVR so they don't spike in volume from source to source. While that's the way to use it, officially, I use it for another solution – I use it almost like a power amp's sensitivity control, in which I can “crank up” each input to appear to be louder at a lower volume level, if that makes any sense…

As for the physical connections to the speakers, I've got good-quality cables (14-gauge to the center and surround channels, 2 pairs of 12-gauge to the mains), with banana plugs on both ends in all cases.

Interesting. I've never gone down the banana route before, always plugging my bare wires right into the speakers and amps, but I may do this on the next setup…

Regarding the AVR's information overlay, it doesn't come up auto-magically; I started a playback from the source, then used the AVR's remote to call up the on-screen display for a few seconds just to get information on what was coming in and going out.

If you're running video through the AVR as passthrough, don't use the on screen display – under MISCELANEOUS on the receiver's setup menu, there is a selection for IMMEDIATE DISPLAY. Leave this OFF; from all accounts, this softens incoming video a bit.

And yes, it's still Faroujda DCDi, and I DID eventually get the Audio Return Channel (ARC) working, so (for a while) I was able to get ALL my connections between components down to just HDMI. The initial ARC failure I reported previously was due to something I did because I interpreted the various manuals a bit too literally.

I still don't know what Auto Return Channel is, but that's probably because my 605 doesn't have it…

The Samsung BD player and TV have a feature called “Anynet+” that, according to the instructions, allows *SAMSUNG* components to pass management information back and forth over the HDMI cable. The idea is that when you power up your (Samsung) Blu-Ray player, the (Samsung) TV senses this and turns itself on and selects the appropriate HDMI input. It also is supposed to let you consolidate remotes – you can theoretically use the TV remote to control the BD player, because the TV passes on the appropriate instructions over the HDMI cable.

Indeed; I've never used these “all one brand” connection systems.

Onkyo has the same capability, which they call “RIHD”. And as with the Samsung components, the documentation also says it's for *ONKYO* components to talk to each other. This allows for additional devices to be controlled based on the selection from the ‘master’ component's remote control. It also causes information (such as volume or track number) to be displayed on the TV when it changes on the AVR or at the source.

Right…they've been implementing the RIHD for generations.

Upon reading these explanations, I mistakenly assumed that “RIHD” and “Anynet+” were similar but incompatible proprietary control and information-transfer mechanisms, so I disabled them. Well, it turns out that both are actually the respective manufacturers' implementations of HDMI-CEC, and they *DO* inter-operate and cooperate with each other – most of the time.

I turned on “Anynet+” in the Samsung TV and “RIHD” in the Onkyo AVR, and voila! The Audio Return Channel started working as desired. I could hear TV audio coming from the surround speakers, and I could also see the AVR's volume being displayed on the TV when I changed it. Pretty cool! OK, so what *IS* ARC, and why does your 605 not have it?

Audio Return Channel is something new with HDMI 1.4, so it's only applicable to Onkyo receiver models that came out this year (SR308/508/608 and RC260). It addresses one specific issue – over-the-air TV audio coming back into the A/V receiver.

With HDMI 1.3 and earlier, you can *almost* get by with a single physical cable between the receiver and the other components. The one exception is when you want to watch over-the-air TV and have the audio come out through your AVR surround-sound speaker setup. To make that happen, you have to add a second cable (twin analog stereo RCA, digital coax, or fiberoptic) between the TV and the AVR.

With HDMI 1.4's Audio Return Channel, the audio from the over-the-air program comes back *in* to the AVR over the audio portion of the HDMI *output* cable going to the TV, eliminating the need for that second cable.

Anyway, after getting the ARC linkage working, I thought I'd finally gotten things into their final configuration. Unfortunately, my TV now started intermittently displaying an error message indicating a loss of signal from the BD player. I was also hearing occasional skipping in the audio.

Well, that was not acceptable, and it didn't start happening until I enabled the end-to-end HDMI-CEC stuff. So this evening, I turned it all back off and re-inserted the Toslink cable for over-the-air TV audio. So far, it's been stable ever since, so my theory at the moment is that maybe “Anynet+” and “RIHD” aren't *quite* compatible, after all.

I'll be running it this way for a few days to see if the problem has really completely gone away. Assuming that fixes the issue, it will apparently be another of those ideas that looks good on paper, but doesn't quite pan out in real life.

Okay – you cleared up the Auto Return Channel issue, and why the 605 doesn't have it! It appears it is in fact a HDMI 1.4 thing…
BriPhil posts on May 23, 2010 22:13
100 watts per channel is more than enough for my purposes. Even with the A/C running full blast, a volume of 70 (%?) or so is all I need to hear everything from any audio source. Cranking it up any higher than that results in dirty looks from the wife.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the front main speakers are bi-amped and set for full-spectrum. The sub is getting 120 Hz and lower with the level set at -13db. The center and surround channels are all getting 40 Hz and up with the levels at +1db. Other than the one tweak to eliminate the 40 Hz cutoff on the mains in order to spread out the bass a bit more across the front of the room, I haven't changed anything from what came out of the Audyssey 2EQ process.

Rather than IntelliVolume, I'm making use of the Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ functions. I'm sure it's just a matter of personal taste and my (lack of) ability to manually tune the system for my living room, but I find I really like the automatic EQ and timing / distance settings. The post-Audyssey sound is much better than what I accomplished myself with just a handheld Radio Shack meter.

As for the physical connections to the speakers, I've got good-quality cables (14-gauge to the center and surround channels, 2 pairs of 12-gauge to the mains), with banana plugs on both ends in all cases.

Regarding the AVR's information overlay, it doesn't come up auto-magically; I started a playback from the source, then used the AVR's remote to call up the on-screen display for a few seconds just to get information on what was coming in and going out.

And yes, it's still Faroujda DCDi, and I DID eventually get the Audio Return Channel (ARC) working, so (for a while) I was able to get ALL my connections between components down to just HDMI. The initial ARC failure I reported previously was due to something I did because I interpreted the various manuals a bit too literally.

The Samsung BD player and TV have a feature called “Anynet+” that, according to the instructions, allows *SAMSUNG* components to pass management information back and forth over the HDMI cable. The idea is that when you power up your (Samsung) Blu-Ray player, the (Samsung) TV senses this and turns itself on and selects the appropriate HDMI input. It also is supposed to let you consolidate remotes – you can theoretically use the TV remote to control the BD player, because the TV passes on the appropriate instructions over the HDMI cable.

Onkyo has the same capability, which they call “RIHD”. And as with the Samsung components, the documentation also says it's for *ONKYO* components to talk to each other. This allows for additional devices to be controlled based on the selection from the ‘master’ component's remote control. It also causes information (such as volume or track number) to be displayed on the TV when it changes on the AVR or at the source.

Upon reading these explanations, I mistakenly assumed that “RIHD” and “Anynet+” were similar but incompatible proprietary control and information-transfer mechanisms, so I disabled them. Well, it turns out that both are actually the respective manufacturers' implementations of HDMI-CEC, and they *DO* inter-operate and cooperate with each other – most of the time.

I turned on “Anynet+” in the Samsung TV and “RIHD” in the Onkyo AVR, and voila! The Audio Return Channel started working as desired. I could hear TV audio coming from the surround speakers, and I could also see the AVR's volume being displayed on the TV when I changed it. Pretty cool! OK, so what *IS* ARC, and why does your 605 not have it?

Audio Return Channel is something new with HDMI 1.4, so it's only applicable to Onkyo receiver models that came out this year (SR308/508/608 and RC260). It addresses one specific issue – over-the-air TV audio coming back into the A/V receiver.

With HDMI 1.3 and earlier, you can *almost* get by with a single physical cable between the receiver and the other components. The one exception is when you want to watch over-the-air TV and have the audio come out through your AVR surround-sound speaker setup. To make that happen, you have to add a second cable (twin analog stereo RCA, digital coax, or fiberoptic) between the TV and the AVR.

With HDMI 1.4's Audio Return Channel, the audio from the over-the-air program comes back *in* to the AVR over the audio portion of the HDMI *output* cable going to the TV, eliminating the need for that second cable.

Anyway, after getting the ARC linkage working, I thought I'd finally gotten things into their final configuration. Unfortunately, my TV now started intermittently displaying an error message indicating a loss of signal from the BD player. I was also hearing occasional skipping in the audio.

Well, that was not acceptable, and it didn't start happening until I enabled the end-to-end HDMI-CEC stuff. So this evening, I turned it all back off and re-inserted the Toslink cable for over-the-air TV audio. So far, it's been stable ever since, so my theory at the moment is that maybe “Anynet+” and “RIHD” aren't *quite* compatible, after all.

I'll be running it this way for a few days to see if the problem has really completely gone away. Assuming that fixes the issue, it will apparently be another of those ideas that looks good on paper, but doesn't quite pan out in real life.
PearlcorderS701 posts on May 08, 2010 01:25
Wow – thanks indeed for the review of this receiver, Phil! I intended to do one of the TX-8555 stereo receiver when I got it, but didn't think many audiophiles on here would even care about a unit of this caliber…shame, really, because it truly is a powerhouse especially for the price…

But let me address some of your thoughts below on the new 608…

BriPhil, post: 715810
Well, I've now spent a full week with my new Onkyo TX-SR608. I haven't tried all of the different settings, nor have I really pushed it to its limits, but I'm getting comfortable with it, and I REALLY like almost everything I've discovered so far.

My concern about heat buildup was addressed the moment I opened the box and peeled back the plastic wrapping. As with the European model in the German article previously mentioned in this thread, I could see the fins of a huge heat sink and a good-size fan (120mm diameter, I think) through the slits in the top of the case.

Seems Onkyo made many changes to the 600-class including the heat fins – very nice.

The fan is so quiet that I can't hear it at all unless I open the front of the AV cabinet and put my ear within about 2 feet of the reciever, and even then it's just barely a whisper. It moves enough air that I haven't noticed anything in the AV cabinet getting warm, even during the one time I cranked up the volume to the point where my wife put her fingers in her ears and retreated to the other end of the house.

So – the receiver is powerful enough for you, with the juice goosed to 100 watts per channel? Can you share some of your speaker settings (calibration numbers) and if you're utilizing the IntelliVolume trim at all?

The power cord is hard-wired instead of modular, as on some higher-end units. Also, there are no AC outlets on the back of the 608. My old Denon AVR-2800 had two switched outlets, and I would have really missed that feature if I hadn't already put a Panamax power conditioner in the center section of my AV cabinet.

These are two things about the 600-series…they never had detachable power cords nor did they have, after the TX-SR600, the switchable AC outlets…I know what you mean about the outlets as it was a great convenience to be able to plug in my powered sub so it would be switched on and off with the receiver's power…

Connecting the rest of my gear was a snap. The HDMI ports and speaker terminals are clearly labeled, logically laid out, and easy to reach as you add more wires. The only part of that task that required some reading in the manual was figuring how to attach my bi-amp'ed front main speakers. (This configuration forces you into a 5.1 setup, but I wasn't planning to buy surround back or high/wide aux speakers anyway.)

Even my 605 was pretty straightforward as well; do you use bare speaker wire for cabling or banana plugs?

With regard to cabling, I have run into one slight disappointment: I haven't been able to get the Audio Return Channel to work. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the Samsung TV or the Onkyo AVR. (The cable is brand-new, and according to the box it's “HDMI 1.4 compliant with ethernet”, so I'm pretty sure *that's* not the problem.)

There doesn't seem to be a setting in the HDMI section of either device's menu tree to force ARC to be “on”. The only choices I've found are “OFF” and “Auto”, so my wild guess at the moment is that each unit is waiting for the other to initiate that part of the linkup.

Advice on that issue would be appreciated, and I'll keep researching and trying stuff on my own. I'll report back if I come up with something that works. In the mean time, I've added a digital optical cable to the mix. I already had antenna and Ethernet cables in addition to the power and HDMI cords going up to the TV, so one more cable isn't that big a deal.

The Onkyo remote is supposed to be capable of controlling other gear via the usual trial-and-error device-code entry method we've all come to know and hate over the years. Since I have a Harmony 900 remote, I didn't even attempt this. I did at least put the batteries in, figuring I might need to call up some of the little-used functions that I hadn't bothered to program using the Logitech software.

Not sure what the “Audio Return Channel” is…perhaps someone else can chime in…my 605 has no such feature as far as I know…

The Faroujda DCDi video processor hasn't had much to do so far. The input from my Blu-Ray player is already as good as it gets, and what comes in from the AT&T U-Verse set-top box isn't far behind. On that input, the picture comes in at 1080i (60Hz, 24-bit), and it goes out to the TV at 1080p (60Hz, 30-bit).

It's still the DCDi on the 608? Are you running HDMI IN > HDMI OUT from the 608?

I should add that I only know this because of the 608's “Info” screen overlay; I can't switch the settings fast enough to tell a difference. As sharp as the Samsung TV's picture was before adding the Onkyo AVR into the mix, I suspect I wouldn't notice any real improvement even if I were able to see them side-by-side.

If this is what I suspect it is, you should leave the AVR's “IMMEDIATE DISPLAY” feature turned OFF, as it's been known to degrade an incoming video signal a bit if it's on…

The video processing was just a nice-to-have, anyway; the real reason I got this particular receiver was for the *sound*, and the Onkyo 608 has exceeded all my expectations. Now I'm no audio engineer, so won't throw out a bunch of spec's and buzzwords without knowing what I'm talking about. I do have a critical ear for music, though; and I loved what I heard from the moment I fired this baby up with factory-default settings. Highs were crisp, midrange vocals were so clear it was like the artist was right there in the room, and the low end was assertive without being ‘muddy’ or ‘booming’.

The one downside to the sound was that I started to hear flaws in some of my MP3 files. The Onkyo “Music Optimizer” setting did help quite a bit with this issue, but at some point I'll probably end up re-ripping my CD collection in a lossless format, since I've got plenty of space on my media server.

After sampling a CD or two and a chapter or so from a couple of DVDs, I moved on to really tuning the receiver and speakers for the room with Audyssey 2EQ. It was easy and painless, and it resulted in a much better sound on all media. The “sweet spot” was noticeably larger, and the individual speakers seemed to almost ‘disappear’. With the factory defaults, I could easily point to each speaker with my eyes closed; that was much more difficult after the tuning software had woked its magic.

I was going to ask you next if you ran Audyssey…

The resulting setup wasn't completely perfect, however. Remember that I mentioned earlier that I'd decided to go with a bi-amp configuration, which required an explicit setting to that effect in the receiver's configuration menu tree in addition to the extra set of wires. Despite this setting – and the clear implication that the front mains were NOT little piddly bookshelf speakers – the 2EQ process still set the low-end cutoff frequency at 40Hz, resulting in a slight but noticeable drop in bass output.

I went back into the menu tree and found the spot where I could change the crossover to “full range”, fixing that issue. With that last change, I think the sound I'm getting out of this AVR is now firmly in the ‘awesome’ category.

According to all reports so far, Onkyo implements some kind of algorithm in their units that “tells” the Audyssey system to place certain speakers as Full Range (based on certain criteria), even if they shouldn't be run that way – Chris from Audyssey has stated several times that you need to go back into the menus after running Audyssey and change the crossovers if the system didn't get them right automatically; in my case, my Polk RTi12's are very large mains, but I didn't want my 605 powering them full range to eat up all its juice…so I set those to rolloff at 60Hz, and 80Hz for the center and surrounds.

My point being, it's okay to go into the AVR's menu and change the crossovers after Audyssey does the calibration; I don't particularly care for the Audyssey “sound” with the EQ curve applied or its channel settings, so I set everything manually – did you try adjusting each channel to your liking, beyond leaving them on defaults?
chas_w posts on May 07, 2010 19:38
Great review BP…thanks!
BriPhil posts on May 07, 2010 17:11
my new Onkyo TX-SR608

Well, I've now spent a full week with my new Onkyo TX-SR608. I haven't tried all of the different settings, nor have I really pushed it to its limits, but I'm getting comfortable with it, and I REALLY like almost everything I've discovered so far.

My concern about heat buildup was addressed the moment I opened the box and peeled back the plastic wrapping. As with the European model in the German article previously mentioned in this thread, I could see the fins of a huge heat sink and a good-size fan (120mm diameter, I think) through the slits in the top of the case.

The fan is so quiet that I can't hear it at all unless I open the front of the AV cabinet and put my ear within about 2 feet of the reciever, and even then it's just barely a whisper. It moves enough air that I haven't noticed anything in the AV cabinet getting warm, even during the one time I cranked up the volume to the point where my wife put her fingers in her ears and retreated to the other end of the house.

The power cord is hard-wired instead of modular, as on some higher-end units. Also, there are no AC outlets on the back of the 608. My old Denon AVR-2800 had two switched outlets, and I would have really missed that feature if I hadn't already put a Panamax power conditioner in the center section of my AV cabinet.

Connecting the rest of my gear was a snap. The HDMI ports and speaker terminals are clearly labeled, logically laid out, and easy to reach as you add more wires. The only part of that task that required some reading in the manual was figuring how to attach my bi-amp'ed front main speakers. (This configuration forces you into a 5.1 setup, but I wasn't planning to buy surround back or high/wide aux speakers anyway.)

With regard to cabling, I have run into one slight disappointment: I haven't been able to get the Audio Return Channel to work. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the Samsung TV or the Onkyo AVR. (The cable is brand-new, and according to the box it's “HDMI 1.4 compliant with ethernet”, so I'm pretty sure *that's* not the problem.)

There doesn't seem to be a setting in the HDMI section of either device's menu tree to force ARC to be “on”. The only choices I've found are “OFF” and “Auto”, so my wild guess at the moment is that each unit is waiting for the other to initiate that part of the linkup.

Advice on that issue would be appreciated, and I'll keep researching and trying stuff on my own. I'll report back if I come up with something that works. In the mean time, I've added a digital optical cable to the mix. I already had antenna and Ethernet cables in addition to the power and HDMI cords going up to the TV, so one more cable isn't that big a deal.

The Onkyo remote is supposed to be capable of controlling other gear via the usual trial-and-error device-code entry method we've all come to know and hate over the years. Since I have a Harmony 900 remote, I didn't even attempt this. I did at least put the batteries in, figuring I might need to call up some of the little-used functions that I hadn't bothered to program using the Logitech software.

The Faroujda DCDi video processor hasn't had much to do so far. The input from my Blu-Ray player is already as good as it gets, and what comes in from the AT&T U-Verse set-top box isn't far behind. On that input, the picture comes in at 1080i (60Hz, 24-bit), and it goes out to the TV at 1080p (60Hz, 30-bit).

I should add that I only know this because of the 608's “Info” screen overlay; I can't switch the settings fast enough to tell a difference. As sharp as the Samsung TV's picture was before adding the Onkyo AVR into the mix, I suspect I wouldn't notice any real improvement even if I were able to see them side-by-side.

The video processing was just a nice-to-have, anyway; the real reason I got this particular receiver was for the *sound*, and the Onkyo 608 has exceeded all my expectations. Now I'm no audio engineer, so won't throw out a bunch of spec's and buzzwords without knowing what I'm talking about. I do have a critical ear for music, though; and I loved what I heard from the moment I fired this baby up with factory-default settings. Highs were crisp, midrange vocals were so clear it was like the artist was right there in the room, and the low end was assertive without being ‘muddy’ or ‘booming’.

The one downside to the sound was that I started to hear flaws in some of my MP3 files. The Onkyo “Music Optimizer” setting did help quite a bit with this issue, but at some point I'll probably end up re-ripping my CD collection in a lossless format, since I've got plenty of space on my media server.

After sampling a CD or two and a chapter or so from a couple of DVDs, I moved on to really tuning the receiver and speakers for the room with Audyssey 2EQ. It was easy and painless, and it resulted in a much better sound on all media. The “sweet spot” was noticeably larger, and the individual speakers seemed to almost ‘disappear’. With the factory defaults, I could easily point to each speaker with my eyes closed; that was much more difficult after the tuning software had woked its magic.

The resulting setup wasn't completely perfect, however. Remember that I mentioned earlier that I'd decided to go with a bi-amp configuration, which required an explicit setting to that effect in the receiver's configuration menu tree in addition to the extra set of wires. Despite this setting – and the clear implication that the front mains were NOT little piddly bookshelf speakers – the 2EQ process still set the low-end cutoff frequency at 40Hz, resulting in a slight but noticeable drop in bass output.

I went back into the menu tree and found the spot where I could change the crossover to “full range”, fixing that issue. With that last change, I think the sound I'm getting out of this AVR is now firmly in the ‘awesome’ category.

Programming the Harmony remote is still an ongoing process, but I'm now pretty close to what I consider a ‘final’ configuration. The biggest problem I had at the start was figuring out what Logitech decided to call the port for my U-Verse box. The Blu-Ray player was on the “DVD” port, but there was no “CBL”, “SAT”, or “DVR” listed in the Logitech software; just “VIDEO1” through “VIDEO6”. A bit of trial and error showed me that the correct selection was “VIDEO2”.

So am I pleased with my purchase? Absolutely. This was the perfect AVR for me. In retrospect, I should maybe have waited another few days, though. Since I placed my order, NewEgg has dropped the price by $5, and they're also throwing in an iPod dock now, if you order by 10 May. From what I've read about it, I don't think I'd want to *buy* the dock for $90+, but getting it for free would've been nice. Oh, well. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the receiver this past week, so that's got to be worth something.

Well, that's it for my mini-review of the Onkyo TX-SR608. Comments are welcome, and drop me a line here if you have insights on that Audio Return Channel thing. Is anybody out there doing that on *any* HT gear?

Regards,
bp

AVR: Onkyo TX-SR608
BDP: Samsung BD-C6900
HDTV: Samsung UN-55C7000

mains: Polk Audio RT800i
center: Polk Audio CS245i
surr.: Polk Audio FX300i
sub.: Polk Audio PSW250
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