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Onkyo HT-S5400 7.1 Channel HTiB First Look

Onkyo HT-S5400

Onkyo HT-S5400


  • Product Name: HT-S5400
  • Manufacturer: Onkyo USA
  • Review Date: February 17, 2011 05:45
  • MSRP: $599
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • 4 HDMI 1.4 Inputs/1 Output
  • Front USB port
  • Support for 3D, Audio Return Channel
  • Dolby TrueHD, PLIIz and DTS Master Audio decoding
  • Audyssey 2EQ Room Correction
  • Audyssey Dynamic EQ/ Dynamic Volume
  • Massive transformer
  • Optimum gain volume circuitry
  • PLL jitter-cleaning circuitry to preserve signal accuracy
  • High-quality TI Burr-Brown audio DACs
  • New Advanced Music Optimizer
  • Overlaid on-screen display


As much as you might not want to admit it, you must know about recent Home Theater in a Box (HTiB) offerings. If you consider yourself an Audioholic, it is practically a requirement. The fact is that no matter how good your reasons or justifications, how impressive an A/B comparison you set up, or how great of a deal you can find online, some people will hear nothing but "Blah, blah, things I don't care about, blah." They want to know one thing and only one thing - which big box of speakers with a receiver should they buy. They don't want to hear about speaker deals, audio quality, or features. They don't care about universal remotes, Blu-ray, or multiple inputs. They might perk up if you use the words "wireless" or "3D" (and maybe even "iPod") but you'll lose them if they aren't followed by "speakers," "Avatar," and "dock" respectively. So if you don't know what is current and cool in the world of HTiBs they are going to tell all their friends that you don't know anything about audio. But then again, maybe you don't want to talk to their friends so it could be a good thing.

But if you do (or if they are family and you are required to give them a satisfactory answer which they will promptly ignore when the pimply-faced boy at the big box store says, "Yeah but this one as 735 watts of power and the one your son suggested only has 730 watts"), getting up on the latest in HTiB tech is imperative. One of the things you'll hear about constantly from those in the know is that you should invest in a system that can be upgraded. This means no proprietary connectors, no DVD/Blu-ray/Receiver/toaster combo units, and no routing everything through the "subwoofer." One company that has done a great job of offering upgradable HTiB systems at competitive prices has been Onkyo. It looks like they are up to it again.

The HT-S5400 is on of two new offerings from Onkyo and is the most advanced. That being said, for the receiver, seven satellite speakers, and a downfiring subwoofer they are only asking $600. That's very competitive in nearly any market. You won't see buzz words like wireless but there are some that even your mom will recognize.

First is 3D support. The HT-S5400 has four HDMI 1.4 inputs and a single output which is 3D capable plus supports not only all the latest lossless formats but also Audio Return Channel. ARC allows you to send audio down from your TV to your receiver through the HDMI cable you use to send video up. While those with set-top boxes won't appreciate this feature as much, those that have historically routed all of their sources directly to the TV will. Specifically, if you use the tuner in your display or have an Internet enabled TV, you'll find this of much use. Note, the TV must also support ARC for it to work.

While the uninitiated tuned out around the number of inputs and the enthusiasts tuned out when ARC was explained, both should note that there are plenty of inputs (both digital and analogue) for plenty of devices. This means you won't have to have just HDMI inputs like some HTiB solutions require and you won't find yourself having to skip your new home theater speakers with your Wii or VCR. Plus it has a front mounted USB port for direct connection to your iPod.

Enthusiasts will be pleased that the amplifier section of the HTS5400 incorporates a massive transformer, optimum gain volume circuitry, and PLL jitter-cleaning circuitry to preserve signal accuracy. Other features include high-quality TI Burr-Brown audio DACs, a new Advanced Music Optimizer to enhance the fidelity of compressed audio files, and a convenient overlaid on-screen display for adjusting the settings. To translate, this means it will play loud without catching on fire, will sound good, will make your iPod sound good, and has a cool menu system that you can see on your TV and can control with the remote.

Audyssey 2EQ will automatically calibrate the receiver and mid-size, two-way front Left/Right/Center speakers and four smaller surrounds. Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume are also on board (features that just a few years ago were barely in $1000 receivers). Dynamic EQ helps keep your system sounding good even at low volumes and Dynamic Volume makes sure that the volume stays constant so you won't have to worry about those loud commercials waking you up ever again. Lastly, if you are really interested in getting the biggest front stage experience, the HT-S5400 supports Dolby ProLogic IIz which allows users to reconfigure the two surround-back channels as “front height” channels and increase the ambiance of movies and games.

If you don't want to spend as much as $600, Onkyo has a HT-S3400, a $379 solution with two less speakers/channels, slightly inferior DACs when compared to those in the HT-S5400, and it doesn't support Dolby PLIIz. The USB port is also missing but you can get the new DS-A4 Remote Interactive Dock for iPod/iPhone ($139). It connects to either of the receivers via the proprietary RI interfact jack (available on most Onkyo receivers). It also has outputs for stereo audio as well as composite and component video. Menu navigation is aided by an On-Screen Display and supplied remote control; RI-enabled systems allow the use of the AV system remote control.


If you're looking for a full featured HTiB solution with the ability to upgrade as you go, Onkyo's HT-S5400 is a great way to go. $600 certainly won't break the bank, even in this economy, and the included speakers should allow you to get used to surround sound while you shop around for something else. Technology in the HT-S5400 is very impressive given the price with things like Audyssey 2ED/Dynamic Volume/Dynamic EQ, Dolby ProLogic IIz, and HDMi 1.4 with 3D support and Audio Return Channel showing up. We're actually surprised they are able to shove this much tech into such an affordable package. Four HDMI inputs and a front mounted USB port for iPod integration pretty much suggests to us that with the HT-S5400 you are getting a $600 receiver with some free speakers thrown in. With seven of them plus a downfiring sub, this looks to be a great deal.

For more information, please visit www.onkyousa.com.

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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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