Onkyo HT-S9100THX Home Theater System First Look
Front L/R/C/Surround: 130 W/Channel (8 ohms, 1 kHz, FTC)
Dynamic Power: 210 W (3 ohms); 180 W (4 ohms); 110 W (8 ohms)
THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): .08 % (Rated power)
Damping Factor: 60 (Front, 1 kHz, 8 ohms)
Input Sensitivity and Impedance: 200 mV/47 k-ohms (Line)
Output Level and Impedance: 200 mV/2.2 kohms (Rec out)
Frequency Response: 5 Hz–100 kHz/ +1 dB, -3 dB (Direct mode)
Tone Control: ±10 dB, 50 Hz (Bass); ±10 dB, 20 kHz (Treble)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 106 dB (Line, IHF-A)
Speaker Impedance: 8 ohms–16 ohms
All discrete amplifier circuitry
FM/AM Preset Memory: 30 stations
Power Consumption: 5.5 A
Standby Power Consumption: 0.1 W
Dimensions (W x H x D): 17-1/8" x 5-15/16" x 14-13/16" (435 x 151 x 377 mm)
Weight: 24.9 lbs. (11.3 kg)
Front/Center: 2-way, acoustic-suspension
Surrounds: 2-way, acoustic-suspension
Subwoofer: Acoustic-suspension, powered
Front: 5" A-OMF woofer (x2), 1" tweeter
Center: 5" A-OMF woofer (x2), 1" tweeter
Surround/Surround Back: 5" A-OMF woofer, 1" tweeter
Subwoofer: 12" cone
Front/Center: 50 Hz–45 kHz
Surround: 50 Hz–45 kHz
Surround Back: 50 Hz–45 kHz
Subwoofer: 20 Hz–100 Hz
Front/Center: 83 dB/W/m
Surround/Back: 81 dB/W/m
Front/Center/Surround/Surround Back: 6 ohms
Dimensions (W x H x D)
Front: 6-1/4" x 17-1/16" x 7-3/16"
Center: 17-1/16" x 6-1/4" x 7-3/16"
Surround/Back: 7-7/8" x 10-13/16" x 6-5/8"
Subwoofer: 15" x 17-1/2" x 16-7/8"
Front/Center: 11.7 lbs (5.3 kg)
Surrounds/Back: 7.7 lbs. (3.5 kg)
Subwoofer: 34.2 lbs. (15.5 kg)
A fully functional home theater with emphasis on quality audio reproduction is what the Onkyo HT-S9100THX specializes in. This is a 7.1-channel system with nearly all the trimmings, including THX I/S Plus certification - all packed into a nice, convenient box you can give to somebody... or, yourself. This home-theater-in-a-box includes a full A/V receiver and complete 7.1 speaker package. The $1099 retail price of the HT-S9100THX puts it at the upper end of home-theater box systems, nearing the realm of 4-letter word companies that rhyme with 'Blows'. Still, the package makes it a compelling buy for those looking to move their way firmly into the surround sound experience with an emphasis on above average sound quality. The system includes the dedicated A/V receiver, a 12-inch powered front-firing subwoofer, Front speakers, a Center channel, and two pairs of Surround and Surround Back speakers. It's a highly upgradable system, and one that will meet the needs for almost anyone looking to break into the home theater experience.
About THX I/S Plus Certification
THX Certified I/S Plus addresses the growing needs of the newest generation of home entertainment enthusiasts, those who crave high impact movie, music and video game experiences from an affordable “all-in-one” receiver and speaker package. THX Certified I/S Plus is geared to small home theater environments and residential living rooms with 8 foot viewing distances from the video display to the seating positions. This THX certification requires home theater packages be tested by THX as a complete system, its components—receiver, speakers and amplifier—are all designed and optimized to work together to deliver a THX quality experience.
With a system like you'll get just about everything you could need in a home theater solution. Coming in under $1100, you'll expect to find on-screen display and HDMI upconversion from analogue sources - and you'll get it. There are even extra goodies, like 7.1 preamp inputs and S-video video connections. Unlike the newer, but lower-priced models Onkyo has available, the HT-S9100THX doesn't include an iPod dock or the ability to add one. If you are using several types of inputs you'll only need to run an HDMI cable from the receiver to your television or projector since the HT-S9100THX provides video upconversion. This is great and makes the remote control much more powerful.
Let's analyze the primary components on their own:
HT-R960 A/V Receiver
This dedicated receiver doesn't match any of Onkyo's currently shipping models, which shows its age a bit. It features four HDMI "repeater" inputs for high-definition audio and video. This is a super-convenient solution that allows you to connect all of your HD video sources into the receiver for simplified switching. It also eliminates, for sources with HDMI outputs, the need for separate audio cables. Since the HDMI inputs are fully active they are capable of retrieving and decoding the Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD audio from an HDMI signal.
The system also includes Audyssey Dynamic EQ, and Audyssey Dynamic Volume which levels out the volume between program material and overly compressed commercials. It also includes a setup mic for auto-calibration of your system. There is no HD Radio, Sirius or XM support with the HT-R960.
Inputs and Outputs
The Onkyo HT-R960 has the ins and outs you'd expect on a mid-fi A/V receiver. As we indicated above, the four HDMI inputs will handle HD sources effortlessly and pas them to the single output, with both audio and video being read from the sources - a big improvement over some of Onkyo's lower HT-R receivers. Dual component video inputs means that legacy products will also be able to get tied into this receiver - and there's no need to connect both component and HDMI to your display since the receiver offers video upconversion to HDMI thanks to the Faroudja DCDi/Edge processor. There are also three other composite video inputs and S-video connections. In addition to these video inputs there are dual stereo inputs for CD and Tape (hey, what's that?) and two each of optical and coax S/PDIF connections.
Note the 7.1 analogue inputs but no preamp outputs or iPod docking connector
In terms of speaker connections, this model provides 5-way plastic binding posts for all primary (left/right/center/surround/surround back) speakers, but the Front B speakers get spring clips. This is not uncommon at this price point, but realize that spring clips of this type do best with 18 gauge or higher (smaller) cable. What we were surprised about was the lack of ability to reroute the amplifiers for a second Zone or bi-amping. The HT-R960 receiver instead uses Speaker B for a second "Zone" but if used, disables the Surround Back speakers. You can also not independently select a source for the Speaker B output. It was interesting to note that the less expensive HT-R570 included support for Sirius satellite radio, while the supposedly stepped up HT-R960 does not.
Main Left/Right and Center Speakers
In this system the 2-way front left/right/center speakers differ from the rest in that they have two 5" drivers in addition to the soft dome tweeter. Each speaker is about 17" tall and 6" wide, so placement should be a breeze in the front of any room. They have a gray finish that contrasts the black speaker surrounds. The center channel is an identical form factor, but oriented sideways in an MTM fashion for better horizontal dispersion. The fact that these speakers step up to a two-way system, and the inclusion of a dedicated 1" tweeter means that you'll get clearer audio with less distortion. Plus THX has at the very least ensured that they play all the way up to spec without audible distortion. The mains and center channel produce frequencies, according to Onkyo, down to 50Hz.
The Surrounds and Surround Back speakers are similar in design to the mains and center except that they utilize a single 5" driver. They are still rated to extend down to 60Hz. The front speakers weigh in at around 11.5 pounds each and the surrounds are just under eight pounds apiece. All speakers in this system are made with wood enclosure material.
The included sealed (acoustic-suspension) sub is active, meaning it has its own amplifier and must be plugged into an outlet, and contains a 12" front-firing driver. The box itself is roughly 15" x 18" x 17" making it a pretty big box, but still small enough to hide away if necessary. A blue LED on the front tell you when the sub is active. We'd recommend keeping it up front if possible and moving it around to find the location that yields the best low frequency response. This is a solid sub, and we've seen many subs in similar systems come with a 10-inch driver - which is often not big enough (in an inexpensive system) to go down to that critical <25 Hz range. Onkyo claims a frequency response of 20Hz with this sub, but provides no specs on how it came to that measurement. It would be safe to assume that the sub is at least 3dB down at this frequency. You can upgrade this subwoofer with an aftermarket solution at any time. Some recommendations are the Axiom Audio EP125 ($375), Aperion Audio Bravus 8A ($319), and the Velodyne Impact-12 ($369).
The remote that comes with this unit is sufficient enough to handle most basic systems (TV, DVD player and the AV receiver) but don't expect to have it operate your DVR or more sophisticated cableTV functions. It works via preprogrammed codes and cannot learn commands from other remote controls. The layout is intelligent, with direct access over inputs and the four listening modes (which can be further toggled by repeatedly pressing each button.) There is no backlight on this remote, so plan on using it during the day or learning where everything is for nighttime use. There is also a button to control a second audio Zone. A good universal remote should land this thing in storage pretty quickly - and that's our recommendation for most entry level remotes.
Overview of Features
- Total 1200W (includes 7 channels plus sub channel)
- 7 speakers with 5" drivers
- Front-firing 290W 12-inch subwoofer
- 4 HDMI "repeater" inputs (audio supported!)
- Audyssey Dynamic Volume
- THX I/S Plus Certification
This is an impressive 7.1 tower system that is priced higher than many home theater-in-a-box systems. In the case of the HT-S9100THX, you are clearly giving up some features, like an iPod dock, Zone 2, and the new Game DSP modes, for increased audio quality, THX certification, and analogue audio inputs. This is a system that can easily be upgraded, however. While the Onkyo HT-RC960 receiver lacks a Sirius radio option or analogue 5.1 outputs, it delivers with an on-screen display and analogue to HDMI video upconversion. Some users may even appreciate the existence of S-video inputs. This receiver also delivers Audyssey's Dynamic Volume feature which we've experienced and found to be very helpful when watching movies on systems and in rooms that simply cannot reproduce theatrical levels of dynamic sound. This system will appeal to a lot of people looking for a simple-to-use surround setup and who want a bit more than those truly entry-level HTiB packages will deliver. If you have a lot of sources, and audio quality is your driving factor (isn't it always?) this may be the perfect system for you.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.
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