Face Off: Budget Receivers Onkyo TX-DS484

Onkyo TX-DS484

The TX-DS484 is Onkyo's least expensive digital receiver ever.

This is Onkyo's least expensive digital home theater receiver ever and, not surprisingly, the most affordable in our lineup. Don't be fooled by the 55-watts-per-channel specification. The TX-DS484 ably filled our listening room without breaking a sweat. Dual banana-plug-compatible speaker terminals are available for all channels, along with DVD-Audio-friendly 24-bit/96-kHz DACs. Three assignable digital inputs (twin coaxial audio inputs, one optical), a dedicated line-level sub preout, and a phono input provide top-flight connectivity for most setups, although even the DVD-in is only in composite video. Full tape and VCR input/output loops simplify dubbing and component hookup. Similar to the Sherwood, the Onkyo boasts a nifty late-night mode that adjusts the dynamic range, restraining loud sounds and boosting quieter ones to create an enjoyable presentation while keeping the overall volume lower. The front panel is mercifully uncluttered, and the remote control is easy to read, if a tad businesslike. The TX-DS484 incorporates Onkyo's Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT) housed in an extremely compact, well-built chassis.

Connections include three digital ins, a dedicated line-level sub preout, and a phono in.

I found the Onkyo's performance on The Matrix to be exceptionally clean, with well-defined high frequencies. For me, this one provided the most natural and realistic reproduction of movie soundtracks out of the entire bunch, with solid but not bodacious bass. It was an almost-invisible component that sucked me into the events. This is how I thought the movie should sound. Mike was impressed with the surround effects and the dynamics of the helicopter crash, and he found the sound to be even warmer than the Sherwood's, although to him it lacked a little sparkle, with rounder, looser bass. On Contact, I noticed a beautiful subtlety to even the highly synthetic sound effects, with just enough bass to back it up and make it work.

The surround effects were seamless. Adam missed the kick that was evident in the Sherwood and, to him, overly evident in the Yamaha. Watching the movie scenes, he didn't feel the sound reach out and touch him like it had before. This was his favorite on music, though: "I thought the fact that it lacked some of the kick helped bring out the nuances in the music. The drums in the Keith Richards track, for example, were more than just a powerful thump here. There was actually some tonality to them. Me like that." I agreed, noting that the Onkyo perfectly captured both the crisp slap of the drums and the resonant boom, and all the voices really "sang." During "Love Me Two Times," I found myself listening more, writing less: This was the closest to having Jim in the room, limited ultimately by the mid-'60s recording quality. And, although he denies it, Adam was rocking out, while Mike slipped into a mellower groove, reveling in the boogie factor.

• Extremely smooth, warm, natural sound
• Bargain-basement price
• Digital optical and twin coaxial audio inputs
• Phono input

HT Labs Measures: Onkyo TX-DS484

This graph shows that the TX-DS484's left channel, from CD input to speaker output with two channels driving 8-ohm loads, reaches 0.1% distortion at 69.1 watts and 1% distortion at 86.3 watts. Into 4 ohms, the amplifier reaches 0.1% distortion at 80.5 watts and 1% distortion at 120.9 watts. The analog frequency response was +/-0.08 decibels from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The response dropped to -0.16 dB at 10 Hz and -0.44 dB at 50 kHz. THD+N from the amplifier was less than 0.014% at 1 kHz when driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was -87.1 dB left to right and -85.2 dB right to left.

From the Dolby Digital input to the loudspeaker output, the left, center, and surround channels are all flat, +/-0.60 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. From the Dolby Digital input to the line-level output, the LFE channel is +0.65 dB at 20 Hz when referenced to the level at 40 Hz and reaches the upper 3-dB down point at 87 Hz and the upper 6-dB down point at 106 Hz.—AJ

TX-DS484 $330
Onkyo USA
(201) 825-7950
Dealer Locator Code ONK