Onkyo TX-DS696 Digital Surround Receiver Page 3

Fast Facts

RATED POWER 100 W x 5 into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.08% total harmonic distortion (THD) DIMENSIONS 17 1/8 inches wide, 6 7/8 inches high, 17 inches deep WEIGHT 27 3/4 pounds PRICE $830 MANUFACTURER Onkyo USA, Dept. S&V, 18 Park Way, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07446; www.onkyousa.com; 800-229-1687

Once everything was balanced and running, I had no complaints about the TX-DS696's stereo operation. The receiver had ample power to drive my very low-sensitivity left/right front speakers, even running full-range, to satisfying levels without audible strain.

In a hurry to try out Dolby's shiny new Pro Logic II, I cut short the stereo listening session and cued up Emmy Lou Harris's Spyboy (Eminent), one of the better-sounding live CDs that I've discovered in recent months. Selecting PL II Music with the remote, I played the lovely "Prayer in D." It sounded lush, spacious, and believable. Ambience was dramatically enhanced, with a three-dimensional sense of depth. Harris's ever-bruised alto took on an almost holographic quality. Her voice lost a bit of its low-end heft, but from bass to treble, the rest of the music behaved itself, which is more than can be said for many ambience-enhancement surround modes - or standard Pro Logic, for that matter.

It was interesting to compare the PL II Music mode with the PL II Movie mode (easily done by toggling between them on the remote). The Music mode was clearly superior for music (duh!) - sounding wider, more spacious and relaxed, and, well, more musical.

For a trial of PL II's Movie mode with matrixed Dolby Surround material, I chose the Dances with Wolves laserdisc, which I was able to cue up in sync with the Dolby Digital 5.1-channel DVD of the same movie. I switched between them by alternating between the receiver's DVD and Video-1 inputs - for each input, it remembers the surround mode you last selected. As you might expect, this was also an interesting comparison. (My initial reaction, however, was amazement that I once actually thought laserdiscs looked great. Boy, a direct comparison with the same movie on DVD disabused me of that notion in a hurry!)