Onkyo TX-SR606 A/V Receiver

Product positioning in today's consumer world generally falls into three categories: budget, mid-tier, and premium. For example, BMW offers the 3-series, 5-series, and 7-series. All are nice automobiles, but with each step up in class, additional features and performance add value for the end user with a concomitant increase in price.

As a maker of quality A/V components for over 60 years, Onkyo offers a wide range of AVRs at various price points. The TX-SR606 falls at the upper end of its "budget" receivers with a price of $599. Onkyo proclaims that this model is at "the forefront of affordable home theater," but does it really deliver? Read on and see…

The first question that comes to mind when considering a budget AVR is, "What am I giving up compared to a higher-cost unit?" In the case of the 606, not much at all. Seven channels of amplification are rated at 90 watts each with the option of bi-amplifying your front speakers. Alternatively, the back-surround channels can power a second zone if you don't need them in the main zone. (Having seven amp channels and nine speaker outputs means you can connect seven speakers in the main zone and two in a remote zone, but if you activate Zone 2, the back-surround channels in the main room are disabled.)

With four HDMI 1.3a inputs, the Onkyo can receive and decode both DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD bitstreams from a Blu-ray or HD DVD player—in fact, it's one of the least-expensive AVRs to do so. Additionally, it offers auto lip-sync compensation and support for x.v.Color (generically called xvYCC), an expanded color space that is not yet used in any commercial content.

Video upscaling is all the rage in AVRs today, and the 606 can upscale all analog video signals to 1080i, regardless of the connection, for output via HDMI. When fed a 1080p/60 or 1080p/24 signal, the Onkyo passes it unmolested, which isn't the case with some AVRs on the market. Faroudja's DCDi Edge technology provides the deinterlacing.

The TX-SR606 uses Audyssey 2EQ to counteract distortions caused by walls and other objects in your listening room. In addition, this program determines speaker distances and sets volume levels, delays, and crossovers, while also analyzing room acoustics by taking measurements at three listening positions. Also included is Audyssey Dynamic EQ, which improves deteriorating sound quality at lower listening levels by adjusting the EQ and surround levels. In theory, Audyssey can correct both frequency and time-domain response across the entire listening area. In practice, I have found that it actually works quite well.

For the MP3 enthusiasts, Onkyo has designed an onboard Music Optimizer technology to improve the sound quality of compressed audio signals, specifically the lost information at higher frequencies. You can connect an iPod using one of several aftermarket solutions, including an iPod dock from Onkyo.

Additional features include a Sirius satellite-radio connection and RIHD (Remote Interactive over HDMI), Onkyo's implementation of the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) protocol. This allows the 606's remote to control compatible HDMI-connected devices such as those from Panasonic, Toshiba, and Sharp among others.