Onkyo TX-SR804 A/V Receiver Page 2

The Short Form
Price $1,099 / onkyousa.com / 800-229-1687
A no-nonsense receiver that provides the features you need and omits those you probably don't while delivering plenty of clean power.
•Converts video to HDMI output •Effective auto-setup •Nicely integrated XM capabilities
•No video upscaling •No USB port •Eisenhower-era video menus
Key Features
•THX Select2-certified •105 watts x 7 channels •XM-ready satellite-radio compatibility •2 HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI output •1080p-compatible HDMI repeater switching with upconversion of video sources to HDMI (version 1.1) •Automatic setup and EQ •Surround-back channels assignable to Zone 2 (stereo) speakers •FM/AM tuner with 40 presets •Backlit learning remote with macros
Test Bench
The Onkyo's bench performance was generally very good all around. With its impedance switch set to the 4-ohm position, output was strictly limited to about 65 watts, though at the 6-ohm setting the receiver drove 4-ohm loads to high power, in 1- and 2-channel operation, with no ill effects. Our difficult all-channels-driven test resulted in the Onkyo's protection circuits kicking in after 2-3 seconds and limiting output to about 56 watts, a not uncommon occurence in mid-priced receivers. Crossover settings remained in effect on the multichannel analog input for any/all channels unless the "Direct" mode was selected, and response at these inputs was "brickwall" low-pass filtered at about 21 kHz in all modes including Direct (or "Pure Audio") - something not mentioned anywhere in the manual. This means that any ultrasonic output from a connected SACD/DVD-Audio or HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc source is filtered out. - Daniel Kumin Full Lab Results
Stylistically, the front panel is nondescript. It follows the less-is-more approach, tucking most of the buttons (and a complete Video-4 input set) under a fold-down panel. The backlit remote is a notch above average, with a dense but logically laid-out button array and macro capability. Thankfully, the era of dark-gray lettering on black has ended; this remote mainly uses easy-to-read white lettering. A tiny joystick planted in the middle lets you navigate the onscreen menus. Speaking of which, the receiver's text-based menus, while perfectly serviceable and actually quite easy to use, are as visually exciting as a Pong videogame. Come on, Onkyo, hire some kid and get a new GUI! The setup menus appear on the HDMI and component-video outputs, but some pop-up menus such as volume don't.

SETUP Installing the receiver in my reference system, I ran HDMI from my DVD player and to my display, to provide the highest signal quality and simplify wiring. One installation downside: Only analog input sources are available at the Zone 2 output, and DSP listening modes aren't available at all. The TX-SR804 can provide speaker-level output for Zone 2 in addition to or instead of line-level, but this calls for reassigning the amps for the two back surround channels, reducing 7.1 playback in the main room to 5.1.

The receiver's automatic setup routine set speaker levels, delay/distance from listening position, bass crossover frequency, and five-band EQ settings. I placed the supplied microphone at my listening position and enjoyed a beverage while the test signals did their thing for 2 minutes. Most auto-calibration systems are good but not perfect. In this case, when I double-checked, the results were reasonably accurate. However, I manually nudged some speaker levels and EQ settings and adjusted some bass crossover frequencies down to 80 Hz. I was relieved to see that the bass crossover points are independently selectable for each loudspeaker pair.

AUDIO PERFORMANCE Given all the high-tech features in today's receivers, it's possible to forget that their raison d'être is still amplification. To make sure this Onkyo actually had some power amplifiers amid the software, I grabbed some discs and cranked it up. Auditioning a range of music from the Flaming Lips to the cool jazz of Fred Hersch, I listened at varying volume levels, and in stereo and surround, and was pleased with its accurate reproduction. The amplifiers remained dynamic-sounding at loud levels and started pinching only at very high volumes. Overall, the wattage is clean and more than sufficient for most situations.

To the horror of jazz purists everywhere, I ran some classic Ray Charles through a few of the Dolby, DTS, and THX programs, eventually settling on one of Onkyo's proprietary DSP modes ("Unplugged"), which added a nice sense of surround to the old stereo recording. Also, just for fun, I grabbed my XM mini-tuner antenna (not included) and jacked it into the receiver, and out came all those heavenly channels. I was happy to see that XM was completely integrated, allowing both channel and category searching, with all the transmitted metadata text appearing in the display. But, perhaps befitting its mid- but not lofty aspirations, the receiver lacked the Neural Audio software needed to deliver XM's relatively new surround channels in their full glory.