Onkyo TX-SR875 Surround Sound Receiver Page 2
On the video side, the Onkyo offers four HDMI 1.3a inputs, three component inputs, and a more than generous selection of composite and S-Video inputs than you're ever likely to need. [HDMI 1.3a is simply the very latest HDMI spec, and from what we've been told, the "a" designation doesn't designate any audio or video functionality of note compared to HDMI 1.3- Ed.]
The receiver will also transcode all composite, S-Video, and component sources to a single HDMI output. You can also transcode composite and S-Video sources to component (but not HDMI to component).
The receiver also provides onboard HQV video processing via Silicon Optix' REON chip. It can scale and/or deinterlace sources to 480p, 720p, 1080i, or 1080p on the HDMI and component outputs. There's also a non-scaled Through mode. Auto mode is claimed to automatically take any video at a resolution your TV will not accept and convert it to a resolution your set can handle. Since the displays I used will accept all SD and HD resolutions, I did not test the Auto mode.
The Onkyo also includes THX Re-EQ. Re-EQ reduces high frequencies in a specific fashion different from that of conventional tone controls. As implemented here, it may be engaged with or without full THX processing.
I've found few modern soundtracks that are so bright—at least on well-engineered speakers—that they need Re-EQ. Many, it appears, are re-mixed for home video release, eliminating the icy highs that plagued us in the past—and often still does in commercial theaters. Re-EQ is still a useful feature to have, but I did not use it for my listening other than briefly to check its operation.
Other features include 32-bit DSP audio processing, 192kHz/24-bit D/A conversion, LipSync from 0-250ms in 5ms increments, auto LipSync on compatible displays (HDMI only), a phono input (moving magnet only), and XM or Sirius satellite radio compatibility (requires optional accessories). There are also bass and treble tone controls on all channels plus a 7-band graphic EQ on the system's seven main channels, plus a 5-band EQ on the subwoofer. Both the tone controls and equalizer may be adjusted separately for the front, center, surround, surround back and subwoofer channels.
More significant than the tone controls and manual equalizers, however, is the receiver's automated setup incorporating the Audyssey MultEQ XT speaker setup and room/speaker compensation. The Audyssey, which I discussed in detail last year in my review of the Denon AVR-5805 AV receiver , automatically measures the number of speakers connected, their sizes, and the distance of each speaker from the listening position. It also measures the in-room response of each speaker, applies what it determines to be the optimum crossover frequencies, and adds compensation to smooth the speaker/room response.
This compensation is far more sophisticated than any multiband manual EQ system can manage. It prompts you to trigger the measurements at up to eight listening positions in the room, applies complex algorithms to these readings, and calculates a compensation that is said to improve the result at all listening positions, not just the "money seat."
You can, of course, set up the Onkyo receiver manually, though this will bypass the Audyssey compensation. The multiband equalizers mentioned above may be set manually, but they are comparatively crude compared to the Audyssey system. And you can't cascade the manual equalizers and the Audyssey; it's one or the other.
I did experience one setup oddity. If you go first, as I did, for the manual setup, bypassing the Audyssey system, there is no way to shut off the back surrounds in the setup menu. You have a choice of one or two, but not "none." This will cause no problems, however, except that whenever modes like Dolby Digital come up on the front indicator, they come up as "Dolby Digital EX." You can just ignore this and happily listen to your 5.1-channel system. If you run an auto setup, however, the receiver will recognize the absence of the back channels and turn off the inapplicable menu indicators, including the bogus EX and similar 6.1 or 7.1 designations.
Onkyo's remote is a busy device that despite its seeming complexity is easy to get used to. It can control six other devices besides the receiver. It offers direct input selection, direct selection of the most important operating modes (i.e. Stereo, Surround, Pure Audio, Direct, THX, etc.), tweaking of individual channel levels on the fly, and more. All of its buttons are backlit, though the function labels for some of the buttons (primarily the input buttons) do not light up since they are located on the body of the remote and not on the buttons themselves.
The Onkyo's on-screen menus were reasonably straightforward, neatly laid out, and easy to follow. They also operate with an HDMI connection, which isn't always the case. In addition, you can set the receiver up so that it displays your volume adjustments on-screen. I saw no video degradation from leaving this feature engaged,, but it can be defeated if you find it distracting.
Video Switching and Processing
With HQV video processing from Silicon Optix (the REON chip) I expected good video performance from the Onkyo and was not disappointed.
We can put one question to rest immediately: After passing through the Onkyo video circuits in Through mode (as noted earlier, this is a pass-through with no video processing), a multiburst test pattern source from my AccuPel test pattern generator, in either 720p or 1080i, HDMI or component, was a virtual carbon copy of a direct feed from the generator to the display. This was also the case with either standard or high-definition program material. I never felt tempted to bypass the receiver's switcher. That's a good thing, because if you want to get audio over HDMI, the HDMI must pass through the video switching circuits of this or any other AV receiver (or pre-pro).
But there is one characteristic of the Onkyo's video processing and switching, even in the Through mode, that I can live without. The processor altered both the black and white level of the signal passing through it compared to a direct feed from the source to the projector. This appears to do no irretrievable damage to the signal—it did not clip either white or black—but does require a significant readjustment of the display's brightness and contrast controls to bring the setup back into line.
With the receiver's ability to upscale standard and high-definition sources to any of four resolutions (480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p), plus Through (which provides no scaling) not to mention cross conversion of analog inputs to HDMI (or component) the number of possibilities is mind-boggling. So I narrowed the tests down to a manageable number of common options. I checked the following:
• HDMI deinterlacing and scaling: 480i to 720p and 1080p
• HDMI deinterlacing: 1080i to 1080p
480i to 720p, HDMI in/out
480i to 720p, component in/out
480i to 1080i and 1080p, HDMI in/out
480i to 1080i and 1080p, component in/out
In its scaling and deinterlacing performance, the Onkyo did a good job processing the test patterns on the HQV Benchmark test DVD (tests conducted using HDMI). It fell down only on the first Jaggies test in the 480i to 720p upconversion, where it displayed slight jagged edges when the rotating line in the test was vertical, a very unusual failure mode. But the problem was subtle, and both jaggies tests were excellent when upconverted from 480i to 1080p. The processor was a bit slow to capture 3/2 pulldown in both upconverted resolutions. But even though it lacks a manually selectable film mode, the processing performed well on both the 3:2 (film) and 2:2 (video) cadence tests.