We've said it so many times, our faces are bluer than a member of The Blue Man group on an especially chilly day. But if you really want a good home cinema experience, you can't rely on the speakers that come built-in to your TV. There are dozens of ways to improve the sound, from adding a simple stereo amplifier and a pair of speakers, right up to a buying a 7.1 home cinema system worth thousands of pounds.
The Onkyo HTX-22HD offers a compact solution with potential for future upgrades and it won't break the bank at around £300. It's designed to help people who want better sound, but who aren't inclined to fill their entire lounge with speakers and their attendant cables.
Because the Onkyo's main AV receiver is integrated into the subwoofer, connecting everything up is really simple. You run two cables out to the stereo speakers and either an HDMI cable, digital interconnect or analogue input into the AV receiver/subwoofer.
We're actually quite impressed that the Onkyo has a pair of HDMI inputs, which means you can plug in a Blu-ray player and something like SkyHD or Freesat without fumbling around behind the machine. A single HDMI output takes those video signals to the TV, which keeps everything nice and simple.
There are also two optical and a single coaxial digital input for connecting other AV gear like games consoles, DVD players and other set-top boxes. We can't help but be impressed by such a decent selection of inputs on such a compact product. Unless you've got dozens of bits of AV kit, you should be able to cater for everything with this device, which gives it advantage over sound bars such as the Yamaha HTY-750 and Denon DHT-FS3. They both have much more limited connectivity, and no HDMI support.
A remote control is included, as you would expect, and there are no surprises -- it's small and has just a few buttons to control volume, make selections and navigate through the menu systems. Very easy to use, which is exactly what we want on something like this. It's aimed at people who don't have a degree in cabling from the univeristy of wasting time.
It was a real surprise to us that Onkyo has opted to decode both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD internally. We would have expected, on a smaller piece of equipment like this, that the company would opt for just Dolby Digital and standard DTS. However, we never look a gift horse in the mouth, so we're thrilled by this addition.
If you don't want to set the system up yourself, there's an Audyssey microphone supplied that you connect to the unit once everything is plugged in. You then start the auto-setup procedure, which detects where the speakers are placed and how much sound is reaching your sitting position, and it adjusts the system's settings automatically.
Sound quality is excellent overall. We tested the 2.1 system, rather than the full 5.1 setup. Even so, dialogue in movies was clear and never swamped by the movie effects. Bass was tight and powerful too, which makes action movies a treat to watch -- just make sure you set up the power levels first, or you might find the bass too overwhelming.
Our major complaint with the Onkyo HTX-22HD is that at £300 -- or £400 if you add the extra speakers -- it's possibly too expensive for people who want to improve their TV sound, especially considering it doesn't have a built-in DVD player like many simple home theatre systems.