Features are all important when it comes to home cinema receivers and there simply isn't another model at this price range that carries such an advanced specification as £400 Onkyo TX-SR605.
What really sets this receiver apart is the inclusion of integrated high-definition audio decoding supported by the latest HDMI 1.3a connections, which will accept the new HD audio formats used by Blu-ray players -- even if we're still waiting for more players that can fully appreciate this technology.
There are few budget receivers that can claim as many advanced features as the TX-SR605. There are seven channels each with a decent 140W of amplification, which can be used for advanced set ups to enhance stereo performance by bi-amping the front two speakers. Setting up the system is extremely simple using the advanced automatic calibration system augmented by basic Audyssey 2EQ and clearly presented menu screens.
The inclusion of the latest HDMI 1.3a connections -- with two inputs and one output -- allows video switching between compatible high-definition sources, which eases operation and reduces cable clutter. There is also HDMI video up-conversion across all other inputs. It's only deinterlaced as opposed to upscaled but still improves the image quality of your analogue sources.
The future-proof HDMI 1.3a connections will also accept Deep Colour picture enhancements and the latest HD surround formats including Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio that are carried on HD discs, which can be decoded by the receiver itself.
As impressive as the on-paper specification is, the TX-SR605 doesn't disappoint with a class-leading performance. The receiver delivers a refined sound that remains a rarity at this price, featuring superb dynamics that open up a surprisingly expansive sound stage. The battle scene during 300 is particularly all encompassing.
Despite its undoubted authority, the sound is beautifully composed and natural, using excellent integration and the seamless steering of ambient effects to create an entirely believable listening experience. Watching Stardust exposes detailed subtleties that are often missed even by more expensive receivers. The Onkyo is simply sensational at this price.
It's difficult to find fault with the TX-SR605 but with all its future-proof technology, the sober design appears outdated and unattractive compared to some more stylish budget models like Sony's STR-DA1200ES.
We also found the automatic calibration system quite time consuming. The Audyssey 2EQ system requires repeating the setup from three different microphone positions, which takes around 10 minutes in total. Still, it's accurate.
The final flaw isn't really Onkyo's fault. Its most impressive feature -- integrated decoding of lossless audio formats found on high-definition discs -- is still waiting for technology to catch up, with only a few HD players able to appreciate it. That will change in the future.
Onkyo's TX-SR605 supports an incredibly advanced specification with outstanding performance, which makes it an absolute steal at this price. The use of the receiver's integrated HD audio decoding may still be limited by the availability of compatible players but since no other budget receiver offers the feature, it's not costing you extra to ensure your system is ready for the future.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday