The Onkyo HTX-22HD was one of our favourite 2.1 surround-sound systems. Its compact size meant it would fit into any size room, while its ample power output and amazing audio support and HDMI ports allowed it to compete with systems that cost an awful lot more. Now it's been replaced with an all-new system that keeps much of the name -- the Onkyo HTX-22HDX.
The system we're testing is the base 2.1 unit, with the optional speaker pack that makes this into a full 5.1 system. The total cost, as we're reviewing, is around £330, but without the extra speakers it's available for £240.
A design improvement
There was nothing wrong with styling of the HTX-22HDX's predecessor. It was a compact main unit with small but competent speakers and it looked pretty cool, too. The HTX-22HDX has improved on that, though, making for a new system that looks fantastic and slightly more modern.
There's a pretty decent display on the front of the HTX-22HDX, too. This tells you what input you're on, and what audio mode you have selected. It's not readable from across the lounge, but it's certainly decent enough if you're reasonably close.
The new model has also moved the control buttons on the main unit -- there aren't many of them -- from the front, to the top. This is good, because we found the front placement of the buttons on the older version a little frustrating when we were bending down over the unit. You can adjust the listening mode and volume from these controls, as well as the input you're watching -- basically everything you need.
2.1 or 5.1?
You have a choice with the Onkyo of either 2.1 or 5.1 speaker packs. The base system is 2.1, but for around £80 more, you get the extra centre and rear surround speakers, which add a whole new dimension to the system. We suggest ponying up the extra dosh, to be honest. For a start, we love the rear-effects channels that 5.1 gives you, but more crucially, you also get a dedicated centre channel with the extra speaker pack.
A dedicated centre channel means you get crystal-clear dialogue from movies, and there should no longer be any problem with effects drowning out that all-important speech.
Whichever pack you choose, you'll receive the required cables, too. These aren't the longest cable runs we've ever seen, so you might need to consider buying longer lengths if you have a larger room. Do bear in mind, though, these speakers aren't designed for a big listening environment, and the amp won't produce enough sound to fill a large room.
Superb value for money
If you buy the system with all the speakers, this Onkyo is cheaper than pretty much every AV receiver on the market. Of course, it's not designed to be in the same league as the larger systems, but for those with smaller rooms it's more than capable of filling them with sound, and handling every type of video and audio you might care to throw at it.
ARC of the convenient
No, not a vessel for carrying the ten commandments, but Audio Return Channel, which enables your TV to send sound back down the HDMI lead connecting it to the AV receiver. It means you'll always be able to watch live TV with the best sound, without any further connections or hassle.
It works brilliantly, too. We connected a 3D Samsung TV, and the audio sent back from Freeview HD sounded fantastic. It didn't have any noticeable lag and there were no lip-sync problems, either.
It's a super-convenient way to get high-quality audio from all the stuff you watch, not just Blu-ray movies. What we like most is the fact there's now a way to easily bypass those dreadful speakers found in every television on the planet.
For a reasonably small and entry-level product, the inputs on the Onkyo are pretty generous. There are three HDMI inputs, and one output. You also get a pair of optical-digital-audio inputs and a single coaxial-digital socket. For iPod connections, there are two RCA jack stereo inputs for you to connect either a dock or other stereo device.
The ARC is handled for you, via the output HDMI. You don't usually need a special cable for this, so don't be conned into buying an expensive new cable for 3D or audio return.
3D support present and correct
Without the presence of HDMI 1.4a on this system, 3D would simply be destroyed and you'd be watching 2D instead, albeit with lovely, lossless 5.1 surround sound. We tested the 3D pass-through with our Samsung 3D TV and a Toshiba 3D Blu-ray player. Everything looked and sounded exactly as we'd expect. 3D worked well, with no noticeable degradation in quality, and we were surrounded by sound, too -- a proper 3D experience.
Downward firing subwoofer
Although the human ear can't easily locate low-frequency sound in the average living room, there is still quite an art to good subwoofer placement. With the Onkyo HTX-22HDX it becomes even more important, because it needs to be near your AV equipment and TV, but also somewhere where it can produce good bass without being too boomy. While it's true that bass is often capable of radiating through objects that higher frequencies can't -- walls and sofas, for example -- you should still try and keep your subwoofer close to the front of your set-up and preferably out of corners.
In the older HTX-22HD, the subwoofer cone faced outwards. That meant that if you put the unit next to your TV, pointing toward your seating area, you would get a direct sound from the subwoofer. Onkyo has changed this slightly, and the new model fires its subwoofer down at the ground, which shouldn't create any real problems for the sound. While some higher-end subs tend to prefer forward-facing drivers, it's unlikely to make much difference at this level and with this system. Aesthetically, though, the new system does look an awful lot nicer, in our opinion.
The Onkyo is brilliant at delivering enveloping surround sound. The rear-effects channels are lively when needed and the separation between all the channels is excellent.
The bass is pretty good, too, although it's not as smooth and rich as the low-end sounds you get from a dedicated amp and high-powered sub. Then again, this whole system costs less than a decent subwoofer, so it's hard to be too critical.
Dialogue is the highlight, because it's clear and crisp and makes watching a movie a much nicer experience.
Like all Onkyo hardware, the listening modes cover a wide range of possible suituations. For Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS HD MA and Dolby True HD audio streams, just let the amp default to its dedicated mode.
For music, we like the 'all channel stereo' or Dolby Pro Logic II Music options, which give music a push to all speakers and surround you in audio. They also boost the bass, so if you want the most accurate sound for music, just stick it in direct. That said, we found the direct option to be the least impressive, and we didn't like it as much as we do on Onkyo's full-size amps.
The Onkyo HTX-22HDX is, like its predecssor, one of our favourite stand-alone all-in-one home cinema systems. It has exceptional, uncompromised support for the latest audio codecs, as well as Audio Return Channel and 3D movie pass-though. For people just getting into Blu-ray and home cinema, this is the ideal starting point, and when you're ready to upgrade in a few years, you can move it to the bedroom or study, and get dozens more years of use out of it.
The HTX-22HDX is a lovely, clear-sounding system that doesn't cost the earth and won't fill your front room with massive speakers. A big thumbs up from us.
Edited by Emma Bayly