Hitting The Home Theater Sweet Spot Onkyo has forged an iron-clad reputation for making high-quality home theater more affordable. Case in point: the HT-RC360, a versatile networking A/V receiver with a savvy selection of today’s most vital … see full wiki
I have been a long time Yamaha Receiver customer, but after my beloved RX-v1800 succumbed to an unfortunate electrical spike, I felt it was time to revisit the market and see what other offerings were out there. I originally extended my search to Yamaha, Pioneer and Denon, but a ridiculous deal at Fry's forced my hand to investigate the Onkyo HT-RC360.
Only 2 months after the receiver's introduction, the Onkyo receiver was on sale for $300 -- well below the MSRP of $550 and significantly cheaper than the Yamaha I would be replacing (while I'm at it, I'll also add that it was much lighter and smaller than the Yamaha as well --not necessarily a good thing when dealing with audio amplifiers). Normally, I would have dismissed the Onkyo based on price alone, but the feature set intrigued me:
Advanced GUI: The Onkyo's onscreen menus make setup very easy, and I really appreciate the on-screen volume indicator -- it's discrete so it doesn't distract while watching a movie, and it's very helpful since my components are hidden in a closet.
Built-in network streaming for Pandora, Napster, Slacker, vTuner and a host of other online stations
DLNA support: allows you browse and stream music from your home PC (or Mac with the help of some software)
iOS App: Allows control of the receiver from your IOS device anywhere within your home WIFI network. Lets you change volume, input, and even browse the streaming audio options listed above.
Powered Zone 2: Perfect for hooking up a second pair of speakers in the kitchen or on the patio.
All the new BluRay audio formats including DTS-Master Audio and Dolby Digital TRUEHD.
HDMI 1.4 support for 3D video and "Audio Return Channel" which lets you pass the audio from your TV back to the receiver using the same HDMI cable -- This in theory is great for anyone who uses their TV's built-in app to stream Netflix or VUDU movies, but I have not had a chance to test this yet.
Ok, that's all great, but how would it sound? The Onkyo is rated at 100W for each of the 7 channels while my Yamaha was 135W.... Out of the box, I was immensely impressed with the sound quality from the Onkyo. In my 5.1 setup, the surround effects were very immersive and the dialog was significantly clearer than it was on my Yamaha (so much so, that I'm starting to think I may not have had the Yamaha configured properly). I ran through a few of my favorite demo scenes (from Spiderman 2, Lord of the Rings, and The Matrix) and I was immediately engrossed in the films. When the volume indicator read 50, I was near a point where it would be uncomfortable to go much louder. There was plenty of power to drive my Klipsch Synergy II speakers alongside the powered subwoofer to fill the 2000+ sq ft room.
Now this is a $300($550) receiver, so what was missing? The "zone 2" speaker binding posts were the cheaper spring loaded clips rather than the 5-way banana plug posts used for all the other speakers. Another feature I would have liked was a second HDMI out for a projector, but I couldn't find any models with 2 HDMI outs for less than $750.
My favorite feature by far has to be the Pandora streaming combined with the iOS app. I feel like this combo is going to get a lot of use this summer as I sit on the back patio and play DJ via the iPhone and listen to music.
Random notes of interest --
The HT-RC360 is essentially the same as the Onkyo TX-NR609 minus a VGA video input and "THX Select" certification. This leads me to believe that the 100W amp power rating should be sufficient for my room size
There are a few 3rd party iOS apps that can control the Onkyo networked receivers that actually add more functionality than the official Onkyo app. They are still adding in support for the brand new 2011 models, but both developers have written back to me to say they should have a new release out soon.
If price were no object, I'm sure I could find a receiver that met ALL my needs, but at $300, I couldn't be happier.
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