There's no shortage of new sound bars to review, and I still believe they're a great solution for some home theater buyers. They simplify setup chores, and eliminate the hassles associated with placing five or more speakers and running wires to all the speakers. Some self-powered sound bars offer a range of inputs, including HDMI connectivity, so there's no need to buy a receiver.
The best ones get close to the room-filling sound of a bona-fide 5.1 system. The latest Yamaha Sound Projectors like the YSP-4100 and YSP-5100 do a better job at creating a passable facsimile of a surround experience than most, but those two models are priced around $2,000! And those substantial MSRPs don't include the price of a subwoofer. So figure another 300 or more dollars for a sub.
For that kind of investment you can buy a significantly better-sounding 5.1 channel component-based system. If sound quality takes priority over ease of setup and installation, check out Aperion's Intimus 5B Fusion SD satellite/subwoofer system ($1,559) mated with an Onkyo TX-SR507 receiver ($399).
It'll trounce the YSP sound bars on every count, with dramatically better, more-enveloping surround sound, greater dynamic impact--plus, the Aperion/Onkyo system will sound better with music. That last one is a common failing; few sound bars cut it with two-channel music. So if you intend to play CDs in your home theater, steer clear of sound bars.… Read more
Tuesday we told you about a slew of new Onkyo receivers that will support 3D content. Thankfully, that upgrade has trickled down to the company's 2010 line of home-theater-in-a-box products. Both the HT-S3300 and HTS-5300--which are follow-ups to the HT-S3200 and HTS-5200--will fully support 3D video pass-through.
Sure, 3D support is a welcome addition; however, perhaps the most notable improvement to this year's models is the capability pass both video and audio via an HDMI cable. Until now, these Onkyo HTIBs required a separate audio connection, but now you can ditch the extra wires.
Finally, the company announced an unconventional 2.1 HTIB, the HTX-22HDX, that is designed to emulate surround sound with just two speakers.
Highlights of the three new models:… Read more
Add Onkyo to the list of AV manufacturers jumping on the 3D bandwagon. The company has unveiled a trio of new entry- and midlevel AV receivers for 2010, all of which boast HDMI 1.4 connections that are capable of passing the 3D signal from a Blu-ray player to a compatible TV. In addition to 3D compatibility, Onkyo is touting the receivers' support for audio return channel (if you want to, say, amplify the audio from a TV's built-in Netflix or Pandora stream) as well as HDMI passthrough (useful when you want to play a game on your PS3 using the TV speakers, while the receiver remains in standby mode). The $600 model even includes a VGA input for PCs--the first such feature we've seen on an AV receiver.
Highlights of the three new models follow:… Read more
Powerful-sounding receivers are hard to come by.
Sure, you can buy respectable-sounding models from the usual suspects--Denon, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sony, and Yamaha--but most of the more affordable models lack real muscle. They sound acceptable at moderate volume levels, but can't fully convey home theater impact the way bigger, read "more expensive," models do.
Onkyo's new HT-RC180 ($1,049 MSRP) is THX Select2 Plus Certified and that's always a good sign. A bevy of features including an Ethernet port that enables the HT-RC180 either to receive and output audio tracks playing on your PC, or to bypass your PC and directly stream Internet radio stations such as Rhapsody and Pandora. There's five HDMI 1.3a inputs and the ability to upscale any video input to 1080p via Faroudja DCDi Cinema. You'll soon get the complete scoop in the full HT-RC180 review I did with Matthew Moskovciak.
The features are nice, but it was the HT-RC180's power and dynamic slam that wowed me.
The very first thing I noticed about the HT-RC180 was its ability to play nice and loud without strain. True, in absolute terms it probably can't play much louder than lesser receivers, but the HT-RC180 definitely sounds better playing loud. Home theater, at its best, is all about producing a more visceral experience, and the HT-RC180 does just that.… Read more
Onkyo's been on a tear recently releasing new AV receivers, and the company is rolling out another trio of high-end units. The receivers are packed with functionality, from eight HDMI inputs to HQV video processing, so let's take a careful look at exactly what each of these units offers.
Key features of the Onkyo TX-NR1007:9.2 AV receiver, rated at 135 watts per channel Six HDMI inputs Dual HDMI outputs Onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Also supports Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX surround processing modes Streaming audio from Pandora, Rhapsody, vTuner, … Read more
Sad but true: Great sound and home theater-in-a-box systems rarely go together.
HTIBs are the province of "good enough" performance and features, but I'm totally jazzed about these two exceptional models: Samsung's HT-BD1250 and Onkyo's HT-S9100THX.
Looking at the Samsung HT-BD1250 Blu-ray Home Theater System ($550 MSRP) it doesn't exactly stand out in a field of black plastic HTIBs. But once I listened to the thing I knew Samsung had a real winner.
The HT-BD1250 sounds great on music and movies, with remarkably good clarity, bass extension/definition, and low overall distortion. Even high-impact, special-effects driven flicks didn't betray the wee speakers and subwoofer weaknesses. Sure, play a Blu-ray really loud or try to fill a very large room and the HT-BD1250 will cry uncle. But in average size rooms, the HT-BD1250 should satisfy most home theater fans.
Rocking out with the Rolling Stones "Shine A Light" Blu-ray the band's punch and impact came through like gangbusters. The HT-BD1250 sounds noticeably less dynamically compressed than HTIBs with similarly sized speakers and subwoofers.
Few HTIBs of any size can sound credible with solo piano CDs, but the HT-BD1250 truly shined with Joel Fan's excellent "West of the Sun" release. The naturalness of piano tone was striking, and even the lower register keys had just the right weight. I credit that to the HT-BD1250's subwoofer, its refined sound perfectly matched the satellites. The sats kept up their part of the bargain, delivering effortless midrange and treble resolution.