“Oouurrggh,” I said as I hoisted Onkyo’s 53.1-pound, $1799 TX-SR876 AVR from its shipping container. While not the chunkiest AVR I’ve ever lofted (that distinction belongs to Sony’s mammoth STR-DA9000ES from days gone by) Onkyo’s next-to-the-top model certainly feels like a heavyweight in this era of mass market receivers that weigh about as much as half-empty Superman lunch boxes (and offer about the same build quality, too). Did I mention that I am no fan of cheesy, “disposable” A/V components? Happily, that issue never comes up vis-à-vis the TX-SR876; it’s the real deal.
I’ll be doing a full-length review of the TX-SR876 in Playback 16, but thought that AVguide visitors might enjoy some initial, off-the-cuff impressions. And here they are:
• The TX-SR876 is THX Ultra2 Plus-certified and as that certification implies the receiver sounds well and truly muscular, offering noticeably more dynamic headroom than Onkyo’s also very good sub-$1k models. When watching/listening to films with realistic, large-scale action scenes (e.g., Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers/Letter from Iwo Jima pair), the Onkyo just wades right in with authority, making big time transients happen on demand.
• The TX-SR876 sounds clear and reasonably well detailed (very much so, by AVR standards), yet possesses a quality of unexaggerated natural warmth that sets the unit apart from run-of-the-mill receivers encumbered with subtly thin, shrill, squeaky voices. In short, the Onkyo is suitable for use by music lovers—something that can’t honestly be said of all AVRs.
• The Onkyo’s Audyssey MultEQ XT room/speaker EQ system takes overall system performance to a significantly higher level. One thing that continues to impress me about the Audyssey system is that it is very transparent and does not “overwrite” the timbral and textural qualities that define the speaker systems we love best. Instead, the system acts like a very effective “flaw eraser” that leaves the core sound of the speaker intact, but—in many cases—improved. Good deal, no?
• But one thing I found disappointing (at least somewhat) was Audyssey’s new Dynamic EQ function. In principle, Dynamic EQ is a calibrated, dynamic loudness contour that adjusts EQ curves in real time to preserve tonal balance and imaging cues, even at low volume settings. I heard a prototype version of the Dynamic EQ system over a year ago and I thought it sounded great. As implemented in the Onkyo, though, the Dynamic EQ function sounded too colorful for its own good, so that I always wound up turning the feature off after a few minutes of listening. Fortunately, the superb core sound of the MultEQ XT algorithm remains unimpaired.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the full review in Playback 16 (coming in early January).