The TX-SR607 exhibits a good measure of natural clarity and a surprising degree of dynamic punch and “swagger”—especially in light of the fact that this is, after all, a mid-priced receiver.
The receiver sounds good with its EQ options turned off, but even better when built-in Audyssey EQ system is brought into play. As I mentioned above, one of the most impressive characteristics of the Audyssey system is that it preserves the basic, underlying voicing or “character” of the speaker systems with which it is used, while removing room-based acoustic anomalies that would otherwise mar the sound.
The TX-SR607’s HD surround sound decoders work beautifully, giving renditions of soundtracks that are exceptionally nuanced and three-dimensional. With good speaker systems, it is not uncommon to hear sound effects that appear to originate from the far left or right side of the soundstage—almost as if sounds are coming from directly beside the listener (and not from the front or back of the room). In short, surround imaging through the Onkyo can be spooky good, if the soundtrack is up to the task.
Does the Onkyo’s lack of multichannel analog audio inputs mean it cannot play multichannel music recorded in SACD or DVD-Audio formats? No, because it turns out that the Onkyo is fully capable of decoding both DSD bitstreams (the native digital audio output format of SACD discs) as well as high bit-rate PCM audio data (the native digital audio output format of DVD-Audio discs). In fact, the Onkyo automatically detects and decodes high-resolution bitstreams (provided your disc player can output them in the first place).
The only caveat I would mention is that, for music playback, the Onkyo’s digital front end does not necessarily sound as good as the high quality analog audio outputs of a good disc player. To test this, I listened to the analog audio outputs of my reference Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray/universal player through the Onkyo’s stereo analog inputs (the only analog inputs the Onkyo offers), and then ran the same musical material, but delivered in digital form and decoded through the Onkyo’s onboard DACs. The comparison proved eye opening.
At first, I found the sound of the Onkyo’s digital front end seemed very crisp and exciting, but as I listened more closely it became apparent that Onkyo—good though it was—sounded a little less smooth, rich, detailed, and three-dimensional than the Oppo did. Granted, the sonic differences were subtle (and I could see how some listeners might have preferred the sound of the Onkyo’s digital front end), but they left me wishing that Onkyo had provided a traditional set of multichannel analog inputs.
One of favorite test discs is the Blu-ray version of U-571, a WWII submarine drama where U.S. submariners attempt to capture a top secret Enigma encryption machine from a crippled German U-boat. The film has many scenes—some of them quite unexpected—that make astonishingly subtle and effective use of surround sound effects. One such scene occurs at the Captain’s table in the U.S. submarine, which is being tossed about in heavy seas. As dinnertime conversations progress, we hear the sound of silverware and dinner plates sliding ominously back and forth across the table as the boat pitches heavily from port to starboard and back again. Through the Onkyo, those sound effects are so vividly reproduced and so perfect integrated that it almost made me feel seasick just to listen to them.
Later, the U.S. sub creeps up on the disabled German U-boat in the midst of a rainstorm, and the sound of the rain striking the decks and conning tower of the sub, along with the softer but more pervasive sound of the rain rustling against the ocean waves becomes completely enveloping. Rainstorms in movie soundtracks often sound indistinct—almost as if you were hearing your system reproduce the generic “sshhhh” sounds of pure white noise. But not so in this case; instead, the Onkyo preserved the sound of individual raindrops—some nearer and some farther away—striking various surfaces, giving the entire scene an unforgettably cold, clammy, bone chilling feel.