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Onkyo TX-SR308 - Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Naturally, there’s a wide range of listening modes on board, providing plenty of options for movie and music playback. Among these are eleven of Onkyo’s own DSP modes – including settings for four different types of video games and the useful All Channels Stereo mode. If you want to avoid all of these settings, simply select Direct, and if you want virtual surround, go for Onkyo’s Theater Dimensional mode or Dolby Pro Logic II. Unsurprisingly there’s none of the fancy Pro Logic IIz or Audyssey processing found on the SR608.

One thing Onkyo receivers always deliver is exceptional ease of use, and the SR308 continues this tradition despite its bargain basement price. When the HDMI output is connected to your TV, you get an onscreen menu that’s much easier to use than the front panel display. It’s also more attractive than you might expect and clearly laid out, plus it contains loads of audio tweaks and speaker configuration settings. This may be an entry-level product but such detailed control is befitting of a more expensive machine.

The remote also makes operation feel simple, as it provides direct access to many of its key features and places the often-used controls (volume, menu keys etc) within easy reach. Clear, legible labels also play their part.

With Blu-ray soundtracks, the TX-SR308 delivers a snappy, energetic sound and musters a satisfying amount of muscle to boot. You can hear evidence of its budget origins in the slightly brash, bright sound that creeps into frenetic action scenes – the SR608 is a much smoother and mature sounding machine – but for a receiver costing less than £200 we really can’t have much cause for complaint.

Once again we turned to Hellboy II to test the Onkyo’s mettle and the movie’s incredible action scenes zip and fizz from the speakers. It masterfully orchestrates the chaos during Hellboy’s battle with the Elemental – rear channel effects are smoothly steered, smashing glass and crashing cars sound crisp and realistic, while stomping footsteps and explosions are tight and punchy.

But when the Elemental screeches and clatters the passing helicopter, the loud, high-pitched effects are slightly jarring on the ears. Likewise the climactic battle between Hellboy and the Golden Army, in which clashing metal effects sound harsh. Not a disaster, just a reminder that you have to make some compromises at this price.

The Onkyo also proves to be surprisingly musical for a budget machine, handling vocals with an enjoyable tone and digging out lots of detail. There’s a smooth balance across the frequency range too, and it has no problem keeping pace with fast, frenetic dance music.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a decent home cinema hub on a tight budget, the TX-SR308 certainly deserves a place on your shortlist. The inclusion of 3D-ready HDMI sockets, HD audio decoding and an onscreen menu system make a mockery of the peanuts price tag, as does its enjoyable performance with movies and music. A few sonic shortcomings, the lack of auto calibration and cost-cutting springclip terminals rain on the parade, but on the whole the TX-SR308 is an impressive budget option.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Performance 8
  • Value 9
  • Features 7
  • Design 8

mistrip

December 13, 2010, 2:35 pm

Just a comment on reviews of AV recievers in particular. It would be quite useful to know what speakers they were tested with, as from my understanding some combinations sound different to others.

Silent Shark

December 13, 2010, 2:41 pm

Thanks for this review. I'm in the market for a budget AV receiver, and this with it's HDMI 1.4 compatibility fits the bill perfectly, as I won't have to worry about upgrading if I get any 3D equipment.





Now all I need to find is a budget speaker pack...

BOFH UK

December 13, 2010, 4:51 pm

Two things:





1) Any chance of info on how hot this thing runs? My one consistent complaint with Onkyo over the years has been their tendency to cook anything above them.





2) No auto setup option is a massive shame on a budget deck. I know why they made that decision but so many of these are bought by people after their first home cinema experience that the auto stuff is a huge bonus for them.

Mark 41

December 14, 2010, 5:30 pm

I bought this early this year and can say im very pleased with it,it's the silver version though as im sick of black !! also bought silver Tannoy 7.1 speakers with it, and the sound is excellent ! my volume never goes beyound 45 on the scale to 100 !!.At the time i bought the whole kit from Peter Tyson ,you can find them on the web !!

Chris 14

December 18, 2010, 12:24 am

Yeah this is pretty loud by the time you get to 45, though maximum scale is 79 I believe, not 100. I'm driving Canton 60s with mine which obviously lack a little lower mid-range but otherwise sound very good and look very pretty.





It does run quite warm, most certainly too warm to consider covering the top vents with anything. I do have equipment above mine but it's raised up on a couple of 30mm blocks.





A few other points that may be of interest:





It's a huge box (but then they all are)





The HDMIs are independent of the analog inputs (i.e. there's no upscaling), so if you're connecting a Wii as well as a BluRay, you'll need an analog cable to the TV as well as an HDMI. This factor alone makes all those lovely inputs on the box a little pointless as you might as well just run the cables straight to the telly and use this as a basic audio amp. It's actually advantageous to do that if your TV can store different settings for different inputs. (although you lose the on-screen display). Thus I am making no use of the HDMIs at all and using both optical INs in the traditional manner.





Almost as pointless is the FM tuner when you can get most stations on Freeview.





The second set of speaker outputs is great for driving a speaker pair in the kitchen.





Hope that helps!

JK

December 20, 2010, 6:45 am

@Danny Phillips - When talking about the SR308's connectivity, you say that "if you’re likely to add more HDMI-equipped kit in the future it’s worth stepping up to the SR608". How about only stepping up to the SR508 or SR578? I know they don't have as many connections as the SR608, but still significantly more than the entry level SR308. Or can't you recommend models that you haven't reviewed? I just thought since they're part of the same product line, so they use mostly the same parts, and you've now reviewed the two models (SR308 & SR608) on each side of them. The SR508 and SR578 both have Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey processing (except for Audyssey DSX) so their performance might be closer to the SR608's, while their prices might be closer to the SR308's.


Your thoughts?





@Mark 41 - I was just wondering why you'd buy a 5.1 channel AV-receiver with a set of 7.1 speakers? Or am I missing something here...?

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