Onkyo is on a high after scooping another gong for the TX-SR608 in our 2010 Awards, but if that feature-packed receiver is beyond your budget then its baby brother might be more up your street. Naturally for an entry-level model, many of Onkyo’s juiciest features have been stripped away to reach an attractive price point, but if its performance is half as good as the SR608 we could still be onto a winner.
It’s a 5.1-channel receiver offering 100W per channel, and most significantly it can handle 3D signals through its HDMI v1.4 sockets, which is great news at this price.
First under the spotlight is the SR308’s design, and we’re pleased to say it’s a pleasant looking unit with a smart black finish (also available in silver if you prefer). That said, if clutter’s not your thing you might not be enamoured by the busy front panel, which is teeming with big dials and buttons, although these make it possible to control every aspect of the Onkyo’s functionality if you don’t have the remote to hand.
The buttons on the front panel let you flick through the various listening modes and sources, plus there are keys for controlling menus. The central display panel is bright and provides a comprehensive range of information about the incoming signal and current settings. We’re slightly disappointed by the lack of front sockets, which makes to hard to temporarily connect external sources, but at least there’s a headphone jack and an input for MP3 players. A ‘Music Optimiser’ button for boosting the sound quality of compressed files is found on the left.
The rear panel looks sparse compared with the SR608, although it should suffice for those with simple systems. There are three 3D-ready HDMI inputs and one output, which is the bare minimum for any AV receiver, enough to cover a Blu-ray deck, games console and Sky box. It doesn’t leave room for any expansion though, so if you’re likely to add more HDMI-equipped kit in the future it’s worth stepping up to the SR608.
There are three digital audio inputs too – two optical and one coaxial – and five sets of analogue stereo inputs. On the analogue video side you get two component inputs and one output, plus four composite inputs and two outputs. Other sockets include a subwoofer pre out, radio antenna inputs, a universal port for Onkyo’s optional peripherals (including iPod docks and DAB radio tuners) and an RI remote system control port.
Interestingly, only the front channels are given binding posts – the rest of the speakers have to be connected to springclip terminals, a sign of the SR308’s budget nature. The small holes don’t make it easy for you to connect thick speaker cables and the connection isn’t as sturdy as binding posts.
Onto features and surprisingly Onkyo has left out automatic calibration, arguably more useful on an entry-level product like this. Still, making sonic tweaks is quite an easy process as we’ll discover later. The TX-SR308 can decode all of Blu-ray’s HD audio formats, which is easy to take for granted but it’s worth remembering that not all receivers in this price class offer this feature (Yamaha’s RX-V367 won’t do it, for example). It also handles multichannel PCM, DSD and DTS 96/24 signals.