It’s also a pleasure to listen to. We loaded up Avatar on Blu-ray and the Onkyo delivers effects, music and dialogue with incredible drive and authority, making the movie’s DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack feel epic in scale.
Particularly thrilling is the Battle For Pandora chapter, which is masterfully orchestrated by the TX-SR608. The soundstage is expansive and open, yet surround effects like distant gunfire, flashing arrows and the chop-chop-chop of helicopter blades are precisely placed, giving you a real sense that you’ve been dropped right into the middle of the chaos.
It’s underpinned by thunderous bass, best demonstrated by the floor-shaking stampede of Na’vi Dire Horses, but it’s deft enough to pick out subtler low-end sounds like the swoosh of banshee wings or the ambient rumble that accompanies tense scenes. At the other end of the spectrum, the Onkyo ekes out loads of crystal-clear high-frequency detail – lashing waterfalls, crumbling rocks and hissing banshees sound sharp and easy on the ears.
We accused previous Onkyo receivers like the TX-NR807 and to some extent the TX-SR607 of taking a sledgehammer-like approach to movie material, with a brash, overly aggressive sound that can leave you feeling like you’ve done 12 rounds with David Haye. What’s interesting though is that the TX-SR608 produces a smoother sound, which changes its character without compromising on dynamism. It still packs a hefty punch, but makes for a generally easier listen. This might not suit everyone – after all, some people like that sort of bite and aggression from their receiver – but we certainly liked it.
With music, the outlook is equally positive. That smoother approach makes mellow material like Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue sound richer and more evocative than previous Onkyo amps, but there’s enough verve and bass depth to make more uptempo albums like Mark Ronson’s Version sound utterly exhilarating.
The TX-SR608 is a wonderful AV receiver, packing in as many features as possible for a very alluring price. Any receiver that gives you six HDMI 1.4 inputs, myriad listening modes, video upscaling and THX Select2 Plus certification for under £450 is great value in our book – and that’s even before we’ve mentioned the fantastic sound quality, which may be smoother than previous Onkyo receivers but still deserves the utmost praise.