Just so we’re clear about this from the off, this is the Onkyo TX-SR508 we’re looking at. It’s not the NR509. As followers of Onkyo product lines (!) will realise, this means we’re looking at a ‘retiring’ model rather than Onkyo’s newest kid on the block.
But this is actually exactly why we’re looking at the SR508. For as we’ve found on numerous occasions over the years, some products achieve their maximum appeal right at the end of their shelf life thanks to the lovely modern phenomenon of Internet discounting. So with a new price of just £220, the SR508 looks a perfect target for our bargain-hunting radar.
After all, it really does offer some pretty remarkable specification for its relatively low cost. The headline feature, without doubt, is its carriage of 3D-capable HDMI sockets. You get four v1.4 HDMI inputs and a single v1.4 HDMI output, meaning that 3D signals can be passed through the receiver and on to your TV or projector. Plus, of course, you can use the SR508 as a four-way 3D switching box should you be lucky enough to have four 3D sources (maybe a Sky HD box, an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a Blu-ray player!).
Also key to the SR508’s appeal is its ability to receive and decode 7.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD high-bandwidth HD audio feeds via its HDMI connections.
Of course, though, if any AV receiver is going to take in HD audio, it’s also going to have to carry the toolset necessary to try and do HD audio justice. In the SR508’s case, this toolset kicks off with a 7 x 80W power rating, delivered by Burr-Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels.
But there’s plenty more besides - much more than you would expect to find on such a low-priced receiver. It boasts a high-current, low-impedance drive, plus optimum gain volume circuitry, more circuitry dedicated to removing resolution-spoiling jitter, and Onkyo’s Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT). This latter system was specifically developed to handle high resolution audio formats, and offers an improved dynamic signal to noise ratio and better handling of sound ‘peaks’.
None of the tricks in the previous paragraph are exclusively for HD audio, though. They can all be used to improve standard DVD movie soundtracks, CDs, and even compressed digital audio formats like MP3.
Having mentioned MP3, though, it needs to be stressed that one side effect of the SR508’s relative age is that it doesn’t exactly go a bundle on multimedia stuff. There’s no USB input for direct playback from USB storage devices, and there’s no LAN port or wi-fi for accessing Internet radio services or your networked PC. The SR508’s replacement, the NR509, which is just hitting stores, carries both built-in network and USB connectivity.
Your only multimedia option for the SR508 is a Universal Port that gives you a single-cable connection to Onkyo’s optional extra dock for iPhone/iPAd or DAB radio tuner.