If Santa stuck a Blu-ray player in your stocking and you now want a surround sound system to go with it, Onkyo’s HTX-22HDX might be right up your street. It’s an affordable 2.1-channel solution that can be bumped up to 5.1 with the addition of the SKS-22X speaker pack. It’s an update of the HTX-22HD we reviewed back in 2009, adding the latest features and subtly updating the design.
In the HTX-22HDX’s box you get a pair of compact front speakers and a subwoofer with built-in audio decoding and amplification. The sub musters 5 x 25W for the satellites with 50W of bass grunt, and also houses all the connections you need to rig up the rest of your kit. In the SKS-22X box meanwhile, is an extra pair of matching surrounds and a centre speaker.
Looks-wise the system isn’t radically different to the previous version, but in its trendy black finish it’s undeniably more attractive. The front and surround speakers stand 161mm high and boast a glossy veneer on the sides, with a non-removable cloth grille on the front. The centre is similarly styled but turned horizontally to fit in more easily below your TV. At this sort of price build quality is always a concern but rest assured that each component feels solid and robust.
As for the subwoofer, its compact dimensions (217(w) x 337(h) x 310(d)mm should make it easy to accommodate. Unlike the forward-firing model of the previous system, this one is downward firing and as such stands on four chunky feet. Embedded into the front is a display panel, which shows crucial information like source, volume and audio format, and if you don’t have the remote to hand there’s a row of buttons along the top that control volume, listening mode and input selection. These buttons have been moved from the front, which makes them easier to access if it’s tucked down behind the TV.
On the back of the subwoofer is a generous selection of sockets. Most significantly, you get three HDMI inputs, all of which are specified as v1.4 and therefore support 3D signals (which are passed on to your TV by the HDMI output) as well as the Audio Return Channel feature, which means there really is no excuse for putting up with those awful flatpanel TV speakers.
These are joined by three digital audio inputs (two optical and one coaxial) plus two analogue stereo inputs and a port for Onkyo’s RI (Remote Interactive) function, which allows certain functions to be controlled from other Onkyo devices. The speaker terminals are all springclips, which is inevitable on a budget system but makes installation a little fiddly – although kudos must go to Onkyo for supplying all of the necessary cables.
Here’s where the HTX-22HDX’s value factor starts going through the roof. Aside from the inclusion of three HDMI v1.4 inputs – which in itself is a major bonus at this price – it also decodes the full gamut of HD audio formats, including Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. It also accepts multichannel PCM via HDMI, making it the perfect partner for Blu-ray players of any vintage.
There’s plenty more besides. You get a wide range of Onkyo Original DSP Modes, including four specifically for gaming – Rock, Sports, Action and RPG – plus the Theater-Dimensional mode designed to mimic surround sound when set up as a 2.1 system. The on-board Dolby Pro Logic II does a similar job, while the EX. Bass mode that boosts low-frequency output and Music Optimiser enhances the quality of compressed music formats. Selecting ‘Direct’ bypasses all processing.
Like Onkyo’s AV receivers, there’s a very useful onscreen display that appears when you hit Setup on the remote. The design is fairly basic and it looks much smaller than Onkyo’s receiver menus – this is to accommodate a new structure that keeps the main menu visible on the left while the options are shown in a submenu to the right. Thankfully the new layout is logical, despite being a little harder to read.
There’s a formidable amount of options to play with, addressing every last sonic detail. Speaker configuration, audio adjustment, source, HDMI and volume setup – you name it, you can tweak it. The only thing missing is an auto calibration system but that’s forgivable at this price.
Sadly, controlling the setup menu’s plethora of options is a little fiddly due to the oddly-designed remote. The menu controls, for example, are tiny and mixed in with a load of other keys, which makes menu navigation a little muddled, plus there seems very little logic behind the placement of the other buttons. You’ll get used to it but some tweaking is needed for this system’s successor.
After having its mettle well and truly tested with a run-through of Hellboy II: The Golden Army on Blu-ray, we’re pleased to report that the HTX-22HDX is yet another top-drawer audio system from Onkyo. Despite its modest-sounding power rating and diminutively-sized speakers, it conjures up a powerful and absorbing sound, carefully sidestepping the shortcomings that befall many all-in-one sound systems in this price range. It may not be up to the standards of Onkyo’s standalone receivers, but for the money there can be few complaints.
Much of what we love about this system is summed up in its reproduction of chapter 12, when Hellboy squares up to the Elemental in a crowded city street. It’s not the most potent or authoritative sub we’ve ever tested, but bass response is certainly satisfying – as the Forest God smashes up cars, the deep, taut thump makes a sudden but not overpowering impact. It blends with the other speakers seamlessly, creating a solid unified soundstage, and you can also hear its benefits during quieter scenes as it subtly underpins effects and ambience.
At the other end of the spectrum, high-frequencies sound crisp and clear. When the Elemental hurls a car at the helicopter, the collision is clean and controlled, not grating. Other delicate sounds, like tinkling glass and gentle rustling, are easily teased out by these competent speakers. Throw fantastically clear dialogue and clean surround separation into the mix and you’re onto a winner.
Picky hi-fi enthusiasts are unlikely to be bowled over by the quality of music playback, but everyone else will find much to like in its CD playback. There’s lots of energy and detail, plus vocals sound particularly clear.
With its solid sound quality, comprehensive support for HD audio and HDMI v1.4 inputs, the HTX-22HDX represents exceptional value for money. It’s the perfect way for those on a tight budget to get themselves a great-sounding system for their new Blu-ray player, and as an added bonus its compact design won’t make huge demands on your living space. That said, you’ll need the extra speakers to get the full-fat cinematic experience, but even with the added cost it’s still a bargain – that’s why the HTX-22HDX deserves our whole-hearted recommendation.
Score in detail
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