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a Audio EnthusiastDate Reviewed:
May 1, 2009Bottom Line:
Obviously this unit is not listed in the right place and lacks its proper model Identification --- PR-SC885(P). It belongs in the AV Preamplifier listings or perhaps a new category should be started under Processors. Anyway, at least they got the product description right.
I am coming from a long history of using HK receivers as prepros with external amping. The last was the AVR635 and featured TI processing chips and Cirrus DACS. The combination of the new (at that time - '04 -'05) room EQ system with the TI processing made it an extremely attractive value and it served me well in my low - mid fi system for several years. My room and inflexible speaker layout demand a modern room EQ system and the HK EZSet/EQ provided a serviceable compromise during that time. But time marches on and the competing Audyssey EQ system has grown steadily in power and accuracy to the point that it is now ubiquitous in several brands and virtually indispensible to proper in-room response.
My experience with the Onkyo 885 started off shaky right after arrival. The unit was a reconditioned model from an authorized dealer and looked brand new but still had a few issues. The rear power receptacle actually pushed into the casing and popped the holding screws when I tried seating the power cord. This lead me to examine the unit from every angle and I found a few loose screws on the bottom plate. I also discovered a touchy front panel which needed downward pressure on the top right corner to keep the front display from shutting off. I notified the dealer AC4L.com but decided to fix the unit myself as the issues were seemingly minor. Larger screws fixed the receptacle mounting, relieving a tight front panel power cord and a slightly pinched wide ribbon cable solved the display issue and having the casing off to make repairs allowed me to see first hand the quality put into the layout and design of the internals. I was and remain very impressed. For the money, even at the original MSRP, this processor has the goods and represents a breakthrough value in this market segment.
Where do I begin? Most important to me is the Audio side of the equation. I want and expect a high standard of SQ and I am pleased to report that the 885 offers remarkable performance. I do not have anything high-end in terms of analog sources and at this price point the consensus appears to be the Analog input staging on the 885 is comparatively lacking ... but there is always separate 2 channel preamping available with HT Bypass for those desiring it. What the reviews and user experiences do show is that this is first and foremost a digital processor and at this task it most certainly excels, rivaling units quite a bit more expensive both in features and performance.
I have always been an HK fan in terms of SQ but the difference between the AVR635 and the 885 in terms of SQ improvement is striking, even though both feature TI processing. There is however a difference in DACs with HK using Cirrus and the 885 using Burr-Brown. Whether the SQ gains are attributable more to the variance in DACs or the Next Gen TI chips I can't say ... but the important thing is there is a significant difference easily appreciable to any listener. Just a few of the major improvements this abundance of 'chip' goodness combined with Audyssey MultEQ XT delivers include: an outstanding level of detail, superb sonic decay, improved tonal accuracy, significant Bass tightening, and a fullness of Soundstage without artificial elevation (a negative with the HK EQ). One thing I have noticed is that post-EQ in my room I need to raise the treble to achieve the vocal characteristics/presentation I desire. The same was true with the HK EZSet/EQ system which provided a 'Tilt' feature which restored the Mid/High-Mid/HighTreble quality in selectable degrees. It provided a more 'forward' character to vocals with a greater in-the-room presence, the same as heard before EQ. As there is no 'Tilt' feature in the Onkyo, I simply raise the treble post-EQ until the pre-EQ vocal qualities are restored. Works like a charm for me but decidely not the 'purist' approach. Of course the purist, flat response types may not desire EQ anyway so who cares? To each his own.
HT sound processing is a decided cut above the HK. I am not currently running anything HDMI to the 885 yet so I cannot speak to the new codecs. Reviews are plentiful however and full of laudatory comments. But even with DD and DTS I hear a marked improvement in SQ. My CC is trapped behind the plasma in my setup and has always been a challenge for the HK EQ to process. I usually either lay it flat on it's back facing upwards to a slightly lowered ceiling due to HVAC ducting or pull it out to the side of the Plaz and stand it on end vertically, which always gives the best results. Audyssey however processes the CC in place (on it's back) and it has never sounded better. I am astounded frankly at the results overall. DVDs are a real treat now and require no pre-movie adjustments. When the Blu-ray dust settles out, prices fall and the feature content gets more consistent, I will upgrade to BR and HDMI all-around. Until then my large collection of DVDs will undergo reviewing with better sound than ever.
I likely should have waited to post a review until after using important aspects of this processor and so apologize for any incompleteness in review. But there is ample material out there on the web for anyone interested. Since I do not run HDMI I cannot speak to the full quality of the Reon HQV VX processing. I can say that all Component, S-Vid and Composite sources are processed cleanly with no artifacts. Except for limitations like Video/Picture qualiy tweaking being limited to Global changes instead of per input, the Video processing features of this unit are more than capable for a one box solution.
My favorite features of this processor thus far are the Listening Modes which allow a one-touch change to the setup. Pure Audio turns off all processing (Audyssey, DACs, etc.), video and display (except the HDMI) allowing only 2 channel and so requires full range fronts with no Sub, something better achieved with capable towers. Direct does the same thing but leaves video and display active. Stereo will likely be the preference for most as it includes sub and allows for greater setup options. I much prefer this Hot Button approach on the remote to what used to be a required Menu entry of several layers in the HK, a royal PITA. The Surround Modes are also plentiful and uniformily effective for those desiring Multi channel audio. The Audyssey EQ processing can be turned off using the above referenced Modes or through the menu which also allows for self EQing using the PRO approach. I have found this unnecessary thus far and am now very happy with the standard EQ.
One word on the Audyssey setup and the results: many folks apparently get it right the first time while others tweak awhile longer. I am in the latter category and expect it due to my room layout. So experimentation with the Mic location and listening position matrix in every room is likely to be different and yield different results, some of them surprising. Never fear, you will get it right eventually and then your tweaking will largely be at an end (is it ever?).
In summary, whether bought new at an original $1800 MSRP, an adjusted $1600 MSRP or for $800 as a reconditioned unit from the likes of AC4L.com or even less to some (lucky dogs) from ShopOnkyo.com, the PR-SC885 is a righteous steal for whatever money paid. For those who think (as I did) that there couldn't be much difference between receiver as prepro SQ and dedicated prepro SQ, think again. While improvements are almost always on the margins in these matters and the cost/improvement ratio becomes more difficult to justify, there is a real level of appreciable difference which is attainable if one can snag a true deal.
Used product for: 1 to 3 months
Duration Product Used: Audio Enthusiast
Product model year: 2008
Reviews 1 - 1 (1 Reviews Total)
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