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Onkyo TX-SR502 review

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Jeremy Anderson, Jul 8, 2004.

  1. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    I've been fairly happy with my Onkyo TX-SR600, despite going through 3 units before getting one that completely worked (because of the EX decoding bug on some of the units). However, there were some minor features that it lacked that made me want to get something else (specifically, having a single delay setting for L/R surround instead of separate settings and 192k DACs on mains but 96k on all other channels, which seemed to give a tonal shift on pans). That being said, my budget and needs kept me from upgrading. So, when I saw Onkyo's addition of Dolby Pro-Logic IIx to their entry level line of receivers, I was intrigued. When I found an online retailer that had the unit for $249.99 shipped, I was even more intrigued and decided to give the Onkyo 502 a test drive. I figured I could always return it if there was no improvement.

    The 502 has the typical faceplate features that I'm used to from Onkyo. The most necessary buttons are all there and laid out well so that setup and general use could be performed without the use of a remote. The 502 is slightly shorter than the 600, which didn't surprise me much as the 502 has a lower power rating. The 502 is also noticeably lighter than the 600, though it still felt more heavy than other entry level offerings I've dealt with. The remote control included was also decent enough, and I actually like it better than the one that came with my 600. However, since it uses the same IR codes as my 600 for receiver operation, I quickly threw the new remote in a drawer and continued to use my Radio Shack 15-1994 all-in-one remote.

    Setup was roughly the same as the 600, with easy to use options for speaker size, delay, level, etc. The 502, however, had several features that outshone the 600. The newer model offers a wider selection of crossover options, making the 502 more versatile for different size speakers. Also, as I mentioned before, the 502 offers separate distance/delay settings for the left and right surrounds (which is great, because my right surround is 2 feet further away than my left). Something that I also found nice on the 502 was the ability to adjust speaker distance while program material was being played (the 600 turned off the speakers when setting delay). This was helpful in nailing distance and phase, by using the speaker test tones on Digital Video Essentials that are placed between the speakers. Using these tones, I adjusted delay up and down from its physical distance until I found the setting that imaged best between speakers. This also let me hear whether I needed to swap the positive and negative leads of each particular speaker to get speaker phase correct. It may be a minor thing, but I found it very useful. The 502 did lack some features that the 600 had, most notably Intellivolume, which is used to equalize volume levels between different sources. Honestly, that was a feature I never used on the 600 and I don't miss it at all.

    After setup with my SPL meter, tweaking with Avia and DVE, and a quick double-check of my subwoofer's equalization (for flat response +/-3dB), I began to explore the 502's many features. The first thing I'll say is this: DPL-IIx rocks! I hadn't expected a huge difference between DD-EX and DD with DPL-IIx engaged, but the resulting rear soundstage is far more cohesive, with pans across the rear moving more smoothly between speakers and front/back pans imaging more precisely. Perhaps it was just DPL-IIx or perhaps it was the combination of that and having the delay times nailed, but the sound with the 502 absolutely demolished anything I had ever heard from my 600. There were two immediately noticeable differences. First, reference level on my 600 was 82 on the volume control, whereas reference level on the 502 was at 54 (not that this makes a difference in the sound). Second, the 502 initially seemed brighter sounding than the 600. However, after very critical listening, the 502 actually has the more detailed sound to it, even in direct or stereo modes (which is strange, considering the 600 had 192k DACs for the mains and the 502 has 96k DACs on all channels). Music on the 502 had more sparkle, detail and life to it. And though some may be worried about the power rating of the 502, I don't think it's an issue in a small to medium room. The 502 held up nicely in my 12'x18'x8' room, moreso in fact than my 600 which had a higher power rating and was a heavier unit. With my SVS sub and a crossover setting of 80Hz, the 502 achieved amazing levels and quality of sound in my room without any noticeable distortion or audio artifacts. Very impressive for such a low-cost unit!

    About DPL-IIx: Music mode can be used to derive the center surround information from DD 5.1, DD-EX, or DTS 5.1 sources. However, with DTS-ES matrix or discrete, the 502 locks into those modes, which isn't a problem so much as something to be aware of. With a DD 5.1 or DD-EX source, you can switch the unit to use DPL-IIx Music mode (which I recommend) or DD-EX decoding. With DTS 5.1 sources, you can choose DPL-IIx music mode, DTS+DD-EX for deriving the center surround, or DTS+Neo:6 for deriving the center surround (which sounds essentially like DTS ES Matrix and has the same problems as forced matrix decoding). Again, I recommend using DPL-IIx in all cases, since it definitely improves the rear soundstage. This is especially true with discs that normally collapse to the center surround or seem to lack depth with forced matrix decoding. Most notably, the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan (DTS) sounded far more 3-dimensional across the rear with DPL-IIx engaged, which definitely added to my enjoyment of it.

    About DPL-IIx with music: Again, color me impressed. If you really want to be blown away and you have DPL-IIx (and aren't a stereo purist), listen to Nickel Creek's THIS SIDE or Sean Watkins 26 MILES with DPL-IIX Music Mode engaged. I used the following settings: Panorama ON, Dimension 3, Center Width 4. It's no slouch with Tool or Radiohead either.

    Other things of note: The 600 would make an audible CLICK when switching formats. So far, I haven't noticed the 502 making much noise when switching, which is especially nice when my hi-def goes from 2-channel to 5.1. It also seems to switch to 5.1 faster.

    Cons and minor nitpicks: There are no pre-outs for using external amplification, though you can't expect that on an entry level model. Also, the unit remembers your preference for DPL-IIx for every format, but defaults to All-Channel Stereo when it receives 2-channel PCM. This isn't that huge an issue as you can switch to DPL-IIx with the press of a button. Finally, there isn't an on-screen display, but honestly the information displayed on the front panel is more than adequate to set up and use the unit. This isn't a feature I miss or would even expect on a receiver at this price point. Another thing is that you can't engage Cinema EQ if you're using DPL-IIx processing. Again, this is kind of a non-issue since I never use Cinema EQ, but it bears mentioning.

    Conclusion: How happy am I with the 502? So happy that I sold my 600 to a friend for $100 two days later. I am very anal when it comes to setup of my HT, and this entry level unit packs a real punch for value and features. It does everything I need it to, and I honestly don't think there is a competing product in this price range. I can unequivocally say that, to my knowledge, this is the best entry level receiver any company has ever produced.

    Appearance: 9 - Black face and housing is near invisible with the lights down and display dimmed, and is easily arranged for on-receiver adjustment if necessary.
    Features: 10 - Maybe the most feature-packed entry level receiver ever!
    Sound Quality: 8 - Certainly not as good as separates, but amazingly detailed and neutral for an entry level unit.
    Build Quality: 8 - Heavier than it looks, banana plugs on all speaker outputs, neatly arranged inputs and outputs.
    Ease of use: 10 - Even though it lacks on-screen display, the setup and operation is easy and intuitive. I never even cracked open the manual.
    Value: 10 - DPL-IIx, DTS-ES, DD-EX, component video switching and 6.1 output for $250 shipped. Need I say more?

    Equipment used for review:
    Polk Audio RTi28 - mains, surrounds, center surround
    Polk Audio CSi40 - center channel
    SVS 20-39CS+ - subwoofer
    Samson 1000 amp (for sub)
    ART-351 Equalizer (for sub)
    Panasonic RP-56 DVD player, via TOSLINK
    Motorola DCT-6200 hi-def digital cable, via TOSLINK
     
  2. David G Greene

    David G Greene Well-Known Member

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    Thanks !!! Very nice review. Thanks again for the hard work.


    [​IMG]
     
  3. francisco-a

    francisco-a Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review. I have the TX-DS494 (a previous model) and I wanted to here reviews about the new line of the entry Onkyo line.

    DonĀ“t you have by any chance a review from the 494?
     
  4. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    I haven't heard the 494, but I did previously own the 595 that was a step above it. The 502 sounds much better than the 595 did, so I'd imagine it would be that much better than the 494.
     
  5. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Well-Known Member

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    Very good review. Owner reviews are the best. [​IMG]

    Now, I can't wait to see what the 702 & 802 will have to offer.
     
  6. ken-m

    ken-m Active Member

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    DOLBY PLIIX IS NOT A DIGITAL FORMAT, SO HOW WERE YOU USING IT WITH DTS AND DDEX? IT TAKES STEREO AND PRO LOGIC SOURCES AND MAKES THEM INTO MATRIXED 6.1 SURROUND.
     
  7. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Respectfully, you should read up on DPL-IIx (and turn your caps lock off). Dolby Pro-Logic II takes 2-channel sources and steers the sound to create 5.1. Pro-Logic IIx converts 2-channel sources into 6.1 or 7.1. However, it also takes 5.1 sources and creates 6.1 or 7.1 (depending on your receiver). This is similar to the way DD-EX or DTS-ES decodes a matrixed rear surround channel, but in my opinion DPL-IIx does a better job. Read the following link for more information, as well as the FAQ on that page:
    http://www.dolby.com/Consumer/Technologies/PLIIx/

    Here are the options you have on the 502 for creating center surround information from 5.1 material:
    For DD 5.1: Dolby Digital EX or DD+DPL-IIx.
    For DTS 5.1: DTS+EX, DTS+Neo:6, or DTS+DPL-IIx.

    In other words, you have a choice as to how the receiver creates the surround back channel. After very critical listening, I'm leaving mine set to DPL-IIx for all sources. As I said before, with DTS-ES Matrix or Discrete sources the receiver locks into those modes for 6.1 playback.
     
  8. ken-m

    ken-m Active Member

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    WILL THE H/K AVR330 DO THE SAME THING THE ONKYO 502 WILL?
     
  9. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Well-Known Member

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    Ken,

    Please turn off your CAPS lock key. Thank you!!!!!
     
  10. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    To my knowledge, the AVR330 doesn't have DPL-IIx; just DPL-II.
     
  11. Wayne Ernst

    Wayne Ernst Well-Known Member

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    Jeremy, I also believe you are correct regarding the lack of DLP IIx on the AVR-330. Ironically, I just hit the H/K Web site to see some of the information and it appears the AVR-330 is no longer listed on their site. All of the other models are there, but not the 330. I wonder if H/K has pulled this receiver from mfg. as there was plenty of overlap in their lineup.

    Link to receivers: H/K Products
     
  12. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    It's still listed, if you click on RECEIVERS in the drop down menu. But it isn't listed as having DPL-IIx.
     
  13. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Well-Known Member

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    Jeremy, I've had a SR600 for a while now & I'm considering a SR502 or SR602 (when it's out). You said you get reference level at volume level 54 on the SR502--what is the max it can go to? Thanks.
     
  14. Brajesh Upadhyay

    Brajesh Upadhyay Well-Known Member

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    Also, Onkyo's own specs for SR502 show no support for Dolby Digital EX. I wonder if that's a mistake.
     
  15. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Well-Known Member

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    You know, I'm not sure what it's max volume is. I've had it up to 64 with a really quiet disc, but I'm not sure what the range is. I'll check when I get home.

    And yes, Onkyo's website is incorrect about it not having DD-EX. It fully supports it. In fact, if you look at the logo on the front panel of the receiver, it has Dolby Digital EX in the Dolby logo.
     
  16. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Well-Known Member

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    It does have DD-EX and the cap is 79-MAX
     
  17. Ryan JJ

    Ryan JJ New Member

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    Does the SR502 support any kind of surround headphone feature?
     
  18. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

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    Dredging up an old thread, but I'm getting a 502 refurb next week and I want a little reinforcement. Your review provided plenty!
     
  19. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Well-Known Member

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    There's a detail review of the SR502 at Club Polk.

    The SR502 is available new at ecost for $195.00
     
  20. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

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    The review on the Polk site is the same as the one above. Kuntasensei AKA Jeremy Anderson [​IMG]

    I was able to get a 502 refurb from ecost for ~162.00 shipped.
     

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