The Good: The Onkyo HT-S7700 comes complete with a full featured AV receiver which supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 Copy Protection. The speakers, while not top-of-the-line, are over achievers in the sound department.

 

The Bad: The mid-range of the S7700 could be stronger. Sounds better for movies than it does for music.

 

Summary: Home theater-in-a-box systems have garnered a bad reputation over the years. The Onkyo HT-S7700 may change this. If you were to buy similar components separately expect to pay anywhere between $1500 and $2000. However, for an MSRP of $899 you can have a full-fledged home theater system whose sound is light years beyond the sound output of any TV’s speakers. Throw in Dolby Atmos and you have an impressively complete home theater package.

 

 

Onkyo HT-S7700 Review

Home theater in a box. That moniker strikes fear and disdain in the heart of every home theater enthusiast. I’m not afraid to admit it, but my very first foray into home theater began with an Onkyo “home theater in a box” system many many years ago. It was the first home theater system I ever owned and it ignited a spark within me (my wife would call it an obsession). Whether you’re just starting out in home theater or you’re just looking for a way to improve your listening experience, there’s a definite spot for home theater in a box systems. This being said, Onkyo’s latest HTIB unit, the HT-S7700, is a feature packed system that has nearly everything a budding home theater enthusiast could need.

 

Onkyo HT-S7700 Receiver

HT-R693 AV Receiver

The Onkyo HT-S7700 system includes the HT-R693 AV Receiver, one center channel, (2) Dolby Atmos enabled right and left speakers, (2) surround speakers and (1) 10 inch subwoofer. The HT-R693 receiver packs in more features than the average HTIB system. Connectivity wise, you get (7) HDMI inputs and (2) outputs. The 693 supports the latest HDMI 2.0 standard and the main output also supports HDCP 2.2 copy protection protocols. HDCP 2.2 will be a necessary feature when 4K (Ultra HD) video finally takes off. The fact that this receiver supports it, means it will still be relevant for years to come. Along with the ample HDMI inputs/outputs the 693 also throws in a handful of analog audio inputs, (2) component inputs, (2) digital inputs, and (1) USB input.

 

For video, the HT-S7700’s receiver is capable of upscaling video to 1080p and 4K thanks to its Marvell Qdeo processor. The 693 also includes an ethernet connection for wired network connections. However, if you prefer the wireless route, it also possesses built-in WiFi and bluetooth.

 

On the audio side of the things, the R693 can pretty much handle any mainstream audio format you throw at it including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The surprising addition to it’s list of supported audio formats is Dolby’s new Atmos format. Atmos is a newly adopted format that allows sound engineers to make use of additional sound channels (typically ceiling channels). The addition of these channels creates a more “3D” listening experience where the sound appears to radiate from above your listening area. Since few people have room to install ceiling speakers, manufacturers have devised a method to create the illusion of ceiling channels. They do this by using uniquely angled drivers that beam the sound at your ceiling and reflect it down towards your listening area. The end result is that the sound appears to hover above your head.

 

HT-S7700 Speakers

Make no bones about it, the speakers that are bundled with the HT-S7700 are not audiophile grade speakers. However, they do a surprisingly good job and would blow away most speakers you’ll find bundled with a HTIB system.

 

The center channel features (2) 3 1/4″ woofers and a 1″ balanced dome tweeter. The right and left speakers each feature a 5″ woofer and a 1″ balanced dome tweeter on the front. The Atmos modules on top of the right and left speakers include an angled 3 1/4″ woofer. The surround speakers both have (1) 3 1/4″ woofer. And to handle low frequencies, Onkyo bundles in a 10″ subwoofer. On the backs of all the speakers (except the subwoofer of course) are wall mounts so you can easily hang these on your walls if desired.

 

Setup

Getting the entire system up and running is pretty painless. It has a quick start guide that will guide you through the basic setup arrangement. The complete user guide for the system is available as a download only from Onkyo’s website.

 

Onkyo HT-S7700 Connections

 

The back of the AV receiver of the Onkyo HT-S7700 has clearly labeled and color coded speaker terminals, so it’s easy to connect all of your speakers and be up and running in about a 1/2 hour or so. The front left and right speakers have two speaker terminals on the back. The top terminals, which are labeled “height”, are for the Atmos modules which are mounted on the top of the speakers. The bottom terminals are for your right and left speaker channels.

 

 

When you first boot-up the receiver, it will prompt you to plug-in the calibration microphone. Onkyo, this year, has abandoned Audyssey’s calibration methodology in lieu of their own AccuEQ measuring system. After plugging in the included measurement microphone, it immediately sends out several test tones to each of the attached speakers. Based on these measurements it sets the appropriate speaker distances, levels and crossovers based on your room’s acoustics.

 

If this is your first time setting up home theater components, the HT-S7700 will assist with connecting your devices via on-screen menus and prompts. Of course, if this isn’t your first rodeo and you’re pretty sure you have everything connected properly you can skip these prompts.

 

The remote that comes bundled with the HT-S7700 is pretty average. It has quite a bit of button clutter, but everything’s clearly labeled. The fact that Onkyo hasn’t changed the overall design of their remotes  for several years lends itself to the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” mantra. You can program it to control other devices in your living room, so it can act as a universal remote. However, in this reviewers opinion, you would be much better off spending a few extra bucks on a universal remote like the Logitech Harmony Smart Control.

 

Performance

Onkyo HT-S7700 Review

I mentioned earlier that when I first pulled the HT-S7700 speakers out of the packaging I was a little underwhelmed. Until I turned them on. To be as small as they are they can play surprisingly loud. Not only are they loud, but they’re capable of clear and crisp dialogue reproduction. I did have to adjust the center channel levels up a little after the initial calibration sequence, but once I did, the system as a whole sounded surprisingly well.

 

To test out the system’s home theater chops I decided to give it a go with Marvels: Guardians of the Galaxy. In the early part of the movie where young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens, the surround channels kicked into high gear filling our small listening area with sound. Near the end of the movie when the Guardians have their final showdown with Ronin, the subwoofer started pumping out some serious low frequencies. The 10″ sub that comes with the Onkyo HT-S7700 won’t shake your chair or rattle your walls, but it’s beefy enough that movies will have a nice punch.

 

Music playback may be the one area where the S7700 falters a bit, especially in the mid-range department. With movies and TV it wasn’t as noticeable, however when I cued up Michael Jackson’s Xscape album it was readily apparent that the 7700’s mid-range prowess was lacking. While upper frequencies and bass notes were well represented, some vocals and instrumentals lacked fullness.

 

Dolby Atmos Performance

Dolby Atmos blu-ray’s are slowly starting to appear on store shelves. We had two Dolby Atmos movies on hand, Transformers: Age of Extinction and John Wick.  Atmos has been a bit of a controversial subject in home theater circles. Some feel that it’s the next great home theater audio format and others feel it’s all hype and no substance. However, after watching both of these movies on blu-ray I think Dolby’s on to something.

 

First, I’ll get my gripes out-of-the-way. Being a new format I don’t think sound mixers have fully grasped the best ways to utilize the format for home theater just yet. For instance, in Transformers: Age Extinction, there are several scenes where it felt like Atmos sound effects were just tacked-on. Also, the Atmos speakers on the Onkyo HT-S7700 definitely made the sound appear that it was emanating above, however it sounded as if it was in front of our listening area instead of directly overhead.

 

Now, the positives. Dolby Atmos, is pretty darn fun when implemented correctly. What Atmos does, is it  heightens the sound stage several feet, so the sound is more enveloping. Towards the end of Transformers: Age of Extinction, there’s a scene where the Alien robot Lockdown is attempting to re-capture Optimus Prime and his merry band of renegade Autobots. To facilitate this, Lockdown’s ship employs a giant magnet which grabs anything metallic and sucks it into the air. This scene was the best implementation of Atmos in the entire movie and demonstrated to me that Atmos is legitimate. As soon as the magnet is activated, you hear it’s low deep hum appear overhead. What made this scene so effective, is that the sound designers used the Atmos sound channels to convey something that was congruent with what was occurring on-screen. The S7700’s Atmos enabled speakers did a masterful job of creating these overhead sound effects.

 

With John Wick, the Atmos sound effects were more understated and at times felt a little more integrated with the movie. The overhead sound effects were used to create ambience for the on-screen action and thus were far more subtle than the sound effects in Transformers, but nevertheless effective.

Conclusion

The Onkyo HT-S7700 is a feature rich home theater system. It sounds surprisingly well for a “home theater in a box” system. While it’s mid-range performance could be a little stronger, it has great upper frequency response and clarity. The subwoofer it comes bundled with is surprisingly good and provides adequate amounts of bass for home theater use. The HT-S7700 can get surprisingly loud, so I have no doubt that it would be able to fill a medium size room with sound. I’d have no problems recommending this system for anyone who wants to build a decent home theater on a budget.

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