Onkyo TX-SR444 Review
THE VERDICT:
The Onkyo TX-SR444 is a little tough to categorize. It's not an entry-level receiver and it's not what I would consider a mid-range receiver. However, its great sound quality coupled with Dolby Atmos means it will remain the centerpiece of your home theater longer than any entry-level amp.

See Price on Amazon
Design7.5
Features6.5
Value8
Performance9
The Good
  • The Onkyo TX-SR444 has great dynamic sound making it a solid performer for movie night. HDCP 2.2 copy protection and Dolby Atmos means you can keep this little black box around for a while.
The Bad
  • It may be priced a little too high for someone looking for an entry-level receiver. The included remote needs an overhaul and the 444 has limited music capabilities.
8Overall Score

Onkyo TX-SR444 Review

Not everyone needs a networked AV receiver. The Onkyo TX-SR444 targets these consumers.  In some ways this amp is a throw-back to a by-gone era before ethernet and WiFi, before AirPlay and Apps, and perhaps even before the internet. Back then an AV receiver’s sole purpose was to re-produce audio as close as possible to what sound engineers originally intended. Onkyo’s newest SR receiver, the SR-444 has the audio acumen of receivers in the NR line except it strips out network functions.

 

Appearance

The Onkyo TX-SR444 looks like other receivers in Onkyo’s line-up, big, black and boxy. In other words, your typical AV receiver. The remote that  comes bundled with the SR444 uses the same design as other receivers in Onkyo’s line-up this year. While the remote is serviceable, it’s starting to look dated and can use an overhaul. Compared side-by-side to Sony’s AV remotes, Onkyo’s are starting to look over complicated. The on-screen menu, while serviceable, can also use an upgrade.

Onkyo TX-SR444 Remote

 

Onkyo TX-SR444 Connectivity & Features

You won’t find WiFi or ethernet listed as features on the SR444. If you don’t need them, then you won’t miss them. Of course you can always opt for one of Onkyo’s NR series of receivers like the TX-NR545 or NR646. They will cost you a bit more, but they do include networking features among a few other things. While the Onkyo TX-SR444 doesn’t include WiFi, it does have built-in bluetooth and can support up to 10 devices.

 

The back of the Onkyo TX-SR444 houses most of its connectivity options. The SR444 includes 4 HDMI inputs and 1 output. The HDMI inputs are the latest 2.0a standard and also support HDCP 2.2 copy protection. HDCP 2.2 is expected to be used for some (if not all) 4K-Ultra HD content in the future, so having a receiver that supports it will be pretty important in the future.

 

Onkyo TX-SR444 AV Receiver Connections
The TX-SR444 has a healthy number of analog audio and component inputs. It also throws-in three digital inputs (2 optical and 1 coaxial). In an effort to simplify the connection process, Onkyo clearly labels and groups the connectivity options for your cable box, game systems, blu-ray/dvd player etc. This makes the connection process quick and easy, especially for first-timers.  An interesting feature of the Onkyo TX-SR444 is the streaming player HDMI port. Right next to the input is a USB power port which is perfect for powering a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick. One thing that’s absent from the SR444 is a USB input. This limits your ability to send music to the receiver and most users will have to rely on bluetooth to push tunes to the 444.

 

The Onkyo TX-SR444 isn’t heavy on features, but it does have a few things that users will find convenient.  For instance, the SR444 not only supports the old stand-by’s such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but it also supports Dolby’s new Atmos format. Being a 7.1 receiver, it can be setup in 5.1.2 arrangement with Dolby Atmos speakers either setup at the front or rear of your listening area.

 

Calibration

For years Onkyo used Audyssey for calibrating their AV’s. However, Onkyo has abandoned Audyssey in favor of AccuEQ. In all honesty I think it works as good, if not better than Audyssey. Calibration with AccuEQ only took a couple of minutes. AccuEQ did set my fronts to large which was incorrect, but every calibration system I’ve used has done the same thing so it wasn’t a surprise. One other thing I noted was that AccuEQ really dialed up the subwoofer. I love bass, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. When we had the Onkyo TX-NR646 in for review it did the same thing, but reducing the subwoofer level a bit alleviated the problem.

 

Performance

Onkyo’s are well-known for big bold sound and the Onkyo TX-SR444 is no different. Some Onkyo receivers do have a tendency to over accentuate low frequencies, however the SR444 displayed good balance and self-control in that department. The 444 also demonstrated fantastic surround sound capabilities. How to Train Your Dragon 2 sounded impressive on the Onkyo SR444. For me a good amp should display a seamless transition of sound from speaker to speaker. This amp did a wonderful job of doing just that. Dragons appeared to zoom from the front to the back of my listening area. Voices appeared behind, to the left and right of me which matched up perfectly with the characters on-screen performances.

 

To test out Atmos I threw in Hunger Games Mockingjay: Part 1 to see how well the 444 performed. I’m not sure if it was the sound mix of the movie or the performance of the receiver, but Mockingjay: Part 1 in Atmos was the most engaging audio experience I’ve had in a home theater…..ever! I’m not a huge fan of the movie, but listening to it in Atmos, hover crafts could be heard flying overhead and then swooping around and to the sides of my listening space. During the bombing of District 9, the explosions appeared to emanate from every direction, including overhead, which plopped me right in the middle of the action. I’ve had the opportunity to demo a few Atmos sound tracks and this was by far the most engaging. Based on what I heard, the Onkyo TX-SR444 gets two thumbs-up from me in the Atmos department.

 

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the Onkyo TX-SR444 has great sound quality, but feature wise it’s a little hard to categorize. It has more features than most entry-level receivers such as the Yamaha RX-V379 or the Denon AVR-S510BT, but yet isn’t as feature rich as some mid-range receivers. It’s almost an entry-level mid-range receiver. That being said, the Onkyo SR444 sounds great, has more dynamics and power than your typical entry-level receiver, and it supports Dolby Atmos. If you have a few more bucks to spend for an amp the SR444 is a good option.

 


Where to Buy:

See Price on Amazon




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