Onkyo TX-NR818: Harmonious high-end quality at midrange price

Home cinema may well be the perfect scenario if you are a movie fan; sitting in the lounge with your popcorn at the ready watching the latest blockbuster on your big plasma.  There it is in full HD leaping right out at you. The only problem is unlike the real cinema experience, the sonics just don’t cut it.


Onkyo which means ‘sound harmony’ in Japanese, has long been a leader in high quality home cinema audio but with the unveiling of the TX-NR818 and its slightly lighter stable mate the TX-NR8717,  the assault on the mid range market is well and truly underway.

These two network channel receivers are packed with punch and feature laden with goodies to melt the heart of any home cinema audio enthusiast whose pocket is not perhaps as deep as they would like it to be.

Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room acoustic correction calibrates your speakers and equalizes the system to optimize the sound for your room space. Onkyo has also ported across its three 7.2 decoding systems normally found in its higher end models; Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Audyssey DSX DTS. DTSNeo:X which uses front wide and front height technology to produce a more enveloping 3D sound performance.

The TX-NR818’s video delivery is boosted using a dual core chip combining an HQV Vida VHD 1900 video processor for 1080p up scaling and Marvell’s 4K video processor which can convert 1080p HD to a 2K or 4K display.

Both receivers offer up eight HDMI inputs one front, and seven in the rear together with two outputs and support for mobile HDMI, a godsend if you want to reproduce media from your smart phone in 7.2 channel surround sound.

There also plans to release a USB Bluetooth adapter so both receivers will be able to interact with hand held devices.

TX-NR818  £999   Black or silver.

TX-NR717  £800  Black or silver.

Orbitsound T12v3 soundbar: Surround sound magic

We’re always amazed by those single speakers (soundbars) that sit in front of TV and emit surround-sound from one speaker. They just don’t make sense to us. Still, this hurdle hasn’t stopped British manufacturer Orbitsound from producing their best-sounding soundbar to date: the T12v3.


The new Orbitsound T12v3 may not have the most memorable name (compared with Pioneer’s Soundwing), but the engineers promise that its performance will stay with you, even if the name doesn’t. The new bar boasts “even greater sound clarity, improved bass response and extended volume range” than the old model.

Specifically, the new Orbitsound should offer a smoother, tighter bass response thanks to an improved subwoofer. The main speaker drives also include higher quality components which produce a more rigid, balanced, cleaner sound stage. Oh, and the whole is system is more powerful.

Another benefit of the T12v3 (and all soundbars), is that they produce surround-sound without the limitations of a “sweet-spot”. Traditional surround-systems produce one-direction sound which creates one location that’s good for listening at the expense of the rest of the room.

Audiences seem to be noticing the difference, too – in less than a year, UK sales of the T12v2 soundbar already rivalled those of more established brands.

That’s only going to increase as the company has been working closely with giant retail partners including John Lewis and Harrods, as well as signing a deal with Widget – the UK distributor that introduced the TomTom to our shores.

As a soundbar, it looks as you’d expect it: a bit like the flatscreen TV it’s supposed to sit in front of. It’s got a high-gloss finished with a metallic speaker grill to give the device a premium finish. The grill should also ensure the sound is more acoustically transparent, too.

The T12v3 soundbar costs £299 and will be available from September 2011.  For more information about the Orbitsound and the T12v3, visit www.orbitsound.com.

Pioneer’s latest quartet backs blu-ray all the way

Since it called time on its television production, Pioneer has seemingly been going full throttle on the audio and home cinema markets which can’t be a bad thing if they can maintain the quality of their product range. The result is a seemingly never ending supply of bigger and better creations catering for all budgets and preferences.


In this latest batch, Pioneer is releasing no less than four blu-ray home cinema systems, two with tall speakers BCS- 717 and BCS -414 and two with compact satellites the BCS-313 and the BCS- 212; clearly an attempt to cater for all types of abodes.

The speaker set up aside, the only other differentiator between the two sets are a bundled cradle iPod/iPhone connector, WiFi and an ultra thin sub-woofer with the BCS-717 and BCS-313. These two are billed as the ‘regular’ line whilst the BCS-414 and BCS-212 being the poor relations by a short head, are billed as the ‘basics’ line.

Both sets of systems have combined 5.1 power output up to1100 watts, 3D Blu-ray Disc playback, HDMI with ARC and 1080p video, twin HDMI inputs web online video streaming, DLNA support for compatible digital media servers and mini jack audio and USB connectors .

The main system units are finished in a high gloss polished acrylic

Pioneer’s new home theatre systems are available on the high street now from £299 up to £499.


Pioneer Sound Wing: Revolutionary speaker technology?

Pioneer makes a lot of home theatre devices. Really, a lot. This one, however, lives up the company name – new, innovative: pioneering. It’s a called a ‘Sound Wing’, and it brings surround sound into a single, beautiful speaker bar.


Aside from great aesthetics, the Sound Wing uses what the company call a “revolutionary and breakthrough new speaker technology”. Officially known as HVT (Horizontal-Vertical-Transforming), it allows speakers to
be made much thinner while still creating a full 360 degree soundscape.

The Sound Wing uses the technology to create an immersive audio experience while taking up almost no room – it’s just 25.5mm thick. You could probably even put one in front of your computer monitor without losing too much desk space.

It’s not limited to sitting in front of a device, however – the omni-directional speakers can be placed anywhere in the room and still provide a wide “sweet spot” to enjoy the full sound experience.

To better explain the experience, imagine that normal speakers fire sound directly at you, widening as they extend. The Sound Wing is different – it emits a sphere of audio, pushing sound in every direction. Wherever you are in the room, sound surrounds.

The Sound Wing comes bundled as part of the HTP-SLH600 AV package, which also includes the VSX-S300 slim AV receiver. Like the Sound Wing, it’s also smaller than you’d expect, but equally big of features – including four 3D compatible HDMI inputs and Pioneer’s Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration.

It can fully equipped to decode all mainstream HD audio formats, including DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as Dolby True HD. You can also add Pioneer’s AS-BT200 Bluetooth Adapter to enjoy wireless (omni-directional) audio from any A2DP Bluetooth-enabled mobile device or personal computer.

For more info visit www.pioneer.co.uk

Sony makes a stand – the new hidden home cinema range

If you want the benefits of surround sound, but can’t be bothered with the faff of setting it all up, the latest range of Sony home cinema stands could be the answer.

Acting a bit like an iPod dock, the stand connects to the television via built-in wires and – hey presto – you have virtual surround sound without the need for rear speakers. This keeps things simple and helps your living room stay wire-free while you enjoy the latest movies and games to their best advantage.


The science in the stand that makes all this possible is a combination of Sony’s S-Force PRO technology, which creates the surround sound experience, and an S-Master digital amplifier to keep the signal clear. These are packed into a compact unit, ensuring that the stand – designed to match the Bravia monolithic styling – remains slimline.

Available in three sizes to suit TVs from 32” to 60”, the stands have plenty of shelf space to store a DVD or Blu-ray player, cable or satellite box and games console, with three HDMI inputs and one output to accommodate all these other pieces of kit. The stands also incorporate a radio tuner and a media port to connect to an iPod or similar device.

You can run everything via the new Bravia internet widget, which calls up control menus to the TV screen. You can also choose which sound field suits you best from a choice of nine, including movie, sports and games. The stands will be able to handle any future upgrades too, as they can pass through 3D video from the latest Blu-ray players to new generation TVs.

The RHT-G5 has been designed for 32-inch to 40-inch TVs, the RHT-G11 can accommodate 42-inch to 52-inch models, while the RHT-G15 is suitable for sets up to 60 inches.

The two larger stands will be launched in May 2010, with the RHT-G5 following in June, although prices are yet to be released.