Friday, December 31, 2010

Issues Setting Up My New Onkyo TX-SR608

Onkyo TX-SR608 7.2-Channel Home Theater Receiver (Black)
My big Christmas present to myself this year was the Onkyo TX-SR608 purchased at  Amazon always has a great sale on this model type every year around Christmas where the price drops below $400.  I think it's usually around $470.  I've been eying this for awhile but it never quite made it high enough on my list of things to buy until this year especially since I already have an A/V Receiver.

You might ask yourself, why the heck did you buy it if you didn't really need it and how did you sell the wife on it?  Well a couple of things worked in my favor.  One she purchased some expensive jewelry for herself which meant I could spend a similarly extravagant amount on myself and two she was complaining about the cable clutter in the back of our TV.  Ah I have just the right solution - the Onkyo TX-SR608.

My previous Onkyo A/V Receiver the TX-SR502 is about 5 or 6 years old and was made in a time when HDMI was something new and expensive to support so it doesn't really support it.  I purchased the new Onkyo TX-SR608 for the following main reason:

1) 5 HDMI in ports so I can eliminate all of the optical audio cables since HDMI supports both audio and video.
2) Video up-conversion so I can plug the Wii in the receiver and it will send an upconverted picture over HDMI to the TV.  This means all of my cables can go directly into the receiver and all video and audio switching can be done by the receiver.

The bottom line - less cables and higher video and audio fidelity and reliability.

My system before was a mishmash of cables going in lots of different places.  The PS3, U-Verse set top box and the XBOX 360 was plugged directly into the Samsung Plasma TV using HDMI.  One of the HDMI cables stuck out from the side of the TV.  The optical audio cables were plugged into the Onkyo.  My Wii and AppleTV were plugged into the TV too using component cables but the audio also went to the receiver.    Of course I have a PhD in Harmony Remote programming and was somehow able to get this all switching correctly most of the time.

Now its a very straight forward setup.  All video and audio go into the Onkyo via HDMI for the PS3, U-Verse, Xbox and AppleTV along with the component video from the Wii.  There is a single HDMI cable from the receiver to the TV.  That's it--nice and simple.

Now to where it gets complicated.  Theoretically this should all just work but for some reason it took me 5 hours to get it setup.   If you have this receiver and haven't set it up yet my one word of advice is to turn it off, hook everything up and then turn all of those devices on, and then turn the Onkyo on.  There must be some sort of way that the receiver knows if something is connected to a source that is working or not because I believe this is where my trouble began.

I originally hooked everything up but didn't turn them on until after I turned on the Onkyo.  I think this was a major mistake.  The second piece of advice is to check the source to make sure it works before trying to hook the receiver.  I know it's installation 101 but this caught me this time.

Basically in my rush to eliminate wiring from the back of the TV, I must have kicked out the Ethernet cable from my U-Verse set top box and it doesn't like it when you do that.  For the first 2 hours I tried everything I could to get video to show up using the U-Verse set top box.  Nothing appeared to work.  I tried changing channels.  I tried DVR.  Nothing.  All I saw was a black screen.  After the second hour I accidentally hit the menu button and low and behold the menu popped up.  Huh?  So I'm able to see the menu but no video even when trying to play back DVR content?  I looked at the back of the set top and noticed the Ethernet cable wasn't plugged in.  OK, I get why live video didn't play but not even video from the DVR?  So I plugged it in and guess what it started working.  So it was working the entire time but I couldn't see anything because the ethernet cable was unplugged.  What the heck?

OK, now on to the XBOX.  With a few changing of settings and other things some how it starts working but I don't hear anything.  I'm OK with this since I'm just focused on the video.  Now the PS3.  Nothing.  Blackness.  Apple TV.  Same thing.  Nothing.  I try other video settings - 720P, 1080i, Some crazy CrYb stuff, Wide screen, Zoom, etc but nothing works.   I try to connect it directly to the TV and it works fine so I know it's the receiver.  (You probably shouldn't do this but I'm switching the HDMI cable why everything is on -- probably another reason it's not quite working right).

It's really late like 3 or 4 in the morning and things get a little hazy from here on out.  I decide to program my Harmony Remote so my wife and kid can use the TV in the morning.  When it's done uploading the software, I get ready to use it and the TV and Receiver turn off.  I forget if I clicked on the ON/OFF button or not but for some reason it goes off.  I turn it back on and it appears to be working.  I then decide to give the PS3 one last try before calling it a night.  I read through the AVS Forums and read something about pressing the VCR button along with the Return button and that this some how turns off up-conversion and causes the receiver to just pass thru the HDMI data.  Someone noted that this worked for them so I give it a try.  I go to the PS3 source and I get video.  I go to AppleTV and it also has video.  WTF?  I'm a little skeptical that the VCR button and Return button did anything since it didn't appear to change and nothing showed up on the screen?  I think it's more likely that just turning the receiver off and on probably was the more important factor.  At this point I really didn't care since things were working.  The only issue appeared to be the audio.  On my previous receiver the audio was usually set to about 20 or so.  30 was really loud.  So I set the volume on this thing to about 30 and I didn't hear anything.  Remember it's like 3 in the morning and I didn't really want to wake up the family.  Just for chuckles I turned it higher and higher and guess what the audio starts to be audible.  It sounded great at 50 or 60.  Now I don't know if there is a stereo volume board that sets the numerical value for volume so it could be that I still have some issue in my setup which is the reason my volume values are so different between models but I'm just happy its working.

So the bottom line, I'm relatively happy with my Onkyo 608 even though it was kind of painful set-up but I'm guessing most of it was my fault.  I really like that it has an on-screen menu which helped a lot when I was trying to fiddle with the settings and of course the picture and audio quality are very good.  Plus less wires in the back of the TV and the simpler Harmony remote setup are also big bonuses for the system.   Since the Onkyo 608 supports 3D TV do you think I could convince my wife we need a new TV...probably not but at least our a/v system is ready when we want to upgrade.

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