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ONKYO DR-90, £800


Contact Jamo UK,  01788 556777,  www.onkyo.net


Ever since it became clear that DVD was taking off in a big way it was inevitable that sooner or later someone would fit a DVD deck and 5.1 decoder into an AV amplifier/receiver; the first 14-inch TV/DVD combos surely canít be far behindÖ Well, itís here but we must admit to being mildly surprised by the fact that Onkyo got there first. Not that Onkyo is a stranger to the home cinema market, indeed it is already a major player in AV amps and has produced several top-notch CD players, but somehow we expected one of the better-known brands to get the ball rolling.


Nevertheless, Onkyo have set the benchmark for what is bound to be a significant new product category, which brings us to the vexed question of what to call these things? The best Onkyo can manage is a DR-90 ĎDVD Receiverí, which really doesnít tell you much, so weíll just have to fill you in. Itís a genuine Ďone-boxí solution, connect it to a TV and some speakers and youíre in business; add a cassette deck or MD player and youíve got a got a complete home entertainment system.


DVD features of note include multi-speed replay (3 picture search speeds and 3 slomo speeds, in both directions), Dolby Digital, PCM and dts decoders and 3-mode picture zoom. Onkyo has decided to keep it as simple as possible, the on-screen displays during replay are actually rather basic time chapter and status displays, which contrasts with the more elaborate set-up menus. Unfortunately not having any on-screen controls has loaded up the remote handset, which has almost 60 buttons, most of them tiny and many of them badly labelled.


But we digress. The AV amplifier/tuner section adds a range of DSP modes to the feature list -- over and above the Dolby and dts surround options -- and thereís independent bass and treble controls. The amplifier is rated at 50 watts rms for the front, centre and rear surround channels, plus thereís a line-level output for an active sub woofer. It has two digital inputs, two AV plus two line audio inputs, which should be enough for most users. Connections to the outside world are handled by a single SCART (configurable for RGB or S-Video), a bank of phonos and separate composite video and S-Video outputs. The AM/FM tuner has 30 station presets and includes an RDS decoder, for displaying station/programme information and traffic reports. The remote handset has an IR learning facility and despite its apparent complexity can control only one other device, a TV.


Itís no larger than most AV amps, so in those terms it represents a useful space saving. Inside itís built like the proverbial brick outhouse with extensive screening around the DVD deck power supply and amplifier circuit boards. The front panel is plain and simple and but for the disc loading drawer you would hardly know it was a DVD player, even the display gives little away. Unfortunately the controls are difficult to tell apart and the grey on black labelling is almost impossible to read more than a few centimetres away.


Looks arenít everything though and a solid on-screen performance makes up for its somewhat dull persona. Images are crisp and clean, colours and shades look natural; none of our test discs managed to produce any significant processing artefacts. Shadows and dark scenes yield a fair amount of detail and layer change is typically over in less than a quarter of a second. We tried it with a small selection of speakers, in all cases producing a pleasing sound with a lively soundfield, full of detail and movement. Dolby Digital soundtracks deliver a sharply focused frontal soundstage. Treble and midrange coverage is good but it really needs a separate sub to bring out the bass. In contrast the rear channels on dts soundtracks are much busier and thereís a tad more bass all around though again a sub-woofer is necessary to get behind big dynamic effects. The Dolby Surround processor does a workmanlike enough job but unless the DR-90 is connected to VCR it is unlikely to get much use.


In being first Onkyo has set the standard and itís not half bad, but itís not the kind of product that gets your blood coursing. The cosmetics lack flair, the remote is horrible and the learning system squandered on single device TV control. To be fair it does everything that it sets out to do well enough, albeit in a restrained manner, if you want to keep things simple or just donít like flashy boxes with lots of winky lights it may well be what youíve been waiting for.



Onkyo has really wasted an opportunity with this handset. Itís bad enough that itís covered in dozens of titchy buttons, but why on earth did it build in a sophisticated learning IR system, and then only give it one device to control? Those transport buttons are just begging to be assigned to a cassette deck, MD or even a VCR.





SCART             1

S-Video             2

RGB out                        yes

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   yes



Region 2 PAL/NTSC, Dolby Digital, PCM & dts decoders,  3-step picture zoom, 8-mode DSP, AM/FM tuner with 30 station preset, sleep timer, multi-function learning remote, 2 AV & 2 audio inputs, 2 digital inputs, 5 x 50 watts RMS amplification



One box convenience, simplicity of installation and setup



Big remote, small buttons, lacklustre appearance


Ease of use            4

Picture  4

Sound               4

Features            4

Overall  4



Price                 £800


S-Video 2

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            Dolby Digital & dts


Good Points

One box convenience, simplicity of installation and setup


Bad points

Big remote, small buttons, lacklustre appearance







R. Maybury 2000, 2404




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