Consulting|Technology|International business

Denon, Bose or Onkyo – which is right for me / home theater research

with 6 comments

First of all, wish all my readers a very happy 2010!

I have been researching home theaters in some detail over the last 2-weeks+ but have not decided to go in for any as yet. I have primarily focused my evaluation on four providers of home theater systems:

1. Onkyo

2. Denon

3. Sony

4. Bose

I even personally visited the Bose showroom at MG Road Bangalore and the Onkyo showroom at Cunningham road Bangalore to get the feel of the systems available.

First of all, one has to understand acoustics before going in for a good quality home theater system and here is a small primer to that.

1. You need a receiver which is high end and up-to-date. A receivers main job is to route the signal via the receiver  from any of your input sound producing points such as a DVD player, a TV, an iPod, a Playstation, a Stereo etc. to the speakers. In today’s world of Full HD and 1080p, HDMI is a must. A future expansion slot for BluRay dock/port/connectors etc. might be beneficial that helps your receiver to scale.

2. Obviously because this receiver handles the load of all of these inputs music producing stations from one single unit, it has to have the required amps. It has to be a high end amplifier to support all frequencies.

3. You need a good bass unit. The sub-woofer is usually a separate box from the speaker set. This can usually be placed anywhere and is location agnostic.

4. You need a good quality 5.1 or 7.1 speaker unit. 3 in the front and 2 in the back behind your head on either side. These are ALL location/position specific. Actually, this is the most crucial part of a home theater experience.

5. The center speaker has to be at your ear level to help maximize the effect of the sound unit.

6. You preferably need a separate sound proof room to help bounce off your acoustics through the room evenly.

Given this short primer, it is now time to look at who are the providers. I have been spending the last 1+ week trying to research home theaters and the associated technologies.


I had done Internet R&D on the Bose system line-up. They have 2 of them in a nutshell. The 321 system (entry level) and the lifestyle systems (advanced and pricier).

Bose is expensive – it’s a well marketed brand that commands it’s share of the market. Their base 321 unit costs upwards of Rs. 61K INR) and comes with just a 2.1 unit (or 2 speakers on either side). This has what is called a proprietary ‘acoustimass technology’ that helps produce the same effect as a 5.1 unit in a room.

When I was given the demo at their showroom, the demo sounded ok etc. (they play the demo out of tiny speakers covered by a large box to show it off, the room is obviously custom made to produce the best quality effect so it is not a true indicator of what you will experience at your home environment which is true for any home theater demo you get at  the showroom of ANY manufacturer; not only Bose) – Bose’s real speciality – their speaker size, is marketed well enough and I was running late for a movie (Avatar 3D) so had to rush to the nearby theater to catch the show so hence my Bose demo was pretty much limited to the serious stuff – listening to the audio and getting out of there before the marketing guy could play the “Bose effect”! Their higher end lifestyle entertainment systems come at a pricier Rs. 1 lac+ and they are a 5.1 unit. When I asked them why Bose and why not Onkyo, they gave me some explanations but then it is well known that Bose really markets their products well.

So, Bose was off for me because the price points did not fit my requirements.


My next choice was Onkyo. Onkyo in Japanese means audio or sound. That should tell you something about the Onkyo brand and the products they sell.

I had again done a lot of Internet R&D on this prior to visiting the showroom but was confused because Onkyo products work best with a separate receiver + speaker set than a single package system they push onto the consumer.

I decided that instead of visiting eZone etc. that deal with a select few products of Onkyo I want to get exposure the their entire product line-up and in the middle-sophisticated category. Off I went to the Sigma Mall to listen to the Onkyo effect.

It was a good experience. Their 6200 system is a package system (and they are not necessarily the best!) but very powerful and their separate unit of the 728 speakers+577 receiver was really awesome! These are priced at about Rs. 55K combo but the receiver is open and HDMI supportive as also BluRay compatible. The showroom engineer seemed very knowledgeable of all the top brands and even gave me a fair comparison as to why the Onkyo system is good with little or no bias. This is a big plus. He even spoke of higher end brands and my biggest problem was to adjust this Onkyo set with it’s huge apparatus inside my living room (It’s 2 tall boy speakers + a center speaker + a receiver + two rear speakers that require wiring). My living room is big but despite that this looked too big. It was more apt for a dedicated home theater room. So, I decided to put my Onkyo purchase plans also on hold. This one even had tallboy speakers and a fully paneled wooden box speaker set. Looked very slick! All of them made in Malaysia (surprise, not China!)

I was told by the Onkyo showroom engineer that Onkyo comes out with newer receivers/speaker sets every 6 months to refresh their product line-up.

Sony has some decent reviews but they are not the top of the mind recall when it comes to home theater equipment so Sony was off.

Denon is good but pricier so that was off.

Basically, that leaves me with no option but to continue my regular entertainment center without the addition of a new home theater. I will consider it sometime in future but for now, I feel my self assembled piece of my Sony music system speakers (two front) and TV speakers of my SONY Bravia center gives me a decent experience though  that is no comparison to the real experience of the home theater sounds produced by an Onkyo or a Denon!

My experience watching Avatar 3D in a theater Gold class et. al. was good in the movie itself and the 3D effect but the sound was very disappointing! I never got the theater surround sound etc. Was it the Bose effect just prior to the movie (which was very good in my experience in their custom room demo for 15-minutes), I don’t know. But, we call things theater effect etc. and for the movie audio to be a damp squib was a letdown to the ‘theater effect’!


Written by Naveen Athresh

January 2, 2010 at 9:49 am

Posted in Gadgets

6 Responses

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  1. Yeah, thanks alot for the great work. I have been seriously considering the Onkyo Hts 5200.


    June 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

  2. Hi Naveen. Thanks for an honest review. Was very helpful


    October 23, 2010 at 1:34 pm

  3. home theater systems made by Bose are the best sounding stuffs that i ever tried’-“

    Resistor Color Code :

    October 28, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  4. Sony Music is got to be the leader in the music industry, they got PSP, music records and movie productions ”

    Lunch Bags ·

    November 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

  5. thnks man…i m on the same track that u have followed,at last i m continuing my existing system.


    November 3, 2012 at 11:49 am

  6. Hey, try Thasmai Audio (, they deal with Harman Kardon speakers (JBL, Mark Levinson, Revel) and have good service offerings. They’ve recently opened India’s largest Home theater demo center in HSR layout


    January 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm

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