Onkyo HT-S3910 AVR/5.1 Speaker System Combi Page 2

Not having to run auto calibration, or configure a wireless connection, makes setting up the HT-S3910 refreshingly quick if you're happy with the default 120Hz subwoofer crossover setting, and either except the unit's default speaker distance measurements (3.6m for L/C/R, 2.1m for surround) or are confident enough to guess without recourse to a tape measure. With speakers placed fore and aft, an Oppo Blu-ray player plumbed in via HDMI and the AVR connected via HDMI ARC to my TV, I was ready to listen.

Going To War
With its reasonably powerful onboard amplification (Onkyo claims an improbable 100W per channel into its accompanying 6 ohm speakers), the HT-S3910 wastes no time in making itself heard with the soundmix of Overload (4K Blu-ray). It doesn't want for energy or soundstaging skill, but it can sound a little rough and ready.


Letting the side down, unfortunately, is the subwoofer. This made-to-a-cost item exhibits the usual failings of a budget woofer, being primarily concerned with making a crowd-pleasing boom without having much in the way of nuance, slam or genuine depth. That's not to say it doesn't play its part – LF effects (gunfire, explosions, droning aircraft engines) all gain impact from its rumblings, giving you a flavour of what the soundmixer intended that you just won't get from most TV speaker systems. But when Overlord's onscreen action calls for really deep and vicious bass hits (most notably in the opening parachute drop sequence), it's found wanting. You can tweak the sub level, but this just makes it louder, not more accomplished.

The sub glosses over a lack of bass heft from the other cabinets (you wouldn't want to listen to this setup in traditional stereo), and serves to tie the disparate parts together into one cohesive system. With all five speakers in play, there's a decent sense of a large soundfield.

Having actual physical surround speakers always beats a soundbar's virtual processing, and this is one of the HT-S3910's selling points. Onkyo's fourth and fifth channels are a tonal match for the front L/R, and this helps tighten up front-to-back effects pans, and means surround details aren't demoted to also-ran status. With an active multichannel mix, your listening position becomes enveloped. Careful positioning helps overcome the speakers rather narrow presentation.


Top-end delivery is actually rather impressive, with a crisp nature to high-frequency effects that's enjoyable but not fatiguing. Yet between this and the subwoofer, this system misses out on some mid-range body, meaning score and dialogue elements can occasionally feel thin and buried in the mix.

One Of A Kind
Evaluating the overall appeal of the HT-S3910 isn't simple, because it occupies such a rare spot in the AV market. It's easy to say it doesn't offer the same broad specification and skillset as, say, Denon's also £400 AVR-X1600H [see p48], but that doesn't come with its own surround speaker set. And while there are soundbars at this price that go down a similar fuss-free route, none have the upgrade potential here, nor that genuine multichannel delivery.

In fact, it sets out to do what it does fairly well, give or take some sound quality shortcomings that should perhaps be forgiven at this level. It can imagine it finding favour in a second room gaming den or kid's bedroom.

I still don't quite understand the Dolby Atmos tease, though. If you're going to give us the decoding skills, give us upfiring drivers too...

HCC Verdict

Onkyo HT-S3910

Price: £400

We say: The sound performance here has both strengths and weaknesses, and there are no upfiring Atmos speakers, but for plug-and-play home cinema this is flexible and often fun.

Overall: 3.5/5


Dolby Atmos: Yes
DTS:X: Yes
Multichannel input: No
Multichannel pre-out: No
Multichannel output (claimed): 5 x 100W (into 6 ohms)
Multiroom: Yes. Zone 2 audio line-out
AV inputs: 1 x digital optical audio input; 1 x digital coaxial audio input; 3 x analogue inputs
HDMI: Yes. 4 x inputs; 1 x output
Component video: No
Video upscaling: Yes. To 4K
Dimensions (AVR): 435(w) x 328(d) x 160(h)mm
Weight (AVR): 8.2kg

Features: 2 x subwoofer pre-outs; Bluetooth receiver; Dolby Height Virtualization; DTS Virtual:X; HDMI ARC; Advanced Music Optimizer; Vocal Enhancer; tone control (front L/R channels); 4K HDR passthrough (including Dolby Vision); powered USB port; AM/FM tuner; onscreen display; AKM 384kHz/32-bit; supplied with 5.1 speaker system (4 x full-range satellites; 1 x full-range centre channel; 1 x 6.5in subwoofer)