Onkyo HT-S3910 AVR/5.1 Speaker System Combi

This 5.1 combi system doesn't offer much mileage from its onboard 3D audio decoding, but in other ways it offers solid value for money, reckons Mark Craven

All-in-one home cinema systems, which were the darlings of the AV market at the turn of the century, have fallen so far out of fashion that practically all manufacturers have given up on them. At first glance, you might think Onkyo's HT-S3910 is a lone holdout against the soundbar revolution, but then you clock that it lacks the integrated disc player that made all-in-one systems so convenient.

So what is it then? Basically, it's an AV receiver and speaker package, bundled together and shipped with the necessary speaker cables. In the streaming age of 2020, you could argue it's all that's needed to graduate from a TV sound system to genuine home cinema.

Vertically Challenged
You could also argue that the HT-S3910 is a bit of a conundrum, because while its feature list includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding (as befits a 2020 AV receiver), its channel count is only five. Furthermore, the system's touted 3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos playback transpires not to come from Dolby-enabled upfiring units tucked into the front L/R speakers (as you might reasonably expect), but the use of the surround models as front heights. Which isn't what most people will think of as Dolby Atmos, and isn't much of a mass market proposition (because, at the very least, it involves hammering away at walls). Of course, it's better to have Atmos/DTS:X processing than not (it's an upgrade path, after all), and it's joined here by virtual variants.

Elsewhere, the specification of the AV receiver element of the HT-S3910 is pretty solid. There's a quartet of HDMI inputs, and one output (ARC-enabled for an easy connection to a TV); 4K HDR passthrough (with Dolby Vision support); Bluetooth audio streaming; 4K upscaling; a full-size headphone output; Zone B linelevel output; FM/AM tuner; and a powered USB port on the rear to feed any HDMI streaming stick you might want to connect.

So what's missing? Ethernet/Wi-Fi connectivity (this isn't a networkable receiver) and any form of automated EQ (which, in Onkyo's case, would be AccuEQ). Speaker setup therefore borders on plonk-and-play, although manual configuration of crossover, distance and level is provided. When up and running, there's also a tone control function and dialogue enhancement tool (accessed by the 'Vocal' button on the remote), plus audio modes including All Channel Stereo.

All this isn't a bad haul considering the £400 system price, although the budget nature of the accompanying speakers shows where the money has gone. Onkyo's six cabinets are all fairly agreeably designed (by being non-descript) but you'll immediately notice they feel lightweight.

The system contains four identical smallscale cabinets (front L/R, and surround), a wider centre channel, and a boxy passive subwoofer that takes its power from the AVR unit. It has a down-firing 6.5in driver, which doesn't raise hopes of chest-crushing bass.

All the satellite speakers use a single full-range driver (even the centre channel, although its enlarged cabinet size helps it claim a slightly deeper frequency response). On the back are spring-clip terminals to accept Onkyo's bare-wire speaker cabling, and keyhole wall-mount fixing.