Onkyo CS-265 Review: Bringing the Compact System Back

Onkyo CS-265 Review: Bringing the Compact System Back
Japanese audio equipment manufacturer Onkyo is a hit among audiophiles and home cinema enthusiasts, and with good reason. The company manufactures speakers, multimedia products and stereo amplifiers, among other things. However, Onkyo is best known for its range of AV receivers, which are considered some of the best in the world.

Needless to say, Onkyo knows how to build excellent amplifiers, and does a decent job with speakers too. It's also one of the few companies still produces compact systems, which most manufacturers consider too niche a product category to bother with. Today, we're reviewing the Rs. 22,500 Onkyo CS-265 compact system, a product that offers an amplifier, source and speakers in a convenient package. We're big fans of the concept of compact systems, so we're keen to find out if the CS-265 lives up to our expectations.

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Design and specifications
The Onkyo CS-265 is a typical compact system, made up of a single powered head unit and a pair of passive stereo speakers. The main unit is the Onkyo CR-265 CD receiver, which is primarily an amplifier with an integrated CD player, but also features USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The amplifier is capable of powering two speakers with up to 20W of power output, with a frequency response range of 30-22,000Hz. It weighs 1.9kg and measures 215x99x273mm. The back has inputs for RCA line-in, an FM antenna connector, and outputs for the speakers. The front has the CD tray, a headphones-out socket and a USB port. The physical controls are on the top, along with the NFC receiver.

The D-T25 2-way speakers feature 10cm woofers and 2cm tweeters. They're simple and compact, weighing just 1.7kg and measuring 130x210x176mm each. They have a maximum power input rating of 40W and a frequency response range of 80-20,000Hz, which makes them well suited to run with the CR-265 receiver.

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The CS-265 isn't the best looking compact system you can find, but it isn't the worst either. It has the typical Onkyo aesthetic, with a glossy black finish, curved edges and a basic digital monochrome display. It is unobtrusive and clean, andwon't get a lot of attention on its own. The speakers have the same glossy black finish as the receiver, making all the components match perfectly.

The package features a remote, which although plasticky and cheap looking, is durable and extremely useful. Every single aspect of the CS-265 can be controlled by the remote, including source selection, playback controls, tone adjustment, volume, and the display. Also included is a power cord, speaker cables, FM and AM antennae, and floor pads.

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Performance
We used a handful or source devices including a USB flash drive, CDs, and an Android smartphone. We also plugged the system directly into our TV to test sound output in movies and TV shows. Focus tracks for the review were Suit and Tie by Justin Timberlake on CD, a cover of Sexual Healing by the Hot 8 Brass Band in 320kbps MP3 format, and Bloodflows by SOHN in 16/44.1 FLAC (played through the Android smartphone over Bluetooth). The USB input on the player itself does not support lossless formats, but these can be played through a connected source device.

We started with Suit and Tie on CD, and the first thing evident about the sound was the power and punch. Despite the small size of the system, there's considerable attack and drive to the music. There's a very distinct sonic signature as well, and it's far from neutral. The woofers do a fair job of producing defined, meaty bass, while the tweeters handle the highs well enough. This starts from the beginning of the track, and the bass tends to thump its way through the rest of the track as well.

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Next up was the cover of Sexual Healing. The quality of the low-frequency handling was even more evident in this track, especially during the trombone sections, which felt almost as realistic as being seated in front of a live brass band. There's a strong reverb to the lows, showing off excellent bass response. This continues through the sub-mids as well. Fortunately, this doesn't tend to affect the highs negatively, as the tweeters continue to work through the thump.

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We moved on to Bloodflows, which once again proved the system's capability with sub-mids, but also highlighted weaknesses with the upper mids. There seems to be a significant drop in the upper-mid range until the tweeters take over with the highs. Although not perfect, the sound is adequate most of the time, and definitely has a warm, punchy character to it. We particularly enjoyed this signature at home, as it offered a loud, room-filling and immersive musical experience. Imaging and soundstaging were excellent as well.

Finally, we watched a few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. While the sheer loudness and thump make the system good to watch television and movies with, there are some shortcomings. Vocal clarity felt lacking at times, while soundtracks were very evidently strengthened, sometimes at the cost of other effects. It was a massive improvement over the TV's built-in speakers though, so we can't complain too much.

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Verdict
The Onkyo CS-265 compact system is a niche product; purist audiophiles will prefer more accomplished individual components, while people on a budget or with space constraints are more likely to stick to headphones or smaller single-unit speakers. Compact systems satisfy those people who want a taste of the hi-fi stereo experience without spending the big bucks that this persuasion usually entails.

That said, the CS-265 is an excellent compact system. It does have tonal weaknesses and won't satisfy those seeking a neutral sound. However, it's an excellent step up for headphone users and starter hi-fi enthusiasts, and offers a strong punchy sound that will suit bass-heads and anyone looking for a simple home audio experience. At Rs. 22,500, you're getting an excellent product that will work well for casual listening at home.

Price (MRP): Rs. 22,500

Pros
  • Simple, understated looks
  • Compact package that will fit into small spaces
  • Excellent lows and punchy, strong bass
  • Loud for such a small unit
  • Well priced

Cons

  • Weak upper-mids
  • Could be better tonally

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4
  • Performance: 4
  • Value for money: 4
  • Overall: 4
Comments

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Ali Pardiwala writes about audio and video devices for Gadgets 360 out of Mumbai, and has covered the industry for a decade now. Ali is a Senior Reviewer for Gadgets 360, where he has regularly written about televisions, home entertainment, and mobile gaming as well. He is a firm believer in 4K and HDR on televisions, and believes that true wireless earphones are the future of the personal audio industry. Ali is available on Twitter as @AliusPardius and on email at alip@ndtv.com, so do send in ...More

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