ONKYO TA-6711: As Good As It Looks

Onkyo made some well regarded products in the past and is making very decent HiFi even today. It always gives very good quality for the price and maybe it is the formula that made it survive for decades.

During analog tape era, it made few excellent decks, the most popular being TA-2900 (or TA-2090 in USA), the one with so many buttons and LEDs only matched by it’s contemporary tuner… T-9990 (T-9090 Mk2 in USA).

The last high class deck from this company hit the market in 1994. It is Onkyo TA-6711. Not recognized by many, this one is the deck I will talk about. The list price of TA-6711 was around 850 USD, which is comparable to Sony TC-KA6ES and Pioneer CT’S920S (a little brother of renowed CT-95).

TA-6711 was made in black and champagne color. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I like champagne much more than black – it looks so elegant to me, except the ugly “3 HEAD DUAL…” sentence under cassette compartment window. This looks so vulgar, without any style, I would like nothing to be there or at least to use some other font just like on Nakamichi 680ZX, for example.

Everything else looks like symbiosis of old and new design: relatively small buttons on the large deck – you will have to read what they mean until you learn their position. But the transport buttons and large wheel on record level control are metal covered – really nice touch. The cassette compartment opens with no motor assistance (strange for these days) going straight forward and then changing trajectory and angle – like on old Technics  RS-M85 if I remember right.

The display is fairly large but symbols (play, pause) are pretty small, and so are the Accubias, Dolby and other marks on it. Interestingly, it has five levels of dimming.

Together with retro styling there are two front connectors for microphones but, sadly, no connector for the headphones at all. I can’t explain this decision, like someone was looking at the old HiFi catalogs and then decided that modern user (at that time) would not use headphones connected to deck but will use… microphones???

Anyway, I survived this 🙂

Accubias system is elaborated through years but Onkyo kept using it just to adjust… bias of course. No sensivity or equalization, just bias. It is another enigma to me. The good thing is that auto calibrated bias could be overridden manually. It is implemented by an encoder which changes bias in discrete steps and this is displayed well, with approx. 10 steps on each + or – side. The user can adjust bias for left or right channel independently. During the recording process both channels can be adjusted but onlz together. This is well done, but I am not sure if the user would have any clue how to adjust each channel by ear without using signal generator and proper measurement device. Maybe he should record sounds only on one channel and adjust it, and then on another.

Inside, this deck has one very large PCB and that is responsible for most functions. I spotted some interesting high quality electrolytic capacitors and one that is enormous for a deck – having declared capacity of 22 mF!

The transport is the one already used in Yamaha and Harman Kardon decks – pretty large flywheels which are belt driven from DC motor, reel motor using gears and also an ancillary motor for mode change. The transport is solid but nothing so special – I like it more than the one on latest Kenwood decks, Aiwas or old ALPS garbage, but Sankyo, older Nakamichi (not to mention Revox) and dozen others are much better made.

My friend Endre from Budapest found a flaw: the belt that rotates the flywheels is only approx 4 mm wide and DC motor engages only during recording or playback. This is good for the motor but bad for the belt which has to be good quality one or will pretty soon degrade overall wow&flutter characteristics.

Sound

Onkyo TA-6711, like some other decks from the latest generation, forces crystal clear sound and excellent 3D imaging – many will praise it for this. During the era when CD was the emperor of audio territories, TA-6711 tried to be in line with this giving comparable and compatible reproduction. Taking this in account the precise reproduction of TA-6711 is so good that I could actually feel the finest details, even the air around single instrument, a the final plus was that all of this was reproduced pretty easy, without using additional efforts – quite different comparing it to Kenwood KX-9050S, for instance. The bass is strong, full bodied and a little emphasized – which is a feature of some top notch decks. Beside this, the sound is a little on the warm side and is enough pleasant for a long term listening.

There is a little to complain about TA-6711 sound, one thing being less dynamic towards some high quality competitors. To be true, the recording is not compressed but I would like to hear more dynamic than I did. Additionally, although relaxed and pretty transparent, Onkyo TA-6711 doesn’t engage listener in the way some others do, but it’s sound is well enough to put it in the highest category, or just half step below.

Conclusion

Onkyo TA-6711 was a very good contender. Champagne version makes it a very special device – so beautiful and so elegant at the same time. It is very lucid mixture of old and new design, like retro radio in the living room that is made using modern technology.

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