Onkyo CS-545UK review

DAB and iPhone dock star on micro hi-fi for very small rooms

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After conquering the AV receiver market, Onkyo has turned its attentions from home cinema to hi-fi with a feature-packed micro system that comes in at a price that challenges a mid-range iPhone dock – and even includes one on its roof.

Despite the fact that it’s been around for yonks, DAB tuners still aren't the default on audio gear in the UK, so it’s nice to see a dedicated UK version from Onkyo complete with access to BBC 6 Music and crystal clear Radio 5 Live.

Onkyo CS-545UK: Connections

An iPod/iPhone dock adorns the top of this unit, though it can be hidden away under a flap. A brushed aluminium front includes a CD tray and navigational buttons, an input toggler, knobs for tone, balance and volume (the latter suitably huge) alongside a headphones output and a USB slot that’s capable of reading MP3 and WMA audio files from a stick or drive.

Around the back it’s a lot more comprehensive; stereo speaker connections sit next to a single 3.5mm jack aux input, outputs for a subwoofer and composite video (the latter allowing you to hook-up to a TV to watch video from an iPod or iPhone).

Onkyo CS-545UK: Ease of use

Two radio tuners – DAB and FM tuner – tune-in quickly, though scrolling through stations is tricky. Swapping between sources proves easy via the remote, though in general the tiny buttons are a letdown. That’s particularly the case when operating either a docked iPhone’s menus or while navigating MP3 or WMA files on a USB stick; the former is difficult to do from a distance, obviously, while the latter suffers from an LCD screen that can’t show enough information.

For best sound quality, the CD tray is the highlight of this unit if you stick to purchased discs, though it can also spin CD-R and CD-RW discs with MP3 or WMA files burned on as data.

Onkyo CS-545UK: Sound Quality

If you’re lacking speakers to pair with the CS-545UK, we’d recommend steering clear or of (or upgrading from) the two that Onkyo can supply. Although the sound it produces is never as warm and rounded as we’d like, the amplifier performs adequately with better speakers. Use them with the two supplied or optional (depending on the package you buy) speakers and there’s simply not enough bass. It’s a problem that’s not helped by the Super Bass feature, whose blanket approach tends to deaden vocals.

That goes double for MP3 from all sources – we’d recommend you don’t throw out your CD collection just yet if you’re thinking of investing in the CS-545UK, because it’s only with those that this micro gets near hi-fi. Elsewhere sound from the DAB tuner is excellent.

Onkyo CS-545UK: Verdict

The CS-545UK’s list price of £250 without speakers seems reasonable – and though the add-on speakers aren’t great quality they’re probably worth the £100 extra cost if you’re really stuck. Still, better to opt for the ‘sans speakers’ package, which we spotted online for as little as £199 in black or silver.

It may not have media streaming options – such as Apple Airplay – to challenge systems twice its price (such as the Marantz Melody Media), but it price-matches closer competition from the likes of Denon while adding power.
A nicely priced micro hi-fi with DAB, MP3 and iPhone features that appear good value, though you’ll need some decent speakers to keep it company.

Onkyo CS-545UK price: £299 system, £199 w/o speakers

Onkyo CS-545UK launch date: Out now, link Onkyo