Onkyo FR-435

Colin Walker ([email protected])
August 2000

The FR-435 is an odd creature, neither fish nor fowl. Who is it aimed at? It costs a lot more than the standard 3 in 1 micro system, and at this price people would be more likely to buy separates. It's a full size receiver with a CD player & MD recorder built in. It's also the head of Onkyo's FR series of integrated systems, the others being the micro systems FR-S3 & FR-S7 (also CD / MD / Tuner / Amps soon to be superseded by the micro system FR-S77 which supports MDLP, and has digital record level adjustment.). The FR-435 comes either alone, or packaged with speakers as the Liverpool L-435.

All of the FR series use circuitry borrowed from Onkyo's mid-range components / Intec systems - good stuff, but not quite the top of the line Integra. The tuner is very roughly equivalently spec'ed to the T-4211's FM section, the MD section to the MD-2321, the CD player the DX-7222, the amp has no direct equivalent. Though in each case the separate component has features lacking in the FR-435 e.g. the MD-2321 records in mono, the FR-435 doesn't.

Basically you get a whole system in one handsome box, provide speakers and away you go. In one fell swoop you also sever yourself from the interconnect wars, mortally wounding your credibility. So if you're into bi-wiring, spiking your CD player, floating your components on inflatable beds, think co-ax transfers digital better than optical etc., this product does not cater for you, but then the very word "receiver" had already sent you fleeing.

Initial Impressions

There's a trap for the unwary upon taking it out of the box. Commendably Onkyo have stopped using polystyrene packing in favour of cardboard. But this does not support the unit well, and following the pictorial directions for removal may damage the front control flap. Mind your grip that you don't let any weight bear on that flap.

It's labelled silver, but it's almost champagne. Quite an eye catcher in the flesh. A clean & minimal exterior. Major controls only visible, minor controls concealed under flap in middle. It seems very deep, as it's not high, and the amplifier necessitates extending the case back a long way.

Reasonably heavy for the size at 8.4kg because there's a fair bit in there. Rigid steel case. Thick pressed / machined brushed aluminium face plate, big aluminium volume knob. Four big plastic feet with rubber pads. Trim around MD / CD transports and other buttons are plastic. Everything moves smoothly, feels good. The inside is clean and straight, no messy wire bundles or lopsided components hanging off the board. I like Onkyo internals, they always seem to manage a very clean interior. IMO in this price range only NAD has better looking viscera. I may be warped but this stuff is important to me, and I think you can tell a lot about a piece of equipment by looking inside.

Initial Setup

The first time powering up, the FR-435 seeks out an RDS station to set the clock, so the aerial should be plugged in first. No RDS stations near me, so I had to set the clock manually. If power is cut, it loses the clock, annoying to me, but I guess it was designed with the presence of RDS in mind.


Through the top grill the power supply and power amp are visible. Two transformers account for a lot of the unit's weight, a large one feeding the analogue sections, and a smaller one for the digital. Onkyo make a big point of their discrete output stages, and the arse end of four large power transistors can be seen bolted to a big extruded aluminium heat sink. The case is open above & below the heat sink for airflow, and it does get a little warm. A heat shield separates the power amp and supply from the CD / MD / Tuner section. No electronic soft start circuitry here, relays audibly first power up the amplifier, and then connect the speakers once everything has settled. The relays also disconnect the speakers when headphones are plugged in.

It puts 43W DIN into 4ohms, and 31W RMS into 8ohms @0.2% THD. That might seem small, but this is a conservatively built lazy amp, I've never turned it past 10 o'clock. If you have a reasonably efficient pair of speakers the size shouldn't be a problem. If it's not enough for you later on, you can feed a bigger power amp from the preamp outputs, or use the dedicated subwoofer output, and relieve it of low frequency duty. If this amount of transformer, silicon, and heatsink came from another manufacturer, the claimed power output would be a bit higher. (For example there is a Sony home theatre receiver which claims 5x100W with a transformer of similar size, and little more heatsink.)

It sounds far better than any chain store special as it doesn't add distortion when turned up. However it might be considered the weakest link in this package in terms of hi-fi. The THD at rated power is unexceptional, and the damping factor is OK but also not amazing.

The tone controls provide up to 8dB of boost/cut at 100Hz and 10 000Hz. There is also a Super Bass control for an optional fixed 8dB boost at 40Hz, you can watch your bookshelf speaker cones flail around helplessly in the region where the port unloads them.

The headphone amplifier deserves a mention too. Drives a pair of Sennheisers very nicely.


On the rear panel from left to right: Digital Output & Digital Input (Optical), Coax FM Antenna In, 2x RI Jacks (for controlling other Onkyo equipment), Line In 1, Line In 2, Tape Out (Rec), Tape In (Play), Processor Out, Processor In (these come bridged), Subwoofer Out, Speaker Out L & R.

All of the analogue connections use RCA jacks, and are relatively sturdy for the type, though not gold plated - may need more frequent cleaning down the track. The speaker outputs use banana plug compatible binding posts, though you'll have to ping the protective plastic inserts out to use bananas.

The subwoofer output is a full range mono mixdown of the stereo. Depending on what speakers / crossover / subwoofer you have, you may want to use the Processor In & Out and loop back instead of this, but anyway it's pretty flexible.

Of interest to computer owners is that the digital output is always active, and outputs whatever preamp input is active. This includes analogue sources. So you've effectively got a high quality outboard ADC / DAC, certainly much better than your garden variety soundcard. I guess the output is a 20 bit signal, given that the ADC / internal processing is 20 bit, except perhaps for CD, but I don't know. I also don't know if it is resampled to 44.1kHz, if coming from 48 or 32kHz on the digital input, there's no information given about it.

If you were after a RIAA equalised phono input, I'm afraid you're out of luck.

All of the inputs can be renamed to match what is connected.
Tape can be renamed DAT or VCR.
Line 1 can be renamed DVD, VIDEO DISC, TV, DSR, CS, or BS.
Line 2 can be renamed DVD, VIDEO DISC, PC, TV, DSR, CS, or BS.
Digital can be renamed DVD/dig, V.DISC/dig, PC/dig, DSR/dig, CS/dig, or BS/dig.

Interface & Remote

The interface is fairly well designed. 90% of the time only three buttons (MD play, CD play, Tuner) plus the jog wheel are used. When playing a CD or MD, the jog wheel changes track instantly, no need to press enter. When listening to the radio it changes station. It adjusts the tone controls, though I feel dedicated knobs would have been better . And of course it titles. In any given menu the interface remembers the last option you used, and will present that option first next time. The manual is almost superfluous, I needed it a couple of times for things I found counterintuitive - e.g. some editing options (erase, move) are not available when the MD is playing, as are some playback options.

If you lose the supplied remote, not to worry, most every function can still be accessed from the main unit. The remote is Onkyo RI compatible and will theoretically operate any Onkyo equipment (though another Onkyo remote couldn't select the tuner on this one - everything else fine). There is also an optional accessory remote you can buy which has an alphabetical keyboard especially for MD titling. This optional remote also enables a couple of otherwise unusable functions such as looping between two preset points (useful for guitarists trying to nail those difficult licks?).

The supplied remote can't control recording, but otherwise it's very functional.

CD Player

Fairly standard issue CD player. 1 bit delta sigma type converter thingy, 8x oversampling. However it has an exceptionally good transport, that will play almost any CD without skipping or complaining. Unfortunately one CD of mine has a large scratch that previously no CD player would play. Guess what this Onkyo did. In search of a new challenge an aquaintance supplied a CD that had been on his car floor for a while, a real scratch-fest. The FR-435 also played it without fuss. I was impressed. The top of the line Onkyo Integra CD player won't do that, I know, I tried. So if you exert a modicum of care for your CDs, you shouldn't have any playback problems.

I don't know if it will play CD-Rs or not, don't own any. Seems to be the more expensive a player is, the less likely it will. Some Onkyo DVD players won't, so if it's important to you, check.

One slight mis-feature of the CD player is that it won't display remaining time properly on a CD running longer than 74 minutes. This was pointed out on a piece of paper slipped into the box. I'll be losing a lot of sleep over this one I'm sure. I also noticed CDs with more than say 25-30 tracks had some problems displaying remaining time on the last few tracks.

It does not support CD Text AFAIK.

Up to 24 CDs can be named. The FR-435 stores the names in memory. Not sure how useful this is, I suppose it means you don't have to open the drawer to see what you left behind, but OK.


The tuner is FM only. This isn't the best tuner available but it's a very good one. Some of the most enjoyable listening I've had has been the Concert Programme. Being the 240V version the tuning range is 87.5-108MHz. There's an international version (with selectable line voltage) that also covers the Japanese FM band down to 76MHz.

It will automatically scan and set all the radio stations in the area (up to 30). This was one of the fastest and most accurate autoscans I've seen, but hey it happens once in the lifetime of the unit, big deal. Once stations are set, you're ready to go.

Much appreciated is the ability to title stations, too hard for me to remember which frequency is which station. If you don't title the station yourself, the Program Service name will be displayed for RDS stations, otherwise the frequency is displayed. Radio Text if available can be displayed by pressing the (wait for it...) display button.


There are 5 types of timers, or maybe only 3 depending on how you define it. There's a sleep timer, adjustable anywhere from 90 minutes down. It's nominally selectable in 10 minute steps, but if you had one of those ackward situations where one and a half hours just wouldn't do, it had to be one hour and twenty seven minutes, there's a way to do it. Phew! There's a one shot record timer, which can be set up to a week in advance to record a radio show / external source. Then there are 3 alarm clock style timers, to turn the unit on, a one shot timer, a weekend timer, and a weekday timer. Any source can be used for the alarm clock style timers, use it as an expensive clock radio.

MD Section

Well, it's an MD recorder... Onkyo have not provided much information - 20 bit ADC / DACs and 20 bit processing. I wrote to them for more info, received a very courteous reply that some of my requested information was not "publicly available" but that the ATRAC is 4.5. 20 bits allow a theoretical 120dB dynamic range, but you'll only ever achieve that with some amazing outboard converters because of other bottlenecks such as the analog inputs with a S/N ratio of "only" 100dB. To be brutally honest, most of the music I listen to has less than 40dB dynamic range anyway, so you can stop taking me seriously now. (OK I do have a few classical CDs, but very few.) In any case 20 bits combined with ATRAC's sliding scale factor allows more accurate small signal representation regardless of absolute dynamic range.

The display flashes "Welcome" when you insert a disc. The MD slot tilts slightly upward to fit the way your hand naturally presents an MD. This is fine but I think that the insertion could be smoother, the shutter tends to catch if not inserted in exactly the right way. . The transport is quiet and fast. Discs get warm after they've been in there a while.


Titling seems to have spilled out of the MD section and infected the rest of the unit. Obviously you can title MDs, but as previously stated, you can title radio stations, CDs, and rename inputs.

There's a list of preset words (Easy Title) which can be used for titling but honestly they're a bit lame, and were obviously thought up by a Japanese person. Have a look for yourself. Would you use these words? Gee I think I'll record "Best of Euro Special Super Happy TECHNO Hit Songs". Well maybe I'm too harsh.

Onkyo Easy Title List
BALLAD LIVE African Anthology Heavy
BLUES POPS American Best of __ Hit Songs
CLASSIC REGGAE Asian Collection Omnibus
DANCE ROCK British Favourite Selection
FUSION SOUL Euro Happy Special
JAZZ TECHNO German Super
VOCAL Japanese

Titling is English only. I don't know if it can display kana or not.



Pressing the record button puts you into record pause, then play starts recording. You cannot title while recording. You cannot record in mono. Recording starts at the end of any previously recorded material.

There are three selectable synchro features. Level Synch places track marks in response to silence on both analogue & digital recordings. Signal Wait pauses recording after 4 seconds of silence. If a signal is detected within 26 seconds it will automatically start recording again, otherwise it will revert to record pause. Signal Synchro starts recording (from pause) in response to the presence of a external signal again either digital or analogue.

No date or time information is written to the MD.


Basically exactly what goes in appears on your MD. There is a sampling rate converter for 32kHz & 48kHz sources. You cannot adjust the digital recording level. Personally I already have a recorder with digital level adjustment and I have never used that feature, but it might be an important omission to some. (Most pop / rock CDs of the last decade are mastered so that the peaks hit the maximum level anyway thus you can't increase the level. CDs of the last couple of years are louder on average because they're compressed to hell. Though I've noticed some early / mid 80's CDs are mastered very quietly, and never peak near 0dB.) The recorder obeys SCMS faithfully.


As all inputs to the unit are expected to be normalised around a nominal line level, you can just press record and go without any level setting. But if faced with a low level signal, you can add make-up gain. The 11 segment level indicator marked in decibels helps. You cannot attenuate, but then you should never need to. You cannot adjust recording level while recording. The recording level setting is remembered between recording sessions.

CD Dubbing

As you'd expect from a CD/MD deck, it's very easy. Insert a CD and a blank MD. Press the CD Dubbing button. That's it. Of course you'll have to wait a little while, as it dubs in real time. If you want to only record one song, first play the song, and then push the CD Dubbing button while the song is playing. The CD will be cued back to the start of the song, the song will be recorded, then the MD will stop while the CD keeps playing. It's incredibly convenient, I wince when I think of all the time I spent cueing trying to make compilation MDs before. If the MD runs out before the song has finished, the half recorded song is automatically deleted. I can imagine some people would like this, but I would prefer to choose whether to keep the half song myself.


There are 5 basic editing functions - All Erase, Erase, Move, Divide, Combine. They are pretty self-explanatory. The Divide function uses a rehearsal mode. This puts a four second segment into memory, with the desired edit point in the middle of the segment. The segment loops, beginning from the edit point. The precise point of division can then be adjusted with 90 discrete steps over about a 3 second range. This works out at roughly 3 frame precision, I think. Combine also uses a rehearsal mode, you have to listen to the join before you can confirm it. I'm not sure that's very useful, I'd rather it were instant, but you can hurry it along.

Playback Modes

For both CD & MD there are five playback modes: repeat, 1 track, memory play (programmed order), random play, and finally chain link, in which the CD & MD decks alternate for continuous music, you change one while the other plays. You can only enter memory play and random play when the disc is stopped.


I'm very happy with the unit, but then I'm still in the honeymoon period - only had it a month - clearly I can't be trusted.. I think it sounds great. I'm listening to music more than ever before, and enjoying it a lot. It's really simplified my previous maze of cables, portables, adapters etc. So far there are no niggles about the purchase. Intellectually I appreciate that separates would have more features, better specs., and that ATRAC Type R is theoretically better etc., but I come back to the convenience, sound, and overall quality feel, and I don't care. I can expand it later if need be, so it's future-proofed to some extent. It killed several birds at once for me, but if you've already got an amplifier you like, you might consider some of the others here, for example the Sony which copies CDs at 4x normal speed. I dunno, it really is a chimera, I don't know what you'd compare it to.

For the price you could buy a CD/MD deck, and a receiver. Or even a CD player, an MD deck, and a receiver. So why didn't I? Well the separates available at that price did not excite me. I would have had to spend a lot more money to be satisfied, having experienced relatives hi-fi systems, I could not buy a ¥50 000 amplifier. Another factor is that I'm always moving, this is more transportable. Plus no other CD/MD deck has an optical out AFAIK, and I have been making digital dubs of field recordings. This was hopefully the best compromise with my wallet and situation. So I fit some narrow niche of people this product suits, but I don't know how many others there'd be.

With audio equipment in general, quality increases proportionately match price increases only to a certain point, and then you enter the region of ever diminishing returns. It's my belief that CD players reach this region very early on, amplifiers hold out for a while longer, but speakers can carve ragged bloody chunks out of your wallet without getting there. I think that most of this box is sitting on or around the knee of the curve. If you find yourself a nice pair of speakers (this is the time consuming soul destroying part), you can really start enjoying music without too much money in. After a lot of limited budget listening (Wharfedale, Infinity, Mission, Mirage, Sony) I settled on a pair of Paradigm Phantoms, but you're really on your own here.

Pros: High build quality, excellent fit & finish for price, good sound, convenience, style.
Cons: Lacks some common features, not the latest greatest ATRAC, zero snob value (maybe a pro?), expensive for one box.

The RRP is ¥85 000. However I'd say you could find it for ¥70 000 - ¥75 000 on the street, maybe even less.


(Compiled from web, catalogs, manual.)
Manufacturers RRP ¥85 000
Release Date 30th June 1999
Warranty 3 years (Possibly varies by country)
Power Consumption 110W(AC230V)
Dimensions 435x90x420
Weight 8.4kg

Amplifier Section

Power Output 2x43W @ 4ohms 1kHz DIN
2x36W @ 6ohms 1kHz DIN
2x32W @ 8ohms 1kHz DIN

2x31W RMS @ 8ohms 1kHz 0.2%THD

THD 0.2% @ rated power
IMD 0.2% @ rated power
Damping Factor 40 @ 8ohms
Sensitivity & Impedance
Line-1 In
Line-2 In
Processor In
200mV 50kohms
200mV 50kohms
200mV 50kohms
200mV 50kohms
Freqency Response 10-50 000Hz +0/-3dB
Tone Control
Super Bass
+-8db @ 100Hz
+-8db @ 10 000Hz
+8db @ 40Hz
Signal To Noise Ratio
Line-1 In
Line-2 In
Processor In
100dB (IHF A)
100dB (IHF A)
100dB (IHF A)
100dB (IHF A)
Muting -50dB

CD Player

DAC 1bit 8x Oversampling
Frequency Response 5-20 000Hz +-1.5dB

MD Recorder

ADC/DAC 20bit
Frequency Response 10-20 000Hz +-2dB


Tuning Range 87.50 to 108.00MHZ (50kHz steps)
Usable Sensitivity Mono:
12.8dBf, 1.2uV (75 ohms IHF)
1.0uV (75 ohms DIN)
18.0dBf, 2.2uV (75 ohms IHF)
25.0uV (75 ohms DIN)
50dB Quieting Sensitivity Mono:
18.8dBf, 2.4uV (75 ohms IHF)
38.8dBf, 24uV (75 ohms IHF)
Capture Ratio 2.0dB
Image Rejection Ratio 85dB
IF Rejection Ratio 90dB
S/N Ratio Mono: 73dB IHF
Stereo: 67dB IHF
Harmonic Distortion Mono: 0.5%
Stereo: 0.8%
Frequency Response 30-15 000Hz (+-1.5dB)
Stereo Separation 40dB at 1 000Hz
30dB at 100 to 10 000Hz


Remote Control
2 AA Batteries
Indoor FM Antenna

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