Technically, the gargantuan HT-S777C is a home theater in a box: It comes in a single box, albeit one that stands about 5 feet tall and weighs a hefty 33 pounds. But with sound and video like this, who cares how big the box is?
This $700 unit includes a receiver and a separate DVD player. You essentially get Onkyo's HT-S770 home theater system plus the DV-CP702 six-disc DVD changer. Connected via S-Video, the DVD player reproduced rich purples and true flesh tones, while displaying great details - wrinkles in an actor's face were clear and digital effects were crisp. The 6.1 speaker setup paired with Dolby Digital EX to create an encompassing auditory experience. I heard portions of "The Matrix Reloaded" soundtrack that I couldn't detect on other systems.
The HT-S777C also starred in CD playback, with distinct treble, bass, and middle tones. The treble never got tinny, and the bass never sounded muddy. The clarity of the string section of an orchestral piece was so riveting that it gave me chills.
But with high-end sound comes high-end setup headaches. The rear panel of the receiver is a mass of jacks and ports, and the speaker wires were difficult to connect and dislodged easily. I had trouble finding some settings, such as the one used to change the speaker distance from the listener to determine proper balance. For some reason, the DVD player component is deeper than the receiver, creating an odd balancing act when I tried to stack the two. And you'll need to remember to connect the DVD to the receiver with the included digital coaxial cable--a step you would avoid with a combined DVD player and receiver.
Exceptional sound and great video at a decent price, but you may need a technician to set up everything for you.