Onkyo TX-NR626 review
Hefty home cinema receivers, with all their associated speakers and cabling, don't fit neatly into the ideal modern home, with its slender mobile, wireless devices. That said, the new mid-range Onkyo TX-NR626 is moving forward with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in, so you can use it to play audio files from a laptop or NAS, smartphone or tablet.
Of course it's main purpose is still to make your movies sound great.
The Onkyo TX-NR626 is available in silver and black. The front panel has the minimum amount of clutter, with a single row of buttons for selecting the active input, a chunky volume dial and a bright, easy-to-read LED display. The front panel is also home to a 6.3mm headphone jack, composite video and stereo RCA audio inputs, a 3.5mm input for the calibration microphone and a USB port at the front.
As we've come to expect from high quality amplifiers, the TX-NR626 is bulging with connectivity options. There are binding post connections for seven satellite speakers and twin subwoofer pre-outputs, which means you could run a 7.2 surround sound setup, assuming you have the space for one. The zone 2 speaker terminals also use binding posts, which is an upgrade over the spring terminals found in last year's model.
Its six HDMI ports mean you can connect a set-top box, Blu-ray player a games consoles and still have space for more. One channel supports MHL video, which means you’ll be able to display video from a compatible smartphone on your TV. Four of its HDMI inputs support 4K upscaling, but we were unable to test the quality of it as we didn’t have a 4K TV in the labs.
It’s a good feature to have, though, and should prove beneficial in the next few years. The TX-NR626’s two HDMI outputs let you connect two displays simultaneously, so you won't need to swap cables manually when moving between a TV and a projector. The main output supports an Audio Return Channel (ARC), which means the amplifier will be able to output your TV’s sound to speakers attached to the TX-NR626.
There’s support for older devices, too, and the TX-NR626 has four composite video inputs, one component input and one component output on the back panel. It also has a good complement of audio ports, with two digital coaxial inputs, one digital optical and six stereo RCA inputs. You can also use the TX-NR626 to enjoy AM and FM radio thanks to antenna connections, and its Ethernet port lets you listen to streamed music and music from online services.
WIRELESS, ONLINE AND SETUP
Previous receivers required USB adaptors for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, but as we mentioned above they are both built-in to the TX-NR626. The Bluetooth is great for convenient streaming from say a smartphone, though there's no Airplay support here, while using Wi-Fi you can stream high-quality loseless files from any storage device on your network, it's also handy for getting online.
There's good reasons to get online, too, as the TX-NR626 supports Aupeo!, Last.fm, Spotify and TuneIn radio streaming, along with Apple Lossless, FLAC, MP3 and WAV streaming from a PC or NAS device. You can use the front USB port to play files directly from a flash drive, but you can't use it to connect a smartphone or tablet.
Setup is easy thanks to the bundled Audyssey microphone. It automatically calibrates the levels and distances of each speaker with impressive accuracy. The menu system appears on your TV screen and its icon-based layout is far easier to navigate than that of previous models. All the options are easy to find and have sensible labels.
The button-filled remote control remains unchanged from previous models, so unless you're already familiar with it you should expect to spend some time learning the location of important keys.
With 160W of power per channel, the TX-NR626 should be more than capable of powering a mid-range home cinema system, and it proved its worth during our testing. With our 5.1 setup, it produced a dynamic soundstage that was packed with plenty of detail, although the automated setup had put a bit too much emphasis on bass.
After manually lowering the subwoofer channel, the fast-paced action sequences of Star Trek had superb presence with plenty of room-shaking rumble from lower-range frequencies. Crossover points felt spot-on, with an immersive surround sound mix that was accurately spread across our five satellites. Naturally, all the major surround sound formats are supported, including DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.
The TX-NR626 is ideal for home cinema enthusiasts looking to expand from a 5.1 setup to something a little bigger. If five satellites are plenty, the cheaper TX-NR525 may be a better buy. The TX-NR626 also lacks Airplay, which other, similarly priced receivers support, and Apple owners are likely to miss it. If you want complete flexibility, however, and the option to add more speakers at a later date, the NR626 is still great value.