Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Onkyo TX-NR636 review

Katharine Byrne
3 Mar 2015
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
449
inc VAT

The TX-NR636 is a fantastic AV receiver with lots of 4K-ready ports, and Atmos support gives it a great (if expensive) edge over its rivals

Advertisement

Specifications

HDMI inputs/outputs total: 7/2, HDMI 2 inputs/outputs total: 5/1, Output resolutions: 720p, 1080p, 4K, Wireless support: 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1, Speaker configuration: 7.2, RMS power output total: 1,120W, Size: 435x173x329mm

From the outside, you'd be forgiven for thinking Onkyo's new mid-range TX-NR636 AV receiver was just a simple update of last year's TX-NR626. Available in silver and black, its near identical chassis still measures a chunky 435x173x329mm, but the TX-NR636 has plenty of new, must-have features for anyone looking to futureproof their home cinema setup.

For starters, it's one of the only AV receivers currently available that supports Dolby Atmos, Dolby's three-dimensional multichannel surround sound technology that's been gradually making its way into commercial cinemas over the last three years. The great thing about the home version of Atmos, though, is that you don't need a whopping 128 individual speakers to get a similar effect in your living room; Atmos Home is able to deliver a similar level of accuracy through a much smaller surround sound system.

ATMOS-PHERIC

It will take some work to get the full effect, as it not only requires some Atmos-enabled speakers but also the ability to install at least two of them in your ceiling, as the main advantage of Atmos is the ability to hear sounds from overhead as well as all around you. This obviously won't be possible for everyone, but fortunately both hurdles can be overcome if you're willing to put in a bit of effort.

For those that don't want to replace their entire sound system, Atmos-enabled up-firing Elevation speaker modules are available to work with your existing speakers. They can be placed on top of your current front and rear speakers to reflect any overhead sounds off your ceiling. If you choose to go for the up-firing speakers, Dolby recommends that your ceiling needs to have a hard, flat reflective surface that's between 2.44 and 3.66m high. The company also says that four Atmos enabled speakers will give you the best effect, with two on the front speakers and two on the rear, although that means stepping up to the more expensive TX-NR1030.

Onkyo SKH-410 speakers

^ Instead of installing Atmos speakers in your ceiling, Onkyo's upward-firing SKH-410 speakers will reflect the sound off your ceiling instead

We tested the TX-NR636's Atmos capabilities using the latter method, using a pair of Onkyo SKH-410 speakers sitting on top of our front speakers to hand. You'll have to buy these separately (currently £129 at time of writing from www.audiovisualonline.co.uk), but at least it saves you having to install anything in your ceiling.

The TX-NR636 will need to install a firmware update before Atmos is ready to go, which takes around 20 minutes. You'll also need a Blu-ray player that can decode Dolby TrueHD audio over bitstream; sadly this ruled out our original PS3, but we had no problems using a PS3 Slim once we'd set the audio settings to bitstream in the Blu-ray audio menu.  

We tested Atmos with a selection clips from a reference demo disc and Transformers: Age of Extinction, which is the first film available with an Atmos soundtrack. The effect was quite subtle, but sound effects like rain and splintering glass were certainly coming from above as opposed to anywhere else, adding a welcome sense of height to the overall soundscape.

However, the jump in quality wasn’t as impressive as moving from a stereo setup to a surround sound system, and at the moment we’re not entirely convinced that adding just two up-firing Atmos speakers really adds much to the overall sense of audio immersion. Still, the TX-NR636 certainly helped make the rest of our audio sound fantastic, so you certainly won’t be disappointed with it even if you’re not buying it for Atmos.

PLUG THE GAP

In addition to great sound, the TX-NR636 is bursting with ports, so it should cater for a wide range of home cinema setups. It's pretty futureproof for 4K content as well, as five of its seven HDMI outputs are HDMI 2.0 (including the one on the front), so you'll be able to play 4K video at a full 60Hz. Only one of them supports HDCP 2.2, though, so you'll have to use that one for when 4K streaming on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video finally arrives on platforms other than smart TVs.

Onkyo TX-NR636 rear ports

The TX-NR636 also has two HDMI 2.0 outputs, which is handy for connecting two displays simultaneously, as it means you won't have to keeping switching cables manually when you want to swap between a TV and projector. Again, only the main output supports HDCP 2.2, so you'll only be able to have one display running HDCP 2.2-protected 4K content at any given time, but it's still great to see this feature on a mid-range receiver.  The main output also supports an audio return channel (ARC), so you'll be able to output your TV's sound to your surround sound system as well.

There's support for older equipment that doesn't support HDMI, too, including three composite inputs, one composite output and component in and out. These connections are becoming increasingly redundant now that so many devices support HDMI, but removing them wouldn't help reduce the size of the unit anyway.

This leaves you stuck with Onkyo’s massive chassis, but at least you’re well catered for in terms of additional services. As well as AM and FM radio antenna connections and an Ethernet port for listening to streamed music from a PC or NAS via DLNA, Spotify, TuneIn, Aupeo! and Deezer all come built-in. However, with built-in wireless and Bluetooth, the Ethernet port is unlikely to get much use. The only major oversight is the lack of AirPlay, which will disappoint Apple owners.

Unsurprisingly, audio inputs are plentiful. With binding posts for seven satellite speakers and two subwoofer pre-outputs, you can run a 7.2 surround sound setup provided you've got the space. The TX-NR636's Zone 2 input terminal has binding posts as well, so you can power a pair of stereo speakers in another room. 

We're pleased to see Onkyo hasn't changed the TX-NR636's front panel design, as we were big fans of last year's single row of input select buttons and bright LED display. There's also a useful selection of front-facing inputs to complement the bevy of connections round the back, including a 6.3mm headphone jack, a USB port for playing MP3, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless and WMA Lossless files from a flash drive, a 3.5mm calibration microphone and an MHL-compatible HDMI input, which lets you watch Full HD videos from compatible mobile devices on your TV. The latter was located round the back on the TX-NR626, but its new location on the front now makes it a lot easier to connect a compatible smartphone or tablet rather than reaching round the back all the time. 

MIC CHECK

The TX-NR636 is simple to set up thanks to its bundled Onkyo AccuEQ microphone which automatically calibrates the levels and distance of each speaker. The functional set of menus are also easy to follow and navigate. While the TX-NR636 still doesn’t have the slickest interface in the world, at least not compared to a modern smart TV, it’s still better than most others we’ve seen and it gives you a variety of options to tinker with.

These include reassigning your inputs and outputs, speaker setup, audio adjust, source setup, listening mode presets for each individual source, and volume setup if you want to limit the maximum volume or set your headphones to a particular dB rating, for example. There are also hardware settings for Bluetooth, HDMI, the radio tuner, auto standby and connecting the receiver to your home network.

To use Spotify and the other online services, you’ll need to select the Network Service option on the main home menu. TuneIn and Aupeo! will let you jump straight in, but you’ll need the respective premium accounts for Spotify and Deezer. Luckily, Spotify is controlled via its smartphone app, so you won’t have to contend with the TX-NR636’s terrible file system interface like the rest of the services.

Onkyo TX-NR636 remote

The remote isn’t great either, as its spongy buttons don’t give a lot of tactile feedback and the TX-NR636’s slow interface can make scrolling through menus a bit of a chore. The IR receiver also doesn’t work well from the side, so you’ll need to point it directly at the receiver to get the best response. The amp is fully compatible with Onkyo's iOS and Android apps, however, meaning you won't need to rely on the remote if your smartphone or tablet is close to hand.

Remote issues aside, the Onkyo TX-NR636 will almost certainly satisfy anyone looking for a modern, futureproof AV receiver. While the addition and appeal of Atmos will likely depend on your dedication to getting the most immersive sound experience available, the TX-NR636 creates a superb sound if you’re looking for something a little bigger than 5.1, and its multitude of 4K-compatible ports should be more than enough to satisfy even the most device-hungry users.

CONNECTIONS
HDMI inputs/outputs total7/2
HDMI 2 inputs/outputs total5/1
Component inputs/outputs1/1
Output resolutions720p, 1080p, 4K
Composite inputs/outputs3/1
Stereo phono inputs7/1
Coaxial S/PDIF inputs2/0
Optical S/PDIF inputs1/0
Multi-channel inputYes
Headphone outputYes
Main unit speaker connectionBanana
Speaker connectionN/A
Other connectionsMHL
Wired network ports10/100
Wireless support802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1
PLAYBACK
Surround sound formatsDTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DSD, Multichannel PCM
Optical driveN/A
Audio format supportMP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, WAV, ALAC
Video playback formatsN/A
Image viewing formatsN/A
RadioAM, FM
Spotify, RdioSpotify, Deezer, Aupeo!, TuneIn
SPEAKERS
Speaker configuration7.2
RMS power output total1,120W
RMS power centre160W
RMS power front320W
RMS power surround320W
RMS power subwooferN/A
Centre speaker cable lengthN/A
Front speaker cable lengthN/A
Surround speaker cable lengthN/A
GENERAL
ExtrasRemote control, FM remote, calibration microphone
Size435x173x329mm
Subwoofer dimensionsN/A
Centre speaker dimensionsN/A
Front speaker dimensionsN/A
Surround speaker dimensionsN/A
Power consumption standby0.2W
Power consumption on630W
BUYING INFORMATION
Price£449
WarrantyTwo-years RTB
Supplierwww.audiovisualonline.co.uk
Detailswww.eu.onkyo.com
Part codeTX-NR636

Read more

Reviews