Onkyo TX-NR626 AV Receiver Reviewed

Onkyo TX-NR626 AV Receiver Reviewed

The Onkyo TX-NR626 AV receiver fell on Sean Killebrew to review. Killebrew tested out the TX-NR626 and came away from the review with a refreshing sentiment. It works. It just plain works.

Onkyo-TX-NR626-AV-receiver-review-front-small.jpgIf you’re unfamiliar with Onkyo, then you might need to get out more. While the company manufactures everything from Blu-ray players to amplifiers, it’s best known for its feature-packed AV receivers. I’ve owned more Onkyo products than I care to mention, but this is actually my first review of one. Earlier this year, Onkyo announced its new receiver line, which consists of the TX-NR929 ($1,399), the TX-NR828 ($1,099), the TX-NR727 ($899), the TX-NR626 ($599), and the TX-NR525 ($499). As always with Onkyo receivers, they’re bleeding-edge in terms of their feature set.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from the writers of Home Theater Review.
Onkyo TX-NR626 AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com
Cambridge Audio Azur 751R AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com
Read more AV receiver reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com’s receiver category page

The subject of this review, the 7.2-channel TX-NR626, falls right in the middle of the new line and is rated at 95 watts per each of its seven channels. If you happen to have your music files stored on, say, a NAS drive, that’s not a problem with the Onkyo. If you happen to have all or most of your music stored on your smartphone or tablet, that’s not a problem, either. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Apple person or a PC/Droid person, the Onkyo will allow seamless playback of your audio files (even hi-res files) with remarkable ease. Some of the highlights in terms of feature set include full networking capability courtesy of built in Wi-Fi, built-in Bluetooth, six HDMI inputs (four of which support 4K pass-through, while all six support 4K upscaling using Marvell’s Qdeo chip), two HDMI outputs, and an ARC, or Audio Return Channel, for those with networking televisions. Even those who own turntables are covered with a phono input, which is somewhat rare at this lower price point. The list of features is truly exhaustive and can be further researched on Onyko’s product page. Suffice to say, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something missing from this list.

Onkyo-TX-NR626-AV-receiver-review-back.jpgThe Hookup
Onkyo has always packaged its receivers intuitively and solidly, and that’s certainly the case with the 626. In this instance, the company even went so far as to include stick-on bands to identify which speaker wire is which; this is especially helpful if you’re running a seven-channel system. Once I got the receiver out of the box, I set about connecting it to my reference system, which consists of the Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, a pair of Focal 836W speakers as my mains, complimented by Episode in-wall speakers for my center and surrounds, the SVS SB-13 Ultra subwoofer, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic, a Music Hall MMF-2.2 turntable, a MacBook Pro, and both Amarra (iTunes) and Decibel (high-res files) playback software. All of my cabling comes courtesy of the good people at WireWorld. It’s worth noting that, thanks to the Onkyo’s expansive feature set, I also used my iPad and iPhone to test both Bluetooth audio playback and the dedicated Onkyo control app. The app has earned some poor reviews in the app store, although I imagine that’s mostly due to user error rather than poor coding on Onkyo’s behalf, as I thought it worked like a charm.

Next, I began the incredibly simple and newbie-friendly process of auto calibration, which comes courtesy of Audyssey MultEQ. Not only was I impressed with the ease of auto setup, but I also felt that the overall layout and design of the OSD (onscreen display) was stellar. There’s not much more to say about configuring the Onkyo, as it was just so damn simple and straightforward. The only minor hiccup was the fact that the Audyssey software had the bass volume too high; even after running the setup a couple of times, I still had to manually dial the subwoofer back a bit.



Read about the performance of the Onkyo TX-NR626 receiver on Page 2.

Onkyo-TX-NR626-AV-receiver-review-streaming-circle.jpgPerformance
If you’re in the market for a receiver in this price range, especially if you use multiple playback sources for your music, then you’re going to want to read all of this review. Typically, I only use Blu-rays and the occasional sporting event to test audio/video gear, although in this case my first test of the TX-NR626 came as I was flipping channels and landed on Danny Boyle’s The Beach (20th Century Fox). While certainly not a great film, there are plenty of surround effects, courtesy of all the tropical storms. The Onkyo did a compelling job of filling the room with believable sound, giving you a sense of being in an actual storm. I did have to push the volume a bit on the center channel, but it was generally a very satisfying experience and didn’t make me cry for my separates.

Moving on to lossless audio and better-quality video, I cued up the Blu-ray of Disney’s Bolt in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Right out of the gate, I was shocked and impressed by the bass from the fireworks in Disney’s opening credits. I’ve never written about a title screen before, but the way it thumped in my chest is worthy of note, as the bass was palpable. That said, as the film got rolling, I again had to manually dial back the sub, as it was overwhelming the rest of the channels. Such is the case with most auto setup/room correction systems … they rarely get everything right. The film begins with a bang, and the Onkyo delivered the action with engaging, coherent sound, sans the muddiness that is the typical sonic signature of many lower-priced receivers. As with The Beach, I was impressed with the surround effects and the overall coherence of the Onkyo’s sound. The opening sequence of Bolt is chaotic, but dialogue remained intelligible and compelling. I was a bit stunned that (aside from raw power) there wasn’t more of a tradeoff from my reference $7,000 separates combo, the Cary Cinema 12 processor and Integra DTA-70.1 amplifier.

Sticking with Disney, I fired up the Blu-ray of TRON: Legacy in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and watched one of the epic disc battles, which turned out to be an audible treat through the Onkyo. Everything from the shattering of glass to the eruption of the crowd throughout the room was incredibly immersive. I pushed the volume pretty hard during this sequence, and the Onkyo delivered, despite the fact that my listening room is over 350 square feet. The bass during this sequence stood out and was taut and dramatic without being overbearing. Music is a major component of this scene, and the 626 handled the audible chaos, for lack of a better way to put it, with aplomb. I so enjoyed watching this sequence with the Onkyo that I ended up playing it back several times. I was pleasantly surprised at the price-to-performance ratio that the Onkyo delivered.

Moving on to music, I decided to dive straight into my vinyl collection and cued “Fly Me to the Moon” from the Original Master Recording of Frank Sinatra at the Sands (Mobile Fidelity). I noticed that there was a distinct lack of transparency compared with my reference Cary/Integra rig. Detail and dynamic range suffered a bit from less power and complexity, but I almost didn’t mind, as I was so pleased that the Onkyo had a phono input in the first place. Let me also remind you that the Onkyo costs roughly one-twelfth what my Cary/Integra combo costs, so let’s keep it in perspective. Frank’s voice was sufficiently soulful, and the Onkyo threw a pretty solid soundstage. Where the Onkyo did struggle a bit was in conveying the live, you-are-there transparency of this recording. That said, I did enjoy the experience enough to dig further into my vinyl collection.

After a heavy dose of vinyl, I decided it was time to feed the Onkyo some uncompressed, multi-channel audio in the form of Bryan Pezzone’s “Berceuse,” in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, from the Blu-ray Piano Pieces (AIX Records). What I immediately noticed was that Bryan’s piano playing had a satisfyingly rich texture with solid detail. High notes were pleasant without being the least bit etched, something exceedingly rare in a receiver at this price point. This is a well-mixed piece of multi-channel audio, and the Onkyo did it justice on multiple levels, including imaging, resolution, and coherence. In most cases, the better the recording, the more flaws a lesser receiver will show, but I was quite impressed with the Onkyo’s performance.



For my next listening session, I went with a more real-world scenario in the form of my Atlas Genius station on Pandora. The first step was to connect the Onkyo to my home network, which literally took me three minutes. Pandora is but one option among many streaming music options offered on the 626, including Spotify, Slacker, Tunein, and more. One cool feature I noticed is that Pandora kept playing while I moved into other areas of the Onkyo menu, although I was unable to navigate back to Pandora’s “Now Playing” window. Another nice feature is that, when I powered down the receiver while listening to Pandora, the Onkyo resumed Pandora playback on my next power-up with nary a button push. This is simply a wonderful time-saving design. To give you a real-world example of the benefit, my wife is not interested in going through the steps necessary to play Pandora on our living room AV system, so she will use the speakers on her iPhone to entertain our three-year-old son. While this doesn’t seem to bother her, it’s a personal affront to me, especially given the time, energy, and expense I’ve put into building a great-sounding system. If all she needed to do was turn on a receiver and maybe change the Pandora station using the Onkyo app on her iPhone, I’m sure she would acquiesce. Speaking of the app, it also allows you to adjust treble, bass, and channel levels – a great design.

Back to the music. After seamlessly bringing up the music files on my NAS drive, I was able to listen to the lossless version of the Beastie Boys’ stellar instrumental “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” from the album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol Records). I didn’t have to jump through any hoops or configure anything, as the Onkyo recognized the drive and the files were available with a clean, straightforward menu design. Competitors, take note: this is how people want to access their music collections – hassle-free. We also want to be able to play our music, whether it’s hi-res, lossless or a messy little MP3. Onkyo has truly delivered a cutting-edge, user-friendly experience, whether you’re using one of the built-in apps, your own music collection, and/or the Bluetooth interface.

The Downside
Let me start this portion of the review by saying that none of what I’m about to mention constitutes any sort of deal-breaker. These are simply things I took note of that might impact a buyer’s decision-making process on a new receiver. Let’s
start with the lack of AirPlay; while it’s a bit of a drag, it did not stop me from easily accessing any of my music. I’m not sure why Onkyo hasn’t embraced AirPlay; maybe someone in the know can post the explanation in the Comments section below. Also, the Onkyo remote has had the same basic layout, despite a few minor changes, for many years. I would vote for a complete overhaul that is a bit less busy and a bit more backlit. That said, I’d recommend using the app in lieu of the remote, as it’s intuitive, feature-rich, well-designed, and free. Again, these are minor quibbles on what is truly a standout product.

Competition and Comparison
I’m not sure how Onkyo sees it, but in terms of price and performance, I think the biggest competitor is Denon, followed closely by the likes of (in no particular order) Yamaha, Pioneer Elite, and Marantz. More specifically, Denon’s new AVR-X3000 ($999) has a similar feature set to that of the Onkyo, sans built-in WiFi, and also includes AirPlay connectivity, which is a welcome addition for Apple folks. In my experience, Denon has carried a slight edge in sound quality over the years, although I haven’t auditioned or owned one of the company’s receivers for many years, so Onkyo may have bridged that gap. A comparable Pioneer receiver would be the VSX-70, which provides a generous eight HDMI inputs, seven discrete power amps, and AirPlay functionality for $700. My experience with Pioneer receivers over the years has been similar to that of Onkyo, which is to say plenty of bang (and technology) for the buck.

Onkyo-TX-NR626-AV-receiver-review-angled.jpgConclusion
It’s really refreshing when something just plain works, especially when you’re talking about cutting-edge home theater gear. Oftentimes, the more technologically advanced a product is, the more of a pain in the ass it is to configure. This receiver made me smile, time and again – not just due to its price-to-performance ratio, but also due to the simplicity with which you can access music. Whether that music resides online (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) or in your own hard drive, you’ll have no problem enjoying it with minimal effort. It took receivers a long time to get to this point, but people should be relieved and excited that we’re finally here. Even if the Onkyo’s sound quality were sub-par, which it’s not, I’m fired up enough about its functionality that I’d still probably recommend it. The TX-NR626 is not the be-all/end-all receiver in terms of sound quality and transparency, especially when you’re talking about things like vinyl and getting every last nuance of sound out of high-res recordings. However, it will put a smile on your face for only $599. With this in mind, I’m happy to give the Onkyo a very high recommendation.



Check out our gallery of AV Receiver Evolution below . . .

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from the writers of Home Theater Review.
Onkyo TX-NR626 AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com
Cambridge Audio Azur 751R AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com
Read more AV receiver reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com’s receiver category page

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