In 2015, Onkyo surprised home theater enthusiasts when they announced a new series of home theater receivers known as the RZ series. It only consisted of two models but both of them were focused custom installation and audiophiles who didn’t want to spend so much. The 3-year warranty of these models also proved to be a fantastic selling point especially since people aren’t expected to upgrade their home theater receivers every year. Those who decided to wait for the RZ series to evolve a bit no longer have to because not only Onkyo released a successor to one of the models in that family but it also launched a couple of budget friendly options which includes the Onkyo TX-RZ610.
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About the Onkyo TX-RZ610
The TX-RZ610 is the entry-level model of the RZ series with the main attraction being its $899 MSRP which is a cool $200 cheaper than the 2016 step-up Onkyo TX-RZ710 model. Of course, that means features had to be cut to hit that sweet spot but it is not by any means a handicapped model especially for people looking to build a small but robust home theater system. It is a 7.2-channel receiver capable of delivering 100 watts per channel.
It is important not to be confused by the “entry-level” moniker because the Onkyo TX-RZ610 is in the RZ family. Models in the RZ family are outfitted with specs that compare well with the higher tier models of the more mainstream NR series. The design of the TX-RZ610 alone speaks for itself as it appears quite massive and there is a multitude of ports found on the back. It has a total of 8 HDMI inputs (1 on the front) and a pair of HDMI outputs. Like its pricier RZ siblings, the Onkyo TX-RZ610 features an RS232 input, an IR input and an assignable 12v trigger output.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
While the TX-RZ610 is currently the only RZ series receiver in the 2016 lineup to not have THX certification, it is very much prepared future content in terms of format and streaming support. The exact HDMI version specification isn’t indicated but some of the HDMI terminals support 4K at 60 Hz complete with HDR support and HDCP 2.2 compatibility. Basically any content that your 4K TV can handle should be able to be processed.
Unsurprisingly, both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technologies are built-in as well. You won’t be able to take advantage of the full potential of these object-based sound decoding technologies due to the limitations of 7.2-channel support but those types of setups are too expensive anyway. It is still possible to have a strong 5.1-channel home theater system with some room for expansion. Adding two ceiling-mounted speakers or upfiring Dolby Atmos speakers will enable the Dolby Atmos technology giving added depth to the movies that supports the format. DTS:X works similarly but is more flexible when it comes to speaker placement. What matters most is you have the option to choose how you want to set up your speakers.
Streaming options are plentiful with the Onkyo TX-RZ610 with popular heavyweight streaming services that have support for Tidal – a rising streaming service that is focused on lossless audio and exclusive music. The TX-RZ610 is also completely ready for the two top proprietary wireless protocols by Apple and Google – AirPlay and Google Cast. Another interesting exclusive is the support for FireConnect – a new multi-room wireless audio technology powered by Blackfire which can wirelessly send audio signals to a speaker supporting the technology. A firmware upgrade is required to take advantage of this feature.
Thanks to the dedicated Zone 2 DAC, it is possible to distribute audio coming from the Onkyo TX-RZ610 to another room. There is a powered zone option and a Pre/Line-Out for Zone 2 which should be enough to make a basic extension.
The TX-RZ610 has some very welcome performance tune-ups making the receiver a far better performer than most of the NR models released the previous year. On the technical side, the custom capacitors and transformer have been improved giving birth to a technology called Dynamic Audio Amplification for faster response and much lower distortion at higher volumes. Analog signals are a lot smoother too thanks to another component called Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry for literally noiseless audio processing. Finally, there is an extra technology designed to boost DTS:X and Dolby Atmos setups called AccuEQ. It simply makes any soundtracks that support object-based audio sound more cohesive. With all of these technologies, simple 7.1-channel speaker setups sound really good no matter what the type of music is playing.
• Affordable price
• Welcome performance improvements
• Google Cast and Tidal supported in addition to the other common streaming services.
• 3-year warranty
• FireConnect is still limited to very few select devices.
The Onkyo TX-RZ610 doesn’t really pack as many surprises as the higher-end THX certified RZ models but it does redefine the meaning of an $899 receiver and it is likely for the price to go down as time goes by making it an even better deal. There are plenty of HDMI ports available and the minor hardware tweaks are very noticeable. Then there is the custom installation benefits and the expansive streaming options. It goes to show that Onkyo continues to add polish to their already excellent products and finds some clever ways to cut down on price while retaining really strong features. The Onkyo TX-RZ610 is a sure mainstream hit that should survive in the home well past its warranty period.