Every year, home theater receivers have to be refreshed to attract new customers that want to experience the very best of todayís multimedia technologies. Since there hasnít been any major breakthroughs for 2013, companies like Onkyo are more focused on bringing more features in home theater receivers to lower price points. The Onkyo TX-NR525 hopes to hit that $400 sweet spot by offering some features present in the TX-NR515 and TX-NR414 while adding some stuff too.
The TX-NR525 actually looks like it is missing something if you compare it with the older TX-NR515 model. That is because the Onkyo TX-NR525 is more of a successor to the TX-NR414. It is a bit unfortunate though since this AV receiver does not have an HDMI port on the front like the TX-NR515 does. But what the TX-NR525 does have is the setup mic jack which signifies that this budget model has the Audyssey Room Calibration feature. The rest of the front panel layout is mainly the same with its predecessor so learning how to use this AV receiver shouldn’t be so difficult. Rather than having an input source knob, you can switch to a source directly by pressing one of the buttons on the second row.
On the back of the receiver, there are a couple of minor improvements. With 2 pre outs, the Onkyo TX-NR525 becomes a 5.2-channel receiver. However, the number of optical audio inputs was reduced to 1. You still get the same arrangement of 6 HDMI ports and they all come with the latest specifications which make them suitable for 4K and 3D content. Another noticeable port addition is the USB port located on the back. Unlike the USB port on the front of the TX-NR525, the one on the back also adds compatibility with Onkyo’s AV receiver accessories.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The TX-NR525 pumps out 80 watts per channel and utilizes the Wide Range Amp Technology (WRAT). This is an exclusive audio enhancement technology that makes subtle sound effects sound more defined while adding clarity to the louder sound effects. WRAT applies to movies as well as music devices or gaming consoles so you can really test this AV receiver’s limits by filling up the available HDMI ports with multiple sources. There is another technology called Phase-Matching Bass which helps preserve the clarity of mid-range sound levels including vocals and bass effects.
A few of Audyssey’s own technologies are incorporated to this AV receiver. The most important is the Audyssey MultEQ which uses special room-correction enhancements to balance out the sound through the use of a microphone. It is recommended that you calibrate your system first so your speakers sound the best they can in their current positions. The other Audyssey technologies including the Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume support the decent audio performance by keeping the bass, surround sound effects and volume levels consistent.
There aren’t so many things that are special about 5.2-channel receivers but the Onkyo TX-NR525 does have something a bit unique for its price point. The TX-NR525 features a Zone 2 line-out so you can distribute the audio to another room. Just take note that the speakers in the Zone 2 do not get powered by the receiver’s internal amplifier. You will need the Powered Zone 2 feature which is present in the pricier entry-level models.
With 2 USB ports instead of 1, you can connect your iPod or iPhone to the front or back of the receiver where you can enjoy music files in a direct digital connection. This keeps the signals clear and thus boosts the playback quality quite a bit. It is important to know this because the Onkyo TX-NR525 does not include any AirPlay functionality so your only option would be to add an Apple TV to the home theater setup if you really need that feature. You also have the option to purchase a wireless LAN adapter or Bluetooth adapter if you wish to add wireless functionality to the receiver. The nice thing about this is that the price of these adapters aren’t so high.
The TX-NR525 can still serve as a decent network receiver though because it supports more online services than similarly-priced competing models. You get support for Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and even TuneIn. It is also possible to stream music from Android and Apple devices although you don’t get the simplicity that AirPlay offers.
Like the previous models, you can take your Android or iOS device and download the free Onkyo remote app so you can use the smartphone or tablet as a handy remote. The graphical interface is very friendly and you can do a lot of things with it such as controlling the playback or adjusting the settings. Even without this app, the Onkyo TX-NR525 boasts a friendly overlay user interface thanks to the special Quick Set-Up button which helps you change settings or switch inputs without interfering with your favorite programs. The InstaPrevue feature is one of the exclusive cool features that make Onkyo receivers more of a joy to use. When you switch to another source, you get a live video preview of the source.
When it comes to energy savings, you can take advantage of the hybrid standby energy saving state to reduce power consumption while still making the input sources available. Not exactly a revolutionary feature but good to have nevertheless since the entry-level TX-SR313 lacks it.
There is nothing really revolutionary about this 2013 budget receiver but that is okay. Onkyo can still hold its ground with exclusive features like InstaPrevue and its great networking support. It is a shame though that AirPlay is still a missing feature since other receivers offer it but only iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch owners will be affected by the omission. What matters most though is the fact that the TX-NR525 is a pretty exceptional performer especially if you are into Blu-ray content or gaming. Don’t expect any video enhancements or upscaling features but the surround sound experience is pretty decent and you get pretty good results if you take the time in calibrating your system.