4K displays have finally reached the affordability point and now the world waits for the inevitable surge of matching 4K content so consumers can really see if those extra pixels really make all the difference. But that AV receiver you purchased last year may not be able to fully support the new display. Most modern home theater receivers feature HDMI 1.4 ports with only the flagship models boasting 4K support by offering HDMI 2.0 ports instead. Onkyo intends to change that by equipping their newest entry-level models with HDMI 2.0 ports as well. The Onkyo TX-NR535 promises to be that budget home theater receiver that should partner well with any 4K display including the cheap ones.
Onkyo didn’t switch up the design of the TX-NR535 in terms of layout but it surprisingly slimmed it down making the receiver weigh about 2 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The older model looks a couple of inches taller as well. It is always nice to see a receiver that offers a few new features while minimizing the footprint so it can fit in better with the rest of the home theater system.
Like the older model, there is only one large knob for controlling the master volume. There is a row of buttons all labeled to make it easy to switch inputs providing you made the appropriate connections. The front HDMI port is still missing in this new model so you are still left with the aux inputs, setup mic port and USB port. Rather than being labeled as an iPod / iPhone port, the USB port deservingly gets the generic USB icon just to show that flash drives can really be plugged in there too.
The back of the Onkyo TX-NR535 shows that Onkyo decided to cut down a little bit on the connectivity side too although it shouldn’t be a huge deal for most people. The group of ports for the 5.1-channel speaker setup is now positioned closer to the rest of the ports. There is an additional set of video/audio inputs for a DVR or set-top box at the expense of the second set of component video ports meant for CBL/SAT (audio/video inputs remain available). The top row features the usual 6 HDMI inputs and single HDMI output with an Ethernet port right next to the group although there is no longer a USB port present.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
With all the HDMI terminals updated to 2.0, the TX-NR535 is now capable of passing full 4K/60Hz signals. It is worth knowing though that the Onkyo TX-NR535 won’t support HDCP 2.2 which will eventually become the standard for 4K releases from the studios. So once you get the 4K streaming from satellite broadcasts and ISPs, you might be disappointed with the quality as it is forced to convert to standard definition. You will have to consider the new Onkyo TX-NR636 model which launched alongside the TX-NR535.
Even if you don’t have a 4K display and don’t really care about the next-gen technologies associated with it, the Onkyo TX-NR535 does offer something that may really make the upgrade worthwhile – built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth. The fact that it uses Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR is a little bit disappointing given all the cool stuff with Bluetooth 4.0 nowadays but the built-in Wi-Fi certainly makes the whole Internet setup process easier and you no longer need to use the Ethernet cable. In the previous mode, you had to buy a dongle separately and have that dongle take up that front USB port. A Bluetooth USB adapter was sold separately too so having both of these built-in is really refreshing. Once connected to the Internet, you can independently enjoy various Internet radio and streaming services including Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Aupeo and Slacker.
Connecting the TX-NR535 to the network also adds the capability to stream Hi-Res audio from PCs and network attached storage components. Plenty of Hi-Res formats are supported including FLAC, ALAC, DSD and Double DSD. Gapless playback is supported as well.
The Onkyo Remote app for iOS and Android devices continue to be updated with the latest version providing full support for the Onkyo 2014 receivers including the Onkyo TX-NR535. This app provides its own graphical interface where you can interact with various onscreen controls through touch to control the receiver and adjust the various settings.
The power output of the TX-NR535 has been slightly toned down to 90 watts (6 Ohms) per channel but the audio quality remains good thanks to the WRAT or Wide Range Amplifier Technology. This technology improves the quality of various audio effects that come out of action movies while reducing the annoying distortion. The Phase-Matching Bass technology remains present and it makes the bass of music tracks more defined without affecting the quality of the vocals or other elements. The Music Optimizer DSP technology also enhances highly-compressed content including any audio transmitted through Bluetooth.
For room calibration, Onkyo decided to drop Audyssey support for a new in-house technology called AccuEQ. This technology considers more factors including the speaker distance and type, crossover and output as well as the floor and wall reflections to properly calibrate the speakers. Since the setup mic is in the same location, the calibration process remains the same.
The Onkyo TX-NR535 represents the groundbreaking move that Onkyo needs to really put pressure on the entry-level competition. The 4K experience isn’t exactly complete due to the lack of HDCP 2.2 support but a $399 receiver with HDMI 2.0 ports was previously unheard of. It is, of course a little bit pricier than last year’s TX-NR525 but you can forget about considering that even if you don’t need the 4K improvements because the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is enough to save you money compared to buying an AV receiver and the dongles separately. Having these wireless technologies make streaming music from the Internet or your mobile device a lot easier. Add Onkyo’s legendary reputation in making a quality budget AV receiver and its new room calibration technology to the mix and you have a very impressive package for under $500.
Update: There is a newer model > Onkyo TX-NR555