Every year, home theater receiver manufacturers release new models to keep their lineups fresh and competitive. The problem is unlike hot gadgets like smartphones, these updated models are rather boring offering few new features. Last year the main theme was Dolby Atmos but not everyone can take advantage of this new technology. Plus, lower-end and midrange models often get the short end of the stick when it comes to improvements. But Onkyo wants to prove the world wrong this year by giving a full makeover across the entry-level board. Onkyo’s midrange product updates are more incremental but the Onkyo TX-NR545 presents all sorts of opportunities especially if you are venturing to the 4K world.
About the Onkyo TX-NR545
The Onkyo TX-NR545 is one of the three entry-level home theater receivers Onkyo announced back in June 2015. It is the new middle child of Onkyo’s lineup and designed to cater to the needs of people hoping to have plenty of room for their home theater expansion while keeping advanced performance options out to ensure an affordable price tag. Visually, it looks the same as the TX-NR535 model this receiver intends to replace.
Comparison with the Onkyo TX-NR535
The Onkyo TX-NR545 is a 7.2-channel receiver so you have two additional channels to work with and that opens up a ton of possibilities. It is the first time ever Onkyo is adding Dolby Atmos support to a TX-NR5x5 product. This advanced technology allows you to arrange a standard 5.1-channel surround sound system along with two special Dolby Atmos speakers designed to make the sound feel like it is coming from up above creating a full 3D 5.1.2-channel space. If you don’t need the full 7.2-channel functionality and don’t want to invest in Dolby Atmos, you can always use the powered Zone 2 option instead and have a separate hi-fi system in another room along with a pair of speakers provide a separate audio experience to that room.
While the TX-NR535 does boast HDMI 2.0 support which is vital for full 4K TV compatibility, it is no longer the latest specification. The TX-NR545, on the other hand, supports the newer HDMI 2.0a format. This grants the receiver HDMI support for High Dynamic Range. HDR works the same way HDR works on the latest smartphones – the darkest and lightest parts of the image are enhanced so you can see more details. 3 out of the 6 HDMI ports also have HDCP 2.2 compatibility completing the 4K support as the latest technologies and copyright protection will be implemented on future media content. Having HDCP 2.2 compatibility is a must if you want to play back this type of content.
For a long while, entry-level and midrange models featured a 192K/24-bit Burr-Brown DAC to take care of the audio side. On the Onkyo TX-NR545, this has been upgraded to a slightly more superior Asahi Kasei DAC boasting 384 kHz and 32-bit specs. The AccuEQ Room Calibration feature was also improved to eliminate standing waves by adding a second measurement. The front speakers can also ignore standard EQ settings.
Finally, the TX-NR545 gains the ability to up-convert analog sources to a better quality through HDMI. So if you have a VHS player collecting dust, you can take it out along with your tape collection and enjoy movies at a slightly better quality on the big screen. All of these new additions are responsible for the $100 price increase.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The Onkyo TX-NR545 still has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi onboard with the latter being more important simply because it is necessary if you want to stream hi-res audio to the receiver without noticing a drop in audio quality. AirPlay support is present too enabling you to conveniently grab your iPod, iPad, iPhone or iTunes-equipped computer and do direct-to-the-point wireless audio streaming. Both iOS and Android devices can also download the free Onkyo Remote app to gain access to all streaming options. The receiver alone can access a few popular services including Spotify, TuneIn, Slacker, Pandora and a couple of others and you can use that remote app to operate the interface.
After using the improved AccuEQ calibration feature, music playback quality became slightly improved over the TX-NR535. When playing back lossless audio formats like FLAC, ALAC and DSD, the quality improvements became a bit more obvious thanks to that new Asahi Kasei chip. Think of the Onkyo TX-NR545 as a budget-friendly option for audiophiles or at least lossless music fans or just about anyone with a massive CD collection.
Each channel is still 115 watts so there is nothing new there and Blu-ray movies sound pretty good but if you use the Dolby Atmos technology and play a supported movie, you will really get a feel of the added 3D effect. This is definitely one receiver to use when watching Jurassic World.
• Dolby Atmos support without the premium price.
• The new Asahi Kasei chip should impress lossless music fans.
• HDR support thanks to the HDMI 2.0a along with HDCP 2.2 support.
• AccuEQ Room Calibration is a little bit better.
• Same boring look. Did not get the facelift improvements the SR models received.
• At least $100 more than the older model.
The $100 increase is really worthwhile if you need the better lossless performance or want to give the Dolby Atmos technology a spin. But if you are ready to embrace the 4K world, it is ideal to skip the older TX-NR535 no matter how attractive the price may be and go for the TX-NR545 as it is futureproof with HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standards.
Update: There is a newer model > Onkyo TX-NR555