Back in 2011, Onkyo made some significant design improvements to their home theater receivers and that was enough to attract buyers. The design was so good that further changes weren’t really necessary with their 2012 models. Now Onkyo can focus on improving the internals and other technologies in order to stay competitive and cater to people that are continuously evolving their home theater setups. The Onkyo TX-NR616 demonstrates these new features nicely because it has enough high-end features to bring a home theater living room setup to life.
Design and Connectivity
As mentioned earlier, there are no real design improves present in the Onkyo TX-NR616 because there was really nothing wrong with the design in the previous models. But it is still worth pointing out that there are silver and black designs to choose from so you can really blend your home theater receiver with the other components. The front ports are immediately accessible so you won’t have to open up a latch if you want to plug an HDMI or USB device to the front of the receiver.
The back of the TX-NR616 pretty much screams high-end as there is another USB port along with 7 HDMI ports so the sky is the limit when it comes to customizing your home theater receiver. There are also 2 HDMI outputs so you may add a home theater projector to the mix without unplugging your TV. Those with 3D HDTVs and 3D Blu-ray players can apply because all of the ports are fully ready and support Audio Return Channel.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Onkyo has a nice treat for the people that do not want to buy a new home theater receiver every year. The Onkyo TX-NR616 is outfitted with the Qdeo video processing technology by Marvell. This nice addition to the high-end 2012 receivers is huge because it allows existing Blu-ray and DVD content to be upscaled to 4K widescreen resolutions. Commercial 4K displays do not even exist yet but Onkyo is well aware that the technology will be mainstream at one point and the Onkyo TX-NR616 is ready to improve the look of older content with lower resolutions.
On the interface side, the InstaPrevue is a very useful feature to have since it is likely that you will plug more than 5 HDMI devices to the TX-NR616. Even if you forgot what ports are assigned to your HDMI devices, you can switch to the exact input source you want on the very first try because the InstaPrevue visual port management technology shows a live thumbnail preview of the HDMI port’s current activity.
Owners of Android or iOS devices can also rejoice because there are special applications for these mobile platforms. This means that you can use your iPhone or Android smartphone to alter the settings of your Onkyo TX-NR616 remotely as soon as you installed the free Onkyo Remote app. The Android version of the app also lets you stream audio files to the TX-NR616 wirelessly. If you do not plan on hooking your TX-NR616 to your home wireless network, you can still connect an HDMI cable to your smartphone if it supports it so you can play back any audio or video files and output them to the display and 7.1-channel setup.
There is a USB port on the front of the Onkyo TX-NR616 so you can plug flash drives or portable music players like iPods in case you want to use your massive sound system to play back any MP3, FLAC, AAC and WMA files stored there. If you have an Apple TV, you can also integrate it to the Onkyo TX-NR616.
If plugging in external devices is too much work, a more convenient approach is to take advantage of the online features of the TX-NR616. Since the TX-NR616 supports the MP3tunes Cloud Locker service, you can upload your favorite music tracks to your account and let your home theater receiver stream them whenever you like. You can also connect your receiver to popular online services like SIRIUS XM, Pandora, Spotify, Last.fm and many others. These features mean that your home theater receiver does not have to depend on other devices for audio playback. In case it needs to, the DLNA compatibility is there so anyone with a media PC can connect to the Onkyo TX-NR616 when needed as long as the Ethernet cable is properly connected. The USB port on the back can be used to install the Onkyo UWF-1 wireless LAN adapter which is sold separately.
No matter how you play your audio files, these files will get the professional audio treatment thanks to the many Audyssey technologies that are present in the Onkyo TX-NR616. Setting up the professional level of sound quality is also simple because you can use Audyssey 2EQ, Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Audyssey Dynamic EQ technologies to automatically configure each of your speakers based on the overall layout of your speakers and your room acoustics. The surround-sound and bass levels will be properly adjusted so you get that clear and normalized sound across all of your connected home theater components.
The cheaper Onkyo TX-NR515 has these technologies as well except for the Audyssey DSX expansion which is only exclusive to the Onkyo TX-NR616 and upcoming high-end models. This allows you to add extra Height or Wide channels to push the sound envelope even further. Because of this, the Onkyo TX-NR616 gets the THX Select2 Plus certification which is really something that you should look for if you want to enjoy cinematic-quality movies or immersive surround-sound gaming.
All this power is given to your home theater system only when it is needed. But when the Onkyo TX-NR616 isn’t needed that much, it can enter the hybrid standby state which is a special standby mode that converses power but still keeps you devices connected. Getting out of this mode is very easy especially if you will use the smartphone remote apps.
While there is no way to test the 4K upscaling capabilities, the video and audio quality really shine when playing back popular Blu-ray 3D titles. Generally, you won’t find much ghosting or evidence of picture degradation. It also knows how to utilize the Dolby Pro Logic IIz, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound formats in order to deliver an excellent audio experience.
The Onkyo TX-NR616 is currently the cheapest investment to make if you want a THX-certified AV receiver with all the 2012 improvements. It is also priced at a reasonable $700 which is considerably cheaper than the Onkyo TX-NR717 and Onkyo TX-NR818 models that start at $1,000.
Update: There is a newer model > Onkyo TX-NR676