2013 hasn’t really been a spectacular year for home theater receivers. Much of the breakthrough products have been released in 2012 and you can buy these receivers for a much cheaper price unless you really need the few new additions that these AV receivers bring to the table. But Onkyo is hoping to do something a little bit more interesting with their new products. Launching new entry-level receivers has always been more exciting than releasing new flagship models since more people can afford these types of AV receivers. The Onkyo TX-NR626 is officially Onkyo’s cheapest model that boasts built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Find out if the other features add up to the value of this promising receiver by reading this review.
In 2012, Onkyo’s most affordable 7.2-channel AV receiver was the TX-NR515. This 2013, the TX-NR626 will be the model to get if you want the cheapest 2013 Onkyo 7.2-channel AV receiver. But Onkyo has made a pretty strange decision of not including an HDMI port on the front like last year’s TX-NR515. The TX-NR515 actually introduced MHL connectivity which served as a convenient feature that allows people with the most recent smartphones to connect their devices to the front HDMI port. The Onkyo TX-NR626 retains this feature but you have to plug the smartphone on the back now. Other than that, the design of the TX-NR626 is very much the same.The Onkyo TX-NR626 offers a pretty generous selection of 6 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs. You will also notice that there is no USB port on the back of this receiver like the previous model but it isn’t a bad thing once you discover the new additions of this receiver.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
What makes the TX-NR626 most interesting out of the 2013 lineup is the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality. No special adapters are required so the USB port on the front will always remain free for flash drives and iOS devices. The Bluetooth support also allows virtually any portable device to stream high quality wireless audio. The built-in Wi-Fi is more appealing since you can do more things with it. It creates a true wireless experience within the living room since you can position the receiver virtually anywhere you like as long as it can still obtain the wireless router’s signal. Then you can use the receiver to access the Internet and stream from a decent selection of online services including Last.fm, Spotify, Rhapsody, SiriusXM, Slacker and TuneIn. If you have massive music collections in PCs and laptops, you can stream the audio wirelessly from these sources too.
The free Onkyo Remote App for iOS and Android devices add even more wireless possibilities for the Onkyo TX-NR626. With this app installed, you can use the Wi-Fi connection to remotely control the receiverís functions from a tablet or smartphone. The interface looks nice and switching to another source or adjusting speaker settings is simple. This app is most useful if you will take advantage of the multi-zone features since you are able to control multi-zone audio with this app.
On the processing side, the TX-NR626 also serves as the most affordable new receiver from Onkyo that is capable of video upscaling. Thanks to Marvell’s Qdeo technology, the Onkyo TX-NR626 can upscale any standard definition video to 1080p or 4K resolution so all the old content you have can essentially look great on the big screen. With MHL support, it is also possible to play back 1080p video from a supported smartphone or tablet device complete with 7.1 channels of quality surround sound.
But if you don’t have a 7.1-channel sound system that can take full advantage of the capabilities of the TX-NR626, you can opt to setup 2 separate sound systems instead by utilizing the Powered Zone 2. This enables you to keep your 5.1-channel speaker setup in the main room while opening up the possibility to set up a 2.1-channel speaker system in another room. The Onkyo TX-NR626 is capable of playing a different audio source in the other room.
With an output wattage of 115 watts for all channels, the TX-NR626 is a little bit more powerful than any of the AV receivers priced below $500. But the wattage isn’t everything and the Onkyo TX-NR626 backs it up with some innovative technologies that really boost the audio quality. The TX-NR626 has the same iconic WRAT or Wide Range Amplifier Technology that does a great job in enhancing all aspects of the sound so those big explosions sound more realistic and the more subtle sounds are clearer. The vocals and bass also sound great with this receiver thanks to the Phase-Matching Bass (PMBASS) feature.
Audyssey technologies are present in the Onkyo TX-NR626 as well. To make room calibration easy, you can use the Audyssey MultEQ room-correction technology to completely optimize the speaker setup. This calibration process only takes a few minutes to complete and it ensures proper balance based on the positions of each speaker. This technology is backed up by other Audyssey features including the Dynamic EQ which keeps the bass and surround sound effects consistent across different volume levels. The Audyssey Dynamic Volume feature maintains the volume at a listenable level even if you change channels or sources. This should correct the problem where commercial breaks sound unexpectedly loud.
The TX-NR626 has an MSRP of $599 which is a pretty good deal for a receiver that has built-in Wi-Fi, built-in Bluetooth and a superior set of online connectivity features. If AirPlay was supported, the Onkyo TX-NR626 would be the perfect receiver for home networking fanatics. But out of the new selection of Onkyo models, the TX-NR626 remains as the best deal if you are buying a new receiver or upgrading a very old receiver. The only reason to get the pricier Onkyo TX-NR727 is if you really need that THX certification which means far better audio quality. But for the average movie lover and gamer, the Onkyo TX-NR626 is an excellent companion for any surround sound setup.
Update: There is a newer model > Onkyo TX-NR676