2012 was the best year to buy an AV receiver because many of the models brought in new features like better networking support and improved smartphone and tablet interaction. Even the budget models can pair very well with basic HDTVs that donít have the network functionality. But home theater receiver manufacturers have to keep improving their models on a yearly basis. While it is unlikely for most existing home theater receiver owners to upgrade to any of the 2013 models, Onkyo is bringing some incentives for buying a brand new receiver to their newest entry-level lineup with the Onkyo TX-NR727 leading the way.
The TX-NR727 looks a lot like the receiver it is intending to replace which is the Onkyo TX-NR717. It only features one large knob for controlling the master volume with a row of buttons representing the different input sources you can switch to. The Onkyo TX-NR727 features plenty of HDMI ports and other connection ports so this arrangement should be friendly even to those that are not familiar with home theater receivers. From the front panel, the only thing different with the TX-NR727 compared to the older model is the lack of video jack. You still have convenient access to a front HDMI port which supports MHL and a USB port.
The back of the receiver is far more organized as the speaker connections are grouped more tightly. It is much easier to see the L and R channels for the surround, front and surround back/front high speakers. The number of HDMI ports remain unchanged which is fine because the 7 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs give you a lot of room to expand the home theater system.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The Onkyo TX-NR727 is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ready out of the box. Unlike other home theater receivers that come with USB adapters, the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth components are built into the receiver and that is why there is no longer a USB port on the back. It is great to have that built-in Wi-Fi functionality as it pretty much eliminates the need for an Ethernet cable. Wireless networking is good enough for audio streaming whether it is coming from a server or an online radio station. In fact, it is even possible to stream high quality audio from a smartphone or any recent portable device through Bluetooth.
But the Wi-Fi functionality allows you to do more such as access the Internet through the wireless router. Unlike those expensive “Smart” TVs, you wonít be able to access video streaming services from this receiver but the TX-NR727 has access to more music streaming services. In addition to the usual popular services like Last.fm, Pandora and SiriusXM, you can also access TuneIn, Rhapsody, Spotify and even Slacker. For your existing movie collection, you can easily stream content stored in PCs and laptops hooked up to the local network. Unfortunately, AirPlay is not supported but iOS devices can still stream music to the receiver through a free app.
The free app is called Onkyo Remote and it is available for Android smartphones and tablets too. In addition to being able to stream multimedia to the receiver, you can also use the app’s interface as a touch remote where you can adjust all kinds of settings, switch inputs and manage zones.
The Onkyo TX-NR727 has THX Select2 Plus certification which translates to very high audio quality. It also means that you can crank up the volume without suffering from serious distortions. With 110 watts per channel for a 7.1-channel configuration, the TX-NR727 is a great choice for larger home theater systems. But the Powered Zone 2 and Zone 2/3 line-out support can give you greater flexibility if you don’t have large home theater setup in the living room. You can use this multi-room support to set up a smaller 2.1-channel system in another room and let the Onkyo TX-NR727 handle the processing. Powered Zone 2 allows the extended room and main room to have its own source.
The TX-NR727 also supports Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX which are technologies that allow you to expand the soundstage. You can expand soundstage through Front Wide channels for increased width or Front Height speakers if you want movies and games to have that vertical dimension. Like the other Onkyo AV receivers, the Onkyo TX-NR727 also features Audyssey MultEQ for room calibration purposes as well as Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Dynamic Volume which help normalize the volume and overall sound quality for various volume levels.
Like its predecessor, the TX-NR727 is equipped with a WRAT (Wide Range Amp Technology) amplifier and features a three-stage inverted Darlington circuitry for optimal audio quality. But the bass quality is deeper thanks to a new technology called Phase-Matching Bass which successfully preserves the mid-range clarity which is necessary for keeping vocals clear while making the bass sound more powerful.
Finally, the Onkyo TX-NR727 uses the Marvell Qdeo technology to deliver a better video experience. All HDMI ports support 4K and 3D passthrough with upscaling support. So if you have a standard 40-inch TV, you can take your older video sources and upscale them so they look great on the large screen while retaining smooth playback. Content can also be upscaled to 4K resolution which allows the content to look great on those massive next-generation 80-inch displays.
The price of the TX-NR727 is quite interesting because it comes out cheaper than the TX-NR717 when it first came out. You can probably find the Onkyo TX-NR717 for much cheaper but the Onkyo TX-NR727 is a better option in the long run because you won’t have to worry about a lengthy Ethernet cable for home networking no matter how the living room is set up. $899 is a great launch price for this receiver considering the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features as well as the THX certification. The lack of AirPlay support is the minor flaw here, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sub-$1000 THX-certified receiver that has both AirPlay and built-in Wi-Fi.