The good: The Onkyo TX-NR626 is an excellent value, packing both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at a midrange price. There are six HDMI inputs, plus a dedicated turntable input — a rarity these days. Onboard streaming-audio support is extensive, including Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker, and Internet radio. And sound quality is solid after a manual setup.
The bad: There’s no AirPlay, which competitors offer for less money. The TX-NR626′s built-in Audyssey speaker calibration also delivered inconsistent results.
AV receivers are supposed to have inputs and outputs for everything, but manufacturers have been surprisingly slow to meet modern needs, especially when it comes to wireless audio streaming.
The Onkyo TX-NR626 ($500 street) is an exception, offering both built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which makes it much easier to use with increasingly ubiquitous smartphones and tablets. From the other end of the spectrum, the TX-NR626 is the only midrange AV receiver we’ve seen with a dedicated turntable input, a convenient bonus for anyone who still likes to spin vinyl. Pair that up with six HDMI inputs and there’s not much the TX-NR626 can’t connect to.
There’s no doubt the Onkyo TX-NR626 is one of the best values of the 2013 receiver class, but it looks to be just a hair behind the Sony STR-DN840 ($450 street), which offers Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay for $50 less. Still, the TX-NR626 is awfully strong, especially if you’ll take advantage of that turntable input. Keep an eye on the street price as the year goes on, as Onkyo’s receivers have a tendency to get heavily discounted over time.
Design: The boxiest box
AV receivers are big and boxy by nature, and Onkyo’s models may be the boxiest of them all. The TX-NR626′s sharp edges and large, flat front panel give it a muscular, brutish look that doesn’t exactly blend into a typical living room.
The included remote is good, as far as AV receiver remotes go. The white buttons make it easier to select things in a dim home theater and important buttons like volume and the directional pad are well-located. It’s not as simple as the Denon AVR-E400′s clicker, but it’s also miles better than the inscrutable remotes included with the Pioneer VSX-823-K andYamaha RX-V475.
For a receiver of this price, the TX-NR626 is packed with features.There are six HDMI inputs on the back panel, including an MHL-compatible HDMI input, which is a neat feature that enables you to use a Roku Streaming Stick, among other devices. There’s also quite a bit of support for legacy devices, including a dedicated phono input for turntables, which no other receiver at this price has. It’s a cool extra that’s arguably a lot more useful than many of the other dubious features included on AV receivers these days.
The TX-NR626 is also hip to modern tech, including built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is especially welcome, since it’s the easiest way to stream music from nearly any smartphone or tablet. Wi-Fi is also nice because it allows to take advantage of the TX-NR626′s networking features without a wired Ethernet connection, including DLNA, smartphone control, firmware updates, and streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, Flickr, and Internet radio. The only similar receiver to offer that much wireless functionality at this price is Sony’s STR-DN840, which also supports AirPlay.
The rest of the features are less important for mainstream buyers. The TX-NR626 is a 7.2-channel receiver, but most buyers won’t need the extra functionality that makes possible: surround back channels, powered second-zone audio, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz “height” channels. It also has analog video upconversion, but you won’t need it if all your devices use HDMI. The TX-NR626 is one of the few receivers to offer dual HDMI outputs, but unless you have a relatively elaborate home theater with a projector, you won’t need them. And while AirPlay isn’t built in, you can always add that functionality later with an Apple TV, which isarguably a smarter move anyway.
Sound quality: Solid, but not a standout
Sound-quality evaluations of AV receivers (and other amplifiers) are controversial. Some say all AV receivers sound the same, others disagree, and we’re not likely to settle that argument anytime soon.
What we can say is that AV receiver sound quality has much, much less effect on overall sound quality than speakers or room acoustics, so you’re better off spending your home theater budget there. CNET’s sound quality evaluations are strictly subjective, with resident golden ear Steve Guttenberg comparing similarly priced models in an identical listening environment using the same speakers.
The TX-NR626′s subwoofer volume was too high to proceed with our listening tests, so we manually turned it down, and the “Black Hawk Down” Blu-ray still sounded forceful. The skinnyAperion 4T towers sounded more powerful and full than we’re used to, but with action movies the added heft was a plus.