Onkyo's rightfully known as the king of AV receiver value and its new 2013 line looks worthy of that reputation.
The company announced its new AV receivers this morning, with the step-up TX-NR626 and TX-NR727 models getting two big new features for 2013: built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. All of the models are also packed with HDMI connectivity, with even the entry-level TX-NR525 offering six inputs.
Here's how I'd break down the most-important features:
TX-NR525 ($500): 5.2 channels, six HDMI inputs, Audyssey MultEQ, networking, unpowered second zone
TX-NR626 ($600) step-ups: 7.2 channels, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, powered and unpowered second zone, dual HDMI outputs, one MHL-compatible input
TX-NR727 ($900) step-ups: eight HDMI inputs
I've been underwhelmed by 2013 AV receivers so far, but Onkyo's new line is very compelling. The TX-NR525 and TX-NR626 both look like excellent values and the $100 step-up for built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is more than reasonable, considering many companies charge $100 for just a bulky external dongle. The TX-NR525 can also add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functionality via affordable USB accessories.
All three models incorporate Onkyo's suite of networking features, which includes the capacity to control the receivers via smartphone app. There's also onboard support for several streaming-music services, including Spotify, TuneIn Radio, and Last.fm. Onkyo boasts that the smartphone app can also play back FLAC and Apple Lossless files from a computer or NAS, although I've found in the past that AV receivers tend to make poor media streamers.
The big missing feature on these receivers is arguably AirPlay, which is available on the majority of competing models from Pioneer, Denon, and Yamaha. However, in most cases, it's not a big loss, since you can always add AirPlay later with an Apple TV, which tends to be a better value since you also get a lot more functionality from a full-fledged Apple TV box. (For more information, check out my story last year on whether it's worth spending extra for built-in AirPlay.) Plus, every iOS device also supports Bluetooth, so you'll still be able to wirelessly stream audio from any app on your iPhone or iPad, albeit with lesser audio quality.
And while the suggested retail prices seem high, Onkyo AV receivers tend to get marked way down very quickly; I wouldn't be surprised to see the TX-NR626 selling for $450 by the end of the year. If the prices sink as they have in the past, you'll save more than enough to add an Apple TV if you want AirPlay functionality.
Along with its new AV receivers, Onkyo announced the HT-S5600 ($600) home theater system, which includes a full-size AV receiver and a 7.1-channel speaker system. These all-in-one systems from Onkyo tend to be a good value, but they're not the most stylish systems. I'm generally not a fan of home-theater-in-a-box systems, but Onkyo's and Yamaha's offerings are better than most, since they offer full-size, nonproprietary components.
The TX-NR525, TX-NR626, and HT-S5600 are scheduled to be released in April, followed by the TX-NR727 hitting stores in May.