Onkyo TX-NR636 review

An impressively specified receiver, but its sound performance leaves us wanting Tested at £500

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Our Verdict

An impressively specified receiver, but its sound performance leaves us wanting

For

  • Large-scale sound
  • Will go loud
  • Precise with sound placement
  • Well specified

Against

  • Bass could be punchier and tighter
  • Lacks solidity
  • Dynamically soft

Onkyo has struggled of late to hit the sweet spot, in terms of performance, when it comes to this hugely competitive price level.

We’re intrigued, then, when we see Onkyo going all-out on the features again. Introducing Dolby’s Atmos into an AV receiver at this level is a big move, something competitors are saving for flagship models.

The feature hadn’t landed via a firmware update at the time of writing – we will test it when it does (in September, says Onkyo) – but it’s certainly an enterprising move.

Features

The NR636 has an extensive list of features, some of which aren’t available on pricier receivers yet

The NR636 has an extensive list of features, some of which aren’t available on pricier receivers yet

The TX-NR636 is a 7.2-channel amp that supports 4K/60fps upscaling through five of its seven HDMI inputs.

One of these is front-mounted and MHL-compatible, for displaying 1080p content from tablets and smartphones with up to 7.1 channels of surround sound.

It’s also the only receiver confirmed to support HDCP 2.2, the latest HDMI encryption/decryption scheme projected to be used by 4K Blu-ray players (should they be forthcoming).

As for legacy connections, you get three composite video inputs and one out, one optical, two coax and six analogue audio inputs, plus a phono input for a turntable.

We’re disappointed that a front-mounted USB port still only supports playback from USB keys rather than an iPhone or iPod.

But as with last year, there is Bluetooth built-in for Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn Radio and Aupeo, plus it’s DLNA-certified for streaming high-res audio (including 5.6MHz DSD files) from connected network devices too.

Speaking of streaming, there’s a good selection of streaming services to go at - including Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn Radio and Aupeo. In addition, it’s DLNA certified for streaming high-res audio (including 5.6MHz DSD files) from connected network devices too.

For set-ups with a second zone, the TX-NR636 is able to output the same sound from the receiver to a second pair of speakers in another room, or alternatively control independent analogue-only audio instead.

If you’re looking to output a digital signal, you’ll have to look elsewhere, perhaps in the direction of the Sony STR-DN1050.

Set-up

Be sure to partner this amp carefully – there’s some hardness to its performance that could become annoying

Be sure to partner this amp carefully – there’s some hardness to its performance that could become annoying

We’re disappointed when it comes to set-up – Onkyo has dropped the Audyssey calibration in favour of its proprietary AccuEQ instead, and we’re not convinced it’s a good move.

The system is easy to use, but we have issues with it not detecting our sub where all other systems did. It also registers our large speakers as small.

We’d recommend double-checking your results to be sure they are accurate.

Remote app

Onkyo’s remote app has been updated to include compatibility for all releases between 2010-14.

It offers a clean, easy-to-navigate interface, giving you general remote control abilities – such as input selection, volume and EQ tweaking and zone playback control – plus easy streaming from online services and network-connected devices.

Browse a NAS drive via the app and you will find all the tracks you have for playback, while streaming services can be accessed from here too.

Performance

We play Fast & Furious 6 (the fight on a plane scene) to see how the Onkyo handles an action sequence.

We find a confident, detailed sound spreading seamlessly around the room with agility. There’s weight here too, though not as much as with the Yamaha RX-V677 or Sony STR-DN1050.

The Onkyo lacks the solidity its competitors offer too – it’s capable of going loud and sounding impressive, but with some fragility.

We often get the hard edges of the notes, but without enough substance to compensate.

We’re left wanting dynamically, too.

Switch the test disc to Total Recall (2012), and while the TX-NR636 is capable of telling the difference between loud and soft and portraying it in a well-timed manner, it’s the finer dynamics that inject excitement and tension into a scene that we find are missing.

You will need to be careful with partnering kit. Musical performance proves a similar experience, and struggles to hold our interest.

There are few grumbles when it comes to balance or timing, but it’s just not an engaging experience due to a shortfall of dynamic expression and insight.

We spin Clean Bandit’s Rather Be – but it’s just not an engaging experience. We’ve seen quite an improvement in the stereo performance of AV receivers this year, but this Onkyo can’t quite compete.

Verdict

There’s no denying the TX-NR636’s spec list is superb, but when there’s a price to be paid in performance then the balance is wrong.

We expected more from the TX-NR636, but it just doesn’t deliver.

Specifications

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Interfaces-Ports

HDMIYes
Number of HDMI Outputs2
Number of Analog Audio Inputs14
Number of Digital Coaxial Inputs2
Number of HDMI Inputs7
Number of Digital Optical Inputs1
iPod SupportedYes
USBYes

Technical Information

Minimum Frequency Response20 Hz
Streaming ServicePandora, Slacker, SiriusXM, Spotify, Deezer, AUPEO, TuneIn, iRadio, AirPlay
3D Type3D Ready
Maximum Frequency Response20 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion THD0.1%
MultizoneYes
Impedance8 Ohm
Internet StreamingYes

Network and Communication

EthernetYes
Wireless LANYes

Video

Upscale Scan Format4K UHDTV

General Information

Product NameOnkyo TX-NR636
Product ModelTX-NR636
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.eu.onkyo.com
Brand NameOnkyo
Product TypeA/V Receiver
ManufacturerOnkyo & Pioneer Corporation
Manufacturer Part NumberTX-NR636

Power Description

Operating Power Consumption80 W

Miscellaneous

DLNA CertifiedYes

Physical Characteristics

Weight Approximate9.98 kg
Width435 mm
Depth329 mm
Height173.5 mm
ColourBlack
Dimensions173.5 mm (H): 435 mm (W): 329 mm (D)

Audio

Sound SystemDolby TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus
Audio Channels7.2

Tuner

Frequency BandAM, FM