Onkyo TX-NR757 review: Feature-filled receiver packed with streaming goodness
What do you think of when you hear the word Onkyo? Is it smart speakers? Is it vintage (or vintage-inspired) turntables? Or is it home theater receivers? You wouldn't be alone in thinking of the latter -- the company has been churning out big black AV center hubs since "Top Gun" was a thing.
We were fans of the 2015 Onkyo TX-NR646: It looked like it meant business and it was at ease with music as it was with movies. But things can always be "better," particularly when it comes to feature count. And the 757 ups the streaming features by a factor of... quite a lot. Coming soon is Chromecast built-in (aka Google Cast, promised by spring 2017) as well as the company's own FireConnect, plus your standard Bluetooth and Spotify Connect. You also get Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatibility.
At a street price of $600, the Onkyo 757 competes directly against the Denon AVR-S920W, our highest-rated receiver with Dolby Atmos. Between the two, we liked the Denon better thanks to slightly superior sound, but it lacks Cast, making the Onkyo a better fit for users of that streaming system. The NR757 isn't the flashiest model out there, and the cheaper TX-NR656 may be a better deal, but it's still worth a look -- especially for Onkyo fans looking to update their equipment.
Onkyo has simplified the look of the TX-SR757 over previous years. Where models such as the TX-SR646 had two rows of buttons -- one for functions and another for source selection -- this years' receivers only have one. The look is certainly cleaner and further "amplifies" the machismo factor. The function buttons are still there though, having been integrated into the LED display itself.
On the right you'll find a plastic-feeling volume knob and on the left are two new control knobs. The left-hand dial is for fine tone control and the other is to change the listening mode. If you're an audiophile or use the calibration routine, however, you probably won't use these.
The user interface has had a cut and color since we last looked at one of these units. It now boasts a full-color graphic interface that may not rival the Sony STR-DN1070's for eye candy, but at least doesn't look like it should be displaying machine code.
We'd like to think that Onkyo heard our concerns over the complexity of last year's remotes. This year's version has a slimmed-down set of controls and, best of all, a large volume rocker. This is the most used button by far on any receiver remote and having to search for it, as you did on the previous model, didn't make any sense.
The Onkyo TX-NR757 offers nine amplified channels and this includes a dedicated Zone 2. While you can use two sets of surrounds with the remaining channels, the receiver's support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X means that you may want to try using the second pair for height effects instead. Using Dolby's nomenclature this would make the receiver a 5.2.2 model (with the last two digits indicating height).
Connectivity includes eight 4K-compliant HDMI ports in addition to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (Spotify, AirPlay and so on) and a dedicated phono input. The Onkyo has a powered Zone 2 in addition to a dedicated Zone 2 DAC for streaming and optical sources, enabling them to be sent directly to your second listening zone.
As with other Onkyo receivers we've seen, be aware you won't be able to use the receiver with a power amp, as it doesn't offer preouts.
The main differences between this and the TX-NR656 are a small boost in power to 110W (two channel) versus 100W, THX certification and system integrator features such as an RS-232 port and IR repeater. Do you need these things? If you even have to ask, then... no.
We used a pair of Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73-LR tower speakers in the front left/right positions, an Elite SP-EC73 center channel speaker, ELAC Debut B5s as surround speakers, Klipsch RP-140SA height channel speakers and a Klipsch R-110SW subwoofer for all of our Onkyo TX-NR757 listening tests.
Why, you may ask, did we use separate height speakers instead of the Pioneer towers' integrated Atmos modules? Due to the present shape of our testing room, ceiling-firing speakers don't work very well and down-firing speakers work better.
This receiver did not allow us to perform a manual speaker setup and calibration, so we went ahead and ran the TX-NR757's AccuEQ auto program. As soon as we started listening we were unhappy with the setup: The subwoofer was much too loud, and AccuEQ misjudged the RP-140SA height speakers' distance from the listening position, claiming they were 5.2 feet away when they were actually 13.
Not only that, AccuEQ set a laughably high crossover setting for the front SP-EFS73-LR speakers at 150Hz, when the crossover should have been 60 or 80Hz. We also felt AccuEQ set the volume too low for the RP-140SA height speakers. All in all, it would have been a lot easier to do a manual setup, but the TX-NR757 doesn't allow for that, though we could make adjustments after the auto setup ran.
Starting with "The Revenant" on Blu-ray, the TX-NR757 demonstrated its home-theater skills by transporting us deep inside the movie's 1820s Western landscapes. This movie's mix sounds realistic above all. When the American trappers are sloshing through the river, wind is blowing through the tall trees and the insects and birds chirp, the sounds not only surrounded us, but also seemed to come from above us.
While "The Revenant" doesn't have a Dolby Atmos or DTS X soundtrack, the TX-NR757 still directed sound to the height speakers up on the front wall of the CNET listening room. More than just adding vertical information, the height speakers created a deeper soundstage than what we heard from just the front left, center and right speakers.
When the fur trappers are attacked by Native Americans, the ferocity of the battle's firepower, galloping horses and the agonized screams of the wounded were all vividly presented. The TX-NR757's transparency and abundant power put the film over the top.
For genuine Dolby Atmos thrills, we popped on the "Star Trek Beyond" Blu-ray. The film's explosions had lots of impact, bass rattled our walls and dialog was clear. As for Atmos, we can't say the height speakers added all that much to the experience with either "Beyond" or the "Gravity" Blu-ray we checked out afterward.
Next we hooked up a Denon AVR-S920W receiver and commenced a round of comparisons with the TX-NR757. The Denon was a tad clearer than the Onkyo, and the surround immersion from front to back of the room was more coherent with movies.
With stereo music, in "REM Unplugged 1991-2001" the acoustic instruments sounded softer and less clear on the Onkyo than the Denon. The sound differences between the two receivers isn't large, and both had plenty of power, but we felt the Denon edged out the Onkyo overall.
We found plenty to like about the Onkyo TX-NR757, despite its inaccurate AccuEQ setup routine. As for its sound, it's decent enough, but we preferred the Denon AVR-S920W for its superior clarity.