Onkyo TX-NR696 review: The new king of the do-it-all big black boxes

With Yamaha and Sony deciding not to release new models in 2019, it may seem like AV receivers are in a waiting pattern right now. It is up to brands like Denon, Marantz and Onkyo to keep the traditional black box alive against the growing competition from soundbars and smart speakers.

Last year Onkyo produced ours favorite receiver under $ 500: The TX-NR585, which doesn’t have a direct replacement in 2019. Instead, the TX-NR696 is the brand’s new mid-tier offering and it’s a winner. The ‘696 packs a high level of performance and a comprehensive feature set at a relatively affordable price. The Denon AVR-750H it sounds a little better with music and costs a little less, making it a solid second choice, but the Onkyo offers more features and a more full, dynamic sound overall. With the features, audio security, and flexibility of the best models at its price, the TX-NR696 earns HDOT’s editor’s choice.

To know more: The best AV receivers of 2020

A lot under the hood

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Sarah Tew / HDOT

The TX-NR696 is a 7 x 100 watts per channel receiver with an exhaustive list of features, including support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X atmospheric formats Compared to competitor Yamaha, which only includes four HDMI inputs on the back of models such as the ‘RX-V485, Onkyo includes six sound ones on the back. The ports offer pass-through of the latest 4K standards, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Other connections include pairs of component and composite video inputs, six analog audio inputs, three digital audio inputs (two optical and one coaxial), and a USB port.

Vinyl is in the midst of a renaissance right now and the NR696 allows users to take advantage of it thanks to a dedicated phono input for turntables without a built-in phono preamp.

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Sarah Tew / HDOT

Large and imposing at 6.81 inches tall, the Onkyo retains one of my favorite design touches from previous years: the direct source buttons on the front panel. If you often misplace your remote, you’ll appreciate being able to tap a button on the receiver to get the source you want.

Onkyo’s bevy of streaming protocols including built-in Chromecast, DTS Play-Fi, Spotify Connect, AirPlay and Bluetooth. The receiver uses the proprietary FlareConnect system which is essentially “mirror casting” for audio. It allows you to “mirror” what is playing on one FlareConnect system to another, individually or throughout the home. The most useful application of this would be streaming to a turntable or other analog source, although the built-in Play-Fi system also has this feature and more.

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Buttons buttons, who has buttons

Sarah Tew / HDOT

Onkyo offers a dedicated powered Zone 2 output if you’re looking to set up another room with a set of speakers.

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