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Onkyo AVRs To Get Wireless Multiroom, Google Cast, Tidal

Onkyo is bringing wireless multiroom-audio, Google Cast, and Tidal streaming to its audio/video receivers for the first time.

In unveiling four AVRs priced starting at $399, Onkyo said it plans summertime availability of firmware upgrades to add Google Cast, Tidal and FireConnect wireless-multiroom audio to the $599 TX-NR555, $699 TX-NR656, and $799 TTX-NR757.

The three AVRs, which feature Dolby Atmos surround, will also get a summertime upgrade to add DTS:X surround, the company said.  However, last year at this time, the company promised DTS:X firmware upgrades in 2015 for select Atmos-equipped AVRs but didn’t deliver.

“Onkyo products feature specialized digital signal processing (DSP) chips designed to optimize DTS:X performance for our products,” a spokesman explained. “Adapting the firmware to suit these DSPs has taken longer than initially expected, and as such, the DTS:X firmware rollout has been rescheduled to summer 2016.”

DTS chairman/CEO Jon Kirchner earlier this month acknowledged delays in rolling out DTS:X firmware upgrades, pinning “a delay in transition to next-generation [DTS:X] technology” for “greater than expected softness” in the company’s 2015 home-A/V-market revenue.

The $399 TX-SR353, TX-NR555 TX-NR656 will be available in mid April, followed in May by the $799 TX-NR757. The three seven-channel Atmos-equipped models will drive 5.1.2 Atmos speaker configurations but won’t accept add-on amps to drive 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 configurations.

Key features: With the launches, HDR-capable HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 copy protection continue to start at a suggested $399, built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay continue to start at $599, and built-in Bluetooth continues to start at $399. But the opening price for a Dolby Atmos AVR that’s upgradable to DTS:X drops to $599 from $699. Last year the company also offered $499 and $599 Atmos AVRs that couldn’t be upgraded to DTS:X.

Wireless multiroom: With the addition of FireConnect technology in the $599-$799 AVRs, Onkyo will join Sony and Yamaha in offering AVRs with wireless-multiroom capability. An Onkyo app on a smartphone or tablet will direct music from networks computers and mobile devices to the AVRs and to Wi-Fi-equipped multiroom-audio speakers. Onkyo plans to offer compatible Wi-Fi speakers, likely in the summer, but hasn’t divulged details.

The Blackfire technology will also let users stream any AVR-connected source, including streaming services and a turntable, to the tabletop speakers.

For its wireless-multiroom technology, Onkyo turned to Blackfire Research, which also provides the wireless-multiroom technology in Harman Kardon wireless speakers. Onkyo’s products, however, won’t integrate with Harman Kardon products in a single wireless network.

“Blackfire has a number of technologies,” the Onkyo spokesperson explained. “The Harmon Kardon speakers use a different Blackfire technology, so they are not compatible with [Onkyo products].”

Stepping up: The lineup begins with the $399 5.1-channel TX-SR353 with four HDMI 2.0a inputs, all with full 18Gbps speed, HDR support, and HDCP 2.2 copy protection. It also features 192kHz/24-bit DACs on all channels, HDMI passthrough, Bluetooth, and USB port to play music from a flash drive.

The $599 TX-NR555 steps up to 7.2 channels, built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay, FireConnect multiroom, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X upgradability,  Google Cast, Spotify, Deezer (via a future firmware upgrade), and other Internet streaming services.  It also steps up to high-res audio decoding (including DSD 5.6MHz), DVD-Audio and SACD decoding, 384kHz/32-bit DACs, Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad USB, powered second-zone audio, and six HDMI inputs, though only select inputs feature HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2.

The $699 7.2-channel TX-NR656 adds more power, eight HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs, and phono input. The $799 7.2-channel TX-NR757 adds more power and THX Select Plus audio-performance certification.