Mini Denon AVR-X2200W vs Onkyo TX-NR646 review
Like a lot of folks around here, I don’t post much but come to the forums often for information and advice about purchase and the like. So, I thought I’d contribute something in the form of a mini review on the Denon X2200W and the Onkyo TX-NR646.
I was in the market for a new receiver when my previous unit, a Pioneer VSX-1121-K, died on me unceremoniously. The receiver was only 2 years 8 months old, and followed a similar pattern to a lot of folks with Pioneers bought around that time, by displaying the UE22 error. Other than the receiver, my setup was staying the same: Sony 60” KDL-60R550A TV (1080P), Rocket ELT speakers (5.1), and assorted sources – Xbox One, Sony BDP-S5100, Charter cable box, and two home theater PCs.
When I was auditioning the two receivers they were very closely priced. The X2200 was $650 at Best Buy and Amazon, while the NR646 was $600. These prices have since moved apart with the Denon going for $700 to $800 and the Onkyo being discounted at $430-$450. Obviously, at the current prices the receivers are not an apples-to-apples comparison, but at the time when I bought them they were pretty close, being the second 7.2 receiver in each of their respective lines. Below are some bullet points for each unit that I jotted down during use.
• Very basic NET sources interface…very 90’s.
• Good iOS app, well laid out.
• Nice mini player option while listening to Net sources. Denon can do it also, but requires Option>Video Select – On>Select Source. The Onkyo only requires one button.
• No problems with Airplay.
• Comes with cardboard tripod, which is a nice touch.
• No menu selection buttons on front of receiver which means you need to use remote. Was able to setup the Onkyo without ever using the receiver remote, just Harmony One.
• Very friendly OSD
• Zone 2 limited to 70 volume, significantly quieter than Onkyo.
• No problems with Airplay.
• On first hookup of the Denon the streaming sources like Pandora and Internet radio locked up after 24 hours. Trying to play the zone through the app, web interface, or locally on the receiver did not work. The non-streaming sources still worked, but not the internet ones. The only way I got the zones back was to do a factory reset. I did have zone 2 ON for the prior 24 hours before the lock-up, but that was how I used my Pioneer VSX-1121-K since it did not have Wake-On-LAN. I’ve had the receiver in-use for the last two weeks and have not had another issue like this.
Did not use the Onkyo remote during the audition period as I utilize a Harmony One and was able to setup the unit with the front panel controls. The Denon remote is approximately 1.75” or approximately 25% longer than the Onkyo. Kind of a Goldilocks situation; the Onkyo remote’s main buttons like the volume, input selections, and play/pause are too small for easy, everyday use. The Denon’s buttons are so spread out that one would have to reposition their hands to do normal tasks like selecting zone 2, launching Pandora, and hitting play. Overall, the remotes matter little for a lot of people; the receiver remotes are put in a drawer or box right after setup and they use whatever universal remote they prefer.
Like the remotes, this isn’t high on my list of priorities, and even when its important to someone, is a very subjective category. However, the Denon does look better in my opinion, with the gold lettering being a nice touch. The Onkyo’s receiver-wide selection of source buttons isn’t my taste per-say, but in reality, they both are fine.
Front & Back panel layout:
Two main things I like about the Denon front layout vs the Onkyo. First is the inclusion of a USB port on the front instead of the back. This makes playing music files or updating the firmware manually from a thumb drive much easier. The second thing I like is the X2200 has two selector knobs on the front, volume and source. As I mention in the Looks section, the NR646 uses a series of buttons for source selection, and my preference is a selector knob. Kind of plays to symmetry side of my OCD The back panels are equal in my opinion except for the Denon’s removable power cord. I know that is usually a feature on higher-end receivers, but I’d be fine with a permanently wired cord, you don’t have to worry about the plug working its way loose.
Audio & Video:
This is where the review probably falls down the most. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch, and have been told I have a pretty insensitive ear. I could not hear any difference sonically between the two units. The overall sound output on the Denon was lower than the Onkyo and lower than I’m use to, but that is really just a number on the front panel. I don’t get near the max of either unit, though I have the Denon at about 50% of full span, while the Onkyo was closer to 30%. I played the CD version of Nirvana’s Poly, a FLAC version of Adele’s new single, and Bluray of Mad Max: Fury Road as comparisons material. I couldn’t tell any differences that were pronounced enough for me to be sure it wasn’t in my head. Visually, I’m rocking a 1080p TV, so I was not able to test the 4K output of any of the receivers. With the Mad Max material, colors looked similar on both units, with no real discernible difference between the two that I could tell. I know this is where people are really interested in hearing how the receivers did, but for me, both units provided good picture and sound. In addition, I didn't get to trial some of the newer features of the receivers like Dolby Atmos or 4K, so keep that in mind with this review.
Zone 2 & Internet sources:
One of my primary requirements for the new receiver was pre-outs for zone two. This was one of the primary reasons I didn’t look at Denon’s S line (or the x1200) during my comparison. I run the pre-outs to a Nuvo whole home audio system for primarily streaming music in other locations. Pandora and Airplay worked fine on both the Onkyo and the Denon. I was only able to try Spotify Connect on the Denon, and it worked fine too, with one odd quirk. When listening to radio stations through Spotify Connect, the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons are disabled for each track. When I play the Spotify app on the same station through Airplay, they are enabled. As I mentioned in the bullets above, the Zone 2 volume is artificially limited on the Denon, putting it at a lower level than the Onkyo and my previous Pioneer. I have to run the Nuvo’s volumes higher with the X2200 than I’ve had to in the past, but nothing it can’t handle.
The Onkyo app was well laid out and easy to use. I was able to launch Zone 2 internet sources independently of the main zone and was able to connect to the NR646 while in standby without any problems. The Denon app(s) are a mixed bag. The first that comes up in the iOS store is the “Denon Remote App.” That app is a bit garish in color selection and some buttons like the “home” button are very small for such a commonly used function. Buried far down on the search list, like 12-15 apps down, is the “Denon 2016 AVR Remote” app. This app is much more subdued with its UI choices and has an OK layout, though still not as good as the Onkyo IMO. One thing that is nice about the 2016 Denon app is it has the ability to do a virtual remote function, so you can control the receiver directly from your phone.
As you might have gleamed from some of my notes above, I ended up returning the Onkyo and keeping the Denon. Since the price was so close for each unit, three main things swayed me in favor of the Denon. First was the X-series 3 year warranty. After just getting burned with the Pioneer, I was willing to pay a slight premium for a longer warranty. For me, I plan to keep a receiver from 5-7 years, so the Pioneer was a disappointment. Of course there is no guarantee that the Denon won’t crap out at 3 years 1 month, but the extended warranty gives a piece of mind. Second, the Denon had all of its HDMI ports HDCP 2.2 compliant, where the Onkyo only had 3. Lastly, the home automation software I use (CQC) has a driver for the Denon and not the Onkyo. This probably isn’t a factor for 99% of the folks out there, but weighted into my decision. I’m happy with the X2200 and have not had any issues other than the one instance of Internet sources locking up, which has not be repeated since. Looking back at it however, if the Onkyo NR646 was ~$450 range I would have likely picked that up and been happy.