Owning a home theatre system is something rather common these days. However, owning an excellent one is something completely different and the main reason for that are mediocre AV (audio/video) receivers that are just not up to the task.
Luckily, this problem can be easily handled and all that is needed is to follow some simple guidelines, and one of the best AV receivers will quickly become an integral part of your home theatre system, and let you experience your favorite movies and music in the best possible way.
How to choose the best AV receiver
As already mentioned, finding the best AV receiver shouldn’t be too hard to manage. You just need to pay attention to certain details, and before you know it, you will comfortably lie on your sofa and enjoy the latest blockbusters.
4K is today’s mainstream and as that, it would be rather… unwise to choose a device that doesn’t support it. This also includes support for HDR and Dolby Vision that are an integral part of the modern 4K experience. Therefore, don’t let these characteristics slip away and be sure that they are included in the package.
One of the most important aspects of any AV receiver is definitely its audio performance. Unfortunately, that is not something that can be seen in the specifications sheet or calculated. This characteristic demands for a trained ear that can notice subtle differences.
In other words, if you have a dedicated audiophile among your friends or family, it would be advisable to consult them about your choice, or even better take them with you to the store and let them hear the sound quality of the chosen device. If not, you can always count on our observation or read about it on forums and see other people’s experience with a certain device.
Regardless of how many inputs or outputs your device has, the number is never enough. For that reason, choose the receiver with as many as possible and pay special attention to the number of HDMIs that present the most common way of connection these days. Be sure that there are at least four HDMI inputs, and one or two outputs and save yourself from future trouble.
Music streaming capability
Have in mind that your receiver’s music streaming capability doesn’t include only the common Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking, but also the more advanced connection features such as AirPlay and Chromecast that have become today’s standard as well. Maybe you don’t use them right now; however, be aware that things are changing fast and that there is a huge chance that you or some of your family members will need them soon. Therefore, play it safe.
Best AV Receivers
Yamaha RX-V685 AV Receiver
An Excellent Feature-Rich AV Receiver
If you are looking for an AV receiver with tons of features and great audio and video performance, Yamaha RX-V685 is the device for you. However, have in mind that this device isn’t among the most affordable ones, but will surely deliver excellent value and everything you would expect from the best AV receiver.
There is support for various streaming services such as Pandora, Deezer, Napster or Spotify, excellent connectivity that includes Wi-Fi, Ethernet networking, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, and Amazon Alexa voice control support.
Yamaha RX-V685 works with 60fps 4K videos, it supports HDR, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and DTS: x, and comes with plenty of input/output options (USB port, two HDMI outputs with HDCP 2.2 support, 3.5mm input, two coaxial inputs, component video inputs, three RCA (AUX) outputs, etc.). Furthermore, this device supports various file formats (MP3, WMA, MPEG-4 AAC, FLAC, etc.), it offers YPAO – Reflected Sound Control Optimization and can work in various configurations, such as 7.2 channel surround sound and even wireless 5.1 configuration thanks to the MusicCast Surround capability.
Yamaha RX-V685 offers great three-dimensional sound, with excellent dynamics and overall presents a high-quality option for any music and video enthusiast.
- Excellent sound quality
- Non-intuitive interface
Amazing 8K AV Receiver For The Money
If you’re looking for a high quality under $1000 (way less than $1k actually) 8K compatible receiver, Denon’s AVR-S960 would definitely fit the bill. Released last July, the AVR-S960 is, according to Denon, their most affordable 8K receiver to date, yet it comes packed with all the technological bells and whistles to make your home entertainment system fabulous.
Beside 8K compatibility, the AVR-S960 comes with HDR10 Plus support, and, take a load of this: this incredibly affordable receiver has no less than 6 HDMI 2.3 inputs, one of them with 8K compatibility, plus 2 outputs, one of them featuring eARC. These latest-gen ports can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio, not to mention the “usual” virtual surround and upscaling technologies, the likes of DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology.
When it comes to sound, the 7.1.2-channel receiver delivers 90 watts on each of its seven channels, stereo, 20Hz-20KHz respectively (that’s hi-fi for noobs), and features a 32-bit AKM digital audio converter for high bitrate music compatibility.
Obviously, since this is a late 2020 model, it supports most video standards, including HDR10 Plus, Hybrid Log Gamma and Dolby Vision (high dynamic range formats) and 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video pass-through. According to Denon, the receiver can instantly switch the resolution or frame rate to eliminate screen blackout, as it’s compatible with HDMI 2.1’s Quick Media Switching. Moreover, this receiver is cool for gaming too, due to its auto low latency mode and variable refresh rate, for reducing frame tearing.
Finally, the AVR-S960 is awesome for streaming, arriving with Denon’s in-house HEOS system, as well as Bluetooth and Airplay 2 compatibility; if that’s not enough, you also get Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Josh.ai compatibility, so yeah, this baby really has it all.
- 8K/60Hz pass-through
- 6 HDMI inputs
- Great for streaming
- Gaming ready
- Impressive sound quality
- Full voice control compatibility
- None we can think of
Pioneer VSX-834 7.2-Channel AV Receiver
Seriously Capable AV Receiver
Our next pick is the Pioneer VSX-834, a 7.2 channel AV receiver with tons of features and awesome sound, as expected from a Pioneer amplifier. To begin with, the VSX-834 hits the sweet spot when it comes to value for money, as it offers a lot for less so to speak: you’ll get support for basically all the modern standards, including DTS.X and Dolby Atmos, plus the “obligatory” processed enhancements, which make it a highly versatile component for your home theater system.
One of the most important features of the VSX-834 is Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll be able to stream music hassle-free from your smartphone, yet, strangely enough, the receiver doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, which is a common feature on higher-end models.
Another thing that suggests the VSX-834 is a “budget” model is the fact that it only has clip-style speaker connectors, 4 HDMI inputs (each of them supporting 4K content @ at 60Hz) and one output. Before you ask, yes, that means connectivity options are pretty basic, especially if we take into account that there’s no analog video capability.
However, considering the price asked, if you’re looking for a no-nonsense AV receiver which looks like a classic Hi-Fi piece of equipment from the past, the VSX-834 would definitely fit the bill, due to its classic (some may say dated) design; however, it’s worth mentioning that Pioneer’s MCACC runs with the best in the industry, and by that we mean multi-channel acoustic calibration system, for an immersive movie experience.
And speaking of sound, you must learn that once configured properly, the VSX-834 sounds great, just as good as higher-end models actually, as Pioneer actually uses the exact same amplifier section and processor; the main difference between this model and more expensive ones is the number of inputs/outputs and amplified channels. Bottom line, the VSX-834 is a solid AV receiver for the money, supports all modern audio and video formats, and you won’t pay the penalty of sound quality even if you spend less, which is great in our book.
- Solid metal chassis
- Support for HDR10
- Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity
- Compatible with Dolby Vision
- HDMI with HDCP 2.2
- Cool remote
- Impressive surround processing
- No composite video out
The Best AV Receiver For The Money
Let’s see about a high-end AV receiver: enter Denon AVR-X3700H, a $1000+ 8K Ultra HD 9.2 Channel machine, which looks magnificent, it’s built with obsessive attention to detail, sounds fantastic and has all the features you’ll ever need, and then some. Basically, if you’re looking for the last AV receiver you’ll ever buy, this is it, cut and dried.
For internet sleuths out there is important to mention that the AVR-X3700H is the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020 winner. Need we say more? Okay, since you’ve asked, this UHD 9.2 8K home cinema amplifier is excellent in terms of future-proofing, as it arrives with 7 inputs and 3 outputs; 1 of the inputs and 2 of the outputs are full HDMI 2.1 sockets, which means they support 8K@60Hz and 4K@120Hz. Moreover, all HDMI ports support HDR10+, Dynamic HDR and Quick Media Switching, as well as HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.
We know, it’s pretty impressive thus far, but there’s more to learn: gamers will love the Variable Refresh Rate feature, which reduces frame tearing, and, on top of that, they are served with Auto Low Latency Mode and Quick Frame Transport, for better gaming performance via lag reduction.
Each of the 9 power amplifier channels claims a whopping 180W of power, which is a lot, and that means you can configure your home cinema in a 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 Dolby Atmos configuration; 3D audio support is also available, via Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Virtualization Technology, DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X and IMAX Enhanced.
Music lovers are taken care of by the receiver’s high-resolution audio decoding capabilities @ 24bit/192kHz, not to mention the double speed DSD (a niche digital music format for audiophiles). Finally, for avid streamers, the Denon offers HEOS and Apple AirPlay 2 connectivity, plus Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri compatibility.
- Class-leading sound
- HDMI 2.1 and 8K
- Stellar connectivity
- High-res audio support
- Great for gaming
- Easy to configure
- Remote monitoring available
- Nothing really
A Great Performance and Sound Experience at an Affordable Price
AV receivers don’t have to be insanely expensive in order to be good and provide a great user experience. Sometimes, manufacturers make high-quality stuff at more affordable prices, and Onkyo TX-NR595 is exactly that sort of device. It offers plenty of features, good connectivity, and more importantly, a good quality sound and image.
Onkyo TX-NR595 offers excellent networking and comes equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and LAN connection and has a built-in Chromecast, DTS Play-Fi and AirPlay 2. Moreover, it is fitted with six input and two output HDMI ports (fully HDCP 2.3 compatible), one optical, coaxial and USB port and even a phono input. There is also an internet radio feature, as well as support for streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, Tidal and Deezer.
Furthermore, this device is capable of playing 60fps 4K HDR10 videos, it offers 4K upscaling feature and comes with support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, DTS:X and variety of file types that involve: FLAC, WAV, Apple Lossless, WMA, MP3, DSD, AIFF, AAC, LPCM, etc.
All in all, this receiver offers a great collection of features and excellent compatibility in one place. Therefore, if you are looking for the best AV receiver for under $500, Onkyo TX-NR595 should definitely be among your top picks.
- Good connectivity
- Plenty of features
- Solid performance
- It doesn’t support Napster or SiriusXM
A Basic AV Receiver that Can Handle Every Challenge
If you are a more budget-oriented user, without too many interests for advanced features, Sony STRDH590 might be your best choice.
This receiver brings the minimalistic design that is in compliance with its nature that doesn’t bring anything revolutionary. However, it offers very good audio and exceptional video experience. Its sound is precise and clean, while thanks to 60fps 4K video compatibility and support for HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, its provided image is of the highest quality.
Unfortunately, Sony STRDH590 provides only Bluetooth 4.2 networking and lacks Wi-Fi and Ethernet connection, as well as Chromecast and AirPlay. Also, its USB port allows only powering of mobile devices and can’t be used for media playback, as it is the case with its main rivals Denon’s AVR-S540BT and Yamaha’s RX-V385.
Nevertheless, its great performance, enhanced with a solid connectivity (four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output with HDCP 2.2 support, one coaxial and one optical digital audio input, four stereo audio ins, etc.) and ease of setup makes this device one of the best AV receivers available and a great entry-level AV 5.1-channel receiver.
- Easy setup
- It lacks AirPlay and Chromecast
- It doesn’t support streaming services
- USB port lacks the support for media playback
Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A1080
An Excellent Feature-Rich Mid-Range AV Receiver
Next in line we have the AVENTAGE RX-A1080 from Yamaha, a premium 7.2 channel network receiver featuring Dolby Atmos, DTS: X (5.2.2-ch) with Zone 2, Cinema DSP HD3, YPAO Sound Optimization (RSC/Multipoint/Precision EQ); however, the cherry on top is that this bad boy comes “loaded” with a high quality ESS Sabre DAC for music aficionados.
As you can see from the preamble, this AV receiver has it all, including a big name written on the front panel. Even if the Yamaha Aventage was released 2 years ago, it still stands stong in terms of streaming/internet services, at it supports Pandora, SiriusXM, Napster, Internet Radio, Deezer, TIDAL, and Spotify.
Connectivity wise, the AVENTAGE RX-A1080 sits pretty with no less than 7 HDMI HDCP 2.2 inputs, which are all compatible with 4K HDR and Dolby Vision content, plus 3 similar HDMI outputs, comparably equipped.
One of the best features of the Aventage is Yamaha’s proprietary YPAO RSC (Reflected Sound Control) technology, which configures speaker output from up to 8 listening positions after it measures the room, as well as the Surround AI thing, that works great in terms of optimizing sound performance during a movie.
We must also mention Yamaha’s Virtual Speaker Technology, which employs its CINEMA DSP HD3 engine in order to simulate eleven channel sound on a seven-channel system. To make a long story short, the Yamaha RX-A1080 is an impressive 7.2 AV receiver with a dynamic soundstage and cutting-edge processing. Both music and movies sound extremely well on the Aventage, which is also a very capable network audio player.
If you have the money and the proper speakers to get the most out of it, then the RX-A1080 is definitely worth considering.
- Dolby Atmos & DTS:X support
- Big and dynamic soundstage
- Capable network audio player
- Tons of features
- Superb multichannel sound
- Does great with music
- Multi track files do not work
Marantz NR1510 UHD AV Receiver
An AV Receiver Designed for Small Spaces
If you have a small living room or multimedia room that requires for a solid, but more basic AV receiver with decent connectivity, Marantz NR1510 UHD AV Receiver is the thing for you.
This is a compact, ultra-slim 5.2 channels receiver that offers good sound balance, as well as few handy features such as Audyssey MultEQ sound calibration and voice control and support for Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Josh. Moreover, this receiver allows for 60fps 4K video playing and provides support for Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio and High-Resolution Audio, but lacks the support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Marantz NR1510 is fitted with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and Ethernet connection and comes with full AirPlay 2 functionality, along with full HEOS support that gives you the opportunity to create the real multi-room AV system.
Because of NR1510 dedication to more budget-oriented users, some of the more advanced functionalities such as the HDMI upscaling had to be eliminated. However, that didn’t affect its number of outputs and inputs that include: six HDMI inputs and one HDMI output (it supports eARC) that are all compliant with HDCP 2.3 standard, one USB port, three analog inputs, three composite inputs and one output, etc.
All in all, Marantz NR1510 AV receiver has a lot to offer, as long as you are willing to accept its limitations such as the lack of certain features, but more importantly, the ability to provide only 50W of power per channel, which is one of the main reasons why its usage should be limited to small spaces.
- A High-quality audio performance
- It lacks Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
- No HDMI upscaling
- A bit pricey
If you are ready to boost your home theater experience, we are sure that you’ll find your future companion among these lines. Just review the features and focus on what you actually need – and then just lie back and enjoy your next movie!