- Best Midrange AV Receiver
- Best High End AV Receiver
- Best Budget AV Receiver
- Best 5.1 Receiver
Best AV Receiver
A/V receivers act as an electronic gateway or organizer for your home entertainment system, and consolidate the function of multiple devices into a single box. Modern A/V receivers offer HDMI input/output, with higher-end units featuring advanced video processing as well. Better A/V receivers offer superior sound quality, which can immerse viewers in the "atmosphere" that movie directors intended. The lists of best av receivers below offer excellent options for expanding your home audio or theater system and we’ve also provided an informative buyers guide below for your review.
Best Midrange AV Receiver:
With multiple HDMI inputs and support for all the latest HD audio soundtracks including Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio, these mid-range receivers are ideal for watching Blu-ray movies and other HD material. Audio quality and video processing are top priority, with all of our selections delivering performance that will satisfy the needs of all but the most demanding buyers. Our picks also need to be easy to set up and use, while offering a good balance of features such as internet streaming and overall value for money.
The outstanding STR-DN1050 from Sony delivers an excellent blend of features, performance, and price. It might not be the cheapest receiver available, but this model is an improvement in every way over last year's already-superb STR-DN1040, and is well worth the investment. Read Full Review
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The excellent sound output of the Onkyo TX-NR626 could alone justify its price, but the inclusion of multiple features usually seen in higher-end models builds even more on the value of this receiver. Beyond being just about your only choice in this price range if you want a phono input, the TX-NR626 offers HDMI 2.0 and a laundry list of other modern features. Read Full Review
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This user-friendly receiver has taken the excellent basic performance of last year's model and improved features many felt were previously lacking. Denon's AVR-S900W combines an impressive eight HDMI 2.0 inputs, powerful output, and ease-of-use. At around $600 this unit isn't cheap, but its performance easily justifies the price. Read Full Review
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The upper-midrange VSX-1124-K is an overall excellent receiver, but also includes one upgrade that is sure to please those who have been hoping Pioneer would finally answer their wishes: the inclusion of a new subwoofer EQ. Combined with plenty of future-proof connectivity, power, and features, the VSX-1124-K offers a solid bump in performance over its predecessor. Read Full Review
The Marantz NR1605 is the most expensive A/V Receiver we’ve included. While it certainly delivers top-notch performance and features, the primary reason (other than personal preference) people pay more for is its design; the NR1605 is slim and stylish when compared to its typically bulky, boxy peers. Read Full Review
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Best High End AV Receiver:
If you're an audio/videophile seeking first-rate performance, the latest surround sound technologies, and a ton of useful features, stepping up to one of these high-end AV receivers is one way to go. Not all of our selections will have all the modern features such as WiFi, because the primary focus has been placed on making the core performance as outstanding as possible.
Rather than carrying consumer-grade features, these best high end receivers are equipped with top-of-the-line video processors such as Marvell's Qdeo. The reference-grade sound quality is backed by certifications from well-respected institutes like THX or AIR Studios; manufacturers have gone to great lengths to isolate signal noise and unwanted interference. Flexible connectivity is also a high-end calling card and these AV receivers offer plenty of support for digital and analog standards. The receivers on this list vary in price and range from 7.1-channel models to 9.2-channel options, so be sure to choose one best suited to your needs and home theater configuration.
Although some buyers may be turned off by turned off by this Class-D amplifier, the Pioneer Elite SC-77 is an excellent showcase of how far the technology has come. With both THX Ultra2 Plus and AIR Studios Monitor Certification, there is no doubt the performance and quality is there. A well-rounded package of features make this receiver an excellent overall choice. Read Full Review
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This well-rounded receiver offers a compelling blend of features, quality, and performance. Although the Onkyo TX-NR5010 is not cheap, it offers a tremendous amount of value for the price. Read Full Review
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The Anthem MRX 710 will not be the right choice for you if modern features like WiFi are of paramount importance. Anthem has chosen to focus on making the MRX 710 do its primary functions extremely well, resulting in a receiver producing what is likely some of the best audio performance available. Read Full Review
Marantz once again showcases their ability to balance performance and features at an easy-to-swallow price with the SR7008. Although this receiver isn't cheap, it delivers reference-quality performance and an excellent list of features that make the price tag around $2000 seem like a downright bargain. Read Full Review
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The outstanding performance of the AVR-4520CI is further enhanced by its numerous features and excellent connectivity, which both make this receiver an easy fit for even more substantial home theater setups. It doesn’t offer built-in WiFi so if your network necessitates WiFi for connectivity, the Denon AVR-4520CI might not be your best choice. Read Full Review
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Best Budget AV Receiver:
These best entry-level, budget AV receivers perform extremely well for their price, and pack impressive features often found on higher-priced competitors. Sacrifices are usually seen the most in terms of connectivity, with more affordable models lacking the versatility that comes from multiple in/outputs. However, our selections all offer enough basic connectivity to function well for a typical living room home theater arrangement. While these picks will likely not offer enough features or connectivity for audio and videophiles, most typical consumers should be more than satisfied with the mix of features offered by the receivers below.
Although around $500 might seem a bit steep for a "budget-friendly" model, Sony's STR-DN850 will be worth the extra money for many. This is thanks to its ability to deliver a compelling combination of features and performance, creating a receiver that is both easy and satisfying to use. Read Full Review
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Proving affordability doesn't have to mean being behind on technology, the Onkyo TX-NR535 includes HDMI 2.0 inputs, just like many more expensive new receivers this year. At around $400, this receiver is excellent value, offering a 5.2-channel configuration and solid wireless connectivity. Read Full Review
The Denon AVR-S700W is perhaps pushing the definition of "budget-friendly" a bit but its excellent performance paired with features and ease-of-use makes it an outstanding overall value. Denon has beefed up the included features when compared to previous models, now including built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay support. This should be a top pick for those seeking a feature-rich 7.2-channel receiver that won't break the bank. Read Full Review
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This stout 5.2-channel receiver makes up for what it lacks in connectivity with plenty of performance and a sub-$300 price tag. If you're looking for honest performance without the added cost of an endless list of features, the Sony STR-DH550 is a solid choice. Read Full Review
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For those seeking superb performance at a reasonable price, the Pioneer VSX-824-K should be at the top of the list. This 5.2-channel receiver offers six HDMI 2.0 inputs, lots of power, and plenty of wireless connectivity and features that more than justify its price. Read Full Review
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Best 5.1 Receiver:
Most receivers that were previously a 5.1-channel configuration, have now been updated to 5.2 channels providing the ability to add a second subwoofer thus expanding options for bass output. While 5-channel receivers tend to be more affordable (but with less included features), it’s important to ensure any model you're considering has enough connectivity options to meet your needs. Overall, AV receivers in this category offer a good way to pick up a receiver without more channels than you need while delivering excellent sound output, a decent amount of extra features and connectivity, as well as being relatively budget-friendly.
The network-capable TX-NR535 is Onkyo's top-spec five channel receiver. The 5.2-channel configuration means the ability to add a second subwoofer while plentiful features and the addition of HDMI 2.0 make this receiver an extremely well-rounded option for the price. Read Full Review
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With an asking price of under $300, the Sony STR-DH550 is an affordable way to get a solid 5-channel receiver. Although connectivity is not this receiver's strong point, it should be adequate to meet the needs of most living room setups, while offering plenty of performance. Read Full Review
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Although the price has come up a bit from last year's equivalent model, the Pioneer VSX-824-K still offers tremendous value for a five channel receiver. Numerous features and excellent performance justify the $400 price tag. Read Full Review
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Whereas most AV receivers are constrained by the standard box design, the Marantz NR1504 bucks the trend by offering one coming in at half the size. Even with the compact dimensions, the high sound quality and versatile connectivity options make this a useful option in the real world. Read Full Review
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If you're looking for a basic, honest, and affordable five channel receiver, the Denon AVR-S500BT should be a top contender. While this simple receiver does not offer a lot of connectivity, it delivers plenty of power and performance for around $250. Read Full Review
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AV Receiver Buyer's Guide
Despite major improvements in sound bars and other simple home audio solutions, an AV receiver and a good set of speakers are needed for true high-quality sound. An AV receiver combines a preamp, a tuner, and an amp into one device, while allowing you to connect a variety of components. It serves as the central hub of the home theater system, performing all the audio and video switching, as well as providing power to your speakers.
With so many features and technologies now included on AV receivers, it can be difficult to sort out what’s best for you. By breaking down your needs step-by-step, it becomes much simpler to narrow down your choices to a select few.
Determine your intended use for your AV receiver within your home theater setup. Also take note of the space where you intend to place your home theater system. If you have a smaller area to work with, you might not need to spend as much on an extra powerful unit.
You’ll also want to make a list of your devices, writing down the amount of AV connections they require including potential devices that you may add on in the future. Estimate your budget before actually looking up potential AV receivers and avoid looking at models outside of your price range.
Finally, consider the features you want. Most features are simply hype, but some options might actually be beneficial for your setup. If your budget is already figured out, they offer a good idea of what’s available within your price range.
AV Receiver Types
Ultimately, the differences between most AV receivers come down to price. However, high end receivers tend to put more focus on sound quality and overall performance – sound quality and clarity. AV receivers are essentially amplifiers at the end of the day, so the same standards for sound quality apply. Some of the high end ones also have video processing and video upconversion – this technology produces less consistent results, but may be useful to have.
Midrange models have a bit of everything. This means solid sound quality and flexibility with inputs; some have decent video conversion performance and wireless features (which the high end models tend to be lacking in favor of top-quality construction and materials).
Budget AV receivers, ultimately, are designed around a certain price point. They are made to give basic functionality while fitting within a set budget range. They are decontented, with less inputs and outputs than more expensive models; some don't have video processing or extensive network connectivity, making them best-suited for a more basic setup.
5.1 receivers tend to be lower-end models, as anyone seeking a high end AV receiver will tend to purchase a 7.1 channel receiver. The main difference between a 5.1 receiver and a 7.1 receiver is that the former has two less channels.
HDMI connectivity is your primary consideration, but also take into account any non-HDMI devices you have. This allows you to determine what types of inputs and connections as well as how many you’ll need. Connections such as digital audio (coaxial and optical digital audio inputs for audio-only components) or a phono preamp for turntables might be necessary to create your ideal system.
Since most of your home theater components will use HDMI, the amount of connections you’ll need depends on how many devices are going to be hooked up. It’s best to pick an AV receiver with at least one or two more inputs than actually needed. Since AV receivers are typically an investment which last for several years, this allows you to cover your immediate needs while leaving room for future expansion.
While many AV receivers don’t have wireless connectivity for WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay built in, this feature may be worth the price if you have devices that would make this capability especially convenient to have. Depending on the device, wireless connectivity will allow you to do things like stream music apps from your phone or tablet. Some AV receivers allow for adding wireless connectivity separately, but this method is less convenient.
Surprisingly, sound quality is a relatively minor aspect to worry about when looking for a new AV receiver. Although some people prefer the sound produced of one brand over another, chances are the audible differences from model to model are too subtle for most individuals to notice. AV receivers from established brands such as Onkyo, Denon, and Pioneer will all have excellent sound quality.
Going for 7.1 or even 9.2 channels typically isn’t worth the added expense over 5.1, with the exception of specialized setups. One of the primary benefits of 7.1 is the ability to set up second-zone audio which means using the two extra channels to power a second set of speakers, potentially from a different audio source.
Automatic Speaker Calibration
Automatic speaker calibration is a feature promising convenience, but in reality doesn’t always work that well. Some work better than others, however, so be sure to check reviews if this is something you’d like to have.
Automatic Speaker Calibration requires users to place a special microphone throughout the planned home theater soundstage, which then picks up individual frequencies emitted by each speaker. Afterwards, the AV receiver will do its best to determine the ideal calibration setup with the gathered information.
3D Compatability & Emerging Technologies
Most modern AV receivers are 3D-compatible, while 4K and video upconversion aren’t yet all that useful. Some higher-end AV receivers are equipped with video processors that enable them to sample input signals, and then convert them to a higher output resolution on-the-fly.
While this sounds good in theory, the real-world results are highly dependent on the quality of the video source, as well as the display itself. 4K resolution is some of the latest in high definition technology, boasting more pixels than the current mainstream 1080p content and displays; this translates to more detail in the image.
There is currently a lack of readily-available 4K content and most 4K televisions remain quite expensive. However, these features might prove useful to have for future-proofing your system.
Since power ratings aren’t standardized, the wattage of the AV receiver isn’t that important for typical home theaters. The general rule is you need less wattage for a smaller space and more for a larger one. Fortunately, most popular AV receivers are perfectly adequate for an average-sized home theater.