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Top 10 Best Audio Receivers Reviewed In 2018

Last Updated April 1, 2019
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An Audio/Video (A/V) Receiver is, if you’ll forgive a slightly clunky analogy, the quarterback of your home theater. It’s not just because it tells everything where to go, routing signals to different speakers and screens. It’s because it has a profound effect on the quality of the system. If it isn’t up to the task of handling the vast amount of data that get’s thrown it at, then you could have the best speakers on earth and still get bad results. The market is a crowded one, so we’ve picked out some of the best A/V receivers for this year, ranging from sub-$300 budget options to monster units that will cost you a couple of grand.



Feel free to explore the podium, click on the pictures to find out more.



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№1 – Pioneer VSX-531-K 5.1-Channel AV Receiver

Pioneer VSX-531-K 5.1-Channel AV Receiver
Great value for the price, especially the amount of power
Modern connectivity and feature set for convenience
Works well with video as well as audio data
Can be the centerpiece of a room, yet is small enough to be tucked away if preferred

The Pioneer VSX-531 supports 5.1 surround sound and can drive 140 watts to each channel. Special features include the ability to designate two different zones with different output, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, an app for control, 4 HDMI inputs, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD software, pass-through, the Advanced Sound Retriever filter for improving compressed audio, and a USB port.


№2 – Pyle PT390AU Digital Home Theater Stereo Receiver

Pyle PT390AU Digital Home Theater Stereo Receiver
Inexpensive, but still treats source signals well
A varied set of inputs

Pyle PT390AU Digital Home Theater Stereo Receiver, Aux (3.5mm) Input, MP3/USB/AM/FM Radio, (2) Mic Inputs, 300 Watt.
The Pyle PT390AU is a lower-end receiver. With just four channels it cannot support a surround system, but it can drive for over 70 watts per channel. It lacks the remote connectivity and other bells and whistles of more expensive receivers, but does have an onboard radio and mic inputs, which are fun for karaoke. You can use the USB or Aux port for playback from MP3 players or mobile devices.


№3 – Marantz NR1504 Slim Line 5.1 Channel Home

Marantz NR1504 Slim Line 5.1 Channel Home
Great streaming accessibility
Easy interface
Powerful streaming tools

The Marantz NR1504 is a bit of a step up in quality and ability. Like the VSX-531 it offers 5.1 surround and each of those channels takes about 50 watts of power. It’s integrated with its own free radio as well as streaming services. The included AirPlay software makes it easy to stream from any OS or iOS device to the receiver. The unit has 6 HDMI inputs.


№4 – Sony STRDH550 5.2 Channel 4K AV Receiver

Sony STRDH550 5.2 Channel 4K AV Receiver
Great value and basic functionality for an entry-level device

Back down to Sony’s STRDH line, the 550 is a little further down and costs about the same as other low to midrange units. While it only has 5.2 channels it is 4K-ready and can blast 145 watts to each channel. The AVR lacks the cutting edge features like WiFi and Bluetooth, but still has a USB to play music from your iPod or iPhone. It makes a nice choice if you have a 5.2 speaker system and want to see how it will run without needing to spend a lot more.


№5 – Pyle Stereo Amplifier Receiver AM-FM Tuner

Pyle Stereo Amplifier Receiver AM-FM Tuner
Compact and can power an unpowered speaker without needing a preamp

Pyle reaches the list again with their PT272AUBT. It is a low-end receiver that costs very little. It is a hybrid of a receiver and an amp, so it will power any speaker you plug into it. The sound quality is not the best and it is not suitable for use as a home theater hub due to the lack of surround and video capability. Instead, with the USB and Bluetooth connectivity, it works best as a party-powering beast. 300 watts is a good amount of power, and you can take it outside and play your music loudly during a barbecue or pool party.


№6 – Denon AVRS510BT-R Refurbished 5.2 Channel

Denon AVRS510BT-R Refurbished 5.2 Channel
Great sound quality and power, especially for the price
Lots of HDMI inputs

Another first on the list, this time it is Denon with a 5.2-channel model that costs about midrange price, maybe a little lower, making a bid to be the best Bluetooth audio receiver. It has 5 HDMI inputs and is 4K-ready. It can remember 8 Bluetooth devices at a time for streaming. The Denon comes with a setup wizard to cut down on that initial install time. It is compatible with Denon’s zone-control system, but only if you buy an accessory. You can control it using an app and a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. It pushes out 140 watts per channel.


№7 – Pioneer VSX-530-K 5.1 Channel AV Receiver

Pioneer VSX-530-K 5.1 Channel AV Receiver
Dense feature set does not compromise the quality of the receiver
Especially good Bluetooth streaming

For a 5.1 channel receiver, the VSX-530-K marks Pioneer’s first appearance on the list. As you might expect from the price, it is another introductory model. Its strongest feature is probably the Bluetooth, making it a contender for best Bluetooth audio receiver . It also pushes through a lot of power for its price, 140 watts for each channel.


№8 – Sony STRDN1060 7.2 Channel Hi-Res Wifi Network AV Receiver

Sony STRDN1060 7.2 Channel Hi-Res Wifi Network AV Receiver
Outstanding sound and detail
Deep feature set with an emphasis on mobility

Now this is getting into the upper ranges. The 1060 is the most advanced model in the STRDN line and it costs acordingly. It primarily adds more HDMI ports, better zone controls and wireless features, even more wattage, and the ability to stream to a device over NFC as a homespot NFC enabled Bluetooth audio receiver. The sound quality is excellent.


№9 – Pyle PT588AB 5.1 Channel Home Theater AV Receiver

Pyle PT588AB 5.1 Channel Home Theater AV Receiver
Solid introductory model

As a low-end 5.1 receiver the Pyle PT588AB does fine. The feature set is good but lacks some depth. For example, it has Bluetooth but the range is not as good as on higher end models. The nicest thing about the 588 is the way it can introduce you to a wide selection of features at a bargain price. Together they form quite a package- a radio, onboard karaoke mixer with EQ and effects, and so on.


№10 – Sony STRDN860 7.2 Channel Hi-Res WiFi Network AV Receiver

Sony STRDN860 7.2 Channel Hi-Res WiFi Network AV Receiver
Great feature set and sound/picture quality
True affordable home theater centerpiece

The STRDN860 is one step up from the previous model. It costs slightly more. For that money, you get some extra features like Google Cast for Android streaming and WiFi for iOS Airplay. It adds a little more power, up to 150 watts per channel, and has 5 HDMI inputs. It can create multiple sound zones across different sets of speakers. If you liked the setup of the previous 7.2 channel Sony but just wanted a little more in the way of extras, this is your receiver. It is a contender for best receiver for whole house audio on a reasonable budget.


AV Receiver Buyers Guide

Consumers looking to add just the right audio/video receiver to their home theater experience can benefit from reviewing a brief, general buyers’ guide as they work to make sense of the many options out there. Becoming familiar with basic AV receiver information and discovering something about the types of receivers available as well as the brands of receivers on the market is a good starting point for anyone looking to either purchase their first audio/video receiver or upgrading a receivers to enhance an in-home theater experience.

Unfortunately, learning about AV receivers and finding the right component for your system can be a daunting task for any home-theater neophyte. Information on receivers abounds but, thanks to all the push from vendors selling receivers, the info can be confusing simply because it is overwhelming.

An Audio Video Receiver is the component in a home theater system that coordinates the audio and visual output coming from all the different machines hooked into the system. An AV receiver processes video and amplifies sound and transmits it to a display device.

Here is a brief overview of the types of AV receivers available as well as a summary of some of the brands of AV receivers.

Components in the realm of receivers can vary from simple to complex. There are products called soundbars that basically do nothing more than output or provide sound for whatever display device a watcher is using. There then is a gamut of AV receivers, components that take input from a variety of video and audio players and/or tuners, process the content and then output the content to the appropriate sound or display device. The AV receiver market also includes a more comprehensive product often known as a “home theater in a box” (HTiB), which is a system that includes the receiver as well as the speakers necessary to support a user’s display, speakers and input components.

AV receivers are available from several noted manufacturers. Some of the most respected providers of audio/video components include: Yamaha, Onkyo, Samsung and Pioneer. The Pioneer line of receivers includes both basic or entry-level components and higher-end, feature-rich receivers, which are found in company’s Elite line.

Yamaha is another well-known name in electronics that offers AV Receivers. Yamaha’s options range from affordable entry-level machines to high performance AV receivers to complete home theater systems.

Samsung offers several choices in home theater systems. This company offers several inclusive options that come with one type of video player or another. Samsung also offers HBiTs.

Onkyo provides an incredibly broad range of receivers that are usually well received. Many Onkyo receivers provide great technology at mid-range prices. Denon is another manufacturer of AV receivers often noted for its quality models.

Other AV receivers come from companies like Harman Kardon and Marantz. Top-of-the-line expensive receivers used by try audiophiles with ample budgets are available from Krell and McIntosh.

Consumers should research the brands to determine which meet their needs. Buyers should also review articles summarizing the benefits of AV receivers and offering purchase tips.

How to buy the best turntable and stereo system for your record collection

On the turntable itself, there are two variables that need to be adjusted to get you started: the counterweight, adjustable at the base of the turntable arm, and the anti-skate. This part is a little complicated, but if you’ve ever had your needle slide across a record, fine-tuning these settings will fix it.

The counterweight controls how much downward or “tracking” pressure is exerted on the needle. With too little pressure, your records are likely to skip, and with too much, you could potentially damage your records or the needle. They key for getting the correct tracking force is to first “zero” the weight by putting just enough force on the arm to make the cartridge suspended in air, between the up and down positions. After setting the weight to zero, adjust it to the correct tracking force by turning the weight to a number based on your cartridge. Tracking force is measured in grams. The tracking force will generally be between one and two grams for audiophile cartridges, and three and five grams for DJ cartridges, but a cartridge’s documentation should say the specific recommendations. The anti-skate dial counteracts a horizontal “skating” force that takes place during playback, and is another setting that keeps your records from skipping. It’s usually set to the same number as the tracking force.

For powered speakers and lower-cost stereo configurations, plugging in speakers can be pretty simple. But for older equipment and higher-end speakers that draw power from the amp, it can involve cutting speaker cable, stripping the wire casing to expose about a 3/4” strip of copper wire, and connecting the cable to the terminals on the rear of the speakers.

Speaker cables have two strands, and speaker connections have two connections, labeled red (positive) and black (negative). When attaching speaker wire, it’s important that the polarity of the connections should line up properly. Correct polarity ensures that the two speakers are working together. If the left speaker is red-to-red while the right is red-to-black, then one speaker will be sucking in air while the other is pushing it out, muddying the sound.

When setting up speakers in a room, there are a few simple things to keep in mind. The further the speakers are from reflecting surfaces like floors and walls, the more airy and spacious and “accurate” they will sound. In general, you’ll get clearer sound when you keep the speakers out of the corners and move them out a bit from the wall. Conversely, the closer your speakers are to reflecting surfaces, the more bass you will get. So if you have small speakers that seem light on bass, putting them in the corners will give them some additional low end. The ideal listening position for stereo sound is usually considered to be something like an equilateral triangle, with the listener sitting in one corner and the two speakers in the others.

Once you’re done, congratulations: You won’t have to mess with any of this again for some time—unless you want to. And when you do, you’ll be coming at the situation with some experience.

The best av receiver

AV receiver is something that not only improves the sound quality but enhances the experience on the whole, if you are die-heart lover of music. However, the in-built speakers of your TV are good, yet if you pair them with AV receiver you will definitely experience the difference. It is because the sound quality becomes world class and there is a lot of boost in the sound.

The market is flooded with a variety of AV receivers with each promising to be the best in terms of the excellent technology. But as a buyer, it is definitely not easy to make the choice.

Nowadays the latest AV receivers are packed with advanced technology and cool features which seek the attention of the people. So, one will not face any problem as you will be able to explore countless choices depending on your requirements and the budget.

Though there are too many features that you can look into while buying the AV receiver but some of the crucial ones that are must consider for the selection are:

1. HDMI input

Almost all the devices that you find today have HDMI input. It is something that can make a huge difference while buying the AV receiver so it is important to have correct information about it.

Usually, 3 HDMI inputs are enough for any device but in case you are an electronic lover, 6 will surely be optimum.

The best thing about HDMI inputs is that it can be easily expanded by using the switcher

Hence, in future if you wish to have more devices in your room, you have the option of increasing the connectivity through the HDMI switcher.

2. Bandwidth

While choosing the AV receiver you need to make sure that the bandwidth is ideal. Usually, the one mentioned in the specification is taken in the full range. This information can be dicey so it is necessary to ensure the fact that the bandwidth is high enough so that the AV receiver can work properly and offer the desired experience too.

3. Built-In support for wireless technologies

By using the wireless technology, you can easily stream the audios and videos from your devices onto the AV receiver. There is no doubt about the fact that wireless support is very necessary and should be an important concern for you.

Whether it is your mobile or tablet, you can easily connect them via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi etc for excellent streaming. Thus, it becomes quite easy to enjoy the music in a hassle free way.

You can connect AV receiver to Bluetooth with the help of the external device thus ensuring smooth streaming.

If you are using Apple devices, AirPlay is the connectivity option that you can rely on.

4. Stereo AV receiver

If you are looking forward to a great experience, the stereo receiver can be perfect.

Though you can say that these are not much popular but still the sound quality of stereo receiver is just unmatchable.

You can use them in your living area or the bedroom according to your choice.

  • The best part is that it can be attached to the TV as well thus improving your experience to watch the television as well.
  • Do not connect too many devices or else the sound quality may go down thereby compromising with your experience.

5. Power

Most of the buyers look for big numbers when it comes to the power of the AV receiver.

Higher the wattage of the device, more will be the power. This is the reason that manufacturers have become very smart and ensures that the customers are attracted by specifying high power.

This is just to bluff the customers and sell the products through the wrong specifications.

  1. This has led to the testing conditions being disclosed so that a check can be done on the manufacturers who are giving fake specifications just to sell their products.

So not matter what type of AV receiver you are buying, do not go by the specifications unless you are fully satisfied on your own.

6. Processing

  • Another important consideration is the speed with which the signals are processed. If the signals are poor, the sound quality will also be poor and vice versa.
  • No matter how good your AV receiver may be but the signal quality can have a negative impact on it.
  • This is the reason that the processing should be good enough so that you can enjoy excellent sound quality which is the biggest concern among the buyers.
  1. DAC is the parameter which helps you to decide whether or not the receiver is worth buying.
  2. Most of the manufacturers do not specify DAC but you can ask for the same before buying it.
  3. Higher the value of DAC better will be the quality of sound.

Do not hesitate to ask about DAC from your retailer as it is not mentioned with the specifications.

These are few factors that you may take in to consideration while buying the AV receiver. As there are lots of options open before the buyers, it may confuse them thus ending with a wrong choice. So, a little homework, as well as research, is necessary so that you are able to make out the most of it.

Don’t get puzzled as you can explore the different options; compare them one by one in order to take the final decision.

With the help of the above best AV receiver buying guide, you will surely be able to grab the best AV receiver you have been looking for. You can plan your budget first and then have a look at the options which are open before you. In this way, you will be able to make a great choice and end up buying a decent AV receiver which matches your requirements.

So don’t waste your time but just visit the market or go online to purchase the AV receiver and enjoy a superb experience of listening to your favorite tracks.

What is an Bluetooth Receiver?

A Bluetooth music receiver is a gadget that lets you stream music to connected speakers or headphones via Bluetooth. They’re a cheap way of upgrading older home theatre equipment by adding Bluetooth capabilities.

Why buy a Bluetooth receiver?

There’s no doubt that Bluetooth is everywhere. The wireless technology is in your smartphone, tablet, speakers, and headphones. However, not all recent audio equipment has Bluetooth streaming built in.

Often, people work around this by buying a high quality Bluetooth speakers like the Bose SoundLink.

However, if you’ve already forked out hundreds (or thousands) on quality audio equipment, buying a Bluetooth receiver is an easy way to add Bluetooth music streaming rather than buying new equipment with Bluetooth support built in.

What Features Should the Best Bluetooth Receiver Have?

If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth music receiver, there’s a number of things you should look for:

  • Good Audio Quality
  • A Recent Bluetooth Version
  • Large Bluetooth Range
  • Connectivity Options
  • Good Audio Quality

There’s no point buying a Bluetooth receiver for music if the music sounds terrible.

Whilst Bluetooth audio won’t be as good as a direct connection (though most won’t be able to notice the difference), the quality of the audio components in a Bluetooth receiver is important.

The best Bluetooth receivers have high quality audio components for the most faithful music reproduction the technology can provide.

Of course, this does come at a significant price premium as better quality audio components drive up costs.

A Recent Bluetooth Version

Ideally, the best Bluetooth receiver should offer recent Bluetooth standards, as each new iteration of the Bluetooth protocol adds useful features such as improved bandwidth, increased range and reduced power consumption.

The best Bluetooth music receivers should offer at least Bluetooth 3.0 for a smooth streaming experience, though Bluetooth 4.0 is recommended. Newer Bluetooth standards are backwards compatible however, so modern devices won’t have any issues connecting to older Bluetooth devices.

Large Bluetooth Range

The freedom of wireless audio is no good if you need to be right next to the Bluetooth music receiver so Bluetooth range is crucial.

Let’s talk about the things people worry about that they probably shouldn’t:

1) Amplifier Power

Reading through manufacturers’ websites, it is clear that they value amplifier power. As the prices of their receivers increase, so does the rated amplifier output. It is rare to see a receiver at a high price point with identical power ratings to a cheaper model in a manufacturer’s lineup. Even if it is only a five watt-per-channel increase, there is always an increase. So, wattage must be important right?

The dirty secret of the home theater world is that most consumer-level speakers can be paired with even an entry level receiver, and do just fine. While a 120 watts-per-channel A/V receiver has the potential to sound better than 100 or 80 watts-per-channel A/V receiver, the fact is that you are usually using only a few watts at any given time on a continuous basis. There are a lot of reasons for this, but if you are trying to decide between two receivers and one has slightly more power, don’t let this be your final decision making parameter. This is especially true as amplifier ratings are often not consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer, or even from model to model for a single manufacturer. You’ll need to account for how power is rated (i.e. bandwidth, distortion level, number of channels driven, etc.) to do the best apples to apples comparison.

2) Weight

The idea that the heavier A/V receiver or amplifier is better has been around forever. This is a down-and-dirty method for determining the size of the power supply (usually an EI core or toroidal transformer). The heavier one usually has a larger power supply and therefore has more power reserves. There is some merit to weight being an indicator of quality, as you need a big power transformer to deliver lots of power to your speakers. However, in addition to a hefty power supply, a powerful receiver needs a generous capacitor storage bank to reduce AC ripple and help sustain power reserves. The power supply dumps power into the capacitors, and they provide the instantaneous power that your speakers might need. Moreover, your receiver could have the world’s largest power supply, but without large, well-engineered output transistors in the amplifier’s output section and a good amount of heat sinking to keep them from thermal overload, the receiver could still limit the amount of sustained power available to the loudspeakers. This is especially true for low impedance loads that will demand higher current draw from the receiver’s amplifier section which in turn will cause it generate more heat.

Be careful when using weight as a determination of quality. Manufacturers know people are looking at the weight as a measure of quality. Look for higher-priced receivers with “features” such as extra-thick aluminum front plates and other weight gaining changes that have little chance of making a sonic difference. In really high-end and high-dollar offerings, will often beef up the chassis and some may even go so far to add extra fins on the sides just to add weight.

3) Latest “Must Have” Feature

As is the case with all products that are continually upgraded, each model-year brings a new round of features that we’ve never seen before. This year it was the Dolby Atmos surround processing and HDMI 2.0. Next year it will likely be full HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support and DTS UHD or Auro-3D (even though Denon and Marantz have already adopted the latter). Whatever it is, don’t jump on the “gotta have it” bandwagon without serious thought.

A few years back, the “big feature” was Apply AirPlay. AirPlay is Apple’s wireless streaming solution allowing you to stream content from your iPhone, iPod (some models), or iPad over WiFi. Manufacturers were plastering their adoption of this wireless streaming solution all over their marking material. Did some people buy specifically for AirPlay? Probably. But how many of them actually use it? This year the “must have” is Dolby Atmos. If a buyer isn’t going to put speakers high up on their walls or on their ceiling (or buy Atmos-enabled speakers), purchasing an Atmos receiver doesn’t make sense. Don’t get caught up in the hype unless you are sure you’ll actually use the new feature(s) that your current A/V receiver may be lacking.

7.1 or 5.1 system?

7.1 systems use two more speakers than 5.1 systems to provide smoother transitions from one speaker to another around the room, creating a more convincing surround-sound effect. Note, however, that most movies are mixed for 5.1 surround sound, so extra speakers won’t necessarily improve the quality of the experience. But if a 7.1 system supports two-zones (read more about this below), you can enjoy a 5.1 speaker-based movie played on a DVD player in one room and stereo music from another source such as a radio or iPod in another.

What else do I need to know about AV receivers?

Two-zone (or ZONE 2)

Two-zone functionality means the receiver can send a second source signal to speakers or a separate audio system in another location. For example, you can watch a Blu-ray or DVD movie with audio in one room, and music can be played from a CD player in another room at the same time using another set of speakers.

Auto set-up

Setting up a sound system can be a tedious task that involves programming speaker distances and settings and all kinds of other technical jiggery pokery. An automated set-up process can really save you the brain-ache. Purists say they can spoil your listening experience, so it really depends on how involved you want to get.

Remote controls

Remotes should be easy to read in bright light and when the lights are low. Look for high contrast labels and keys that are grouped in logical patterns. Fluorescent or backlit keys are highly visible, but make sure the keys are big and well-spaced, so you’re less likely to accidentally press more than one at a time.

On-screen menus

On-screen menus should be easy to read and set out in a format that makes sense, rather than being too detailed and confusing.


A built-in AM/FM radio tuner is standard equipment, but a Digital Audio Broadcast Plus (DAB+) radio is still a bit or a rarity as digital radio is only starting to gain a foothold in the market.


The arrival of Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray movies is making big demands on all parts of a home theatre setup. Look for the HDMI standard 1.4 which has been introduced to ensure there are no bottlenecks between the player, AV receiver and the TV when moving the large amounts of information.

AV/lip sync

An AV/lip sync function allows for the difference in video and sound processing in some home theatre setups – lack of “lip sync” is where the sound doesn’t exactly match what’s happening in the video. This off-putting effect can be more pronounced when mixing analog, such as component video, with digital audio from the same DVD player. Most AV receivers will have this feature.

A/B speakers

A/B speakers allow you to turn an additional set of speakers on or off, while using the same audio.


Some AV receivers support upscaling, which converts one video format to a higher resolution (e.g. from a DVD’s resolution of 576p to Blu-ray resolution 1080p). But be aware, upscaling will increase the resolution but not necessarily the quality, so a low-grade picture will remain a low-grade picture, but bigger. Apart from the potential improvement in picture quality, an AV receiver that supports upscaling can accept analog video connections (such as a composite cable from an old VCR) and send the video through the single HDMI cable connected to the TV.

Automatic Speaker Setup and Calibration

Another welcome addition to the evolution of home theater receivers is integrated automatic speaker setup and calibration. There are a number of variations to this technology, spread across different manufacturers and receiver pricing levels, but they ultimately aim to achieve the same thing: optimal speaker performance in your listening environment, with minimal end-user effort. Receivers that are equipped with this functionality often include a calibration microphone. Once you connect the microphone, the receiver will then walk you through the process of placing that microphone in one or multiple locations in your listening environment and will make the necessary adjustments, internally, for optimized playback. The level of automatic adjustment will depend on how sophisticated your receiver’s calibration methods are. Technology such as this needs to be smart and flexible, so you aren’t locked into the receiver’s automatic calibration methods. Card-carrying audiophiles with fine-tuned ears can still break out the old SPL meter and make adjustments manually, if preferred.

Video Handling and Processing

As high-definition technology continues to expand, packing as many pixels into TVs as possible, you want to make sure your receiver can keep pace with your video-handling needs. If you route video sources through your receiver, you want to make sure it’s compatible with devices and your desired resolution. If you have 4K video sources, your receiver will need to be 4K capable in order to faithfully pass those video signals. This is also true of other video resolutions and signal types, such as 1080p and 3D. Thankfully, many current HDMI-equipped receivers are up to this task. Taking it a step further, some receivers incorporate video-processing capabilities that can upscale lower-resolution video sources for enhanced playback on your high-definition television. While this technology won’t transform your old VHS tapes from 480i to 4K glory, they’ll be polished for an optimized viewing experience. Beyond resolution, there are other video handling considerations to be made, such as HDMI-CEC, which allows you to automate compatible device powering and input switching, and Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL), which allows you to mirror and charge compatible portable devices.

Multi-Room Listening

It seems as if remaining stationary and listening to music in one location is a luxury that few of us have these days. If this sounds like you, the person who’s walking around their home right now reading this article on a smartphone or tablet, you’ll be happy to hear that many receivers can accommodate your busy lifestyle. Receivers refer to extra rooms as “Zones,” and they allow you to connect additional speakers to your system for playing the same source or different sources in multiple rooms. In some cases, you may need to connect an external amplifier, but many receivers offer built-in powered zone handling as well. This feature allows the receiver to spread sound to other areas of your home, and not be confined to a single room.

Choosing the Right Receiver

Receivers pack a lot of technology, and with lots of technology comes a plethora of options and, ultimately, decisions. When you map out your connected devices and the needs of your system, it becomes easier to discern which features are crucial to your home theater. If you need help deciding which receiver is best suited for your speakers, source components, and listening environment(s), we would be happy to help you choose the right receiver for your situation. Whether you’re just getting started, or if you’re a seasoned professional; once integrated into your system, a home theater receiver can provide years of enjoyment and seamless, reliable performance.

Which AV Receiver You Should Buy Depends on the Music and Movies You Listen To

Behind this question lies the issue of “how” do you listen to music. It also takes into effect whether or not you have hopes of upgrading or using gigantic speakers and whether or not you prefer to achieve the 85dB SPL levels inherent in a movie theater-style listening environment (that’s really loud in a smaller room). When you analyze this, you’ll be closer to understanding which AV receiver you should buy.

In short, do you like your movies loud and clean? If so, then you will probably want a receiver that can give you the headroom you need for all of those explosive peaks in action scenes, or the delicate detail and dynamics of a symphonic score. An entry-level or near-entry-level receiver just doesn’t pack that much of a punch. And if you drive it too hard, you may end up distorting the sound and harming your speakers (see our article on How Much Amplifier Power Do I Need?)

Many times, after spending your hard-earned money on a new flat screen TV, you may be tempted to skimp on the surround receiver. Don’t. I’m almost certain that you bought that TV thinking it would give you something that at least approximated the movie-watching experience. It can, and it will—but only if you feed it enough power and supply the right equipment. As it pertains to your home audio receiver—well, that’s not the place you want to skimp.

What’s the Size and Type of the Room Where You’re Installing the Surround Receiver?

Believe it or not, a $300 receiver can’t put out enough power to drive your 2500 cubic foot living room to ear-bleeding levels. But it likely has enough power to put out the tunes in your home office or a bedroom. It will also do just fine if you find that loud music and bone-crunching movies aren’t exactly your style. If you want to fill a large room, however, you’re going to need to factor that into your estimates. Larger rooms require larger speakers…which (typically) require more amplification power. So if you want to crank it up you’re going to want a receiver that can put out enough juice to make it happen. Check out our article on Should I Upgrade My Audio Receiver? if you want more specific info on amplifier power requirements and suggestions on upgrading your speakers alongside a receiver.

Another thing to consider when considering which AV receiver you should buy is your room’s acoustics. A room with hardwood floors, terrazzo or other similar material will reflect more sound and render a louder, though possibly muddier, sound. Conversely, a room with lots of furniture, thicker carpet and lots of wall hangings may yield a more subdued sound and require more power to fill it up. The room is a significant contributor to the sound quality you’ll hear when you play back music and movies through your audio receiver to your speakers.

How Do You Want to Use the AV Receiver? What Are Your Goals?

This last bit when you choose which AV receiver you should buy is actually very important. Knowing how you intend to use the receiver will determine quite a bit. For example, if you want something that can handle two completely different rooms, then a discrete Zone 2 function is a must. That also bumps your price point up above that of an entry level product. If you want HDMI in that second room—from a discrete HDMI source at that—then you bump up even further.

Figuring out how many source components you intend to connect to the receiver will also steer you in the right direction. You also want to understand whether or not everything you currently use has HDMI outputs, or if you need to support legacy analogue audio outputs (like with an older DVD player or a Wii gaming system).

Finally, you want to know whether or not you need features like streaming network functions. Some receivers come with the ability to connect wirelessly to your iOS devices, through AirPlay. Others contain DLNA-compatibility, so you can stream audio from your PC. Still others go full-out and provide streaming video services from the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Crackle—to name a few. If you just want a basic AV receiver to play back music or movies from a Blu-ray player, then none of those extra features will make much difference. But if you want to enjoy all or some of the streaming media services that are available, you’ll want to investigate each manufacturer to see who supports the services to which you already subscribe.

So What Are the Next Steps?

Once you establish the basics, then you can move further into the technical decisions that follow. This includes going over the specific features like inputs, analogue video upconversion, amplifier power and any additional Zone requirements you may have. Remember, while receivers are gaining in features and functionality, this comes with a steeper learning curve. The good news is that manufacturers are starting to get the hint and are more frequently making it easier and easier to configure and use their products. How comfortable you are with these new features will also play into which AV receiver you should buy.




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Final Word

When researching an AV receiver, it’s easy to get sucked into all of the whiz-bang features that receivers have more of today than ever before. However, some of the most important questions regarding your future happiness include “How does the receiver sound?” and “Is this a reliable AV receiver?”

Beware the concept of just buying the receiver with the most effects or the most features when those features are ones you are likely never going to use. Trust your ears. Audition the receiver in a store and read as much as you can about the unit, especially from the best AV publications both online and in print.

So, TOP10 of Audio Receivers:



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