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.
We compare receivers from dozens of different manufacturers, taking into account everything: whether they have 4K capability, how many HDMI ports they have, what their connectivity is like, price and more. Our experience in home audio lets us pick out the best receivers - there are dozens available, and these ten are the absolute best around. We also take care to point out what each receiver is best for. Agree? Disagree? Be sure to let us in know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.
Dimensions: 22.1" x 21.4" x 11.8"
HDMI I/O: 8/2
Watts Per Channel: 150/8Ω
What We Like: Sound, analysis software
What We Don’t: Huge price
Best For: Media room owners
The Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100 is not surprisingly, the biggest bully in the playground. This is the one you get when you have an enormous media room, stocked with a full surround system. Yamaha’s proprietary room analysis software means that you will get the best possible balance between the channels, and as you can imagine, all features you’d expect are included. So many pricey models can be difficult to use, but that isn’t the case here, with a beautifully designed front end that makes navigation a breeze. If you’re in the market for something that is going to be the be all and end all of receivers, then this is where you should look.
See the Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100
Dimensions: 17.3" x 17.3" x 7.3"
HDMI I/O: 8/3
Watts Per Channel: 140/8Ω
What We Like: Terrific sound, dead easy setup
What We Don’t: May not be for everyone
Best For: Zero hassle
The SR7011 is probably the most forward-thinking all these models, as it not only comes with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in a 9.2 setup (which can be pushed to 11.2 if you want), but also for a brand-new entry into the sound technology marketplace: Auro-3D, which is attempting to go beyond surround sound into full 3D immersive audio. Jury is still out on this one, but if you’ve heard it and want more, then this Marantz is the one to go for. We hardly need mention that the sound is superlative, and the feature set packs in just about everything we mentioned so far, and if you pair it with the right set of speakers, it’ll go really far. The setup is just wonderful, an automated process that uses an extraordinary EQ to finetune the sound - plus it comes with HEOS streaming tech built in. We'll be posting a full review of this one soon - it's a real beast.
See the Marantz SR7011
Dimensions: 16.9" x 16.5" x 6.9"
HDMI I/O: 6/2
Watts Per Channel: 120/6Ω
What We Like: Superb audio quality
What We Don’t: Lack of Bluetooth
Best For: Purists
Cambridge Audio are known for making very high quality gear. In past years, we’ve raved about their receivers like the Azur 551R, but their most recent model knocks them all out the park. And yet at first glance, you might wonder why the CXR120 is rated so highly. It has no Bluetooth (although you can add it with a separate adaptor), no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support, and a minimalist front end. So what you paying over $2000 for, exactly? If you been paying attention, you’ll know we value one thing over all else: sound. We don’t know what’s going on inside the big silver box to produce such unbelievable audio quality, but we’re pretty sure it doesn’t involve electronics. Witchcraft and wizardry maybe, but not electronics. This is one for the audio purists.
See the Cambridge Audio CXR120
Dimensions: 17.8" x 17.1" x 7.9"
HDMI I/O: 8/2
Watts Per Channel: 140/8Ω
What We Like: Huge sound and feature set
What We Don’t: Not quite as good as the Marantz, despite the native 11.2
Best For: Fans of big bass
It might not be quite as good as the Marantz SR7011, but if you're hankering for an 11.2 system with some serious thump on the trunk, then Onkyo have you covered. The TX – RZ1100 is festooned with logos representing just about every high-end home theatre innovation in the past twenty years, and there's very little in terms of audio or video that you won't be able to pump through it, given enough time and enough speaker cables. The sound doesn't have the finesse of other models on this list, but we still love it's sheer, ballsy competence.
See the Onkyo TX-RZ1100
Dimensions: 17.25” x 14.75” x 6.5”
HDMI I/O: 7/2
Watts Per Channel: 100/8Ω
What We Like: Huge range of features
What We Don’t: A bit pricey for a 5.1 system
Best For: A major upgrade
Annoyingly, the MRX-520 is not yet available on Amazon, although its predecessor, the 510, is. The latter will do you fine, but we strongly recommend the former, as it’s a genuine world beater. Anthem make phenomenal products, and with this one, they’ve packed a huge amount in. You get 4K, a stellar room correction system, the ability to save speaker profiles, and more. Plus, you get a huge number of HDMI inputs (as you would expect to for this price) and a front end that we think is among the best in the business. Highly recommended.
See the Anthem MRX-520
Dimensions: 17" x 7" x 15"
HDMI I/O: 8/2
Watts Per Channel: 110/8Ω
What We Like: Custom install friendly
What We Don’t: Not for newbies
Best For: Audio geeks
You'd pick the Integra DRX-4 if your total cable geek. If you get off on customising every aspect of your home theatre system, if you want to include things like PCs and custom lighting and projection screens, then this is the model you need to go for. It has HDBaseT connectivity for setups over distance (ideal for big rooms), as well as bidirectional control ports that let you easily add in other devices. Outside of that, it's a reasonably accomplished receiver with a good sound at a good price. It fulfils a very specific and each, but even if you don't know what a CAT5/e cable is, you'll still find a use for it.
See the Integra DRX-4
Dimensions: 19.6" x 15.7" x 9.5"
HDMI I/O: 6/1
Watts Per Channel: 100/6Ω
What We Like: Great for movies, Bluetooth features
What We Don’t: Not a lot
Best For: Those who have angry neighbours
The Sony STRDN1060 is perfect if you don’t want to pay money for extraneous features and are more interested in pure sound quality, which it delivers in spades. This is a model that is geared purely towards movies, and it really shows, with a depth and warmth to its audio the demonstrates just how high quality its circuits really are. It’s worth mentioning its one very unusual feature: the ability to send Bluetooth audio out, to a compatible pair of headphones, for example. If you have neighbours who complain regularly, or a partner asleep in the next room, then this feature may swing you towards this one. Whether we use and will not, it’s still a killer unit.
See the Sony STRDN1060
Dimensions: 17.3" x 14.8" x 4.1"
HDMI I/O: 8/2
Watts Per Channel: 50/8Ω
What We Like: Works with streaming services
What We Don’t: Underpowered sound
Best For: Streaming lovers
Meet the Marantz NR1606. It’s small, it’s compact, and it’s one hell of a piece of kit. Despite only having 50 watts per channel, and therefore a sound level that is slightly underpowered, it still manages to put out a considerable amount of detail. If you aren’t pumping at a huge volumes, the delicacy of its sound is a very nice surprise. Add to that the feature set that is hugely attractive, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and you have a winner. It’s also one of the first in this list to play nicely with various streaming services: Pandora, Sirius XM and Spotify are all happy to come through it, and if you have the Spotify app, it actually gives you control hrough its Spotify Connect feature. Very nice, and an excellent mid-range pick.
See the Marantz NR1606
Dimensions: 17.1" x 16" x 8"
HDMI I/O: 8/2
Watts Per Channel: 130/8Ω
HDMI I/O: 8/2
What We Like: Dolby Atmos sound
What We Don’t: Very little
Best For: Those with a lot of HDMI cables
This range is where you start seeing stuff that's more suitable for bigger home theater setups. Perfect example: the Onkyo TX-NR838. It has a whopping eight HDMI inputs, including one on the front, and it comes absolutely rammed with features. It has most of the streaming capacity of the Marantz above, as well as Dolby Atmos sound that turns an already very good receiver into an essential one. It is also available to use Atmos’ competitor, DTS:X, although there aren’t too many sources that take advantage of this yet. Even if you couldn’t care less about the different sound technologies, you’ll be getting a big black box with some mind blowing sound. Careful: the price fluctuates, do don't buy until it's hovering around the $700 mark.
See the Onkyo TX-NR838
Dimensions: 17” x 13” x 6.75”
HDMI I/O: 4/1
Watts Per Channel: 80/8Ω
What We Like: Killer sound for a killer price
What We Don’t: Lots of buttons, not enough HDMI ports
Best For: Those who don’t own too many devices
This updated version of the RX-V479, which was on our list previously, does a really good job of building on what made its predecessor so good. Although it’s only got four HDMI ports, which could prove a problem if you have multiple devices, it still offers some magnificent sound as well as a smorgasbord of features, including 4K and WiFi streaming. The front might have a few too many buttons for our liking, but we still think the audio performance and the feature set makes it worthy of inclusion.
See the Yamaha RX-V481 BL
Dimensions: 20.6” x 17.1” x 9.1”
HDMI I/O: 7/3
Watts Per Channel: 90/8Ω
What We Like: Easy setup, great sound
What We Don’t: Very little
Best For: No hassle
The story of receivers is often one of small, incremental updates, but this one – an update on the S720W, which adds 15W extra per channel and more HDMI ports - is truly special. In this price range, it can often be very difficult to tell the difference between models, as they share many similar components. Nevertheless, we really feel that the S720W is one of the best available right now. It offers truly magnificent sound for a sub-$500, and the setup is as basic as can be. We’d go so far as to say that the primary selling point: if you want zero hassle when you’re getting started, go for this one.
See the Denon AVR-S920W
Dimensions: 17.1” x 14.6” x 6.8”
HDMI I/O: 7/2
Watts Per Channel: 100/8Ω
What We Like: Increased HDMI ports, room correction
What We Don’t: Doesn’t do anything special
Best For: When you have a lot of additional gear
This is a good, solid all-round system; although it doesn’t do anything particularly special, it’s one of the more reliable units out there. It’s a slightly cheaper alternative to the Denon S920W, and offers much the same features, albeit for slightly diminished sound quality. We do like the increased HDMI ports, and we really enjoyed the room correction system, which calibrated the system nicely.
See the Pioneer VSX-1131
Dimensions: 21.4" x 15.6" x 8.9"
HDMI I/O: 4/1
Watts Per Channel: 70/8Ω
What We Like: Room calibration system
What We Don’t: Sound could be a little better?
Best For: All-around use
By now, the Yamaha RX-V379BL is almost ubiquitous. We’re being unfair; it’s ubiquitous for a reason, and that reason is, it’s bloody good. Like the smaller Denon below, it has Bluetooth and 4K passthrough (although bear in mind that no receiver at this price range will properly upscale content, meaning that even if you have a 4K set, you probably won’t be able to watch non-4k content at that resolution). It also includes a very decent room calibration system which, once run, means you will almost never have to adjust your sound again. You get this one if you aren’t super-demanding about your home theatre needs, but still want a unit that will deliver good sound and a wide range of features.
See the Yamaha RX-V379BL
Dimensions: 17.1" x 12.6" x 5.9"
HDMI I/O: 5/1
Watts Per Channel: 75/8Ω
What We Like: Clever design features
What We Don’t: Sound is what you’d expect
Best For: Those on a budget
For something that is the cheapest model on our list by quite some margin, the Denon AVR-S510BT really does pack in a huge amount of features. You get full 4K passthrough, Bluetooth capability (which is almost unheard of in a unit this cheap) and some genuinely smart ideas, like a button on the front of the unit that lets you change the source without going into TV-screen menus or digging around the back. Sound, probably unsurprisingly, is going to compete with pricier models, but it’s still very solid for the price, particularly if you’ve got a small room. The Denon does economising places, such as the fiddly speaker clips on the back panel, but really, this is the best budget unit available until Cambridge Audio decides to stop selling $3000 monsters.
See the Denon AVR-S510BT
|Yamaha Aventage CX-A5100||$2500||22.1" x 21.4" x 11.8"||11.2||Yes||8/2||150/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Marantz SR7011||$2199||17.3" x 17.3" x 7.3"||9.2||Yes||8/3||140/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Cambridge Audio CXR120||$1500||16.9" x 16.5" x 6.9"||7.2||Yes||6/2||120/6Ω||Bluetooth|
|Onkyo TX-RZ1100||$2099||17.8" x 17.1" x 7.9"||11.2||Yes||8/2||140/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Anthem MRX-520||$1287||17.25” x 14.75” x 6.5”||5.1||Yes||7/2||100/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Integra DRX-4||$1000||17" x 7" x 15"||7.2||Yes||8/2||110/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Sony STRDN1060||$400||19.6" x 15.7" x 9.5"||7.2||Yes||6/1||100/6Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Marantz NR1606||$450||17.3" x 14.8" x 4.1"||7.2||Yes||8/2||50/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Onkyo TX-NR838||$699||17.1" x 16" x 8"||7.2||Yes||8/2||130/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Yamaha RX-V481BL||$400||17” x 13” x 6.75”||5.1||Yes||4/1||80/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Denon AVR-S920W||$579||20.6” x 17.1” x 9.1”||7.2||Yes||7/3||90/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Pioneer VSX-1131||$398||17.1” x 14.6” x 6.8”||7.2||Yes||7/2||100/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
|Yamaha RX-V379BL||$219||21.4" x 15.6" x 8.9"||5.1||Yes||5/1||70/8Ω||Bluetooth|
|Denon AVR-S510BT||$229||17.1" x 12.6" x 5.9"||5.2||Yes||5/1||75/8Ω||Blue./WiFi|
*WPC = Watts Per Channel
- Do I Really Need One Of These Things?
- How Important Is HDMI?
- How Do I Connect All These Up?
- Dolby Atmos vs DTS:X
- What About Room Calibration? What Is That Anyway?
- Should I Care About 4K?
- What About Wattage And Impedance?
Got multiple speakers? Planning on a surround system? Then, yeah, you do.
A lot of the picks on this list don’t actually look like much. They are fairly dull, bland boxes with a bunch of controls on them, and a bewildering array of inputs and outputs around the back. But without this box, your home theater setup is going nowhere.
There are a few key components inside each box. There’s a preamplifier, for handling audio signals, a set of video inputs to work out where to send the visuals, and a decoder to separate the two. In addition, there may be a separate surround sound decoder, which splices the audio into its different channels and makes sure they get to the correct speaker. Actually, if we can revise our earlier analogy, the role of the A/V receiver is air traffic control: figuring out what goes to when, and when.
And by the way, it's only functional if you have speakers to plug into it, or if you've got a full home theater system where the central component needs an upgrade. Good hunting!
There are a huge number of connections on the back of any given unit, both analogue and digital, and we could spend quite a while going into all of them, and which ones you will need. There is an excellent guide available here which breaks down the common types of inputs and outputs, but by far the most important ones are the HDMI inputs. You'll want at least a few of these, as it's by far the most-common and most-utilised type of port. When we say HDMI I/O, we mean HDMI Inputs/Outputs. Usually, there are more of the former than the latter, and depending on how many HDMI-capable gadgets you have, they could be super important.
But do you actually need those seven HDMI ports? For most of us, three or four will be more than enough. So why are you going for a unit that has more than double what you need? You think those things come for free? No way. You pay for extra ports, so think carefully about how many pieces of equipment you're going to be using before you shell out your hard-earned.
But on the other hand: these things last for quite a while. You will probably own yours for years. And over those years, you will collect new electronics, new gizmos, new devices...all of which will need a discrete HDMI port. Really, what you're going here is a balance: the number of ports you'll use now, plus one or two left over for the future.
Excellent question! Glad you asked.
This is a big topic. So big that we’ve devoted a full explainer to it. Head over there if you’re interested.
TL;DR: These are programs for surround sound. When talking about this topic, you’ll normally see terms like 5.1 and 7.1 being thrown around. This number refers to the amount and type of speakers in the setup: the first (7 or 5) refers to the number of high end and mid range speakers, while the second one (the .1, sometimes .2) refers to the subwoofer, or low-end speaker. Simply put, the more quality speakers there are, the more rich and dynamic your sound is likely to be. At the same time, you’re likely to pay more the higher those numbers get.
You don’t play your music or movies in a vacuum. Your sound comes out in a room filled with things: couches, tables, bookshelves, children, the dog, glass windows, pictures on the walls. All of these things affect the sound. Calibrating your room - which your system will do by playing a test tone and then recapturing it through a special microphone before adjusting the sound accordingly - is a crucial part of the whole home theater experience, and will help you get the best out of your receiver, and indeed your whole system. Not every unit has this type of thing, but it can work really, really well when you use it.
It’s a tricky one. 4K, if you don’t know, is a new standard of content with ridiculous visual fidelity and color sharpness. There are plenty of 4K-ready TVs, and so many bits of A/V gear exist these days that you might fool yourself into thinking it’s something you need to have. But: the problem is that not enough content is 4K yet, meaning most of what you’ll see has been ‘upscaled’: translated to a 4K setting without actually being 4K. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The good news is that all the picks on our list are 4K-ready, so even if you couldn’t care, you’re getting it anyway. Congratulations!
If you want more info, there’s a great video explainer here.
This is the amount of power that the amp will push through to your speakers, and it can be as low as 30 watts (W) and as high as 200 watts. You’ll need to make sure your speakers can actually take this level of power, and again, there’s no point paying for power that is going to be overkill in the room (or which isn’t going to fill it up enough of it). Manufacturers often talk about Total Wattage. You need to look at Wattage Per Channel, which will give you an idea of how powerful your sound is going to be.