Best stereo receiver 2017

Best stereo receiver 2017 DEFAULT
  • We didn’t see any new stereo receivers announced at CES , so we don’t expect our picks to change anytime soon.

January 19,

If you’re looking for a simple, affordable option to get excellent stereo sound, the Sony STR-DH is your best choice in a stereo receiver. It has the essential features most listeners want, including Bluetooth and a phono input for a turntable, and it’s easy to set up and use. Our listening tests show that you’d have to spend more than twice as much to get better sound quality.

Our listening panel found that the Sony STR-DH sounded as good as any other receiver under $, and it has the features we think most people consider important in a stereo receiver: Bluetooth (to connect portable devices), a phono preamp (to connect a turntable), and plenty of power. You can find better performance and more features elsewhere, but only at a much higher price. The STR-DH has a user-friendly design and remote, too, but it also makes a few sacrifices to reach that ultra-low price: Its speaker-cable connectors are rather flimsy, its proprietary FM-antenna connector is annoying because it forces you to use Sony’s cheap supplied antenna, it doesn’t have an AM tuner, and it doesn’t sound as smooth and natural as our upgrade pick, the Yamaha R-N

The Yamaha R-N is one of the few affordable audio devices that don’t lack important features and don’t compromise on sound quality. It’ll do practically anything you might want it to do: stream music and Internet radio via Wi-Fi, work as part of a multiroom audio system, play audio from Bluetooth devices, and connect to a record player and TV. It also emerged as the favorite in our listening tests, although it didn’t sound radically better than our top pick, the Sony STR-DH, and it costs a lot more. It’s not as user-friendly as the Sony, and the network setup isn’t as easy as it could be. The R-N may be overkill for many people, but for someone who is willing to pay more to get a great-sounding, network-capable stereo receiver, it’s the best choice.

Everything we recommend

Why you should trust us

I’ve reviewed audio gear professionally since I have written reviews for magazines and websites including SoundStage, Sound & Vision, Home Theater Review, Lifewire, and Home Theater. I’ve probably conducted more brand-concealed tests of audio components than any other journalist, and my home has a dedicated listening room (where we did the tests for this guide) and a fully equipped test bench, as well as equipment I’ve purchased or built specifically for comparison tests like this.

In the course of creating and updating this article, I’ve drafted two different listening panels. The latest panel comprised Dan Gonda, a sax/clarinet/flute player who performs with several Los Angeles groups (including my jazz group, Tonic Trio); and LeRena Major, a Los Angeles–area saxophonist who has worked in a variety of positions in the music industry and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Both have served as panelists in several previous listening tests for Wirecutter and SoundStage. My original panel comprised Wirecutter senior staff writer and headphone editor Lauren Dragan, who has also reviewed high-end home-audio equipment for publications such as Home Entertainment, Home Theater, and Sound & Vision, and Wirecutter editor-at-large Geoffrey Morrison, who has written for CNET,, Home Entertainment, Home Theater, and Sound & Vision.

Why you might want a stereo receiver

Generally speaking, a receiver combines a power amplifier (which provides the power to drive your speakers), a preamplifier (for selecting sources, controlling volume, and often adjusting tone), and a radio tuner. All of these components are available separately, but most people prefer a receiver because it’s usually more affordable—and, as a single, all-in-one component, it requires fewer wires and connections and takes up less shelf space.

We can think of two primary types of buyers who would be interested in a stereo receiver: those who want to listen to vinyl records and those who want a step up in sound quality from that of an all-in-one wireless speaker.

While wireless speakers can sound very good, almost all of them compromise sound quality in favor of a compact size and a decor-friendly design, and few can play as loudly and as clearly as a receiver and good traditional speakers can.

Vinyl records have become popular once again. While some newer turntables have phono preamps and even Bluetooth wireless built in, most good ones do not, making them difficult to connect to wireless speakers. Most stereo receivers have phono preamps built in, so you can plug in a turntable and get good sound with no need to add extra components.

Although all-in-one wireless speakers have passed traditional stereo systems in popularity, none can match the sound quality you can get from a good stereo receiver and speakers, such as the top picks in our best bookshelf speakers guide. For as little as $, a stereo receiver and a decent pair of speakers easily blow away any all-in-one wireless speaker we’ve tried. Because you can separate the speakers, you get true stereo sound and a thrilling sense of musicians performing live in the room with you. While wireless speakers can sound very good, almost all of them compromise sound quality in favor of a compact size and a decor-friendly design, and few can play as loudly and as clearly as a receiver and good traditional speakers can.

The best bookshelf speakers

Any of the top picks in our best AV receiver guide will deliver far more features than a stereo receiver will, including the ability to power a surround-sound system and the ability to switch video signals and route them to a TV or projector. But AV receivers are notoriously difficult to connect and configure. With stereo receivers, the process is simple: Wire up a couple of speakers, connect whatever sources you want to use (a turntable, a computer, a wireless streaming adapter, an old CD player or tape deck), and then hit the power button and turn up the volume. There’s little—or nothing—to configure. Those who understandably want a simple way to play back music will enjoy having so few controls (and no on-screen menus) to mess with.

How we picked

In our original version of this guide, we limited the price of the receivers we tested to $ However, we had some requests from readers to explore more expensive models, so we raised the ceiling to $ for our most recent round of testing. As before, I began my search for the best stereo receiver by scanning Amazon, Best Buy, and other retail websites. I excluded any model that had garnered a significant number of quality complaints on Amazon, and I generally didn’t seek out models that seemed similar to another model in the same line but had one or two fewer features.

Six of the stereo receivers we tested for this review stacked side by side in two stacks of three. They are on a shelf in front of a yellow wall with white speakers to either side of them.

The only feature we considered mandatory for the receivers we tested was some sort of radio tuner. All but one of the models we tested included a phono input for a turntable, and all but one included Bluetooth. Only one, the Yamaha R-N, offered built-in Wi-Fi streaming and multiroom audio, but you can upgrade any receiver by adding these features (as well as voice-controlled music and Internet radio playback) via an Amazon Echo Dot or Echo Flex, both of which have an analog output that works with any receiver. (Google's Nest Mini offers only Bluetooth output.)

Power was not an important consideration for this test. The least-powerful receivers we found were rated at 45 watts per channel into 8-ohm speakers, which is enough to drive an average speaker to well over decibels—and that’s loud enough to get your neighbors calling the police. In devices such as these, power differences of 10 or 20 watts are not significant. It takes twice as much power to get only 3 dB more volume, which is a just-noticeable difference—the equivalent of turning up a volume knob just slightly. Thus, a watt-per-channel receiver barely plays louder than a watt-per-channel receiver.

Since stereo receivers have become something of a niche item in most manufacturers’ lines, and two leading producers (Onkyo and Pioneer) have been stuck in limbo recently as their US distribution changed hands we ended up with only two additional models to evaluate on top of the five we tested for the original version of this guide. We originally tested the Onkyo TX and TX, the Pioneer SXAE, the Sony STR-DH, and the Yamaha R-S For this round, we compared the Sony STR-DH, our top pick from the original round of tests, with two more expensive models, the Cambridge Audio AXR85 and the Yamaha R-N

How we tested

One of our testers sitting in front of a stereo receiver and speakers taking notes on a pad of paper.

We compared the stereo receivers in the only way that’s valid: by using a switcher with the receivers labeled only by number, and by randomizing the order of the receivers for each listener. With this testing setup, there was no way for any listener to tell which receiver they were hearing. To accomplish this, I used a custom-built, remote-controlled switcher with nothing but a single relay, 2-inch-long cables, and a couple of banana plugs and jacks between the receivers and the speakers.

I also took pains to get the volume level of the receivers matched to a high degree of precision: less than ± dB, a difference too small for the human ear to detect. This is critical to fair testing because if one receiver is only slightly louder than the others, listeners are likely to prefer it. The receivers’ volume knobs, which work in 1 dB steps, weren’t precise enough to obtain an adequate match, so I added a Behringer DS distribution amp, which let me match the levels to an accuracy of ± dB.

The listeners could use whatever music they wanted at whatever volume they wanted, sourced from a laptop computer feeding a Musical Fidelity VDAC digital-to-analog converter. We listened through my Revel Performa3 F speakers, which at $3, per pair are far better than any speaker likely to be used with these receivers, but this way we’d be sure the speakers were good enough to reveal any flaw in the receivers’ sound. Later, I also did some listening with the KEF Q and ELAC Debut B speakers, both picks in our best bookshelf speakers guide.

During the blind testing, I asked each panelist to judge the receivers based purely on sound quality, including these characteristics:

  • How natural was the sound on vocals? On instruments?
  • Did the receiver sound clear and undistorted when playing loud hip-hop, rock, and R&B? How about when playing softer music?
  • Were the bass, midrange, and treble sounds all well balanced with each other?

In our original round of tests, our listeners reported hearing slight differences among the receivers but didn’t express a consistent preference for any receiver. This wasn’t the case in round two, where our listeners clearly preferred the Cambridge Audio AXR85 and Yamaha R-N to the much less expensive Sony. Still, we’re talking, as one panelist put it, “teeny, tiny differences.”

After the tests were done, I checked out the ergonomics and features of the receivers by using them for many nights of casual listening to digital music streams, vinyl records, and Blu-ray discs, connected to either my Revel Performa3 F speakers, the KEF Q pair, or the ELAC Debut B set.

I concluded by running a few lab measurements of the receivers to make sure they didn’t have any technical flaws that our listening tests missed and to see if they lived up to their claimed power-output specifications.

A chart showing the stereo receiver output versus distortion levels for the five receivers tested in this review.

Our pick: Sony STR-DH

The front of the Sony STR-DH receiver.

We picked the Sony STR-DH as the best stereo receiver because it offers the best mix of features, sound quality, simplicity, and affordability. With Bluetooth and a phono preamp on board, plus a front-panel analog input for portable devices, the STR-DH is a good fit whether you’re embracing the future or reveling in retro. Its sound quality is equal to that of anything else we’ve tried under $ Although our panelists were impressed with the STR-DH’s sound overall, they thought it made voices sound slightly harsh and congested compared with what they heard from the more expensive Cambridge Audio and Yamaha models in this round of testing. However, they stressed that the differences were subtle.

Our measurements confirmed that the STR-DH’s power output is substantial: watts per channel into an 8-ohm load, wpc into a 4-ohm load. (These numbers are for 1 kHz, percent total harmonic distortion, both channels driven; results at 20 Hz and 20 kHz were similar.) This means the STR-DH has enough power to drive almost any pair of speakers to very loud volumes.

The STR-DH’s Bluetooth function offers a couple of nice perks. It includes AAC capability, which means it can produce slightly better sound quality when you use it with Apple iPhones and iPads and the Apple Music service (or any other streaming service that uses AAC). Plus, the receiver automatically powers up when you select it from your Bluetooth source’s menu.

The back of the Sony STR-DH receiver.
The remote for the Sony STR-DH

The menu system, which you control through the receiver’s front-panel display, allows you to access minor conveniences such as the ability to rename the inputs, turn the Bluetooth auto power function on and off, and adjust the level of the phono input so that it’s more or less equal to the level of the other inputs. In addition to the phono input, four analog inputs are on the back, along with an analog output for connecting to a tape deck or other recording device and A- and B-zone speaker connectors. The front panel has a ¼-inch headphone jack. The remote is compact but user-friendly.

The STR-DH is a good fit whether you’re embracing the future or reveling in retro.

Since we originally published this guide, one other professional review of the STR-DH has emerged: a test posted on Audio Science Review. That test involved a much more extensive batch of measurements than we usually perform, and it uncovered two things we didn’t. The first is that a bass limiter circuit seems to become active at about 10 watts; according to the measurements we took later, it reduces output below Hz (roughly the G note below middle C on a piano) by about 1 decibel. That’s a barely noticeable difference, but it means the bass may sound subtly thinner when you crank the system up to loud levels (with a typical set of speakers, that means above about 95 dB, which is about as loud as a gas lawn mower at close range). The ASR review also notes that the unit failed during a stress test; however, the conditions of this test were extreme and would not be encountered even in very loud music listening. When we wrote our original version of this guide, we read complaints about the receiver’s supposedly inadequate power, but our tests showed that perception to be incorrect.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

It’s easy to see where Sony cut corners to get the STR-DH’s price down. The connectors for the speaker cables are small spring clips, which means you have to use speaker cables of 14 gauge or thinner, and it’s easy to dislodge a wire accidentally when you’re connecting and disconnecting other devices.

This model has no AM radio tuner. I personally don’t know anyone who uses a traditional stereo system to listen to AM, but if you’d like to, consider our upgrade pick instead (or add an Amazon Echo Dot or Echo Flex to stream your AM station over the Internet). It also lacks a line-level subwoofer output, so if you use a subwoofer, you will have to connect it through an extra set of speaker cables instead of a neater and more reliable line-level connection. For more information on subwoofer connections, check out “The Five Cs of Subwoofer Setup.”

The biggest concern is that the FM antenna uses a proprietary connector, which works only with the flimsy, 5-foot-long wire antenna Sony provides. This component should be good enough to pull in most of the stations in an urban area, but people living in the country will probably want a better antenna. It’s possible to splice a better antenna onto the Sony antenna. Still, if FM is a priority and you live in an area with reception problems, you might be better off with our upgrade pick.

Upgrade pick: Yamaha R-N

The front of the Yamaha R-N receiver.

The Yamaha R-N is much more expensive than the Sony STR-DH, but all of our panelists considered its extra cost justified. Not only did it sound subtly better in our listening tests, but it also includes useful features that less-expensive receivers lack, such as Wi-Fi streaming and digital audio inputs. Yet it still comes in at a price that allows you to put together a very good basic audio system for about $

Both of our listening panelists picked the R-N as their favorite in our listening tests, and I agreed that it sounded better than the Sony STR-DH “It sounds a little richer, a little fuller and more enveloping,” panelist LeRena Major said. “The Sony is good, but it sounds a little tinny in comparison.” Panelist Dan Gonda agreed: “The lows and highs sound fuller with this one,” he said. I slightly preferred the smoother sound of the Cambridge Audio AXR85 because it made cymbals sound more natural and less harsh. But the R-N’s extra features make it a much better value.

The back of the Yamaha R-N receiver.

The R-N’s strongest selling point is its network connectivity, which lets you use the receiver as part of a multiroom music system and also avoids the range limitations and slight degradation in sound quality you get when streaming via Bluetooth to your receiver. The R-N is compatible with Yamaha’s MusicCast system, a Wi-Fi streaming technology similar to that of Sonos, and it also works with Apple AirPlay and Google Cast.

To use this feature, you download Yamaha’s MusicCast iOS or Android app and then connect the receiver to your Wi-Fi network. MusicCast works exclusively with Yamaha gear and offers only a smattering of the streaming services that Sonos offers, including Deezer, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, and Tidal, although it does also stream Internet radio and can stream from hard drives and computers attached to your network. While I found the MusicCast app considerably less friendly and more complicated to set up than a Sonos network, the AirPlay and Google Cast functionality worked easily. And because those technologies are compatible with a wider variety of streaming services, I expect most R-N owners will rely more on those technologies than on MusicCast.

The remote for the Yamaha audio receiver.

The R-N offers plenty of old-tech connectivity, too: coaxial and optical digital inputs, three analog line inputs, and a ¼-inch headphone output. The optical digital input is especially handy if you want to connect a TV set as a source because practically all TVs have optical digital audio outputs. Like the Sony, this receiver has a front-panel on-screen display that lets you adjust minor features such as input level trim.

Our measurements confirmed that the R-N’s power output is similar to that of the Sony STR-DH watts per channel into an 8-ohm load, wpc into a 4-ohm load. (These numbers are for 1 kHz, percent total harmonic distortion, both channels driven; results at 20 Hz and 20 kHz were similar.) However, the R-N does not reduce bass output at higher power levels as the Sony STR-DH does.

Although the R-N is generous in sound quality and features, it can be rather unfriendly when you try to use it. The long, skinny remote is packed with little buttons and hard-to-read labels. The front panel’s tiny labels aren’t much more accommodating. Wi-Fi setup through the app is clumsy and slow compared with that of a Sonos, Amazon Echo, or Google Home system. Incidentally, the R-N works only with GHz Wi-Fi networks.

I haven’t mentioned yet that the R-N is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home; you can configure it so that a voice command picked up by a smart speaker controls the receiver. However, the setup is complicated, and because the commands offered are of such limited utility—power on/off, volume, and input select—I didn’t find the effort worthwhile. I suggest getting an Amazon Echo Dot or Echo Flex and connecting to that.

The competition

Cambridge Audio AXR This receiver, from a well-known high-end audio brand, is much more costly than our top picks, and two of our three listeners preferred the sound of the Yamaha R-N

NAD C BEE: Technically, this unit is an integrated amplifier—basically a receiver without a radio tuner. We included it in our original listening tests because it had a reputation for delivering better sound than stereo receivers could, but our tests didn’t reveal any consistent sonic advantage, and it’s usually more than four times as costly as our top pick.

Onkyo TX This receiver is our former runner-up pick, long revered for its solid performance and low price, but it appears to have been discontinued.

Onkyo TX This receiver seemed ideal because it combined Bluetooth, a phono input, and digital audio inputs, but its surprisingly high (and audible) distortion kept it from being a pick.

Pioneer SXAE: This receiver also had surprisingly high (and audible) distortion that prevented it from being a pick.

Pyle PDA6BU: This unconventional receiver has a high power rating and several unusual features, but we saw too many quality complaints in its Amazon reviews for us to recommend it confidently.

Pyle PTBT: Again, too many quality complaints disqualified it from competition.

Sherwood RX This receiver has a high power rating but too many quality complaints on Amazon.

Sherwood RX This receiver might be worth checking out if you need something inexpensive that can drive two pairs of speakers to loud volumes easily, but we were deterred by quality complaints on Amazon.

Yamaha R-SBL: This receiver has Bluetooth but lacks a phono input, and all but one of our listeners said it sounded no better than the Sony STR-DH


About your guide

Brent Butterworth

Brent Butterworth is a senior staff writer covering audio and musical instruments at Wirecutter. Since , he has served as an editor or writer on audio-focused websites and magazines such as Home Theater, Sound & Vision, SoundStage, and JazzTimes. He regularly gigs on double bass (and occasionally ukulele) with Los Angeles–area jazz groups.


The 6 Best Budget-Friendly Stereo Receivers of

Final Verdict

Sony’s affordable and stylish STRDH Bluetooth Stereo Receiver (view at Amazon) is our pick for the best budget-friendly receiver, as it’s a reliable model with a clean design and Bluetooth connectivity. For an ultra-affordable compact option, we like Fosi Audio’s BT10A (view at Amazon), as it’s a simple Bluetooth receiver that’s small enough to fit in your palm.

About Our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology, such as budget stereo receivers. Erika has reviewed roughly gadgets, including computers, peripherals, audiovisual equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets. Erika currently writes for Digital Trends and Lifewire.

Jonno Hill has been writing for Lifewire since Previously, he's been published in PCMag and AskMen, where he's covered a variety of topics including everything from video equipment to home theater setups, and men's fashion. He praised the Sony STRDH for its solid audio quality and lack of unnecessary frills.


What’s the difference between a stereo receiver and a home theater receiver?
Stereo receivers are designed for music and audio, while home theater receivers are designed to serve as a hub for all of your A/V equipment (including your video equipment). A home theater receiver will often have more channels to support surround sound, it will typically have HDMI inputs and at least one HDMI output, and it’ll be optimized with both audio and video features like 4K passthrough and Dolby audio. Check out our guide to learn more about the differences between stereo and home theater receivers.

How can you add Bluetooth to a stereo receiver?
Some budget receivers don't come with native Bluetooth connectivity, but luckily, adding it is fairly simple. It just involves purchasing a wireless Bluetooth adapter, like the Harmon Kardon BTA (view at Amazon). Plug it into your receiver and you'll instantly be able to stream audio from any Bluetooth-enabled device.

What's the best way to clean a stereo receiver?
Like a lot of audio equipment, receivers can be sensitive to harsh chemicals and can get damaged when cleaned improperly. The best way to tidy up your receiver is using a can of compressed air to dispel dust on the surface and in the cavities, which can especially be useful if you open up the chassis. It's also advisable to occasionally remove the knobs, faceplate, or switches, and clean any point of contact with contact cleaner, which is specially designed for cleaning electronics.

What to Look For in a Budget-Friendly Stereo Receiver


How are you going to get your music into the stereo receiver? These days, many people opt for Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for convenient access to streaming services, although some receivers have Wi-Fi support to cut out the middleman. If there’s no wireless connectivity, make sure the receiver has the ports you need for your audio equipment.

Sound Quality

Why even buy a stereo receiver if you’re going to settle for so-so sound? While it’s important to find a stereo that delivers stellar sound (no matter your budget), note that you’ll probably see more quality variance in your speaker selection—so splurge there if you can.

"Avoid stereo systems that don't have speaker grills, even for just one of the speakers." — Jeremy Bongiorno, Studio Frequencies


Most stereo receivers are hulking black boxes, but even then, there are differences. Some are ultra-minimal while others are busier-looking, and then some go in other directions—like slim units ideal for rack setups, for example. Consider the space you have.

  1. Wedding decoration jobs
  2. Bitdefender gravityzone price
  3. Jeep dealerships victoria
  4. Stihl 029 chainsaw
  5. Earthquake sound
  • Denon has announced plans to offer a free HDMI adapter kit to owners of the AVR-XH to address the 4K Hz pass-through issue. You can read more here.

May 17,

If you’re trying to get as close as possible to re-creating a genuine movie-theater experience at home, there's just no replacement for a good AV receiver. Think of it as the traffic cop of your audio-video system, routing video from your sources to your display and sending audio to your speakers. Some AV receivers do much more than that—for a price. Which AV receiver is right for you depends on your needs, so we offer multiple recommendations for different situations.

The Yamaha RX-V6A sounds amazing for the price and is absolutely feature-packed. It offers seven channels of speaker amplification and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, plus the ability to set up two overhead audio channels for even more immersive sound. You get seven HDMI inputs, three of which are HDMI compatible (although there are some caveats, which we’ll dig into below). You can stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, as well as Yamaha’s own MusicCast multiroom wireless streaming platform. MusicCast also lets you add wireless surround-sound speakers and a wireless sub to cut down on cable clutter, although doing so negates one of the RX-V6A’s most compelling features: It has surprisingly good room correction for a receiver in its price range, which in our tests gave it a clear sonic advantage over similarly priced competitors. The RX-V6A also benefits from a sleek aesthetic that you’ll definitely appreciate if you install your AV receiver in an open-air cabinet or other visible location.

The Denon AVR-SH delivers everything that most home-cinema fans want and need, but it lacks some of the latest features that may be important for gamers and 8K TV owners. This receiver has seven channels of speaker amplification with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, plus full-featured streaming support including Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and Heos (Denon’s own multiroom wireless streaming platform). Its six HDMI inputs support many of the most compelling features of the HDMI standard, including eARC (for better audio from your TV) and automatic low-latency mode (which allows devices to automatically detect and switch into the best mode for gaming). But it lacks support for other gaming-friendly HDMI features like variable refresh rate and the ability to pass 4K video at Hz. What we like most about the AVR-SH are the little touches—such as the simple, clear on-screen menus and the automatic naming of HDMI sources—that make it easy to install and use, so anyone can get great performance out of it, even if they’ve never used a receiver before.

For the movie lover willing to pay more to get a higher-quality, more immersive home theater experience, we recommend the Denon AVR-XH. This receiver sounds better than the under-$1, models we tested, thanks in large part to its more advanced Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction. The channel AVR-XH includes two additional amp channels that you can use to power more height channels or a pair of speakers in a separate audio zone. It also features more HDMI inputs—eight in total—but only one is fully HDMI compliant. This receiver offers some HDMI features that the Yamaha RX-V6A currently lacks (though again there are caveats that we’ll discuss below). It also has an improved user interface with sharper graphics, as well as better multiroom capabilities to send AV signals around your house. But it does represent a big step up in price over our other picks.

If you want to assemble a basic channel surround-sound system—or you already have a channel system and need to upgrade to a receiver that supports 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) video—the Denon AVR-SBT is a good option for around $ Like the AVR-SH, this receiver is easy to set up and use, and it performs well. It has five HDMI inputs, more than other receivers in its price category, but it can stream music only over Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi platforms like AirPlay 2 and Heos.

Everything we recommend

Why you should trust us

Dennis Burger has been reviewing AV equipment for going on two decades now for publications ranging from Robb Report Home Entertainment to Home Theater magazine and Over the years, he has auditioned more receivers, preamps, and amplifiers than he cares to count, and in recent years he has devoted an inordinate amount of time to learning about and testing room-correction systems of all varieties.

Some of this guide is based on the work of Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen, who has spent hundreds of hours over the past few years testing AV receivers for previous versions of this guide.

Who this is for

Today’s soundbars offer a level of audio performance that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago, but they still have limitations in performance and flexibility. For those who want to get closest to the movie-theater experience at home, who have multiple sources to connect, and who want more flexibility in speaker selection and setup, an AV receiver is the way to go.

If your current AV receiver works with all your AV components and has all the features you desire, you don’t really need to upgrade, as you likely wouldn’t hear improved sound quality with a newer model unless you were to upgrade to one with better room correction.

An AV receiver is the core of most home theater systems. It combines source switching, audio (and sometimes video) processing, speaker amplification, and volume control in one box. Plug your source components—your media streamer, gaming console, cable or satellite receiver, and disc player—into its inputs, then connect its outputs to your display and speakers, and an AV receiver will direct all of the AV signals to the right places and in the right formats.

An AV receiver can also serve as a music hub for your home, since many can connect to your home network and stream audio around the house via platforms such as AirPlay 2, Chromecast, or proprietary systems, like Denon’s Heos and Yamaha’s MusicCast, that are designed to compete with the likes of Sonos. Many receivers include built-in music streaming services such as Pandora, Sirius XM, Spotify Connect, and Tidal, along with the ability to connect directly to internet radio stations and local DLNA media servers. And for those who prefer a more traditional approach, some receivers allow you to distribute audio sources (and sometimes video, too) to a second zone via wired connections.

If your current AV receiver works with all your AV components and has all the features you desire, you don’t really need to upgrade, as you likely wouldn’t hear improved sound quality with a newer model unless you were to upgrade to one with better room correction. But if you’ve recently purchased a new 4K HDR TV and 4K HDR source devices, an older AV receiver may lack the ability to pass through those higher-quality signals (a really old receiver may lack HDMI connections altogether). All of our current recommendations support 4K HDR displays and sources.

Many new AV receivers also support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, newer sound formats designed to add an overhead element to the typical ear-level surround sound available for decades. To enjoy Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound to its fullest, you need to add height speakers or buy special Atmos-enabled speakers (you can read more about that topic in our guide to the best surround-sound speaker system), and you need an AV receiver that can decode these formats and provide power to more speakers.

Best surround-sound speakers

How to shop for an AV receiver

AV receivers run the price gamut from a couple hundred dollars to well into four-figure territory. Our focus here is on receivers that strike a good balance of performance, features, and value, so all of our picks are priced below $1, The serious audio or home theater enthusiast may choose to spend more money to get more power (which may be important if your speakers are difficult to drive), more amplified channels, more setup and customization options, and better build quality.

Because our goal was to recommend different receivers for different needs, we didn’t set a lot of minimum spec requirements to limit what models we considered. But there are certain key specs that you should consider when you begin your receiver search:

How many channels of speaker amplification do you need?

A basic home theater configuration requires a channel receiver to power two front speakers, a center-channel speaker, and two surround speakers. The “5” in this case refers to the number of amplified channels, and the “.1” stands for the subwoofer, which usually has its own amplifier built in so your receiver won’t need to provide it with power. Many mid- and higher-priced receivers are labeled as “.2” instead of “.1,” which means they have two subwoofer outputs that you may or may not be able to set up and adjust independently.

Most receivers priced around $ or less are channel designs. Moving up to a channel receiver gives you the option to add an extra pair of surround speakers, power a second audio zone, or build a basic Dolby Atmos/DTS:X system—provided the receiver has Atmos and DTS:X decoding (most newer channel models do). Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks include overhead or “height” effects to make the audio experience even more immersive. The more height speakers you add, the more convincing the effect—but that requires more amp channels, which leads to a more expensive AV receiver.

With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the channel counting gets a little more complicated. You might, for example, see designations like “” or “” The first numeral here refers to the number of conventional ear-level speakers, the second refers to the number of subwoofer outputs, and the third refers to the number of overhead channels. Since the subwoofer is typically self-powered, to figure out how many amplified channels a receiver has, or how many you need, you simply add the first and third numeral. So, a channel receiver has seven amplified channels and might also be referred to as a channel receiver.

How many sources do you plan to connect?

Your receiver needs to be able to connect all the HDMI source devices you have, which could include a cable box or DVR, a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, and a media streamer. Five HDMI ports is probably the right number for most people, as it gives you inputs for every source you’re likely to use in your home theater, with the option to add one or two more. You should also consider how many non-HDMI-equipped sources you want to connect and make sure the receiver has enough digital or analog inputs to accept them. If you have a turntable that lacks a phono preamp, you may want a receiver with a phono input.

How to connect a turntable

Which HDMI features do you need?

HDMI is the newest version of the digital connection that all current video-based components use. The connector remains the same, but version adds many new features, including support for 8K resolution by way of an increase in the maximum bandwidth from 18 Gbps to 48 Gbps (though all of the currently available HDMI –equipped receivers max out at 40 Gbps). Other noteworthy enhancements include automatic low-latency mode (which allows devices to automatically detect and switch to the best mode for gaming), eARC (which allows for higher-quality lossless audio over the HDMI Audio Return Channel instead of only compressed formats), variable refresh rate, and quick media switching.

An AV receiver can list features of the HDMI specification even if it supports only one or two of them, which certainly creates confusion for shoppers. Many current AV receivers and TVs support eARC, some support automatic low-latency mode, and some support variable refresh rate. But only a few of the newest receivers support the higher bandwidth necessary for 4K Hz gaming and 8K video. Make sure to read the fine print (or our discussions below) to pick a receiver that supports the HDMI features you need.

What type of streaming audio support do you want?

Even folks with extensive physical music collections likely stream much of their music from the internet, so a receiver needs some way of supporting streaming audio apps like Pandora and Spotify. With a budget receiver priced under $, you’re likely to get only Bluetooth support. As you move up in price, you can expect the ability to connect to a home network (check for a wired or wireless network connection, if you have a preference) and support for services like Pandora and Spotify built in (so you don’t have to cast the audio from your phone), as well as support for streaming protocols such as Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast. If you already own Wi-Fi speakers that use a certain platform (such as AirPlay), you may want to look for a receiver that features the same streaming technology so that all the devices will work well together.

What level of room correction are you willing to pay for?

Room-correction systems make the biggest impact on how a receiver sounds to most listeners. People rarely have perfect listening rooms, and speakers (especially subwoofers) often end up in spots where they are unobtrusive instead of where they sound the best. Room correction helps to improve the overall sound quality by using microphones and built-in software to estimate how your room and speaker placement are distorting the sound and to attempt to compensate for those distortions. Lots of receivers offer basic room correction, but when you invest in a more advanced room-correction technology such as Audyssey MultEQ XT32 or Dirac (both of which are proprietary systems that can appear in various brands of AV receivers), you get the ability to customize the type of corrections and account for multiple subwoofers, and these systems do a better job of tuning the sound without making it seem dull or overly processed.

In the price ranges we tested, we were unable to tell most receivers apart in blind testing when their room correction was not enabled. We found that the type of room correction in use had the biggest impact on sound quality, providing big benefits for some receivers and only smaller improvements for others.

How we tested

When testing each receiver, we considered its sonic performance and its ease of setup and everyday use. We performed blind A/B testing between receivers using an ABX test box from Audio by Van Alstine, which let us instantly switch between two different receivers to determine which one sounded better, with and without room correction enabled.

In previous tests, Chris Heinonen used KEF Reference In-Wall THX speakers and a subwoofer from Power Sound Audio for the majority of his testing. In our latest round of testing, Dennis Burger relied primarily on a CG3 speaker system from RSL Speakers and connected every receiver to a Vizio P-Series TV, a Sony PlayStation 4, a Roku Ultra, an Amazon Fire TV, and an Oppo Ultra HD Blu-ray player to see how easy it was to set up the system—including the Audio Return Channel (ARC) function—and switch between sources.

A great future-proof receiver: Yamaha RX-V6A

The Yamaha RX-V6A, our pick for the best AV receiver.

Who it’s for: If you want a great all-purpose channel receiver that won't feel outdated in a couple of years but is still priced well below $1,, we recommend the Yamaha RX-V6A. It has enough inputs for all of your source devices—from your streaming video player to your turntable—and it’s easy enough to set up and operate. Even if you have only a channel speaker system right now, it’s nice to have the two extra amp channels to add height speakers or a second audio zone down the road. The RX-V6A is a great choice if you’re thinking of buying a 4K TV that supports 4K video at Hz along with a source that can generate such video signals, such as the PlayStation 5—since it has (or will soon have) the HDMI features that gamers need.

Why it’s great: The Yamaha RX-V6A is an excellent performer that should serve most people’s movie and music needs right now, and we expect Yamaha to add a few key features via firmware update very soon (maybe by the time you’re reading this) that will appeal to gamers. It has plenty of inputs, including a phono input to connect a turntable, and it has seven channels of amplification, with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding to add overhead sound effects. In addition, it’s loaded with all the music streaming platforms and services you’re likely to subscribe to, and it sounds great thanks to a room-correction feature—multi-point measurements—that we just don’t expect to see on a $ AV receiver.

During our blind listening tests, we found that we were unable to tell most of these receivers apart when their room correction was disabled. The quality of the room correction had the biggest impact on the sound, and the RX-V6A’s YPAO (Yamaha Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer) room-correction system helped it deliver better results than what we heard from anything else near its price. After we ran the room correction, the RX-V6A’s sound was more open, more detailed, and more dynamic than that of anything else under $1,, which really makes a difference when you’re listening to music.

What distinguishes the RX-V6A’s room correction is the ability to place the included microphone in multiple positions while you’re taking your measurements. This gives the YPAO system a more comprehensive snapshot of your room’s acoustics, allowing it to correct the problems affecting all (or at least most) of the seating positions in your home theater or media room without overly deadening the sound—an issue that affects most room-correction systems in this price range and virtually all of the systems that rely on only one measurement position. YPAO is not quite as advanced as the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 technology built into the more expensive Denon AVR-XH, though, with less-refined delivery of the very deepest bass notes, those below 30 Hz. But if you’re buying a cheap subwoofer to connect to a $ AV receiver, the subwoofer is unlikely to generate bass that deep anyway (our budget subwoofer pick, the Dayton Audio SUB, is a rare exception).

Streaming-music aficionados will appreciate that the RX-V6A supports Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, with built-in Amazon Music, Deezer, Napster, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify Connect, Tidal, and more. It also supports Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice control, and it features Yamaha’s proprietary MusicCast system, a multiroom wireless music ecosystem similar to Denon’s Heos and standalone systems like Sonos.

The MusicCast technology allows you to wirelessly connect your surround speakers and subwoofer, but it has some limitations. You need to use Yamaha’s own MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless speakers as rear speakers and its MusicCast SUB for bass. Wireless front speakers aren’t supported, so you still need to connect a left, right, and center speaker with speaker cables, as well as overhead speakers if you’re configuring an Atmos/DTS:X system. There are also some other limitations that we’ll detail in the next section.

The back of the Yamaha RX-V6A AV receiver, showing the various ports.

As for physical connectivity, the RX-V6A is rather generous in its HDMI connections but pretty sparse on the analog side of things. It sports four stereo RCA inputs, one of them an MM phono input to connect a turntable, and that’s it as far as support for analog source devices. It has no composite or component video inputs to connect older video sources. You get seven HDMI inputs, and all of them support 4K HDR (including Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma). Three of them boast some level of HDMI compliance, and the HDMI output supports eARC. Most of the HDMI features—such as quick media switching, quick frame transport, variable refresh rate, automatic low-latency mode, and the ability to pass uncompressed 4K Hz video—were still dormant when we reviewed the RX-V6A, but Yamaha says these features will be added in a spring or summer firmware update. More advanced features such as 8K video passthrough should come later, possibly this fall.

Finally, we simply love the way the RX-V6A looks. This may not be a big concern for most AV receiver shoppers, but the sleek aesthetic of this Yamaha receiver sets it apart from most of its competition, regardless of price, which you’re likely to appreciate if you install your home theater gear on an open-air shelf or tabletop.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The RX-V6A’s HDMI chipset has an incompatibility issue with the Xbox Series X that prevents it from passing through 4K Hz video signals correctly. This appears to be a problem with all of the brand-new “8K-compatible” receivers, not just Yamaha’s. If the Xbox Series X is your next-generation gaming console of choice, just know that you’ll have to route a 4K Hz HDMI signal directly to your TV and rely on eARC to deliver the audio signal to your receiver. But if you’re a PlayStation 5 owner or a PC gamer, you should be able to route 4K Hz signals as soon as the RX-V6A’s next major firmware update is released, likely before June

You need to download Yamaha’s mobile app (available for iOS and Android devices) to access the sort of intuitive setup wizard that Denon builds into its receivers, or you can work your way through the less-intuitive on-screen menus of the RX-V6A. Setup is still fairly straightforward overall, and the RX-V6A’s menus are pretty easy to figure out. But they could be better.

The remote control of the Yamaha RX-V6A.

One thing that makes the setup process only fairly straightforward instead of completely straightforward is the fact that the RX-V6A’s remote is sparse and not very responsive. We found ourselves frequently aiming the remote at the receiver, pressing a button, thinking the receiver didn’t receive the command, and pressing it again, only to cancel out the command we sent to begin with. The remote also lacks backlighting, so it’s hard to use in the dark beyond simple commands like volume control. If you use a universal remote to control your whole entertainment system, this will be less of a concern.

Our biggest frustration is that adding wireless surround-sound speakers to the RX-V6A disables the ability to use the YPAO room-correction system’s multi-point measurement capabilities, which is one of this receiver’s most significant selling points. Measuring your room from only one seating position results in noticeably less-refined room correction and more inconsistent performance from seat to seat. Also, for high-resolution audio fans: You cannot play DSD audio files when using wireless surrounds, nor does the receiver decode audio from SACD or DVD-Audio discs sent via HDMI.

A great choice for non-gamers: Denon AVR-SH

The front of the Denon AVR-SH AV receiver.

Who it’s for: If you’re not interested in the newest generation of video game consoles (and thus don’t need all the new HDMI features) and you simply want a great channel receiver that supports all the 4K video formats used in movies and TV shows, the Denon AVR-SH is our recommendation. You might want only a channel configuration now, but it’s good to have the option to set up a basic Dolby Atmos/DTS:X system in the future. We also recommend the AVR-SH for those who are new to AV receivers and need one that’s easy to set up and use.

Why it’s great: The Denon AVR-SH ticks all the necessary boxes. It has plenty of inputs, including a phono input to connect a turntable. It has seven channels of amplification, and it’s loaded with all the desirable music streaming platforms and services. But perhaps most important, the guided setup makes getting your system up and running very easy. Plus, this receiver sounds very good when you use the basic Audyssey MultEQ room correction—and it can sound great if you’re willing to put a little extra work into the room-calibration process.

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, along with seven channels of amplification, lets you enjoy a more immersive audio experience than you can get from a basic system. But if you can’t run surround speakers or height-channel speakers in your room, the AVR-SH also includes speaker-virtualization technology (similar to that found in many soundbars) to simulate surround sound from the front channels. And if you’re doing only a channel setup, you can use the two extra amp channels to power stereo speakers in a second audio zone.

The sonic results of the basic Audyssey MultEQ room correction aren’t quite as refined as those of the Yamaha RX-V6A’s YPAO system across the entire audible spectrum, so if you were to compare the two, you might notice that the sound isn’t as open and spacious, and that high frequencies are slightly dulled. But it does have a couple of advantages that put it on more equal footing with Yamaha’s room correction. First, it does a better job of taming the very deepest bass frequencies, which you’ll appreciate if you have a subwoofer that puts out a notable amount of bass below 30 Hz. Secondly, the AVR-SH is compatible with the MultEQ Editor app for iOS and Android devices. This $20 app greatly expands the capabilities of Audyssey MultEQ, allowing you to customize the receiver’s sound to a significant degree. It doesn’t deliver results as advanced as what you get from the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 technology built into the more expensive Denon AVR-XH, and it can’t calibrate two subwoofers individually, but if you’re willing to spend the extra money on the app and learn a bit about room acoustics, you can still achieve very good results.

The remote control of the Denon AVR-SH.

What truly distinguishes Denon’s receivers from the pack is how easy they are to get up and running. With an on-screen setup system that walks you through the entire process—from connecting speakers to setting up inputs to getting on Wi-Fi to running the room correction—almost anyone should be able to set up the AVR-SH correctly. When creating inputs, the receiver automatically grabs the name of the devices connected over HDMI, so you don’t have to remember, for example, that you hooked up the Xbox to the Cable/Sat input—it will be renamed “Xbox” for you. And the inputs you don’t use are hidden in the menu. These simple little touches make the AVR-SH one of the easiest receivers to use that we’ve ever seen.

With support for AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Deezer, Heos (Denon’s own multiroom music platform), Pandora, Spotify Connect, TuneIn, and more, the AVR-SH lets you stream almost anything you want without needing any extra hardware. Through the free Heos app for iOS and Android, you can launch streaming services to play directly through the receiver, so you don’t need to keep your phone in range of Bluetooth or on Wi-Fi for AirPlay.

The back of the Denon AVR-SH AV receiver.

Six HDMI inputs, including a front-panel HDMI input, make it easy to run all of your devices through the AVR-SH. Though it isn’t a fully HDMI –compliant receiver, it does support features such as automatic low-latency mode for video gaming and eARC for improved audio quality from TVs. You also get digital and analog audio inputs (including an MM phono input), plus a couple of composite video inputs to connect older sources.

The AVR-SH provides other nice features, too, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, the ability to route audio through Bluetooth headphones for nighttime listening, and a secondary audio zone that supports stereo playback of the receiver’s internal digital sources such as Spotify, as well as AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Since the Denon AVR-SH’s HDMI inputs are not fully HDMI compliant, this receiver isn’t as future-ready as the Yamaha RX-V6A. You can’t pass a 4K Hz signal through it, and gamers don’t get support for variable refresh rate.

Although Denon’s Heos wireless system is technically capable of supporting wireless surround-sound speakers, as evidenced by the company’s Heos Bar and Heos AVR, the AVR-SH doesn’t support such connectivity.

The best sound quality under $1, Denon AVR-XH

The Denon AVR-XH AC receiver.

Who it’s for: We recommend the Denon AVR-XH channel receiver for anyone who is willing to pay more to get better room correction and thus a clear sonic upgrade. It’s also a great choice for anyone who wants to add more speakers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Why it’s great: The Denon AVR-XH takes everything we like about the AVR-SH and improves upon it. This model is a substantial upgrade to our previous pick in this category, the now-discontinued Denon AVR-XH, thanks to improved sonic performance and support for newer HDR video standards and other HDMI enhancements. The Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction is appreciably better than what you can find in any of our other picks, with more adjustments and the ability to calibrate two subwoofers independently. And the addition of two more amp channels allows for more speakers and improved Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersion.

The AVR-XH offers nine channels of amplification, so you could set up a system with five ear-level speakers, two independently measured subwoofers, and four overhead speakers. You can also reserve two of those channels for a separate stereo zone in another room. If you’re willing to add an outboard stereo amp, the AVR-XH has preamp outputs that allow you to expand the total speaker count to

The on-screen interface has improved graphics and easier-to-read text in comparison with its predecessor. The receiver also features seven HDMI inputs, all of which support HDMI features such as variable refresh rate, quick frame transport, and automatic low-latency mode. But only one supports 4K video at Hz or 8K video at 60 Hz.

The remote control of the Denon AVR-XH.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: The AVR-XH suffers from the same HDMI bug as the Yamaha RX-V6A and all current “8K-compatible” AV receivers do—they can’t pass a 4K Hz signal from the Xbox Series X. Denon has introduced an HDMI adapter box that solves this problem, and owners of the AVR-XH can request the free box beginning May 15, —but it does add another small piece of equipment to your gear rack. The PlayStation 5 and gaming PCs are not affected by this bug.

Although Denon’s Heos wireless system is technically capable of supporting wireless surround-sound speakers, as evidenced by the company’s Heos Bar and Heos AVR, the AVR-XH doesn’t support such connectivity.

An easy-to-use budget receiver: Denon AVR-SBT

The Denon AVR-SBT AV receiver.

Who it’s for: If you want to assemble a basic channel surround-sound system and you don’t have much (or any) experience setting one up, we recommend the Denon AVR-SBT. It’s also an affordable choice for anyone who already has a simple system in place but needs to upgrade their receiver because it can’t do 4K or HDR.

Why it’s great: Because the Denon AVR-SBT doesn’t have a lot of features, it’s particularly easy to set up, even if you don’t have much experience. On-screen prompts and a well-labeled back panel make it simple to get everything running correctly even if you’re a rookie.

The back of the AVR-SBT AV receiver.

The AVR-SBT provides fewer inputs than our other picks and has no Wi-Fi or Ethernet support, but the essentials are here. Photo: Rozette Rago

The remote control of the Denon AVR-SBT AV receiver.

The simplicity of the AVR-SBT’s remote reflects its more stripped-down feature set. Photo: Rozette Rago

This channel AV receiver supports high-quality Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks (but not the overhead capabilities of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X), and it offers five HDMI inputs that support 4K HDR pass-through (but no HDMI features), which is more than you’ll see on some comparably priced models. You also get a front-panel USB port, plus three digital inputs and a pair of analog inputs around back. The receiver has Bluetooth for streaming audio, as well as basic room correction to make everything sound good.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: This receiver lacks Wi-Fi and integrated music streaming options. As a result, you have to use Bluetooth to stream music, so your phone or other source device needs to stay close to the receiver—or you can add an inexpensive Wi-Fi streaming device. In addition, the AVR-SBT doesn’t have the Audyssey room correction that the higher-end Denon models offer, it lacks a front-panel HDMI input, and the speaker connections accept only pins and smaller-gauge bare wire, not banana plugs or thicker speaker wires.

What to look forward to

Anthem has introduced new upgrades to its popular MRX line in the form of the MRX ($1,), MRX ($2,), and MRX ($3,). All three models sport some compelling new features, including IMAX Enhanced and eARC, and they use Anthem’s own outstanding room-correction system. None will support 4K Hz or 8K signals at any refresh rate when they launch, but Anthem has designed the units to be hardware upgradable and promises a full 8K upgrade at some point down the road.

Klipsch’s parent company Voxx is now the official US distributor of the Onkyo and Pioneer brands, and Voxx is currently in the process of acquiring Onkyo Home Entertainment Corp, in partnership with Sharp. Onkyo previously announced several new models coming later in , among them four Onkyo models priced from $ to $1, and slated to ship sometime between June and August. All four support 8K video passthrough, and the two top models—the TX-NR ($) and TX-RZ50 ($1,)—will reportedly feature Dirac Live, an advanced form of room correction that allows for even greater customization and control than you can get from Audyssey’s top-of-the-line MultEQ XT

Pioneer also announced three new 8K-compatible receivers: the $1, VSX-LX in June, the $ VSX-LX in August, and the VSX-LX (release date and price unknown). The VSX-LX and VSX-LX will also support Dirac Live room correction. We don’t yet know how the sale of Onkyo Home Entertainment Corp will affect these planned releases.

The competition

Companies such as Denon and Yamaha offer a number of AV receivers at prices below, between, and above those we included in this guide. In selecting which specific models to recommend, we looked for the best mix of features, performance, and price, keeping in mind the needs of most people. But you may have specific needs that make one of the models we didn’t select a better pick for you.

For example, the new Denon AVR-SH and AVR-XH are priced between the company’s AVR-SH and AVR-XH, and both feature one fully compliant HDMI input. We’ve concluded that the AVR-SH doesn’t offer enough advantages over the AVR-SH to justify the increased price, though. And if you’re willing to step up to the AVR-XH in price, you’d be better off spending a couple hundred dollars more for the superior Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction of the AVR-XH, even if you don’t need its extra channels of amplification.

Along the same lines, the Denon AVR-SH falls between the AVR-SH and the AVR-SBT in price. It’s only a channel model, so it doesn’t give you Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support and can’t handle a second zone of audio; you also give up the front HDMI port. But it has all the networking features of the AVR-SH, so you don’t need to rely on Bluetooth for streaming audio, and it has the Audyssey MultEQ room correction. If you’re certain you’ll never need more than five channels of audio and don’t require a front-panel HDMI input, it offers performance very similar to that of the AVR-SH.

Yamaha recently introduced its Aventage RX-A2A ($). Despite its enhanced construction and other step-up features, the RX-A2A remains remarkably similar to the RX-V6A in features, channel count, power ratings, and other aspects—and as a result, the $cheaper RX-V6A is simply a better value. The company also offers the RX-V4A at $, but we still think it’s worthwhile to step up to the RX-V6A, not only for its increased channel count (the RX-V4A has only five amplified channels) but also for its superior room correction, since the RX-V4A lacks multi-point measurement capabilities. Finally, the Yamaha RX-V is the company’s entry-level Bluetooth-only model; the comparably priced Denon AVR-SBT is easier to set up and use.

Sony has not introduced new receivers since We previously tested the STR-DN, which is nearly three years old at this point so it’s missing key features such as AirPlay 2 support and any HDMI functionality. We were not impressed with its room correction; the automatic speaker setup wasn’t terribly accurate, and the bass in music was lacking impact and detail. We also tested the Sony STR-DH and STR-DH As with the STR-DN, the room correction in these receivers wasn’t as accurate in detecting our speakers, and Denon’s comparable models were easier to set up.

Onkyo and Pioneer have been in limbo for a couple of years, so we were hesitant to review and recommend their receivers, but both are supposed to come back this year with new models (detailed above), some of which feature the superior Dirac Live room-correction system. Our intention is to add these to our testing once they’re released in the summer and autumn of

About your guides

Dennis Burger
Chris Heinonen

Chris Heinonen is a senior staff writer reporting on TVs, projectors, and sometimes audio gear at Wirecutter. He has been covering AV since for a number of online publications and is an ISF-certified video calibrator. He used to write computer software and hopes to never do that again, and he also loves to run and test gear for running guides.

7 Best 5.1 Receivers 2017

Top Picks

AV Receivers

Click here for AV Receiver shopping and tech tips

< $Pioneer VSX $
Enthusiasts on a tight budget will love all the VSX has to offer for less than bucks. You get five channels of solid power plus 4K/HDR passthrough, DTS Play-Fi for wireless multiroom audio, a nice selection of streaming options, and a simplified version of Dolby Atmos with phantom rear channels. Reviewer Dan Kumin summed it up this way: “I applaud this receiver’s affordability, its wide and up-to-date video- and audio-mode compatibility, and very solid sonics.” (November , Read Full Review)Denon DRAH Stereo Network Receiver: $
If you have yet to bring a beloved two-channel setup into the modern age or are looking to assemble a second hi-fi system with a spare set of speakers, Denon’s DRAH combines the best of the old and the new in an excellent sounding stereo receiver that puts out watts/channel. Besides an AM/FM tuner and a host of familiar analog and digital audio inputs, it supports HDMI video switching, hi-res audio playback up to 32 bits/ kHz, wireless connectivity (including AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth), and provides direct access to Tidal, Pandora, Amazon Music, and several other online music services through the app-based HEOS multiroom streaming platform. Reviewer Rob Sabin called the DRAH “highly capable with music” and a “kick-ass AV platform for music and movies.” (February/March , Read Full Review)Yamaha RX-V $
With more than a dozen AV receivers to choose from in the highly competitive $to-$ range, the V grabs the spotlight with its unique and adjustable DSP-surround technology, which lets the listener dial in effects to suit speakers, room, and taste. Add to that a solid performing amplifier plus a generous helping of useful features and you have an impressive receiver that can be had for a price that’s more than reasonable. (Posted 8/29/18, Read Full Review)Yamaha RX-V6A channel A/V Receiver: $
Yamaha’s RX-V6A delivers cutting-edge features at an unprecedented price. Out of the box, it conveys impressive sound quality with movies and music and supports streaming through Yamaha’s MusicCast platform and Apple AirPlay2, 4K at 60 fps, chroma subsampling at 18Gbps, and Dolby Vision HDR. Firmware updates will add HDMI compatibility, support for HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. With 7 x watts of power, you can drive a traditional surround system or a Dolby Atmos setup. Of course, to reach this level of technical prowess in a $ receiver, there is a tradeoff: Except for its phono inputs, all connections are digital. (February/March , Read Full Review) Sony STR-DN $
Hi-res audio capability with excellent audio performance to support it and a full suite of Android- and Apple-ready wireless capabilities just scratch the surface of what this multi-talented receiver has to offer. For the modest price of $, you also get six HDMI inputs, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround processing, and accurate auto calibration. If you’re in the market for an AVR and have limited funds, the STR-DN deserves serious consideration. Its chops will surprise you. (July/August , Read Full Review)Yamaha RX-S $
Not all AV receivers are space hogs. Take the super svelte RX-S It stands less than inches tall yet delivers enough clean power to drive a set of reasonably efficient home theater speakers and packs a number of useful features, including AirPlay and six HDMI inputs. Best of all, it performs well with music and movie soundtracks and boasts independent analog and digital power supplies and an aluminum front panel, signaling a level of build quality you don’t expect at this price. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann called it “one of the best budget models I’ve heard.” (, Read Full Review)Onkyo TX-NR $
Onkyo has outdone itself with a versatile nine-channel AVR that delivers an impressive blend of performance and features at a price that all but assured its status as a Sound & Vision Top Value Pick. With ample processing power to accommodate a DTS:X or Dolby Atmos setup, the TX-NR is capable of delivering impressively rich, powerful sound in rooms as big as 2, square feet as confirmed by its THX Select certification. (February/March , Read Full Review)Outlaw RR Stereo Receiver: $
An update of the Outlaw’s venerable RR, the RR is one of the best receivers you can buy if tried-and-true stereo is your priority. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann called it a “stupendously great-sounding stereo receiver…that supports a lot of little contingencies, including HD Radio and options for moving-magnet and moving-coil phono cartridges.” While it doesn’t directly support wireless connectivity — you can add Bluetooth via an accessory — it does include a set of old-school tone controls. (November , Read Full Review)Onkyo TX-RZ $
Onkyo has lived up to its reputation for delivering superb value by packing the latest features into AVRs that sell for less than a grand. In this case, you get sensible ergonomics, power and processing for a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X surround setup, and all forms of wireless connectivity. Veteran reviewer Mark Fleischmann observed: “The Onkyo TX-RZ is an excellent-sounding receiver with a well-executed version of the brand’s usual crisp voicing. The Onkyo people know what they’re doing.” (November , Read Full Review)Pioneer VSX-LX $
With nine channels of onboard power, the VSX-LX accommodates or speaker layouts and supports a roster of must-have features, including IMAX Enhanced certification for unlocking cinematic mixes created by IMAX. As reviewer Michael Trei put it, the LX “delivers many of the features you'd expect from a top-of-the-line model, but at a mid-level price.” Add to that powerful and detailed sound and you have a forward-thinking AV hub. (August/September , Read Full Review)Denon AVR-XH: $
The AVR-XH has a lot to offer for a thousand bucks, starting with full 4K/HDR-readiness, solid ergonomics, and a robust seven-channel amp that will have no trouble powering all but the largest home theater setups. Onboard power limits Dolby Atmos configurations to channels but that’s par for the course in this price range and a layout that even reviewer/audio guru Daniel Kumin is coming around to “especially with dipole surrounds on the sides.” (April , Read Full Review)Denon HEOS AVR: $
Denon has reimagined the component that has been the cornerstone of home theater for decades. The result is a super streamlined, app-driven control center built around the company’s HEOS wireless platform, featuring hi-res audio support and 18 music streaming options but lacking many “standard” features. You won’t find AM/FM or legacy video jacks and the architecture supports systems with up to channels. No and no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann’s take: “Denon’s HEOS AVR is a largely successful effort to transform the AV receiver from a cumbersome Swiss Army knife to a sleek app-driven entertainer.” (October , Read Full Review)$1,$1,NAD T V3: $1,
NAD has honored its rich audio legacy with a thoroughly modern update of the award winning T it introduced back in This V3 edition boasts an anti-obsolescence modular design and cutting-edge room correction from Sweden’s Dirac. “Putting aside challenges with learning to use Dirac, it's an empowering tool for the questing audio tweaker who wants the flexibility to experiment with room correction parameters,” wrote reviewer Mark Fleischmann. “Coupled here with this fine-sounding receiver, the audible results are beautiful.” (May , Read Full Review)Marantz SR Channel: $1,
At about half the price of many flagship AVRs, the SR proves that it’s possible to deliver topnotch music performance at an affordable price without sacrificing key home theater and streaming features. You get eight HDMI inputs and a phono input, instant access to popular music streaming services, wireless multiroom capability via the Heos platform plus the wherewithal to drive a surround configuration or a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X setup with height speakers ( with an external two-channel amp). It even provides Imax Enhanced processing. (December /January , Read Full Review)Denon AVR-XW: $1,
If you’re looking for a solid performing receiver that can be had for well under two grand, Denon’s new upper-echelon AVR deserves a look. It does all of the most current modes, sources, and processing very competently, with ample audio power and fully up-to-date video abilities. Getting right to the heart of the matter, reviewer Mark Fleischmann wrote: “The AVR-XW boasts unimpeachable audio quality and full 4K video capabilities, combined with a deep feature set and a host of multiroom and automation options, all at a fair (though not inconsiderable) price.” (November , Read Full Review)Onkyo TX-RZ $1,
Ready for Dolby Atmos action and primed for DTS:X, the RZ is a flagship-class receiver that can be had for considerably less than flagship prices. It delivers more clean dynamic power than most of us will need and is loaded with useful features including compatibility with high dynamic range content and THX Select2 Plus certification. Summing up, reviewer Mark Fleischmann wrote: “It does all the basics we require from an AV receiver very, very well, abetted by the full complement of up-to-the-minute technologies and featuresthat should satisfy the most demanding among us.” (April , Read Full Review)Yamaha Aventage RX-A $1,
The channel RX-A delivers the up-to-date features and unadulterated sound you expect from an audio stalwart but includes at least one added attraction you won’t find in other brand AVRs: Yamaha’s masterful music listening modes. “Yamaha provides considerable fine-tuning control over DSP effect levels and delays,” observed veteran reviewer Daniel Kumin. “Though, even at its defaults, the Chamber mode — applied to a DSD of contemporary-classical brass-quintet and piano music — was altogether hair-raising.” (February/march , Read Full Review)Yamaha Aventage RX-A $1,
Sitting squarely in the AVR sweet spot, the RX-A has a lot to offer for the price, including nine robust amplifier channels that can be configured for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X surround-sound action. Further sweetening the deal is Yamaha’s app-based MusicCast system, which makes it easy to spread music around the house without having to worry about running wires. As Mark Fleischmann put it, “This receiver does nearly everything amazingly well.” (May , Read Full Review)Sony STR-ZAES: $1,
The lack of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X encoding and features like AirPlay and Internet radio is easy to overlook in the ZAES, a seven-channel receiver that delivers excellent sound quality and terrific value. (September , Read Full Review)$2, >Onkyo TX-RZ $2,
Today’s AV receivers do a lot more than we should reasonably expect from one component. But when you get down to it, the ability to deliver clean, dynamic power is what matters most—and precisely what this Top Pick of the Year receiver offers in spades. Calling the sound “faultless,” Daniel Kumin offered this assessment of the RZ as it powered Star Trek: Beyond: “There were almost too many sonic highlights to pick just one, but it would be hard to outdo the long battle sequence in chapter 10, which…the TX-RZ aced…without any evident stress.” (February/March , Read Full Review)Marantz SR $2,
The Marantz SR is a super smart channel receiver offering a comprehensive set of AV features plus excellent room correction, fine overall sound, the potential for multiroom extension, and just about everything else you could want in an AVR—even Auro-3D (via an optional $ firmware update). Reveling in the SR’s movie prowess, Mark Fleischmann wrote: “The bubble-shaped soundfield of Dolby Atmos was well illuminated but without hardening textures. The top end was sweet and musical, dialogue well delivered, and bass par for the price point. A reasonable definition of a great-sounding receiver.” (May , Read Full Review)Marantz SR Atmos-Enabled: $2,
With nine amp channels, Dolby Atmos decoding, DTS:X and Auro-3D upgradability, and Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction, the SR is as future-proof as a receiver can currently be. As reviewer Mark Fleischmann put it: “If the distinction between Dolby Atmos and is as big a deal as I think it is, this receiver will soon have competition, and much of it at lower prices. I’m giving the Marantz a value rating of five stars because it was surprisingly versatile and always satisfying. But I expect it to be joined, and possibly surpassed, by other nine-channel receivers.” (February/March , Read Full Review)Yamaha Aventage RX-A $2,
The flagship RX-A delivers stellar audio performance with enough channels to run all but the most elaborate Dolby Atmos and DTS:X configurations and provides a versatile set of wireless features, including multiroom capability via Yamaha's MusicCast system. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann was thoroughly impressed with its DTS:X prowess: “A recurring nightclub scene [in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot] showed off the receiver’s extraordinary aptitude for envelopment.” (January , Read Full Review)Denon AVR-XH channel: $2,
At a time when seemingly everything is made in China, Denon’s XH is actually made in Japan, harkening back to an era when most top-brand receivers were designed and assembled there. The X-Series flagship is a forward looking AVR featuring pass-through support for 8K and all high dynamic range (HDR) formats (including Dolby Vision and HDR10+), HDMI connectivity, and support for the super high-end immersive audio format DTS:X Pro in addition to Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D, and IMAX Enhanced. And with 11 channels of power onboard ( watts into 8 ohms with two channels driven), the XH is flexible enough to accommodate speaker configurations up to or Guaranteed to delight enthusiasts, the XH also boasts eight HDMI inputs, two preamp outs for extending its processing power to 13 channels (with an outboard amp), two subwoofer outputs, and support for hi-res audio playback. (December/January , Read Full Review)Sony STR-ZA ES: $2,
The new flagship in Sony’s venerable ES line, the STR-ZAES is not your everyday top-line receiver. You might even call it a specialty AVR with impeccable build quality, a hard-kicking nine-channel amp, and both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround processing. But the ZAES is special for what it lacks. It skips de rigueur wireless features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to focus on features that provide maximum flexibility in a custom installation setting. Among them is an easy-to-configure eight-port Ethernet hub for interfacing with networked devices such as control systems, computers, and media players. (October , Read Full Review) NAD T $2,
Canada’s NAD offers a refreshing take on the AV receiver with an channel flagship built to deliver superb sound with movies and music while avoiding obsolescence through a clever modular architecture that allows new features and technologies to be added via plug-in cards. The T supports full-bore Atmos/DTS:X speaker layouts and provides automated Dirac Live room correction, while embracing high-resolution music streaming through the compelling BluOS platform. Reviewer John Sciacca was impressed with the T ’s organic sound and ability to “place sounds accurately.” If you’re looking for an AVR with a twist, this is it. (Summer , Read Full Review)Denon AVR-XW: $2,
The AVR-XW is made for those who simply must have it all: 9 x watts of hulking power, state-of-the-art room correction courtesy of Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound with channels of object-based potential and the option of upgrading to Auro-3D, HDMI a connectivity with Ultra HD passthrough, and the ability to play Hi-Res Audio files—and vinyl (yes, it has a phono input). “To call the Denon a top-of-the-line receiver with all the goodies would belabor the obvious,” concluded reviewer Mark Fleischmann. “It’s also a musically reliable amp with the best possible room correction—the kind that’s suitable for most music and pretty much all movie and TV content.” (June , Read Full Review)Anthem MRX $3,
Anthem’s new flagship receiver is formidable. Whereas most flagships top out at nine channels of amplification, the MRX has eleven plus both flavors of object-based surround processing and the company’s outstanding room-correction software. In other words: everything you need (except the speakers!) to set up and tweak a full-bore Dolby Atmos (and soon, DTS:X) system. Reviewer David Vaughn concluded: “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding solution short of going with separates.” (November , Read Full Review)Denon AVR-XH: $3,
Denon’s latest flagship receiver checks off every box on the Enthusiast Must-Have List, including all three immersive-surround formats — Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D — and it provides 13 (yes, 13) watt channels of brute power to back up its considerable brains. “If you want bang-up-to-date technology that works brilliantly, it’s hard to go wrong with this receiver,” wrote reviewer Michael Trei. Superstitious? Just make sure you don’t take delivery of it on Friday the 13th, especially if you happen to live on the 13th floor. (Posted 8/8/18, Read Full Review)Arcam AVR $6,
U.K.’s Arcam makes a bold statement with its reference-caliber AV receiver—one that combines a seven-channel amplifier with state-of-the-art surround sound and Dirac Live room-correction processing in an impeccably-built component. Breaking rank with today’s typical AVR, the AVR is surprisingly simple to set up and eschews wireless connectivity (imagine that), focusing instead on performance in the form of an unusual Class G amplifier that sounds clean, dynamic, and musical on everything from hi-res stereo to Dolby Atmos soundtracks. (November , Read Full Review)

Stereo 2017 best receiver

Let's face it, home theater receivers all kinda look the same. However, not all are created equal. From high-end options that cost thousands to affordable, under-$ picks, there's a path to better home entertainment for everyone! Note: A home audio receiver is not the only component that you need in order to enjoy movie theater-quality entertainment. Capable speakers are also essential, so budget accordingly if you don't already own a set.

Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-ABL Home Theater Receiver


This midrange offering from Yamaha packs plenty of features and ports. It upscales regular p content to 4K on a supported TVs, connects to your smartphone or tablet to play your music over Bluetooth or AirPlay, streams music from Spotify, Pandora, and Sirius XM, and delivers a cinematic Dolby Atmos audio experience. The receiver is equipped with six HDMI inputs, a USB port, and built-in Wi-Fi. There's even a downloadable app that lets you use your smartphone as a remote.

More: Upgrade Your Picture Quality With a New 4K TV

Yamaha RX-VBL Home Theater Receiver


An excellent budget option, the Yamaha RX-VBL is brimming with connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay. It can also upscale p video content to 4K, which is a rare thing in its price range.

This channel receiver will guarantee an excellent sonic experience. It lets you adjust DSP parameters of your movies and music to replicate the sounds of concert halls and music theaters. It's also compatible with Yamaha's MusicCast system, meaning you can pair it with up to nine wireless speakers. The RX-VBL is an excellent pick for the money.

Sony STRDN Home Theater Receiver


This receiver from Sony packs a slew of connectivity options and features that make it a great pick for your home theater system. It supports multiroom music, Chromecast streaming, Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth, AirPlay, and 4K HDR, and it even connects to your Google Home smart speaker. It packs six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, so you can distribute 4K video and surround sound to two different TVs if you want.

Sony STRDH Home Theater Receiver


Sony's take on a budget-friendly home theater receiver is one of the best in its price range. The STRDH has a seven-channel amplifier, Bluetooth connectivity with NFC for easy pairing, and a USB port for playing your MP3s stored on a flash drive. Support for 4K video pass-through is also included, thus making the device future-proof in the event you upgrade to a 4K TV. Unfortunately, it only has four HDMI inputs (more expensive models offer six on average).

More: On a Budget? Get a 4K TV for Under $1K With One of These Picks

Pioneer VSX Home Theater Receiver


The Pioneer VSX is another excellent budget home theater receiver. It has a five-channel amplifier, Dolby Atmos compatibility, and the ability to optimize the connected speakers for any room. While it has Wi-Fi and Chromecast built-in, unfortunately, Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay connectivity are not on board. On the plus side, it supports pass-through for HDR10 and Dolby Vision, so you can enjoy these latest video standards on a 4K display. 

Onkyo TX-NR Home Theater Receiver


The Onkyo TX-NRdeserves a spot on the list of frugal buyers. It has typical offerings for its price range: a seven-channel amplifier, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, and an Ethernet port for network connectivity. There are even onboard apps for internet radio-streaming services like TIDAL, Deezer, Pandora, and TuneIn. The TX-NRcan process 4K video and upscale p footage. It's a solid option, especially considering its sub-$ price tag.

Marantz SR Home Theater Receiver


A high-end entry on the market, the Marantz SR looks sleeker than some of its competitors because most of its controls are hidden under a flap. The receiver has more connectivity options than you can imagine, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, and support for streaming services and satellite radio. The channel receiver upscales p video up to 4K and supports Dolby Atmos, and it's compatible with 3D and 4K Ultra HD content. Both the power output and the audio quality of the receiver are nothing short of spectacular, as its price tag suggests. If you want the ultimate home theater system, the Marantz SR is a great place to start.

Marantz SR Home Theater Receiver


The SR is proof that there's no need to break the bank to own a quality Marantz home theater receiver. It features understated design, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay connectivity, 4K video support with upscaling, and excellent sound quality. Dolby and DTS surround sound decoding are also supported, as is Dolby Atmos. A free app by Marantz for iOS and Android allows you to control the receiver from your smartphone or tablet.

Denon AVRSH Home Theater Receiver


One of Denon's latest offerings, the AVRSH is a channel receiver that's powerful and jam-packed with features. It supports multiroom audio through Denon's HEOS wireless system, and it even pairs with your Amazon Echo. The receiver supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X audio, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay. It's equipped with a USB port and six HDMI inputs. Additionally, a downloadable app lets you stream music from apps like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and Sirius XM, among others. Best of all: It costs under $!

Denon AVRSBT Home Theater Receiver


This five-channel amplifier from Denon may not be the most powerful or most feature-filled, but it's affordable. It offers five HDMI inputs, built-in Bluetooth, and a USB port, and it pairs to wireless speakers that utilize Denon's HEOS Link technology. You can control it with your smartphone thanks to a free app. If you're looking to get a receiver that gives you plenty of bang for your buck, this is a fine choice.

Denon AVR-SBT Home Theater Receiver


A budget of around $ is all you need to get your hands on a quality home theater receiver like the Denon AVR-SBT. The device has a five-channel amplifier, Dolby and DTS surround sound support, and Bluetooth connectivity. It also supports 4K and 3D video pass-through, so it'll be a good companion for your UHD TV. Plus, an on-screen guide makes the Denon AVR-SBT easy to get a hang of, so it's a great first step into the vast world of high-end home audio.

Brandon CarteTechnology EditorBrandon Carte has been the technology editor at since , where he's been covering the latest gadgets and scouring the internet for the greatest deals; His tech reporting has been featured on and USA Today.

Stefan VazharovSenior Technology EditorStefan is the senior technology editor for, where he’s been covering the tech industry and testing the latest gadgets since ; He previously covered tech products for and his work can also be found on Popular Mechanics.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

🌵7 Best Stereo Receivers 2020

Want to find the best AV receiver for the money? I've tested some of the most popular big-black-box options from the major brands in the $ to $ range, and the feature sets, connectivity and performance levels are impressively high. From Dolby Atmos to Wi-Fi music streaming to voice control -- and high-quality audio -- these modern home cinema receivers offer everything a home theater enthusiast needs. 

There's one thing to take into consideration, though, especially if you're a gamer. Until recently 8K-compatible receivers have had issues displaying video from certain types of PCs and gaming consoles. So, there's one brand in particular you should be wary of in the short term. However, if you don't care about using the Xbox Series X or simply can't wait, these are the best models available right now.

Now playing:Watch this: How to buy an affordable AV receiver

Which receiver should I buy?

If you can live without the latest features -- HDMI , 8K, VRR -- then the Onkyo TX-NRis the receiver to get. The Onkyo is an excellent performer and offers easy setup, excellent usability, solid looks and useful features, including the best streaming suite. The TX-NR retails for more than $, but it is regularly on sale for under that. Even at its regular price of $ the TX-NR is a great deal. Be aware that it's about to be replaced by a new model, but it will cost a whole $ more.

Until the 4K/Hz bug reared its head -- more on that shortly -- the Yamaha RX-V6A was my favorite receiver of the last 12 months. It offers striking looks and the performance chops to match. On the other hand, the Sony STR-DN may be getting super old at this point but it still offers 4K HDR throughput, streaming capabilities and top-notch sound. (Note: It is currently marked as being discontinued on many shopping sites, but Sony has confirmed to CNET that it remains a current model.)

Why should I wait?

I would advise caution on buying a Yamaha receiver in particular right now, especially if future-proofing is something you're interested in. You see, all of the newest, 8K-compatible receivers were susceptible to a bug preventing them from displaying variable refresh rate video, and from the Xbox Series X in particular. While Denon, Marantz and Yamaha announced fixes for existing models, if you buy a Yamaha RX-V6A right now it could mean sending your new receiver in to get a mainboard replaced. Yamaha says new compliant receivers won't be available on shelves until fall.

Meanwhile Sound United, which produces Denon and Marantz receivers, says any models sold after April should be 4K/Hz compliant. The spokesperson said that if customers are unsure whether their model is compliant or not they should contact their dealer or customer support. Older, noncompliant models are able to be rectified with a free adapter, but the company advises these dongles are now out of stock for the next five months. 

Competitor Onkyo released its $ TX-NR in mid-July , and while I found it could pass 4K/Hz I believe it's not as recommendable as the older, more capable TX-NR for the same money.

But is 4K/Hz support even a big deal? There are a small handful of games that you can put into this mode -- Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and so on -- but the advantages of 4K/Hz over 60Hz are minimal as far as we've seen so far. Future games and even video sources may make the differences clearer, and that's why you'd want a receiver that's fully compatible.

If you do buy an older receiver, don't care about the Xbox Series X, or don't want to send your 8K model to the shop, you can always hook a fancy new console directly to the TV, then use eARC to get audio to the receiver. Despite the mess AV receiver manufacturers find themselves in right now, there is one thing the following models have in common: great performance.

Best receiver overall

Onkyo TX-NR

Sarah Tew/CNET


The Onkyo TX-NR is the best AV home theater receiver for those looking for a budget-ish option. This receiver was released in with a wealth of connectivity that supports multiple audio formats and gives a big, bold sound. It isn't the direct replacement to my favorite receiver of , the TX-NR, but this step-up AV receiver model offers a number of improvements, including a bump in power (80 to watts) and a front-mounted HDMI port, in addition to the six HDMI inputs on the back. This video and audio receiver offers streaming protocols, including built-in Chromecast, DTS Play-Fi, Spotify Connect, AirPlay and Bluetooth. If you can find the TX-NR under $, that's great, but if you can't it's still worth the extra coin.

Note the forthcoming $ TX-NR has the 4K/Hz and 8K compatibility which the NR lacks.

Read our Onkyo TX-NR review.

Best design

Yamaha RX-V6A (Update: Out of stock)

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

This Yamaha AV receiver is the best 8K receiver we've tested, but it's a pity about the lack of 4K/Hz support right now. It's worth waiting for the newer versions to come out in the fall with VRR and Xbox Series X and PS5 compatibility. Video compatibility aside, the Yamaha RX-V6A offers a fresh look at AV receiver design with futuristic edges while also maximizing sound quality. The RX-V6A could make you forget about ever visiting a cinema again, and it's no slouch with music, either. This Yamaha receiver offers Wi-Fi connectivity, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Yamaha's MusicCast system for streaming from your devices. Just wait a month or two till the updated models go on sale.

Read our YAMAHA RX-V6A review.

Best for gamers, music fans

Denon AVR-SH

Sound United

One of only two mainstream designs released in , Denon's AVR-SH may not be as glittering and shiny as the Yamaha RX-V6A, but it still offers excellent sound quality. The receiver is laid-back, blends well with forward-sounding speakers and replays music beautifully. It has almost everything you need, including 8K video, voice control via both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant speakers, Dolby Atmos, and Apple AirPlay 2. While 's excellent AVR-SH is still available, if the price for the ' is around $ you might as well pay a bit more for the bump in features and power the S offers.

Be aware that versions of the Denon AVR-SH bought before April are affected by the 4K/Hz bug and owners should sign up for one of the free dongles. 

Read our Denon AVR-SH review.

Best for Android users


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sony STR-DN earned our Editors' Choice Award back in , and despite being pretty long in the tooth it's still an excellent AV receiver package. Sound quality isn't quite as strong as those of the Denon and Onkyo, but they're all very close. If you want a receiver that offers ease of use and integrates both AirPlay (but not AirPlay 2) and Google Chromecast built-in wireless streaming, this is a great option. It even uses virtual speaker relocation technology to optimize sound in the room where you set it up. Don't pay full price, though -- it has been on sale in the past for between $ and $

Read our Sony STR-DN review.

What to look for in a $ish receiver

AV receivers are notoriously complex, with reams of features and confusing technical specifications. (For example, what's "ultra HD"?) But what are the things that really matter when buying a new model? I'm going to sum up the most important ones right here.

4K HDR compatibility

You want to make sure your new receiver can keep up with the latest TVs and video gear. Standards do change all the time, but the bare minimum right now is support for HDR and Dolby Vision, at least HDMI version  or better. All of these models support 4K and HDR video. 8K is coming, slowly, but most recorded content is still going to be in p or even SD for many, many years. If future-proofing is a concern for you, the Yamaha RX-V6A and Denon AVR-SH offer 8K and HDMI compatibility as well. 


As many HDMI inputs as you can afford

With most TVs and set-top boxes supporting HDMI, you should buy a receiver that has as many of these HDMI input ports and outputs as possible. Front-mounted HDMI ports are kind of like an appendix -- unneeded, because most users don't hot-plug HDMI devices -- making the number of rear inputs what's most important. (How else are you going to connect your Blu-ray player, Nintendo Switch, soundbar and all your other devices?) The Sony and Onkyo in this roundup both have six rear-mounted HDMI ports while the Denon and Yamaha go one better with seven. If you want to connect two different displays -- a TV and a projector for example -- all but the Yamaha offer a second HDMI output. You should also be sure you have an extra HDMI cable or two on hand -- these things are like the second sock of a pair in that you can never find them when you need them.

You don't really need Dolby Atmos 'height' speakers

Most receivers in the $and-above price range include Dolby Atmos capability and DTS:X, but the effect they have on your home theater movie-watching can be subtle, or in most movies nonexistent. In other words, don't worry about missing out on these formats if you don't install an extra height speaker or two. Mounting your rear surround speakers high on the wall will get you halfway there in terms of quality, immersive sound.

Wi-Fi music streaming

Most midrange receivers have onboard Wi-Fi network connectivity for wireless music streaming through your speaker system. There are plenty of standards for wireless streaming services, but the most universal are Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 1 and 2, and Google Chromecast built in. If you're looking to build a multiroom system with a variety of AV systems and speakers with wireless connectivity, these are the three flavors to aim for. The Onkyo and Sony are the only two devices that support all three. The Denon receiver model lacks wireless streaming via Chromecast, but ups the ante to AirPlay 2 and the proprietary HEOS system. Yamaha has its own MusicCast in the meantime.

For more general information on what you should be looking for, check out this AV receiver buying guide from

More for those seeking great sound quality

CNET Smart Home and Appliances

Get smart home reviews and ratings, video reviews, buying guides, prices and comparisons from CNET.


Similar news:

Best AV receivers brilliant home cinema amplifiers

Best AV receivers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best home cinema amplifiers you can buy in

If you're serious about home cinema then there really is no substitute for a set of surround sound speakers powered by an AV receiver.

The home cinema amplifier is the brains and brawn of any home cinema system and will ensure your TV and films sound powerful, detailed and dynamic and truly give you that immersive experience.

The majority of AV receivers now include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support for adding even more sound channels, with the addition of height channel speakers, or they can, of course, play vanilla surround sound. Expect HDMI inputs that can pass through 4K (and even 8K) and HDR video, with voice assistant support, Bluetooth wireless audio and Apple AirPlay extras on a fair number of models these days. 

But most of all, the best AV receivers deliver brilliant, room-filling sound. And these are our pick of them, all tried, tested and star-rated in our dedicated testing rooms.

1. Denon AVC-XH

Denon raises the bar again for what is achievable for less than a grand.


Video support: 8K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced

HDMI inputs: 7

Hi-res audio: bit/kHz & DSD

Bluetooth: Yes

Streaming services: Spotify, Tidal. Qobuz, AirPlay, YouTube

Audio channels:

Dimensions: 17 x 43 x 38cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Wonderfully clear and detailed+Dynamic and engaging+HDMI and 8K

Reasons to avoid

-Nothing at this price

When you listen to class-leading products as often as we do, you know immediately when a new standard has been set. That said, sometimes it takes until you have a direct comparison with another superb product to comprehend just how high the bar has been lifted.

That is the case with the new 8K-ready Denon AVC-XH home cinema amplifier. While there may be a small part of us that would delight in the Japanese company messing up one of these amps – purely so we would have something different to write – the sonic improvement it has made on its predecessor is quite surprisingly marked, which is why its retained its What Hi-Fi? Award in

The energy of the performance is immediately striking. There’s greater muscle than before, but it is also even lither and better defined. It’s a combination of solid dynamic expression, which enthuses each vocal line as much as differentiating one gunshot from another, a sharper punch and greater clarity that allows you to get deeper inside the soundtrack and become more immersed.

If you have the system to match it with, the AVC-XH is another Denon effort that will happily last you many years.

Read the full review: Denon AVC-XH

2. JBL Synthesis SDR

JBL’s classy SDR is a clear cut above the AVR norm


Video support: 4K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, Atmos Height Virtualization, DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X, Auro 3D, IMAX Enhanced

HDMI inputs: 7

High res audio: 24Bit / kHz

Bluetooth: Yes

Streaming Services: Chromecast, AirPlay 2, aptX HD Bluetooth, Roon Ready

Dimensions: x x x mm (H x W x D)

Reasons to buy

+Supremely clean, clear sound+Thrilling mix of subtlety and scale+Substantial format support

Reasons to avoid

-Only seven channels of power-HDMI upgrade will cost extra

When hunting for an AV receiver or amplifier, it can be hard not to get caught up in the battle of the tech specs and those who become too focused on comparing spec sheets may well overlook the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning JBL Synthesis SDR

While its format support is thorough, its amplification for just seven channels and current lack of HDMI  connections (all of the sockets are 18gbps HDMI s but a hardware upgrade to HDMI will be offered towards the end of ) are trumped by Denon receivers costing around a sixth of its price tag.

In terms of sound quality though, this JBL is in a whole different league, delivering music and movies with a truly rare maturity and sophistication and if we were building a high-end home cinema from scratch, it would be the first component on the shortlist.

The range of supported HDR types is exemplary, with HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ all offered on the video side, and Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro 3D and even IMAX Enhanced for audio. There's also Dolby Height Virtualisation and DTS Virtual:X on board for those who want to simulate height effects without the use of physical ceiling or up-firing speakers.

As well as a substantial selection of physical connections, there are plenty of ways to wirelessly get your content to the SDR too with aptX HD Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast on board. It also works with Harman’s MusicLife app, which allows for streaming of music from the likes of Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, plus tracks stored on your own network.

Read the full review: JBL Synthesis SDR

3. Denon AVC-XH

A powerful amp that was worth the wait.


Power output: W


Video support: 8K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced

HDMI inputs: 8

Wi-fi: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Dimensions: 17 x 43 x 38cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Impressive scale and authority+Improved detail and expression+8K support

Reasons to avoid

-Some may want to dial back bass

When hunting for an AV receiver or amplifier, it can be hard not to get caught up in the battle of the tech specs and those who become too focused on comparing spec sheets may well overlook the What Hi-Fi? Award-inning JBL Synthesis SDR

While its format support is thorough, its amplification for just seven channels and current lack of HDMI  connections (all of the sockets are 18gbps HDMI s but a hardware upgrade to HDMI will be offered towards the end of ) are trumped by Denon receivers costing around a sixth of its price tag.

In terms of sound quality though, this JBL is in a whole different league, delivering music and movies with a truly rare maturity and sophistication and if we were building a high-end home cinema from scratch, it would be the first component on the shortlist.

The range of supported HDR types is exemplary, with HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ all offered on the video side, and Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro 3D and even IMAX Enhanced for audio. There's also Dolby Height Virtualisation and DTS Virtual:X on board for those who want to simulate height effects without the use of physical ceiling or up-firing speakers.

As well as a substantial selection of physical connections, there are plenty of ways to wirelessly get your content to the SDR too with aptX HD Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast on board. It also works with Harman’s MusicLife app, which allows for streaming of music from the likes of Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, plus tracks stored on your own network.

Read the full review: JBL Synthesis SDR

4. Sony STR-DN

Best AV receiver in its class. A superb piece of kit for the money.


Video support: 4K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos & DTS:X

HDMI inputs: 6

Hi-res audio: bit/kHz & DSD

Bluetooth: Yes

Streaming services: Spotify, Tidal. Qobuz, AirPlay, YouTube

Audio channels:

Dimensions: 16 x 43 x 33cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Punchy, agile and precise+Enjoyable and dynamic performance+Exhaustive features

Reasons to avoid

-A backlit remote would be nice

The fact that this was our Product of the Year for two years in a row – and picked up a fourth Award in – tells you all you need to know. This hugely talented AV receiver was best in class when we originally tested it and remains sensational value for money.

And as for the sound it makes well, let's just say you'll have to spend an awful lot more cash to get better performance. The feature-packed Sony STR-DN sounds fantastic, reaching deep into its reserves to deliver a performance packed with punch, dynamism and authority in a way we haven’t heard from home cinema amplifiers at this sort of price.

There's an incredible amount of detail from natural, expressive voices to layers of insight and depth surrounding each sound effect. Dynamically speaking, it's a fun and exciting listen, equally at home rendering tranquil, quiet moments as it is huge, wall-shuddering explosions - in a word, enthralling.

Sony has unfortunately discontinued the STR-DN and it's now almost impossible to buy a new one in the UK. It's worth considering a second-hand unit, though, and there's still decent availability in the US – for now.

Read the full review: Sony STR-DN

5. Denon AVR-XH

Another entry-level AVR belter from Denon.


Power output: W


Video support: 8K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced

HDMI inputs: 7

Wi-fi: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Dimensions: 17 x 43 x 33cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Superb spatial control+Excellent sense of rhythm+HDMI and 8K

Reasons to avoid

-Nothing at this price

If we had to use one word to describe the sound of this receiver, it would be ‘confident’. The AVR-XH doesn’t try too hard to impress, as a nervously underpowered budget amp might. 

It’s bigger, better and more cultured than that. It has even greater authority than last year’s model, and it never strains to exert it. The two subwoofers in our set-up growl with control whenever called upon, never once detracting from the crystal clarity of the music in the soundtrack, the voices or surround effects.

It’s an easy and effective listen. No matter how hectic the action becomes, this Denon never misses a beat. It passes the laser blasts from speaker to speaker in a wonderfully coherent manner and, no matter the scene, creates a genuine sense of place.

Read the full review: Denon AVR-XH

6. Denon AVR-XH

A former Award winner that still packs a punch.


Power output: W

Channels: 9

Video support: 4K HDR

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby Vision

HDMI inputs: 8

Wi-fi: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Dimensions: 17 x 44 x 3cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Added amplification channels+More power than its predecessor+Gains worthwhile technologies

Reasons to avoid

-Nothing at this price

Sometimes the differences between generations of Denon home cinema can appear minor. But that wasn't the case with the AVR-XH.

Rather than merely updating the Award-winning AVR-XH, Denon added two amp channels and processing power for a further pair, upgraded power supply and power transformer and extruded aluminium heatsink.

Most importantly, though, it tightened up the sound to a truly impressive degree. Its predecessor had muscle, but this amp is even more clearly defined and at full fighting fitness.

It isn’t so much the fact that this is an altogether more powerful amplifier than the Award-winning AVR-XH – already a mighty receiver in its own right – but its muscle feels leaner, and punches tend to sting more.

Truly, this is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. That's why we named it our AV receiver Product of the Year for For pound-per-performance value, it's only beaten by its successor above.

Read the full review: Denon AVR-XH

7. Yamaha RX-A2A

An AV receiver with bold sound to match its bold looks


HDR support: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ (via future update)

Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization

HDMI inputs: 7

High res audio: ALAC: up to 96 kHz / bit, FLAC: up to kHz / bit, WAV / AIFF: up to kHz / bit

Bluetooth: Yes (SBC / AAC)

Streaming: MusicCast, AirPlay 2

WiFi: /5GHz

Dimensions: 17 x 44 x 37cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+Agile and responsive+Spacious but focused presentation+Exciting character

Reasons to avoid

-Lacks authority-HDMI features require updates

Part of Yamaha's premium Aventage range, the RX-A2A is the beneficiary of a glossy aesthetic revamp as well as an injection of next-generation connectivity that will future proof it for the coming years.

With seven full-range channels of power, each rated at W into eight ohms in stereo conditions, plus two subwoofer outputs, the RX-A2A can handle up to speaker configurations or, if using the supported Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, a set-up. 

Sonically it's impressive and incredibly responsive, delivering punchy transients, spacious surround sound and plenty of musical drive.

For streaming, there's Yamaha’s MusicCast app, which allows for high-res and lossless music formats including Apple Lossless (ALAC) up to 96kHz, WAV, FLAC or AIFF up to kHz as well as playback from services including Spotify and Tidal. There’s also AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth (SBC / AAC) on board and Google Assistant/Alexa compatibility for voice control, not to mention a DAB+ and FM/AM tuner.

There are several planned upgrades that Yamaha will make to the RX-A2A to get it up to full spec, but it will eventually support up to 4K at Hz (both with and without display screen compression) and 8K at 60Hz (with display screen compression) through three of its seven HDMI inputs. 

These features, along with other next-gen HDMI updates and HDR10+, will only become available thanks to a series of firmware updates beginning this Autumn. A free hardware upgrade will also be available to make it fully compatible with 4K at Hz signals from an Xbox Series X or Nvidia RTXseries graphics card. 

But the lack of these features out of the box will probably only matter if you're a hardcore gamer. For films, the RX-A2A handles 4K signals at up to 60 frames per second, which no source currently goes beyond, and supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision video formats.

Read the full review: Yamaha RX-A2A

What Hi-Fi?, founded in , is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test


415 416 417 418 419