Going out to the movies means waiting in line, not getting the best seat, and putting up with people who talk during the film. But, with an AV receiver, you can get the cinema experience right at home. Whether you’re willing to spend $300, $500, or even $1,000, here are the best AV receivers on the market.
What is an AV Receiver?
An AV receiver (audio/video receiver) sends the audio to your speakers and video to your TV. AV receivers decode analog and digital surround-sound formats, which sets them apart from traditional stereo receivers. They also let you switch between different audio and video sources, so you can change between your CD player, Xbox, or TV audio with the push of a button.
AV receivers also function as pre-amplifiers when you connect speakers through their optional outputs. Most AV receivers can provide amplification to give power to at least five channels in a surround-sound system. AV receivers may also have AM/FM, HD, or internet radio capabilities, and a user interface for configuring and controlling the unit.
Do I Need an AV Receiver?
If you already have multiple audio and video sources, an AV receiver is a great choice for putting all of them in one central hub. If you only plan on using an AV receiver for playing music, it might make more sense to get a stereo receiver instead.
A stereo receiver can only power two speakers at a time. This makes it ideal for use in small offices or bedrooms. On the other hand, an AV receiver can provide you with at least five channels for amplification. You can add at least two front speakers, two rear speakers, and a center speaker.
AV receivers have added capabilities that speakers don’t have. For one, they can process digital audio and video. They also give you extra video input options as well. And, with all the configuration options you get, you can customize your sound in an AV receiver far better than with a stereo receiver.
Best Budget AV Receivers Under $300
The Onkyo TX-SR383 is one of the best budget AV receivers for small-to-mid-size home theater systems. This 7.2-channel AV receiver uses Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. These decoding formats deliver sound from front and back speakers. The AccuEQ calibration ensures that room acoustics do not interfere with your audio. All you have to do is set up the microphone, and the receiver will analyze how far away the listener is from the speaker, so you get a tailored and optimized listening experience.
You get four HDMI ports, which support 4K resolution at 60 Hz. The ports also support Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), which is a broadcasting standard that lets you watch high-dynamic range (HDR) programs from regular broadcast channels. You can also play music via Bluetooth or USB. The Advanced Music Optimizer feature also recovers lost data when MP3 files are compressed, so you get the best sound quality possible when listening to music.
The Yamaha RX-V385 offers a full 4K sound experience at an affordable price point. Cinema DSP technology mimics the listening environment of famous acoustic venues like the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles. This feature creates independent sound fields for dialog, music, and effects for an immersive listening experience.
On the other hand, the Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) provides fast, direct data transfer of 3D surround-sound formats between your TV and receiver. This gets rid of lip-syncing problems from input lag.
The Adaptive Dynamic Range Control (DRC) lets you enjoy all kinds of sound effects without having to adjust the volume. The receiver will tone down those loud commercials when you are watching TV late at night.
This 5.1-channel receiver has four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output port for audio/video switching. You can also play music from your smartphone and other devices via Bluetooth. There is also a Compressed Music Enhancer feature that retrieves data lost during the compression process.
Looking for one of the best budget AV receivers without all the bells and whistles? You might want to check out the Pioneer VSX-532. It features Phase Control technology that gets rid of phase lag while processing low-frequency signals. As a result, you hear mid- and high-range sounds more clearly.
This model also has a calibration technology that helps you configure the optimal audio environment based on your speaker size, distance, and height.
It has four HDMI input ports and one HDMI output port. These include HDR10, BT.2020, and High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) 2.2. You can play music via Bluetooth or with a USB thumb drive. However, this model does not support streaming music or internet radio.
If you’re in the market for a basic AV receiver, you might want to consider the Yamaha RX-V383BL. It has Yamaha Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) technology, which adjusts various audio settings, depending on your room acoustics and sound system. The Virtual Cinema Front feature also lets you get the effect of seven-channel surround-sound, even if you only have two front speakers.
This model has four HDMI input ports and one HDMI output port, which supports HDR10 and is HDCP 2.2-compliant. There is one optical and two coaxial ports for digital input, and outputs for five speakers. However, there are no AV inputs or digital and coaxial outputs. Playing music is limited to Bluetooth and the AM/FM tuner. It does not have WiFi connectivity or an app for controlling music streaming.
Another budget AV receiver that packs in lots of streaming and decoding capabilities is the Onkyo TX-NR585. It can support up to seven channels simultaneously at 80 watts per channel. Like the Onkyo TX-SR383, it features the AccuEQ acoustic calibration and Music Optimizer. However, what sets it apart from the other model is that it uses Dolby Atmos and Dolby DTS for surround sound decoding, giving you a 3D audio experience.
It has six HDMI input ports and one HDMI output port for audio and video. It can provide support for up to nine speakers, and it is compatible with Sonos smart wireless speakers. Music lovers have lots of options for streaming music. They can listen to their favorite tracks via WiFi, Bluetooth, Chromecast, or Apple Airplay. Likewise, it has support for popular streaming apps like Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, and TuneIn. However, one drawback is that it does not work with Amazon’s Alexa.
Best AV Receivers Under $500
The Denon AVR-S750H is the 2019 follow-up version of the well-received Denon AVR-S740H. This AV receiver lets you watch movies and play games in 4K Ultra HD. It comes with six HDMI input ports and one output port, which supports eARC. This technology creates heightened sound when coupled with Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology.
The AVR-S750H can be connected via WiFi or Ethernet. It works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Josh.ai. You can stream music via Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, or Apple AirPlay 2.
The Sony STR-DH790 is one of the best budget AV receivers that also packs a lot of power. It has Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which accurately plot sound in a 3D space. For example, if there is an explosion on the right side of the screen, the receiver will route it to the right speaker for a more realistic experience.
The Sony STR-DH790 offers 360-degree surround sound via Dolby Atmos. The sound is positioned at the precise angles of your speakers for a rich, life-like audio experience. It supports four HDMI inputs, four analog stereo inputs, one optical digital, and one coaxial digital input. It supports one HDMI output, as well as outputs for seven speakers. This receiver has built-in Bluetooth, which allows you to play music from a compatible smartphone, tablet, or computer.
The Sony STR-DN1080 lets you enjoy studio-quality sound, no matter what kind of theater setup you have. Its Phantom Surround Back and Dolby Atmos features let you experience crisp, realistic 360-degree sound in five channels. And, with its S-Force Pro Front Surround feature, you can have surround sound in smaller rooms with just two speakers. The DCAC EX calibration delivers optimized sound based on your speaker package configuration, so you can enjoy quality sound suited to your space.
The Sony STR-DN1080 has six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. The HDMI inputs support full playback of 4K HDR content. It offers WiFi connectivity and works with Chromecast, Spotify, AirPlay, and Google Home.
If you’re looking for a budget AV receiver, the Yamaha RX-V485 is one of your best choices. It uses Dolby TrueHD and Yamaha’s trademarked YPAO technology, which gives you intelligent audio calibration based on your room’s acoustics.
The Yamaha RX-V485 has four HDMI input ports and one output port, which comes with Dolby Vision and HLG. You can stream music via WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2. And while it does not support a Google Chromecast multi-room audio setup, you can use the MusicCast app to have the same song played in different rooms of your house.
Best AV Receivers Under $1,000
Yamaha Aventage RX-A880
The Yamaha Aventage RX-A880 has a fifth foot at the bottom of the unit that decreases the impact of vibrations from the receiver’s power and heat sources. It also has improved YPAO technology, which corrects audio reflections from eight listening positions for the best possible audio experience.
This 7.2-channel amplifier has seven HDMI input ports and two outputs ports, which support HDCP 2.2 technology, HDR 10, Dolby Vision, and HLG. With the audio outputs, you can connect two powered subwoofers or up to nine speakers.
You can stream music via Bluetooth or WiFi from Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Apple AirPlay, or through the Yamaha MusicCast. Voice control for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri can be used together with the wireless MusicCast wireless speakers.
The Denon AVRX3500H comes equipped with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for a realistic surround-sound experience. It can simulate sound coming from above you, even if you don’t have dedicated height speakers.
This model has eight HDMI input ports and three HDMI output ports. It even has a phono input for connecting to a turntable and playing vinyl records.
The unit is designed to work with HEOS speakers, which allow you to stream music from different rooms of your house through music service apps or internet radio. You can control audio with popular smart voice assistants like Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Siri. You can even integrate your home theater system with your smart home setup with Josh.ai.
The Onkyo TX-RZ840 has large custom capacitors and advanced amp circuitry stored in a thick, sleek chassis. This unit has passed meticulous THX Certified Select standards. You can get theater-quality sound at home, even if you’re 10 to 12 feet away from the screen. This model supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for mapping sound in 3D.
This model has seven HDMI input ports and two HDMI output ports. The ports support HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG. Music aficionados can use the Smart AV Receiver feature to stream content from Amazon Music, Pandora, and Spotify across multiple rooms. The Onkyo TX-RZ840 is compatible with Sonos speakers and supports Chromecast with a built-in Google Assistant.
Once you’ve found the best AV receiver for your home theater, check out our list of the best home theater projectors.