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Best Affordable Home Theater Receiver
Ty Pendlebury studied Journalism at RMIT Melbourne and has been working there since 2006. He lives in New York and writes about streaming and home audio.
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Specialty Ty has worked for radio, print and online publications and since 2004 he has been writing about home entertainment. He majored in Film Studies while studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and music streaming enthusiast. Credentials Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism Awards, but won only once. In his youth, he got a free photo studio session at a local supermarket.
He doesn’t always have time to watch the latest blockbuster on the big screen, although nothing beats great cinematic pictures and immersive sound. Fortunately, AV receivers allow you to bring a bit of the theater experience right into your living room. The best models offer 8K video, Dolby Atmos music streaming, and Wi-Fi, but the specs and hardware can make shopping a bit difficult. Luckily, we can help you here, and we’ve rounded up the best AV receivers you can buy right now.
If you split your time between watching TV and listening to music, there are several models that do both well, including two excellent Onkyo receivers, the TX-NR6100 and TX-RZ50. The recently reviewed Sony STR-AN1000 is also a strong contender at under $1,000, although it’s slightly more expensive than the others.
So how do you know which AV receiver is best for you? To help you find the best AV receivers 2023 has to offer, we tested the most popular models between $500 and $2,000. One thing to consider, however, is that some of these products may be backordered, so check back from time to time.
What Do Surround Sound Numbers Mean?
The TX-NR6100 is the successor to the Onkyo TX-NR696, my favorite receiver of the past few years. Like its predecessor, the NR6100 offers great sound and rich connectivity (including 4K/120Hz support for game consoles). Streaming options including Chromecast built-in, DTS Play-Fi, Spotify Connect, Sonos, AirPlay and Bluetooth. Slightly more powerful than the Sony STR-AN1000 and more affordable than any of the competition, the Onkyo TX-NR6100 is the best receiver under $1,000.
Sony has been gone for years, but it’s back and better than ever with the STR-AN1000. This model offers all the latest features including HDMI 2.1 (4K/120Hz) support. It works with Sonos, but the reason I’m buying it is because it’s a solid player. Equipped with one of the most advanced setup cases to date, it makes it easier to make calls with great sound.
Onkyo’s TX-RZ50 is the perfect upgrade model for those looking to upgrade their system or add a turntable for a better set of quality speakers. Like its budget-oriented label mate, the TX-NR6100, it includes features including so-called Dirac Live audio level correction, and the best streaming suite available in an AV receiver. At that point, being able to request a song directly from Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa is a real plus.
What improvements does the $1,600 TX-RZ50 offer over the $800 TX-NR6100? First, it offers twice as many 8K-compatible inputs (six versus three) and offers more power (120W versus 100W). There’s also two-way Bluetooth for streaming and headphone listening.
How To Choose An Av Receiver
Whether listening to streaming music or watching a movie, the performance was fantastic. I haven’t heard Dolby Atmos sound in a long time. Adding Dirac Live adds a unique complexity. Only use the Onkyo Controller mobile app with the supplied microphone.
The Onkyo is often out of stock, but the Yamaha RX-A4 is better for movies.
I’m a huge fan of the Yamaha RX-V6A, so I was curious to see what the RX-A4A’s upgrade would bring. As a result, this Yamaha has much better build quality and great cinematic sound.
A look through the elegant upper grille reveals fully wrapped components and premium stamped transformers. The system can deliver 110 watts per channel (stereo) and has 7 HDMI ports to suit your connectivity needs.
Home Theater Receiver Placement Tips
We tested the Yamaha A4A against the Onkyo RZ50 and Denon X3700. The Yamaha’s sound quality was more cinematic than musical, providing a big, roomy sound perfect for a blockbuster or quirky conspiracy thriller. What’s surprising is that the phono preamp built into the board is so much better than the one on the competitor Onkyo RZ50 that I can recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want a separate preamp for their turntable.
The Yamaha is great for movies, but not great for streaming music. However, the Onkyo is my current favorite because it delivers balanced performance across both.
If you’re spending less than $1,000, there are four top receivers to choose from: Sony STR-AN1000, Yamaha RX-V6A, Onkyo TX-NR6100, and Denon AVR-960H. They all offer great performance, so the short answer is to buy whatever you can for the cheapest price. The current Denon or Onkyo both currently sell for $599. We especially recommend the Onkyo TX-NR6100 for its excellent combination of performance and connectivity. The Onkyo offers useful features including easy setup, great usability, rugged looks and Sony’s best streaming suite. On the positive side, the Onkyo was never prone to the 4K issues that plagued early versions of the Yamaha RX-V6A.
Meanwhile, the Onkyo TX-RZ50 is a great receiver if you’re looking for next-level features and a performance boost over sub-$1,000 models. It’s a bit scary, but it offers Dirac Live and the best calibration routines. The number of streaming features on the market. Both music and movies are good.
Best Home Theater Systems 2023
Finally, if you’re looking for a home theater, the $1,650 Yamaha RX-A4A offers clear, dynamic sound and great build quality.
When it comes to testing audio equipment, from small sound bars to surround sound systems, the approach is the same regardless of the device. I always compare a product to one or more reference devices that offer the best performance at a similar price.
As for the receiver, I want to see how well the system performs for music and movies, since most people want both. View some test footage streamed from 4K Blu-ray or from a 4K streaming service (e.g. Vudu) to evaluate things like Dolby Atmos surround performance and dialog clarity. It also uses several test music tracks and evaluates streaming features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Systems that can do both types of entertainment well will inevitably get the highest marks.
Check out our receiver buying guide for more information on features and things to consider when looking for a new system.
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A stereo receiver is an audio-only two-channel device with a source switch and AM/FM tuner. Without a tuner, it is called an integrated amplifier. AV receivers are usually surround sound amplifiers that enable HDMI conversion and audio and video playback. Most also include an onboard tuner. However, if you prefer, you can use the AV receiver like a stereo amplifier or add as many speakers as you like. Very versatile.
Standards change all the time, but the current minimum support is HDR and Dolby Vision, and at least HDMI version 2.0 or later. All of these models support 4K and HDR video, as well as 8K support, even if 8K content is hard to find.
All 2020 8K compatible receivers were particularly vulnerable to a bug that prevented them from displaying variable refresh rate video on the Xbox Series X. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha have announced fixes to existing models, Yamaha RX-V6A compatible models will begin shipping in summer 2021, and Denon and Marantz receivers sold after April 2021 will be 4K/120Hz compatible. Yamaha users can check 4K compatibility here, Denon and Marantz users should check with their dealer.
The TX-NR6100 is the first receiver I’ve tested, it’s shown to pass all 4K/120Hz, and I’d recommend it to new buyers as well.
Placing Your Speakers Right For The Best Sound Experience
If you have a relatively new TV, you can connect the receiver to the TV using one cable (an HDMI cable to be precise). If your TV has an HDMI port marked ARC/eARC, you can connect it to the main HDMI ARC output.
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