The Best AV Receivers – April 2019
Home entertainment systems have come a long way since their humble inception. In the not-so-distant past, families had to rely on transistor radios and laughably distorted black and white televisions if they wanted to be entertained in their home, and they had virtually no control over what they listened to or watched.
Thankfully those days are over, and it’s now possible to stream an almost limitless amount of content on everything from laptops and iPads to smartphones and flatscreen TVs. This home entertainment revolution has forever altered the ways in which we consume media, and will likely become more streamlined and powerful in the near future.
But if you want to enjoy a truly exceptional home theater experience, even the best and most expensive flatscreen TV and soundbar isn’t going to cut it. The only way to fully immerse yourself, your family, and your guests in surround sound entertainment is to invest in an AV receiver—an all-in-one hub that acts as the brain for your entire entertainment experience.
Far from becoming antiquated due to the home entertainment revolution, these boxes seem to have gained even more relevance, since they allow you to connect countless devices and control them via a simple, streamlined command system.
Whether you’re simply trying to sync your in-house audio system with your new TV, or want to integrate a plethora of speakers, smart devices, and screens throughout the home, an AV receiver will simplify the entire process.
Still, deciding which AV receiver to purchase can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve rounded up the best receivers that money can buy. Enjoy.
Before diving into this list, we should note that AV receivers aren’t for everyone. If you watch your TV shows and movies in a relatively small room and don’t require extensive audio and visual connections throughout the home, you’d probably do just fine with a simple (and far more affordable) soundbar attachment.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to purchase an AV receiver regardless of how many devices you ultimately need to attach, and when it comes to all-around power, versatility and style, this Yamaha unit takes the cake.
Carrying on in a long tradition of making truly exceptional audio components at reasonable price points, this receiver is equally well suited for audio-visual novices who want to set up a brand new home entertainment environment and more seasoned pros who want to either reintegrate or expand their existing infrastructure.
Packed with a wide range of features that make integration easier than ever, this RX-V685 unit allows for HD 7.2-channel surround sound, WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth pairing, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and MusicCast connectivity. (It even works flawlessly with Amazon Alexa.)
You’ll be able to combine this receiver with the upcoming MusicCast 50 or MusicCast 20 wireless streaming speakers and enjoy the convenience of creating a home theater with wireless rear speakers in a 5.1-channel system, and there’s minimal clutter to deal with—meaning you won’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of time or energy figuring out how to hide your wires.
Most importantly, the sound that this receiver delivers is truly exceptional, thanks to Dolby Atmos/DTS:X technology that brings breathtakingly rich and realistic surround sound. You’ll be able to position individual sounds to any virtual point in your room (including objects moving overhead on screen), and a tight bass response means that you won’t have to worry about that obnoxious “boom” noise that comes from today’s increasingly bass-heavy films and shows.
There are two dedicated HDMI outputs that can be used to connect a variety of third-party devices such as an additional TV or speaker set, and Zone 2 technology allows you to enjoy completely autonomous stereo sound in a second room (so you won’t have to switch any cables in order to send audio through a different channel).
The RX-V685 even features a dedicated phono input through which you can connect a record player in order to enjoy your vinyl collection.
Although not quite as well-known as the Yamaha brand, Denon has earned a reputation among true audiophiles for crafting amazingly rich and crisp pieces of audio gear that can stand the test of time. This AVR-S740H receiver is a testament to the company’s technological prowess and design abilities, thanks to crystal-clear sound and a variety of tools and components that make setting up a home theater easier than ever.
With discrete high-current power amplifiers on all channels, this unit delivers a whopping 165 watts of power on each channel, so you’ll never have to worry about undercutting your audio potential or under-powering a speaker. This relatively high output also means that you get a more balanced and robust sound that lends itself to the accuracy of what’s being projected on screen, and there’s a handy Eco Mode feature that adjusts the power output to speakers based on volume level and an on-screen eco meter, so you’ll be able to reduce power consumption in real-time.
Regardless of style or cool add-ons, no receiver could rightfully claim our runner-up spot without offering stunningly good sound, and this unit delivers in spades—thanks to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technology and incredibly realistic surround sound functionality that almost perfectly emulates a real movie theater.
Whether you’re watching your favorite TV show or the latest action-packed blockbuster, this receiver makes you feel as though you’re in the thick of the action (which can be especially beneficial if you’re an avid gamer).
This receiver also comes packed with no less than six HDMI inputs and one output, so you’ll never have to worry about not being able to plug in a third-party device. It works seamlessly with Amazon Alexa along with virtually any other Bluetooth-enabled device, and the setup couldn’t be easier—due to an exclusive Denon setup assistant that walks you through every step with clear instructions and examples.
Claiming the number-three spot on our list is another Yamaha receiver. Unlike its electronic sibling at our number-one spot, however, this receiver comes in at a slightly more reasonable price-point, and therefore may be preferable for those of us with smaller and less demanding home theater needs.
At first glance, this receiver seems quite similar to the more expensive RX-V685 in terms of style and functionality. It comes packed with full WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity along with MusicCast and Alexa compatibility, and 5.1 channels of crisp and detailed surround sound is more than enough for most medium to even large-scale home theater systems.
You get a grand total of four HDMI ports (four in and one out) along with 4KUltra HD technology and Dolby Vision—so there’s no need to worry about slumming it when it comes to channeling both pristine audio and crystal-clear images on your screen.
The MusicCast feature on this receiver is especially helpful, since it allows you to connect all applicable devices to the same network and start sharing audio throughout the home or working space. And since this receiver utilizes Cinema DSP 3D technology, the echos and reverb you hear all come from meticulously sampled acoustic concert hall recordings that make for especially realistic tones.
The only real (and in some cases unnoticeable) difference between this receiver and the RX-V685 at our number-one spot is a slight dip in output power, although this is unlikely to be an issue unless you’re attempting to fuel a large space with more than perhaps four large speakers.
What even remotely respectable list of audio technology products would be complete without a Sony gadget? Long hailed as one of the most trusted names in the business, Sony has more than earned its reputation for delivering exceptional audio products for both home and professional use.
This sleek and stylish receiver fits perfectly into any decor and comes with a range of features that make it both powerful and easy-to-use for first time home theater enthusiasts.
You get 5.2 channels at a more than respectable 145W per channel, 4K HDR compatibility along with Dolby Vision and HDCP 2.2 support, and four HDMI ins along with one out—more than enough to accommodate most if not all of the external devices that a serious home studio requires.
Like most of its competitors, this Sony receiver also comes with built-in Bluetooth functionality that will allow you to stream content wirelessly from all of your devices, and a newly developed S-FORCE PRO surround sound feature provides a truly robust and realistic listening experience regardless of whether you’re watching the latest blockbuster film or battling your friends in Mario Kart.
Your order also comes with a handy remote with which you can control practically every aspect of the receiver’s outputs and inputs, and there are multiple ways in which you can configure your speakers in order to get the best possible sound placement even in small rooms.
Rounding out our list is the effortlessly cool and surprisingly powerful Onkyo TX-NR585, which offers an impressive amount of functionality at low price point.
Ideal for first-time home theaters that don’t require an insane amount of power, this receiver supports 5.2-channel Dolby Atmos technology and comes packed with a whopping six HDMI inputs for unparalleled connectivity options.
You can integrate this receiver quickly and easily with your existing Sonos home system if you’d like, and you’ll be able to instantly upgrade the music streaming capability of your home theater receiver with Sonos Connect and a free firmware update.
As to be expected, this receiver also comes loaded with dual-band WiFi connectivity along with airplay, Spotify, and Tidal connections that allow for seamless integration with your favorite streaming services.
We were also happily surprised with the low-end definition of this receiver, which was pronounced without being boomy, and relatively tight without being thin—an all-too-common problem for home theater systems that tend to rely too heavily on exorbitant amounts of bass at the expense of the upper-range frequencies.