A great home theater receiver doesn't need to cost the earth. If you are on a budget, then the best AV receivers under $500 might be just what you need.
If you are looking for the best AV receivers under $500 in 2021, then you’ve come to the right place.
It’s true, AV receivers can be expensive. The high-end models with every new feature under the sun certainly don’t come cheap.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get great home theater sound for much less.
For a start, you might not need all the features that a top AV receiver offers. There’s no point paying for something you don’t need.
Take away some of the extras and you can get a fantastic home theater receiver for a very reasonable price.
All the manufacturers release a series of AV receivers at different price points. Here I will pick some of my favorites around the $500 mark.
These models are all under $500 for the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Just remember, the price of AV receivers at all price points can vary at different times of the year.
Hopefully, this will help in your search for the best budget AV receiver.
Top 5 AV Receivers Under $500 Comparison Table
|Image||Model||HDMI In/Out||Power (W/Ch)||Dolby Atmos|
|Denon AVR-S750H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver||5+1/1 (eARC)||75||5.2.2||Check Price|
|Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver||4/1 (eARC)||80||None||Check Price|
|Sony STR-DH790 7.2-Ch AV Receiver||4/1 (ARC)||145||5.2.2||Check Price|
|Onkyo TX-NR595 7.2-Ch AV Receiver||6/2 (ARC)||80||5.2.2||Check Price|
|Pioneer VSX-LX104 7.2-Ch AV Receiver||6/2 (ARC)||80||5.2.2||Check Price|
1. Denon AVR-S750H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
If you are on the lookout for an AV receiver, then a Denon should always be on your ‘possible’ list. Denon has a long history of making quality audio products, and their AV receiver range is no exception.
The AVR-750H comes in the middle of the AVR-S range of receivers. These models are aimed at those on a lower budget, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice useful features.
They come with a wealth of features that any AV receiver should have in today’s market.
Denon AVR-S750H Highlights
The Denon AVR-S750H is a 7.2-channel AV receiver that supports the latest Dolby Atmos ‘3D’ audio technology.
Dolby Atmos allows the placement of sound effects in various positions around your room. Up and down. Back to front. You will hear a much more immersive sound experience while watching a movie.
With this AV receiver, you can install a 5.1.2 speaker layout. This means a ‘traditional’ 5.1 surround sound system – with the addition of two height speakers.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble and expense of installing these extra height speakers, this receiver has a new feature that you might find useful. Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology lets you experience an effect like Dolby Atmos – on a system without any height speakers.
Dolby Height Virtualization uses sound filters to make it appear some of the audio is coming from above you. It’s not as effective as having actual speakers above your listening position, but it can be useful and give you an extra sense of space.
The DTS equivalent audio formats of DTS:X, DTS Neural:X and DTS:Virtual:X are also available on this receiver.
Of course, you can set up a 7.1 speaker layout, too, if you prefer. A second subwoofer output is also available if you want a 5.2 or 7.2 setup.
The advantage of having these extra channels is that you can choose which type of layout suits your situation most. And you can always change your mind later!
The AVR-750H is rated at 75 watts per channel (8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven). This is typical, and you will need to buy a receiver in a higher price bracket to get more power than this.
However, this receiver will provide plenty of power for most people.
|HDMI In / Out||5+1/1 (eARC)|
|Speaker Impedance (Ohms)||4-16|
|Network / Wireless||Ethernet / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / Airplay 2 / HEOS / Amazon Alexa / Google Assistant|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17-1/8 x 6 x 13-3/8 in | 434 x 151 x 339 mm (w/o antenna)|
There are 6 HDMI inputs on this device – five on the rear and one on the front.
A front HDMI port can be useful for quickly adding a playback device to your system. Usually, something that is only needed temporarily.
A front USB port is also present for easily adding content from a USB stick.
If you have a 4K TV and want to make full use of 4K content, you will be OK with this device. There is full support for 4K/60p video and all the current HDR standards – HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.
The HDCP 2.3 standard is also present on all ports, which could be useful for future-proofing your purchase.
You can also use this receiver to play stereo audio in another room. Either the same audio that is playing in the main room – or different. To hook this up, you will need to use two of the rear speaker connections.
If you are deep into the world of voice-controlled technology, then you will be pleased to hear that you can control this unit with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Apple AirPlay 2 is also available for streaming content from your Apple devices – and voice control too.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also built-in if you want to connect using these technologies. Bottom line, there are plenty of connection choices.
If you want multi-room audio around your home, you also have the option of using the Denon HEOS system.
HEOS speakers can be installed around your home, and you can use the HEOS app to control which content goes where.
Another plus of buying a Denon receiver is that it comes with Audyssey speaker calibration. Audyssey is one of the best automatic room optimization tools that I have used.
It does a great job balancing the sound in your room and making sure that you get a great immersive experience when watching a movie.
- Dolby Atmos, Dolby Surround and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology
- DTS:X, DTS Neural:X and DTS Virtual:X
- Full 4K/60p support and HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision pass-through
- Support for high resolution audio: 24-bit/192-kHz ALAC, FLAC and WAV plus DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz
- HDMI eARC support
- Audyssey MultEQ room correction with the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app
- Powered stereo audio in zone 2
- Wide range of voice control options – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2
- No zone 2 line out for connecting to another room. You can use two spare speaker channels instead, but this will restrict you to 5.1 surround sound.
2. Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Yamaha makes a wide range of AV receivers at every price point. Your main problem when buying a Yamaha AV receiver will probably be deciding which model to go for!
The RX-V series of AV receivers are the budget models in the Yamaha range. However, if you need a reliable budget device made by a reputable brand, then these receivers are a good choice.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Yamaha is among my favorite sounding amplifiers. Their top-of-the-range RX-A3080 features in my list of the best high-end AV receivers in 2021.
The RX-V4A is the long-awaited successor to the very popular 2018 models. So, apart from the sleek new look with curved front corners, what are the big changes in the latest release?
Yamaha RX-V4A Highlights
The Yamaha RX-V4A AV receiver is a 5.2-channel amplifier. This means there is an extra subwoofer output over the previous version.
It’s a small change, but it is certainly a useful addition if you are planning on connecting a second subwoofer in your room.
Aside from that, this receiver is a basic 5-channel receiver with no support for Dolby Atmos. However, for many people, a simple 5.1 surround sound system is all that they want.
I always suggest that you should only pay for the features that you need. It’s often the way to get the best bang for your buck. Unless, of course, you want to future-proof your purchase.
So, if you only want 5.1 surround sound, do you need an AV receiver that supports 7.1? Or Dolby Atmos?
But, if you think that Dolby Atmos is something you might want in the future, then maybe look at some of the other models on this page that do have this feature.
The RX-V4A has a respectable 80 watts of power at 8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2ch driven. This will be suitable for most people unless you have a large room to fill with sound.
This year’s model also has a new High Slew Rate Amplifier circuit which allows for more precise reproduction of high-resolution audio.
It is another example of Yamaha concentrating on improving the most important features – rather than just adding a load of extras that many people won’t use.
With a Yamaha AV receiver, you are getting a well-made device with that excellent Yamaha sound quality. Yamaha tends to target quality over quantity when it comes to features.
Talking of new features, this brings us to one of the main improvements.
The Yamaha RX-V4A now has support for 8K/120p and 4K/60p in all four HDMI inputs. That is, it will have when the firmware is released around the end of 2020 (** UPDATE – now scheduled for Spring 2021 **).
The HDMI ports will all offer the new HDMI 2.1 features such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), QMS (Quick Media Switching) and QFT (Quick Frame Transport).
Now, there’s a new bunch of acronyms to get excited about!
|HDMI In / Out||4/1 (eARC)|
|Speaker Impedance (Ohms)||8 and higher|
|Network / Wireless||Ethernet / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / MusicCast Surround + Multi-Room / AirPlay 2 / Spotify Connect / Amazon Alexa / Google Assistant / Apple Siri|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17-1/8 x 6-3/4 x 14-7/8 in | 435 x 171 x 379 mm (w/o antenna)|
Bear in mind that the new HDMI 2.1 features are of more interest to gamers who have one of the new game consoles.
As well as support for 8K video, there is pass-through for HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. That should cover all of your needs until the boffins come up with another version of HDR!
Also new to this model is eARC support. This means that you can send high-resolution audio from your TV back down the HDMI cable and into your speaker system.
Along with an Ethernet connection, you can connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.
The Bluetooth in this receiver is unusual in that it also supports connecting to Bluetooth headphones. Many AV amps only support sending content to the amplifier via Bluetooth.
This model also has a built-in Compressed Music Enhancer. This aims to provide the best possible sound quality when streaming compressed music files to the receiver – like MP3s, for example.
Another useful feature is support for wireless music streaming in your home. Yamaha has its own multi-room wireless speaker system called MusicCast.
With this system, you can add MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless speakers in every room.
All of the multi-room speakers can be controlled via the MusicCast app.
The app allows full remote control of the receiver’s operation and settings – as well as controlling music playback in each room.
But that’s not all. The RX-V4A also supports MusicCast Surround.
With this, you can pair two MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 speakers to this AV receiver and use them as your surround speakers in a 5.1 system.
Up to now, it’s not been easy to get rear wireless speakers for surround sound systems.
But, if this is something you want, then a Yamaha MusicCast receiver might be what you are looking for.
If you are new to surround sound, here is a useful video from Yamaha that explains some of basics:
- Solid and reliable brand with a great reputation for AV receivers
- Great value
- 8K/60p and 4K/120p video with HDMI 2.1 support
- HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG (HDCP 2.3)
- MusicCast support with MusicCast Surround and Multi-Room
- Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2
- Bluetooth input and output. Stream music to the receiver – or send audio from the receiver to connected Bluetooth headphones.
- No waste of resources on extras, just a focus on the basic features that everyone needs
- New 8K and HDMI 2.1 features not available until a firmware update is released in late 2020 (** UPDATE – now scheduled for Spring 2021 **)
- No Dolby Atmos support
- A limited number of HDMI inputs
3. Sony STR-DH790 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Sony doesn’t have the number of AV receivers that some other brands offer. But they often make it count when they release one.
This receiver is the top model in the DH series. You need to look at the DN or ZA models if you want a higher specification.
However, if $500 is your budget limit, then this model from Sony might be a perfect fit for you.
Sony STR-DH790 Highlights
The Sony STR-DH790 has full 4K video pass-through support and has all the specifications required to play 4K video through your home theater system. If you have a TV that has HDR then it supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision pass-through.
This model powers 7.2 speaker channels and has support for DTS:X and Dolby Atmos (5.1.2 speaker layout).
It comes with the ability to configure your speaker levels through the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration feature. All you need to do is place the included microphone where your main home theater chair is – and it will calculate the correct levels for your room.
Included as part of this setup process is an Auto Phase Matching feature. This will ensure each speaker in your room is in phase with each other. This is an important calibration for ensuring the best sound in your room.
|HDMI In / Out||4/1 (ARC)|
|Speaker Impedance (Ohms)||6-16|
|Network / Wireless||Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17 x 5 1/4 x 11 3/4 in | 430 x 133 x 297 mm|
Getting the right balance between the different surround sound speakers is crucial in getting the best from your system.
Unfortunately, Sony doesn’t release power specifications with the tests that I like to quote – 8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 2-ch driven. This makes it difficult to compare like-with-like.
The Sony STR-DH790 is rated at 145 watts into 6-ohm speakers (1 kHz, 0.09% THD, all channels driven). So, even though it is similar in power output to the other models listed here, it is not quite as powerful as the numbers might suggest.
If you want to compare the power to the other AV receivers here, you will need to see if the others have been rated into 6 ohms at 1 kHz for all channels.
However, at this price point, you will probably find that the power output of all these receivers isn’t different enough to make much difference in a real-world scenario.
I still think Sony should provide some reasonable real-world ratings for their receivers so that consumers can make an informed choice.
It has 4 HDMI inputs and 1 output for connecting your devices. This is slightly less than some of the others, but may not be a problem in your room. It’s always worth thinking about this before you buy, however.
This model has slightly fewer network features but does support Bluetooth. So, you can connect your phone/tablet to the receiver using Bluetooth to play your tunes.
You can also use this connection to switch on the receiver from your handheld device.
Many people like and trust the Sony brand. If you fall into this category, then this Sony AV receiver might offer all you need.
- 4K/60p with HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG pass-through
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
- Smaller than the other receivers here – useful for those with a lack of space
- Digital Cinema Auto Calibration with Automatic Phase Matching
- Bluetooth streaming with Bluetooth Standby to switch on the receiver from your phone
- No zone options to play content in another room
4. Onkyo TX-NR595 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Onkyo has been a popular brand in the AV receiver market for several years. They provide good value products packed full of the latest features.
This AV receiver is the entry-level model in the NR series – which sits in the middle of the Onkyo range. The high-end RZ-series are above this – with the budget SR models below.
If you love the Onkyo brand and looking for a receiver in this price range, then this receiver might just be perfect for you.
Onkyo TX-NR595 Highlights
The Onkyo TX-NR595 7.2 channel AV receiver supports all the latest requirements for handling 4K/60p video. HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, BT.2020 and HDCP 2.2 are all present, so you should have no problems playing the latest 4K content on your TV.
When it comes to connecting your devices, this receiver has 6 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs. This is more than most in this price band and so this could be an important factor for you.
You should always check that an AV receiver has all the right number of connections for your needs.
In fact, the TX-NR595 has one more output than in the 2018 model – which was the Onkyo TX-NR585. The extra HDMI output could be a useful feature if you want to send content to another room in your home.
This receiver doesn’t have the THX certification of the more expensive Onkyo models. But it should still give a good sound in your room if you pair it with a reasonable set of speakers.
If you want the THX certification, then you should check out the next model up – the Onkyo TX-NR696.
With 80 watts of power (8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2ch driven), it should provide plenty of volume. It also comes with Onkyo’s Dynamic Audio Amplification technology. This aims to provide noise-free dynamic control of your speakers.
It also supports speakers with impedance as low as 4-ohms.
The TX-NR595 also supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos object-enabled audio soundtracks. With the built-in amplification on this model, you can install an immersive surround sound layout up to 5.2.2. This is with two height or elevation speakers.
If you have height speakers, you can also take advantage of the two main upmixing formats – Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X. These modes will expand standard 5.1 and 7.1 mixes so that you hear audio from your extra elevation speakers.
|HDMI In / Out||6/2 (ARC)|
|Speaker Impedance (Ohms)||4-16|
|Network / Wireless||Ethernet / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / Airplay 2 / DTS Play-Fi / FlareConnect / Sonos Connect / Google Assistant|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17 1/8 x 6 13/16 x 14 15/16 in | 435 × 173.5 × 379.5 mm|
Plus, new for this model, is the introduction of DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. This is for those without height speakers. The idea is that these sound modes will create the effect of hearing sound from above – even when you only have a standard 5.1/7.1 speaker layout.
It doesn’t sound as good as the real thing. But it can give a more open feel to the soundtrack.
A whole host of network connectivity options are available. Onkyo is always keen to pack their receivers with features.
Ethernet, dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are present. These allow access to services such as Spotify®, Amazon Music, TIDAL, DEEZER and Pandora®. All controlled by the Onkyo controller app.
You also have AirPlay 2 and Sonos Connect support if you are already invested in these technologies.
Just be aware that Onkyo appears to have removed Chromecast support from this year’s model. For that you will need the next model up. As mentioned above, this is the TX-NR696.
This highlights that you always need to double-check the features on an AV receiver before buying. There are so many options it is easy to miss something that you want.
DTS Play-Fi and FlareConnect technology are present on this receiver for multi-room wireless audio. You just need to buy compatible speakers and you will be good to go.
There is also a dedicated powered zone 2 output. This means you can send audio to speakers in another room without installing an extra amplifier.
This is a nice extra feature that some models at this price point don’t have. In fact, what is unique to this model, is that the powered zone 2 channels are in addition to the 7 surround sound channels.
Most receivers will share the zone 2 powered channels with the main outputs. Meaning you must choose between 7.1 surround sound and 5.1 plus zone 2.
With this receiver, you don’t. That’s great.
Onkyo includes the AccuEQ and AccuReflex technologies to help get the best sound in your room.
AccuEQ will measure all the speakers in your room and set suitable levels, distance and crossover frequencies. You can then let it set EQ for the speakers – or you can do it manually.
AccuReflex is for those with upfiring height speakers for Dolby Atmos. It will align the phase of these speakers with the front speakers. This should help to provide a clear sound in your room.
- 6 HDMI Inputs & 2 Outputs – more than most at this price range
- DTS-Neural:X and Dolby Surround
- DTS Virtual:X and Dolby Height Virtualization Technology
- Independently powered zone 2 channels for stereo audio in another room
- AccuEQ w/ AccuReflex room calibration
- Onkyo Controller app for device remote control and sound sharing
- Works with Google Assistant and Sonos
- Chromecast has been removed in the 2019 model. No problem if you don’t want this. Be aware if you do.
5. Pioneer VSX-LX104 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
For some reason, Pioneer AV receivers don’t seem to get as much love as some other brands. I’m not too sure why.
Pioneer have made good quality audio-visual products for many years. Their products are certainly worth your consideration.
The Elite VSX-LX104 AV receiver comes at the bottom of the Elite VSX range. However, the Elite series is aimed at audiophiles who are looking for great audio performance.
So, any Elite model should be worth considering if the sound is your focus.
Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104 Highlights
The Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104 7.2-Ch AV receiver has most of the features that you would expect in a modern receiver.
With 7-channels at 80-watts per channel (8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven FTC), this receiver will have enough power for most home theater speakers.
If you know your speakers require a bit more juice, then you might want to look a little higher up the ladder.
If you are interested in installing a Dolby Atmos speaker setup, then you will be able to hook up a 5.1.2 system. With two height or elevation speakers.
If not, then you still have the choice between a 5.1 and 7.1 layout.
There are also two subwoofer pre-outs for those of you who want to install a second subwoofer in the room. And, if you’ve got a larger space, why not?
If you do install two height speakers, you also have the choice of Dolby Surround or DTS Neural:X upmixing modes. These will create a pseudo Dolby Atmos effect from a standard stereo or 5.1 surround sound mix.
These modes can be quite effective and will make sure you get full value from your height speakers.
If you don’t have any height speakers? You can still try DTS Virtual:X or the newer Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology sound modes. These will try to create the experience you get from height speakers – but on a standard 5.1 or 7.1 layout. And, with a stereo mix too!
|HDMI In / Out||6/2 (ARC)|
|Speaker Impedance (Ohms)||4-16|
|Network / Wireless||Ethernet / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / Airplay 2 / DTS Play-Fi / Sonos Connect|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||17-1/8 x 6-13/16 x 14-9/16 in | 434 x 173 x 370 mm|
The Elite VSX-LX104 offers a whole host of network and wireless connectivity. An Ethernet connection for connecting directly to your home network. Ideal for streaming services and playing content from across you home network.
For those who find wires a little old school, you can stream via Bluetooth, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, DTS Play-Fi, Sonos Connect and AirPlay 2.
If you don’t use any of those these days, then you’re just not trying hard enough!
Try it. It’s fun!
This receiver supports sending content to another zone in your house. In fact, you have a few more choices than many models in this price range.
You can either send video and audio content to zone 2 via HDMI. Or, you can send powered 2-channel audio to zone 2. This can be the same audio as in the main room – or different, as it has its own dedicated DAC.
You can also connect the zone B line outs to an amplifier in a different room.
This allows you to send the same audio as the source playing in the main room. Ideal for playing music in two places at the same time, for example.
Of course, you could also have multi-room audio if you use Sonos Connect, Apple AirPlay 2 or DTS Play-Fi.
As you would expect these days from a modern AV receiver, there is full pass-through support for 4K UHD (60p/4:4:4/24-bit), Wide Color Gamut (BT.2020), and HDCP 2.2.
HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG are all present too, so you shouldn’t have any issues with your other HDR hardware.
There are 6 HDMI inputs on the rear, and 2 outputs. This is slightly more than others in this price range and so that alone might be a good reason to buy this model.
Always think about the number of devices you want to connect before you buy an AV receiver!
If you want some more tips before buying a receiver, take a look at my AV receiver buying guide which highlights the best features to look out for.
- 6 in / 2 out HDMI ports – plenty for most people
- Custom microphone for MCACC Auto Room Tuning system
- Powered zone 2 with a dedicated DAC for playing any digital audio source
- Can connect zone B line out to a wireless headphone transmitter
- Bluetooth A2DP/AVRCP profiles with Wake on Play function
- No front HDMI port for quick device connections
Hopefully, I have highlighted a few great choices if you are looking for the best AV receiver under $500.
These days you can still take advantage of many of the newer technologies that are present in modern AV receivers. Not only that, but you can still get a high-quality device that will stand you in good stead for a few years to come.
That is until they think of the next new thing to tempt us with! The rascals.
These budget AV receivers are ideal for anybody setting up their first surround sound system. Or, if you just want to keep the cost down.
AV receivers can be more flexible than a soundbar system and give you plenty of scope for future upgrades.
Whatever your requirements, don’t dismiss a cheaper receiver. Paired with a compact speaker system, they can offer a great bang for your buck.
About Home Cinema Guide
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.
What a great site, and I genuinely mean that. I love the use of clear simple explanations and with the help of images in each article.