Best AV Receiver Guide: Top 10 AV Receivers [2023]

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Finding the best AV receiver can feel overwhelming with so many models and all the technical jargon. I feel your pain. I’ve used receivers from different brands for over 20 years, and I still get confused occasionally.

This article makes it easy by categorizing the top brands and receivers across price points and by features. You’ll get straightforward advice on crucial features like wattage, number of channels, connectivity options and more.

Whether you’re looking for an affordable yet powerful receiver or one packed with cutting-edge features, this guide has you covered. Let’s get started!

Key Points

  • Set Your Budget: AV receivers range from budget models under $500 to high-end ones over $3000. Decide how much you can spend to narrow down your options.
  • Determine Your Needs: Do you need 4K or 8K video passthrough? Dolby Atmos support? Multi-zone audio? Make a list of must-have features so you don’t overspend.
  • Choose Your Channels: Will you start with a basic 5.1 system and expand later? Or do you want an Atmos-ready 7.1 or 9.2 receiver now?
  • Check the Connections: Count the inputs you need for your devices (mostly HDMI nowadays) and make sure the receiver has enough.
  • Consider the Power: You usually don’t need the maximum volume, but more power gives headroom. 50 – 100 watts per channel will suffice for most people.
Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best 5.1

Yamaha RX-V4A

Great value for excellent Yamaha audio technology.
MusicCast multi-room and MusicCast Surround.
Bluetooth input and output (to headphones).
No Dolby Atmos support.
A limited number of HDMI inputs.
Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

Best 9.1

Denon AVR-X4800H

Denon builds great receivers.
9.4 channels with four individual subwoofer outputs.
Supports Dolby Atmos layouts up to 5.4.4 out of the box (support for 11.4).
The cheaper AVR-X3800 might be enough for smaller rooms.
Price has increased considerably compared to the previous version.
Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best 11.2

Yamaha RX-A8A

Audiophile AVENTAGE audio performance.
Balanced stereo XLR input and output.
Powerful 150-watt output for large rooms.
No processing support for larger Atmos layouts than 11.2.
It’s a big unit, so ensure you have the space to install it.
Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver

For Large Dolby Atmos Layouts

Denon AVR-X8500HA

13 channels of audio out-of-the-box for a large Dolby Atmos layout.
Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room calibration is excellent.
Several zone outputs for sending content to other rooms.
Huge amplifier, so make sure you have the space to install it.
It’s expensive.
Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best Small Receiver

Marantz CINEMA 70s

Compact design (only 4 inches high) with a sleek, modern look.
3x HDMI 2.1 inputs (6 in total).
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 speaker layouts supported.
50 watts per channel might lack power for large speaker systems.
Only has the basic Audyssey MultEQ room calibration.
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best Under $500

Denon AVR-S660H

Three 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz HDMI 2.1 inputs.
Audyssey MultEQ room correction with the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app.
Has a phono input for a turntable.
No Dolby Atmos support.
No zone 2 connections.
Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best Under $1000

Denon AVR-X2700H

6 HDMI inputs with full HDCP 2.3 support and 2 HDMI outputs.
8K upscaling for all HDMI inputs.
Bluetooth send and receive for connecting Bluetooth headphones.
Limited zone options.
8K pass-through is only available on one HDMI input.
Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

Best Under $2000

Denon AVR-X3800H

Excellent, detailed sound.
Processing and output connections for 11.4 audio.
Four independent subwoofer pre-outs.
Dirac Live room correction is available, but only as a paid upgrade.
The cheaper Denon models offer plenty for most people.
Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best Under $3000

Arcam AVR11

Slightly cheaper version of the flagship Arcam AVR31, with fewer features.
Audiophile sound quality.
11.2 pre-outs for extra speakers.
Only 7-channels out of the box, but you can install external power amplifiers.
It’s cheap for an Arcam, but not compared to other brands.
Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

Best High-End

Arcam AVR31

Audiophile Class G amplification.
15.2-channel pre-outs for creating a large speaker layout.
Dirac Live room correction is the best around.
It only supports 7-channels out of the box.
It is very expensive.

Which Are the Best Receivers to Buy?

Buying an AV receiver can be a headache, with several similar models to choose from. However, each brand’s receivers are divided into price tiers with increasing build quality and features. So they’re not all as different as you might think.

Focus on the essential features so you only pay for what you need. Consider:

  • Price
  • Specifications
  • Functionality
  • Build quality

Sound quality? Meh. For most people, the sound of an amplifier is overrated. Your speakers and room frequency response will make more of a difference to the sound you hear.

Then, add that sound quality is highly subjective (you’ll quickly adjust to minor differences). And that amplifiers in a comparable price bracket will sound similar.

I would focus on price and features. But, if it matters that much to you, go and listen in a local AV store. Only you know what you like.

For what it’s worth, my preferred brand is Denon. I’ve owned several brands but stuck with Denon for my last two receivers. You may notice that my choices lean towards Denon because I use them and know they are good (which isn’t saying other brands aren’t).

Pro tip. Watch for holiday sales on higher-tier models (or last year’s model), and you can easily snap up a bargain in a tier you thought was out of reach.

Best 5.1 Receiver

It’s usually best to select an AV receiver by your budget – rather than channels. This is because you can buy both high-quality, expensive models and cheaper, budget models – all with a similar number of channels.

However, if you are sure you only want 5.1 surround sound, you may get more bang for your buck with a simple 5-channel model.

There aren’t many receivers that are only 5-channels these days. Remember, you can always buy a 7-channel receiver (or higher) and just connect 5 channels.

A pure 5-channel receiver these days will usually be a budget model. So, most people interested in a simple 5.1 receiver will be looking at a receiver at the lower end of the market.

Best 5.1 AV Receiver
Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

The entry-level model in the budget Yamaha RX-V range. It has fewer channels than the more expensive RX-V6A.

Pros:
  • Great value for excellent Yamaha audio technology.
  • 8K/60p & 4K/120p HDMI 2.1 support.
  • MusicCast multi-room and MusicCast Surround for wireless surround speakers.
  • Bluetooth input and output. Stream music to the receiver – or send audio to connected Bluetooth headphones.
Cons:
  • No Dolby Atmos support.
  • A limited number of HDMI inputs.
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Top Pick: Yamaha RX-V4A

Best 5.1 AV Receiver: Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Yamaha

The Yamaha RX-V4A is an excellent choice for the best 5.1 AV receiver. Whether you are looking for a budget or high-end model – Yamaha is always a good choice for a home theater.

The Yamaha RX-V4A has two subwoofer output connections.

If, like most people, you only use one subwoofer, just ignore the second connection – but it’s always handy to have a dual output if you want a second sub in your room.

High-end receivers are more likely to have independent dual subwoofer outputs, meaning you can process each differently, making fine-tuning the room sound easier.

However, most receivers, like this one, send the same signal from both outputs. This is fine, although less flexible. This model has all the basics you want in an entry-level receiver.

It provides:

  • Good sound.
  • Plenty of network and wireless connection types.
  • Full support for most audio formats – including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

This model is also one of the first to support 8K/60p and 4K/120p video. All the HDMI inputs support 8K – and there is full passthrough support for 8K from player to screen.

Please note the new HDMI 2.1 features – such as 4K/120p, VRR, ALLM and QMS, will not be available until they are enabled in a future firmware update.

The RX-V4A supports all the current versions of HDR – HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG.

It can be voice-controlled via Amazon Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant – and also supports Yamaha’s MusicCast wireless speaker system.

With MusicCast Multi-Room, you can control wireless speakers in rooms around your home.

With MusicCast Surround, you can purchase the MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 speakers and add these as wireless surrounds in a 5.1 system. Perfect for those fed up with running those pesky speaker cables around the room.

Yamaha RX-V4A Specifications
Channels 5.2
Dolby Atmos None
HDMI In/Out 4/1 (eARC)
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 3x Stereo RCA, 1x Optical, 1x Coaxial
Audio Pre Out/Line Out Subwoofer (x2)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone B (2-ch audio - powered)
Auto Room Calibration YPAO
Power (W/Ch)* 80
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 8 and higher
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Transmit & Receive), MusicCast Surround + Multi-Room, AirPlay 2 , Spotify Connect
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri (via Airplay 2)
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio
Other Audio Decoders DSD (up to 11.2 MHz), LPCM (Up to 7.1ch)
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6
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)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 19.4/8.8
Year 2020
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative 5.1 Receivers

  1. Denon AVR-S670H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    A superb entry-level AV receiver from Denon. It works with most surround sound speaker packages and supports all the latest audio formats (except Dolby Atmos).

    Pros:
    • 5.2 channels
    • Three HDMI 2.1 inputs - 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
    • Audyssey MultEQ room calibration for a balanced sound
    • Supports all the latest HDR versions: inc. Dynamic HDR & Dolby Vision
    Cons:
    • No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support
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  2. Sony STR-DH590 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    Sony's affordable 5.2 channel AV receiver that offers 4K HDR pass-through, Dolby Vision, and flexible surround setup options.

    Pros:
    • Popular AV brand
    • Solid entry-level model
    • Supports all the common audio formats
    • Older model with plenty of good user reviews
    Cons:
    • Only has the older Dolby Pro Logic II upscaling
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  3. Denon AVR-S570BT 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The entry-level model in 2022's AVR-S AV receivers. It is a budget-friendly receiver offering 5.2 channels, Bluetooth streaming, and compatibility with most sound formats, but it lacks features found in higher-end models.

    Pros:
    • Low-cost introduction to surround sound.
    • Denon makes excellent AV receivers.
    • Four HDMI 2.1 inputs with 8K/60p support
    • Bluetooth connection.
    Cons:
    • Limited network connections.
    • No zone outputs.
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Best 9.2 Receiver

Looking for a particular number of channels is more beneficial when getting to receivers with more than 5-channels.

This is because there aren’t many receivers that can power this number of speakers out of the box – and you may have your mind set on a specific configuration.

A 9.2-channel system can be ideal if you want to create a 3D Dolby Atmos surround sound layout – and with a 9-channel receiver, you can have a 5.2.4 speaker layout.

This is one of the best ways to experience Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

5.2.2 is good, but 5.2.4 is better as you experience the overhead effects from front to back. That’s not the only reason to get more channels.

If you want the receiver to power another set of stereo speakers in another room, then a 9-channel model allows for a 7.1 layout in the main room, plus a stereo setup in another zone.

Best 9.2 AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

One of the top receivers in the outstanding Denon AVR-X series with more power and zone connections than the cheaper AVR-X3800H.

Pros:
  • Denon builds great receivers.
  • 9.4 channels with four individual subwoofer outputs.
  • Supports Dolby Atmos layouts up to 5.4.4 out of the box (support for 11.4).
  • 125 watts per channel for larger rooms.
Cons:
  • The cheaper AVR-X3800 might be enough for smaller rooms.
  • Price has increased considerably compared to the previous version.
  • This version removes the composite and component video inputs.
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Top Pick: Denon AVR-X4800H

Best 9.2 AV Receiver: Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Denon

The Denon AVR-X4800H is a superb choice for the best 9.2-channel receiver.

Denon is always a contender in any category. They make fantastic receivers that excel at movie audio and work well for music. 

I recommend plenty of their models, as Denon is my go-to option for receivers and what I use at home. This model is an incremental upgrade on my previous choice for this category, the AVR-X4700H.

While there are a few upgrades, there are also a couple of omissions between models, so it’s not a straightforward choice.

Like its predecessor, this model supports the latest video formats, allowing pass-through for 8K at 60Hz and 4K at 120Hz.

However, the big change is the inclusion of 7 HDMI ports capable of 8K input, a significant improvement from the single 8K input in the AVR-X4700H. 

This mainly benefits users with multiple 8K high-definition devices. So, it won’t be a benefit if you only have one, or no, 8K devices.

The other major upgrade is a biggie if you want multiple subwoofers to even the bass response throughout your room.

In a first for the popular receiver brands, the latest Denon high-end models have four independent subwoofer connections, allowing you to fine-tune the low-end sound.

In addition to its built-in amplification for a 5.4.4 or 7.4.2 speaker setup, this system can also support a 7.2.4 configuration with an external 2-channel power amplifier. That should be enough speakers to keep you happy for a while.

This receiver comes equipped with the exceptional Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto room configuration, ensuring outstanding sound quality in any room. 

You can achieve a perfectly balanced and tight sound by running the Audyssey setup routine. In my experience, Audyssey is particularly effective at eliminating any overpowering low frequencies, resulting in a cleaner and clearer audio experience.

But that’s not all. You will also get the option of adding the popular Dirac Live room configuration software in a future update, although it will cost you extra.

A few minor omissions in the newer model are that the composite and component video inputs have been removed. While not crucial, this might be a problem for some users.

Denon has also removed the front HDMI port of the AVR-X4700, which my daughter would find annoying when connecting her Nintendo Switch when her friends come around!

With the Denon AVR-X4800H, you get a refined, higher-end version of an already excellent receiver. The upgrade could be worth it if the additional subwoofer support and increased 8K HDMI inputs align with your needs. 

However, if these features are optional for your setup, the AVR-X4700H remains a solid choice that delivers exceptional performance.

Denon AVR-X4800H Specifications
Channels 9.4
Dolby Atmos 5.4.4/7.4.2 (Support for 7.4.4)
HDMI In/Out 7/3 (eARC) [7x 8K]
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 5x Stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 2x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 11.4-Ch / Zone 2 & Zone 3 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (HDMI & 2-ch audio - powered or line out) / Zone 3 (2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Power (W/Ch)* 125
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support Dynamic HDR, HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, HEOS
Voice Control Alexa, Google Voice Assistant, Apple HomePod
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Music
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD, LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch), Auro-3D, 360 Reality Audio, MPEG-H
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, IMAX Enhanced
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 6.6 x 15.3 in | 434 x 167 x 389 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 29.1/13.2
Year 2022
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.05% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative 9.2 Receivers

  1. Marantz CINEMA 50 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

    The cheapest 11.4 channel receiver in the Marantz CINEMA series. The more expensive CINEMA 40 has more power, and the cheaper CINEMA 60 has fewer channels.

    Pros:
    • Top-notch Marantz audio engineering
    • 4 independent subwoofer outputs
    • Processing for an 11.4 layout
    • Optional Dirac Live upgrade available
    Cons:
    • Limited zone outputs compared to other 9 channel receivers
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  2. Onkyo TX-RZ50 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    A feature-rich AV receiver that delivers an excellent home theater experience with up to 9.2 channels of audio and support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced content.

    Pros:
    • Great value for money
    • 120 watts per channel for larger rooms
    • Includes Dirac Live room calibration
    • THX-Certification ensures excellent build-quality and components
    Cons:
    • A bit taller than most 9 channel receivers, so make sure it will fit
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  3. Yamaha RX-A6A 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    This receiver is near the top of the Yamaha AVENTAGE range of receivers. It has less power than the RX-A8A but more channels and connections than the RX-A4A.

    Pros:
    • Support for 9.2, 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 speaker layouts out of the box
    • HDMI: 7-in and 3-out with eARC
    • Zone 2 and 3 for other rooms in your house
    • Powerful 150-watts per channel
    Cons:
    • If you don't want a 9-channel speaker layout, the 7-channel Yamaha RX-A4A is cheaper
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  4. Sony ES STR-AZ3000ES 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The cheapest 9-channel model in the latest Sony ES series but with slightly less power than the more expensive STR-AZ5000ES.

    Pros:
    • Good value for a 9 channel receiver
    • Four 8K HDMI 2.1 inputs
    • 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 Dolby Atmos out of the box
    • Two additional composite video outputs
    Cons:
    • Limited pre out connections
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Best 11.2 Receiver

An AV receiver with 11 channels is perfect for a complete Dolby Atmos surround sound system.

You have all the built-in channels to install a 7.2.4 or 5.2.6 speaker system – an impressive layout that will make you feel part of the action. AV amps with this number of channels aren’t that common; however, a few are available.

These receivers usually have more power per channel than models lower down the food chain, but they will also be more expensive.

Don’t forget that there is an alternative to buying a receiver that can directly power all the channels you want out of the box.

A receiver with fewer channels may have processing for more audio channels and will have matching pre-out connections. This means you can wire a separate power amplifier to drive the extra speakers.

Of course, this is more expensive and complex to set up, so many prefer to have all the channels built-in. If so, here are some of the best 11-channel receivers to check out.

Best 11.2 AV Receiver
Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

The top-of-the-range receiver in Yamaha's AVENTAGE series. The main difference to the cheaper models is more channels, connections and power.

Pros:
  • Audiophile AVENTAGE audio performance.
  • Unique Surround:AI processing mode.
  • Balanced stereo XLR input and output.
  • Powerful 150-watt output for large rooms.
Cons:
  • No processing support for larger Atmos layouts than 11.2.
  • YPAO Multipoint works fine, but it isn't the best room correction.
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Top Pick: Yamaha RX-A8A

Best 11.2 AV Receiver: Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE
Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Yamaha

The Yamaha RX-A8A is the company’s flagship AV receiver at the top of its high-end AVENTAGE line.

This 11.2-channel receiver has built-in support for 11 channels, allowing you to set up an impressive 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos/DTS:X speaker system without external amplifiers.

It has plenty of power at 150 watts per channel and extensive connectivity options, including 7 HDMI inputs, XLR inputs/outputs, full 11.2 pre-outs, and multi-zone support.

The RX-A8A supports the latest video formats like 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz on all seven HDMI ports.

For audio, it uses high-end 32-bit ESS SABRE DACs and Yamaha’s exclusive sound technologies like Surround:AI for optimized surround sound. Wireless connectivity is provided through Yamaha’s MusicCast system, allowing multi-room audio streaming and wireless surrounds via MusicCast speakers.

With robust power, immersive audio, advanced video support, and premium build quality, the RX-A8A is ideal for home theater enthusiasts who want a top-of-the-line AV receiver from a respected brand like Yamaha.

If audiophile sound quality is essential to you, then the Anthem MRX 1140 might be better. However, the MSRP is quite a bit more than the other options.

Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE Specifications
Channels 11.2
Dolby Atmos 7.2.4
HDMI In/Out 7/3 (eARC)
Other Video In 2x Composite, 1x Component
Other Video Out None
Audio In 1x Stereo XLR, 5x Stereo RCA, 3x Optical, 2x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 11.2-Ch / Front L+R (XLR), Zone 2 & Zone 3 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (HDMI & 2-ch audio - powered or line out) / Zone 3 (2-ch audio - powered or line out) / Zone 4 (HDMI)
Auto Room Calibration YPAO Multipoint (with Reflected Sound Control), 3D, 64-bit High Precision EQ Calculation, Low Frequency mode and Angle Measurement
Power (W/Ch)* 150
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4+ Front / 6+ Others
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP 2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Transmit & Receive), MusicCast Surround + Multi-Room, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri (via Airplay 2)
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD 2-ch to 6-ch (2.8 MHz), LPCM 2-ch to 8-ch (Max. 192 kHz/24-bit), Auro-3D (via firmware update)
Selected Processing Modes Surround:AI, Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, DTS Neural:X
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17-1/8 x 7-1/2 x 18-3/4 in | 435 x 192 x 476 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 47.2/21.4
Year 2021
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.06% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative 11.2 Receivers

  1. Anthem MRX 1140 8K 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The MRX range's flagship receiver has more channels than the cheaper MRX 740 8K. The new 8K versions have HDMI 2.1 support compared to the 2020 versions.

    What Is It: The MRX range's flagship receiver has more channels than the cheaper MRX 740 8K. The new 8K versions have HDMI 2.1 support compared to the 2020 versions.
    Pros:
    • Great sound for movies and music.
    • Excellent Anthem Genesis Room Correction (ARC).
    • Processing for 15.2-channels.
    • Premium 32-bit/768 kHz DAC (AKM AK4458VN).
    Cons:
    • No voice control options.
    • A relatively limited number of audio inputs, but enough for most people.
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  2. Onkyo TX-RZ70 11.2 Channel AV Receiver

    A powerful and versatile AV receiver that supports up to 11.2 channels of audio and features Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and THX listening modes.

    Pros:
    • Top-of-the-range Onkyo receiver
    • Onkyo pack their receivers with features, making them great value
    • Dirac Live room correction is excellent
    • THX-certified ensuring high-quality engineering standards
    Cons:
    • Very large and heavy - make sure you've got room to install it
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  3. Denon AVR-X6700H 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    A high-class Denon AV receiver with 11 channels for a large Dolby Atmos speaker layout.

    Pros:
    • Support for 13.2 speaker layouts with additional power amplifier
    • 7.2.4 or 9.2.2 Dolby Atmos support
    • Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction is one of the best
    • IMAX Enhanced and Auro-3D support
    Cons:
    • Only one 8K HDMI 2.1 input
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  4. Marantz SR8015 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The flagship receiver in 2020's SR series, with more channels and power for your money than with the cheaper models.

    Pros:
    • A great all-rounder for the price
    • Good for music with Marantz HDAM engineering
    • Processing for 13.2 speaker layouts
    • Top quality Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction
    Cons:
    • Only one 8K HDMI input
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Best Receiver for Large Dolby Atmos Layouts

If you want an AV amp with out-of-the-box support for the largest Dolby Atmos layouts, your main choice is Denon.

Denon has a couple of 13.2 AV receivers and, more recently, has even released a 15.4-channel monster. However, Sony joined the party in 2023 with the 13.2-channel STR-AZ7000ES.

An amplifier of this size will likely interest only the true home theater fanatics, and installing a system this size will be a big job.

You can install several different speaker layouts to take advantage of all the channels in one room.

For example, you might want a complete Dolby Atmos layout with seven speakers in the lower plane at ear level and six for overhead audio – creating a 7.1.6 configuration (or 9.1.6 for the AVR-A1H).

The overhead speakers can be a combination of height and in-ceiling speakers. Or you might only want four overhead speakers and use the remaining two channels lower down in front wide positions – essentially 9.1.4.

Of course, you can also have a more standard layout in the main room, like 5.1.4, and use the extra channels to power speakers in another room.

The advantage of a receiver with this many channels is you have several options for configuring your system and plenty of power for larger rooms.

Best 13.2 AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver

The updated version of the flagship AVR-X8500H. This model supports HDMI 2.1 and 8K video passthrough.

Pros:
  • 13 channels of audio out-of-the-box for a large Dolby Atmos layout.
  • Hefty 150 watts per channel output.
  • Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room calibration is excellent.
  • Several zone outputs for sending content to other rooms.
Cons:
  • Huge amplifier, so make sure you have the space to install it.
  • Pricey, but you get a lot for your money.
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Top Pick: Denon AVR-X8500HA

Best 13.2 AV Receiver: Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Denon

Denon led the way in 2018 by including 13 channels in their AVR-X8500H AV receiver. Since then, they have released two more versions; the 110th-anniversary AVR-A110 in 2020 and the AVR-X8500HA in 2021.

As the name suggests, the AVR-X8500HA is an updated version released in 2018.

The two receivers are basically the same, except for a few notable extras, including support for 8K video. The main upgrades on the AVR-X8500HA are:

  • a single HDMI input supporting 8K/60AB and 4K/120AB
  • the addition of HDR10+/dynamic HDR
  • upscaling from 1080p and 4K to 8K
  • Pass-through support for VRR, QMS and QFT
  • HDCP 2.3

There are also some other features included that weren’t available on the AVR-X8500 – DTS:X Pro, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and front wide speaker support on Dolby Surround – but these can now be added to the older AVR-X8500H with a firmware update.

If you don’t need the extra features of the AVR-X8500HA, you may get a bargain if you can find the older 2018 model in stock. There is also an 8K upgrade available for the AVR-X8500H.

Either way, all of the Denon 13-channel AV receivers are great receivers, and you can’t go wrong if you have the money to buy one.

Remember, some receivers with fewer channels have processing for larger Dolby Atmos layouts. This means you can use the pre-out connections on the rear to install additional power amplifiers.

However, the advantage of a beast like this is you don’t need to pay extra for power amplifiers. It’s all built-in.

Denon AVR-X8500HA Specifications
Channels 13.2
Dolby Atmos 7.2.6/9.2.4
HDMI In/Out 7+1/3 (eARC) [1x 8K]
Other Video In 4x Composite, 3x Component
Other Video Out 2x Composite, 1x Component
Audio In 6x Stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 2x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 13.2-Ch / Zone 2 & Zone 3 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (HDMI + Component + Composite & 2-ch audio - powered or line out) / Zone 3 (Component + Composite & 2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Power (W/Ch)* 150
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, HEOS
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomePod
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD, LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch), Auro-3D
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS:X Pro, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, IMAX Enhanced
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 7.7 x 19 in | 434 x 195 x 482 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 52/23.6
Year 2021
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.05% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Receivers for Large Dolby Atmos Layouts

  1. Denon AVR-A1H 15.4-Ch AV Receiver

    The top-of-the-range Denon 15-channel receiver is designed for the largest rooms and speaker layouts.

    Pros:
    • Flagship Denon AV receiver
    • Huge 15.4 channel out-of-the-box
    • Four independent subwoofer outputs (RCA and XLR)
    • Supports a huge 9.4.6 Dolby Atmos speaker system
    Cons:
    • Very big and expensive, but you get a lot for your money
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  2. Sony STR-AZ7000ES 13.2-Ch AV Receiver

    Sony's flagship ES receiver is designed for custom installations but will function flawlessly in any home theater setting.

    Pros:
    • Great Sony sound quality
    • 13.2-channels out-of-the-box
    • Four 8K HDMI 2.1 inputs
    • Plenty of network connection options
    Cons:
    • Fewer inputs and outputs than other options
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Best Small AV Receiver

Some of you may want an AV amplifier but might not be thrilled about the size of some models. They can certainly take up some space in your room.

However, some brands have a range of slim receivers, which can be much easier to install and won’t look too unattractive.

Small receivers usually have less power and features than a standard-size model, although that doesn’t mean they can’t power an excellent surround sound system.

There aren’t too many options in this category, and some are older models you may have trouble finding new.

However, you might be able to pick one up second-hand on eBay or in local classifieds, so don’t rule them out entirely if that is what you want.

Marantz regularly releases new slim receivers every couple of years, so they are a good option if you want the latest features in a small chassis.

Best Small AV Receiver
Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

The slimline model from the updated CINEMA series. It has the same number of channels as the full-size CINEMA 60 but less power due to the compact design.

Pros:
  • Compact design (only 4 inches high) with a sleek, modern look.
  • 3x HDMI 2.1 inputs (6 in total)
  • Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 speaker layouts supported
  • Airplay 2, HEOS, Spotify Connect, TuneIn, Pandora, SiriusXM, Roon Tested
Cons:
  • 50-watts per channel might lack power for large speaker systems. But it will be fine for most rooms.
  • Only has the basic Audyssey MultEQ room calibration.
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Top Pick: Marantz CINEMA 70s

Best Small AV Receiver: Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Marantz

The Marantz CINEMA 70s is a 7.2-channel receiver that can perform with the best of them – an ideal option if you are looking for the best slim AV receiver.

It’s only rated at 50 watts. So, less than the larger models listed here but still enough to drive most small to medium-sized speakers in a standard room.

It has plenty of connections for a compact device and even comes with the excellent Audyssey MultEQ room correction system.

This latest version of the renowned Marantz slim receiver includes 3 HDMI inputs, supporting 8K/60Hz or 4K/120Hz video content from the newest game consoles.

This amplifier also supports passthrough for all the current HDR formats – Dynamic HDR, HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG.

Finally, there is a complete 7.2-channel pre-out section on the back, which is new for this model and allows you to send the audio to external power amplifiers if the amp lacks power for your speaker system.

Marantz CINEMA 70s Specifications
Channels 7.2
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2
HDMI In/Out 6/1 (eARC)
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 3x Stereo RCA, 1x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 7.2 / Zone 2 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ
Power (W/Ch)* 50
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60Hz & 4K/120Hz, HDCP2.3
HDR Support Dynamic HDR, HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, HEOS, Spotify Connect, TuneIn, Pandora, SiriusXM, Roon Tested
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomePod
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Music
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD (2.8MHz / 5.6MHz), LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch)
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.4 x 4.3 x 14.7 in | 442 x 109 x 373 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 19.2/8.7
Year 2022
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Compact AV Receivers

  1. Marantz NR1510 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    A slim, compact AV receiver from Marantz that provides 5.2 channels, supports 4K Ultra HD, and includes HEOS multi-room streaming.

    Pros:
    • Compact chassis
    • Small footprint compared to most AV receivers
    • Front left & right pre-out for an external amp
    • Excellent Audyssey MultEQ room correction
    Cons:
    • Lacks power for larger rooms
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  2. Marantz NR1711 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    A compact AV receiver from the popular Marantz lineup of small receivers. Ideal for great home theater sound without taking up too much space.

    Pros:
    • Only 4-inches high
    • HDMI 2.1 4K/120Hz & 8K/60Hz (1 input)
    • Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 speaker layouts supported
    • Three composite and two component video inputs
    Cons:
    • 50 watts might not be enough power for some rooms
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Top Receiver Under $500

You don’t need to spend a fortune if you just want to experience surround sound in your room.

A no-frills receiver with some reasonable speakers will sound way better than using the speakers on your TV, and you can always upgrade later if you want a model with more features.

Therefore, a budget AV receiver under $500 can be the ideal way to start.

The number of features you get in a receiver around the $500 mark is quite surprising, but you must accept some compromises here and there.

Most of these models are 5-channel receivers, which means you get surround sound but not 3D Dolby Atmos sound.

Best AV Receiver Under $500
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

The entry-level receiver in 2021's AVR-S receiver series has fewer channels than the AVR-S760H, but the receivers are similar apart from that.

Pros:
  • Three 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz HDMI 2.1 inputs.
  • Support for all the current high-resolution audio and HDR formats.
  • Audyssey MultEQ room correction with the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app.
  • Has a phono input for a turntable.
Cons:
  • No Dolby Atmos support.
  • No zone 2 connections.
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Top Pick: Denon AVR-S660H

Best AV Receiver Under $500: Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Denon

The Denon AVR-S660H is an excellent choice if you want a great value receiver from a reputable brand. It has 5-channels for surround sound and two outputs for connecting dual subwoofers.

There are six HDMI inputs for your external devices, three of which support HDMI 2.1 and 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video passthrough.

Denon is an excellent option for great sound and cutting-edge features. Audyssey MultEQ room correction is a bonus and one of the better solutions for getting the best sound in your room.

If you want Dolby Atmos, the Sony STR-DH790 receiver in this category has 7-channels and Dolby Atmos support – or you will need to spend a little more to go up a price level or look for an older receiver that is on offer.

If you want an even cheaper option, you should look at the Denon AVR-S570BT, Sony STR-DH590 or Pioneer VSX-534 – which are each brand’s entry-level model.

Denon AVR-S660H Specifications
Channels 5.2
Dolby Atmos None
HDMI In/Out 6/1 (eARC) [3x 8K]
Other Video In 2x Composite
Other Video Out 1x Composite
Audio In 2x Stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out Subwoofer (x2)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones None
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ
Power (W/Ch)* 75
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, HEOS
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri (via AirPlay 2), Josh.ai
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio
Other Audio Decoders DSD (2.8/5.6MHz), LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch)
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 6 x 13.4 in | 434 x 151 x 341 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 17.2/7.8
Year 2021
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Receivers Under $500

  1. Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The entry-level model in the budget Yamaha RX-V range. It has fewer channels than the more expensive RX-V6A.

    Pros:
    • Great value for excellent Yamaha audio technology.
    • 8K/60p & 4K/120p HDMI 2.1 support.
    • MusicCast multi-room and MusicCast Surround for wireless surround speakers.
    • Bluetooth input and output. Stream music to the receiver – or send audio to connected Bluetooth headphones.
    Cons:
    • No Dolby Atmos support.
    • A limited number of HDMI inputs.
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  2. Sony STR-DH790 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The top model in the budget Sony DH series. It has more channels than the cheaper DH590, but it's still a bargain price.

    Pros:
    • Great Sony entry-level receiver.
    • Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 layouts.
    • Support for 4K/60p video passthrough.
    • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding.
    Cons:
    • Limited input and output connections.
    • No USB input for audio files.
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  3. Denon AVR-S570BT 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The entry-level model in 2022's AVR-S AV receivers. It is a budget-friendly receiver offering 5.2 channels, Bluetooth streaming, and compatibility with most sound formats, but it lacks features found in higher-end models.

    Pros:
    • Low-cost introduction to surround sound.
    • Denon makes excellent AV receivers.
    • Four HDMI 2.1 inputs with 8K/60p support
    • Bluetooth connection.
    Cons:
    • Limited network connections.
    • No zone outputs.
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  4. Pioneer VSX-834 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The mid-range model from Pioneer's 2019 VSX series. It's still available at a few retailers, so it is a good choice if you need a solid performance without the latest features like HDMI support.

    Pros:
    • Excellent Pioneer audio technology.
    • Dolby Atmos support for a 5.2.2 layout.
    • Zone B stereo audio output.
    • Dolby Surround, DTS Neural:X & DTS Virtual:X processing.
    Cons:
    • Older model with no 8K video passthrough.
    • Limited network and wireless connection options.
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Learn more: Best AV Receiver Under $500

Top Receiver Under $1000

You start to get high-quality AV receivers at this price point – not the best, but pretty darn good. You should expect a great sound that will do justice to any first-rate speakers you own.

You can expect to get a little more for your money in terms of performance, and you might need to go to this level to get more connections, power or channels.

Some of these models will also give you more options for sending content to different zones in your house. So, if this is important, think about what you want to do and then check out which model offers those options.

When you get to this level, the improvements aren’t just about features; you also get better build quality and components.

One of the most critical components of an amplifier is the power supply – because a better power supply is a significant factor that helps increase sound quality. This is what you are paying extra for.

Unfortunately, the recent economic and supply chain problems have resulted in many models increasing prices by four or five hundred dollars. So you don’t get quite as much for your money as you used to.

If you can spend a little more, check out some models in a higher price bracket for more features.

But, if you must limit yourself to under $1000 precisely, all these receivers will still do an excellent job.

Best AV Receiver Under $1000
Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

The entry-level release from 2020's AVR-X series of receivers. Although it's a couple of years old, it's still available at a great price, giving you an excellent receiver with more features than most new releases at this price point.

Pros:
  • 6 HDMI inputs with full HDCP 2.3 support and 2 HDMI outputs
  • 8K upscaling for all HDMI inputs
  • Pass-through support for 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz
  • Bluetooth send and receive for connecting Bluetooth headphones
Cons:
  • Limited zone options
  • 8K pass-through is only available on one HDMI input
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Top Pick: Denon AVR-X2700H

Best AV Receiver Under $1000: Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Denon

The Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch receiver is a standout option for the money. It is a great all-rounder with 7-channels of amplification and plenty of inputs, and it is also one of the first receivers to support 8K resolutions.

One of the HDMI inputs allows for 8K/60p and 4K/120p resolutions – although, as mentioned previously, this will mainly interest those with the latest game consoles.

The Denon brand is often a good choice as they often hit the mark when considering the price, sound quality and features.

The cheapest receivers in this category are the Onkyo TX-NR5100, Yamaha RX-V6A and the Denon AVR-X1700H – so check these out if you want to save money.

All the suggested models in the price range have 7.2 channels, so there is nothing to separate them in that respect.

If you want more power, the Onkyo TX-NR6100, Yamaha RX-V6A and Yamaha RX-A2A AVENTAGE have the highest power output.

The Onkyo TX-NR6100 probably has the most all-around features if you want the most bang for your buck.

Denon AVR-X2700H Specifications
Channels 7.2
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2
HDMI In/Out 6/2 (eARC) [1x 8K]
Other Video In 2x Composite, 2x Component
Other Video Out 1x Composite, 1x Component
Audio In 4x Stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out Subwoofer (x2) / Zone 2 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ XT
Power (W/Ch)* 95
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, HEOS
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri (via AirPlay 2), Josh.ai
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD, LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch)
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 6.6 x 13.0 in | 434 x 167 x 330 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 21/9.5
Year 2020
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Receivers Under $1000

  1. Yamaha RX-V6A 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The top model in Yamaha's mid-range RX-V series with more channels than the cheaper RX-V4A.

    Pros:
    • Great value from a quality brand
    • 7 HDMI inputs (3x HDMI 2.1 8K)
    • Stereo pre outs for the front left and right channels
    • Phono connection for a turntable
    Cons:
    • Limited zone connections
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  2. Sony STR-AN1000 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The first mid-range Sony AV receiver with 8K video support. A welcome return to home theater for a trusted brand.

    Pros:
    • Excellent successor to the popular STR-DN1080
    • 2x 8K HDMI 2.1 inputs
    • Bluetooth transmission for sending to headphones and speakers
    • Ideal for small to medium-sized rooms
    Cons:
    • No support for Alexa voice control
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  3. Onkyo TX-NR6100 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The middle release in Onkyo's popular mid-range NR receivers. Fewer channels than the TX-NR7100 but more power than the TX-NR5100.

    Pros:
    • THX® Certified Select™ reference standards
    • HDMI 2.1 and 8K/60Hz passthrough
    • Dedicated powered Zone 2
    • Chromecast, DTS Play-Fi and AirPlay 2 built-in
    Cons:
    • Limited pre-outs for adding external amplification
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  4. Denon AVR-S970H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The top model in the mid-range AVR-S series. It is compatible with most surround sound speaker systems and decodes all the major audio formats.

    Pros:
    • 3x HDMI 2.1 8K inputs
    • 90 watts power rating - plenty for most rooms
    • Great Audyssey MultEQ room calibration
    • Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS Neural:X
    Cons:
    • Less power than some models in this price range, but it won't make much difference in most rooms.
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Learn more: Best AV Receiver Under $1000

Top Receiver Under $2000

You are getting to some serious hardware around the $2000 mark. If your budget extends this high, you are spoiled for choice and can’t go wrong.

You will get excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail, meaning you can be sure of outstanding performance and all the features you could want.

You have a broad choice here between receivers with more channels – Denon and Onkyo – and brands like Arcam and Anthem, which have fewer channels but aim for more pleasing sound quality.

The problem with ‘sound quality’ is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You probably won’t agree with me about what sounds ‘good’ – although, when push comes to shove, you’ll find I’m correct. 🙂

And when you get to this level of engineering, you are dealing with fine margins. These receivers may sound slightly different, but who’s to say what is better?

Plus, don’t forget the amplifier is only a part of the audio chain that determines what you hear. As important, if not more, are the speakers you use and how well you control the audio frequencies between the speakers and your ears.

Fixing problems with the frequency response of your room is as important as the equipment you buy. You’ll never get a great sound if your room boosts or cancels certain audio frequencies.

This is why getting a receiver with effective room calibration software is essential. Either that or you’ll need to spend some time and money figuring out the best acoustic treatment for sorting the problems in your room.

Best AV Receiver Under $2000
Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

The mid-range model in the popular Denon AVR-X series. It has more channels than the cheaper AVR-X2800H but less power and zone connections than the AVR-X4800H.

Pros:
  • Excellent, detailed sound.
  • Six HDMI 2.1 inputs and three outputs.
  • Processing and output connections for 11.4 audio.
  • Four independent subwoofer pre-outs.
Cons:
  • Dirac Live room correction is available, but only as a paid upgrade.
  • The cheaper Denon models offer plenty for most people.
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Top Pick: Denon AVR-X3800H

Best AV Receiver Under $2000: Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Denon

The Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Channel receiver should be a contender for anyone in this price range. It’s the receiver I have at home.

This Denon receiver has six HDMI 2.1 8K video inputs – ideal for the latest game consoles – and has most of the features you need for home theater duties.

It also has four independent subwoofer outputs, making getting the perfect low-end balance in your room extremely straightforward.

Most people won’t have the space for four subwoofers, but even two subs can spread the low bass more evenly around the room. Even better is the independent control, which allows for different EQ settings.

Another impressive feature is the processing support for 11.4 channels – and matching pre-out connections on the rear. This will allow you to add at least one power amplifier for two more speaker channels in your room.

The Marantz CINEMA 60 comes at this price point if you prefer the Marantz sound and the stylish new look.

And, if you are looking for ‘audiophile’ sound quality, maybe the Anthem MRX 540 8K might work better for you.

It has fewer channels than the other receivers, but you are paying for small improvements in sound quality over the number of features.

Denon AVR-X3800H Specifications
Channels 9.4
Dolby Atmos 5.4.4/7.4.2 (Support for 11.4)
HDMI In/Out 6/3 (eARC)
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 5x Stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 2x Coaxial, 1x Phono
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 11.4-Ch / Zone 2 (2-Ch)
Other Audio Out ---
USB Connection 1x Front
Zones Zone 2 (HDMI & 2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Dirac Live (Optional Upgrade)
Power (W/Ch)* 105
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 4 - 16
UHD Support 8K/60Hz AB & 4K/120Hz AB, HDCP2.3
HDR Support Dynamic HDR, HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (Send & Receive), AirPlay 2, HEOS, Spotify Connect, Roon Tested
Voice Control Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomePod
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Music
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders DSD, LPCM (Up to 192/24 7.1ch), Auro-3D, 360 Reality Audio
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, IMAX Enhanced
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 6.6 x 14.9 in | 434 x 167 x 378 mm (w/o antenna)
Weight (lbs/Kg) 27.6/12.5
Year 2022
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Receivers Under $2000

  1. Marantz CINEMA 60 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The entry-level full-size model in the Marantz CINEMA series. More expensive than the slimline 70s and has fewer channels than the higher-priced CINEMA 50 and 40 receivers.

    Pros:
    • Excellent Marantz musical sound
    • Modern new design
    • Three HDMI 2.1 8K inputs
    • 7.2 channel pre outs for power amplifiers
    Cons:
    • You can get 9 channel receivers for similar money
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  2. Anthem MRX 540 8K 5.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The entry-level model in the excellent Anthem MRX series. Updated for 8K video support, the focus is on great sound quality.

    Pros:
    • Top Anthem sound quality
    • 7 HDMI 2.1 8K inputs
    • 7.2 channel pre outs for power amplifiers
    • 1x optical audio output
    Cons:
    • Only 5.2 channels and no zone outputs
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  3. Yamaha RX-A4A AVENTAGE 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    An excellent receiver at the lower end of the AVENTAGE series of receivers. Not as many channels as the higher-spec receivers, but more power and features than the RX-A2A.

    Pros:
    • Yamaha receivers deliver an excellent dynamic performance
    • 7 HDMI 2.1 8K inputs
    • Surround:AI, Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization & DTS Neural:X processing modes
    • 7.2 channel RCA pre outs for alternative amplification
    Cons:
    • If you don't need a few extra features, the RX-A2A is cheaper
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  4. Sony ES STR-AZ3000ES 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The cheapest 9-channel model in the latest Sony ES series but with slightly less power than the more expensive STR-AZ5000ES.

    Pros:
    • Good value for a 9 channel receiver
    • Four 8K HDMI 2.1 inputs
    • 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 Dolby Atmos out of the box
    • Two additional composite video outputs
    Cons:
    • Limited pre out connections
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Top Receiver Under $3000

If your budget is around $3000, you will have a hard choice because the receivers are all outstanding.

The main differences at this price level are the models with more channels – like the Denon AVR-X6700, Marantz CINEMA 50 and SR6015 – and the audiophile sound quality of the Anthem and Arcam models.

Arcam and Anthem should be on your list if you need top-notch performance for movies and music. However, it’s a fine line.

It doesn’t mean Marantz and Denon can’t sound great with music. They can, especially the Marantz.

But their particular strength is movie audio and features. It may be frustrating, but in the end, these things come down to personal taste – and what you are used to listening to.

It’s not black and white, whatever some people may tell you.

If you are unsure – and sound quality is essential – the only way is to go and demo the amps yourself. Go and speak to your local AV store that has a listening room.

Best AV Receiver Under $3000
Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

The entry-level model in the outstanding Arcam HDA series. Updated to support HDMI 2.1, this receiver has less power than the more expensive models.

Pros:
  • Slightly cheaper version of the flagship Arcam AVR31, with fewer features.
  • Audiophile sound quality.
  • 11.2 pre-outs for extra speakers.
  • Dirac Live automatic room correction.
Cons:
  • Only 7-channels out of the box, but you can install external power amplifiers.
  • It's cheap for an Arcam, but not compared to other brands.
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Top Pick: Arcam AVR11

Best AV Receiver Under $3000: Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Arcam

The Arcam AVR11 7.2-channel amp is a top-notch option for any room.

It is right up there if you want a receiver that can sound great for music and movies. You might even be able to replace your high-end stereo amplifier if you currently use one just for music.

Although it is limited to 7-channels, the AVR11 has 11.2 pre-outs on the back. So, you can connect external power amplifiers and get an excellent 5.2.6/7.2.4 speaker layout.

The AVR11 is an updated version of the Arcam AVR10, released in 2020. The only difference is that the AVR11 has HDMI 2.1 inputs and support for 4K/120 and 8K/60 video sources.

If you don’t need this, you might want to try and find the older AVR10, as it will probably be cheaper.

However, availability will reduce over time, so it might prove hard to find. You could always consider buying second-hand.

Good alternatives are the Marantz CINEMA 50 or the older model, the SR6015. The CINEMA 50 would be the best option as it is newer, with full HDMI 2.1 and 8K support. But you should find the older SR6015 cheaper.

The Anthem MRX 740 8K only has 7 channels but sounds excellent. It depends on which features you prioritize most.

Arcam AVR11 Specifications
Channels 7.2
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 (Support for 7.2.4)
HDMI In/Out 7/2 (ARC/eARC - HDMI 2.1)
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 6x stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 4x Coaxial
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 11.2-Ch / Stereo 2-Ch
Other Audio Out 1x Optical
USB Connection 1x Rear (Updates Only)
Zones None
Auto Room Calibration Dirac Live (Ready for Dirac Live Bass Control)
Power (W/Ch)* 80
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 8 recommended
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX®HD, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect
Voice Control No
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders Auro-3D
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Virtual Height, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, IMAX Enhanced
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17-1/16 x 6-3/4 x 16-3/4 in | 433 x 171 x 425 mm
Weight (lbs/Kg) 36.4/16.5
Year 2022
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.02% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative Receivers Under $3000

  1. Marantz CINEMA 50 9.4-Ch AV Receiver

    The cheapest 11.4 channel receiver in the Marantz CINEMA series. The more expensive CINEMA 40 has more power, and the cheaper CINEMA 60 has fewer channels.

    Pros:
    • Top-notch Marantz audio engineering
    • 4 independent subwoofer outputs
    • Processing for an 11.4 layout
    • Optional Dirac Live upgrade available
    Cons:
    • Limited zone outputs compared to other 9 channel receivers
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  2. Sony STR-AZ5000ES 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    Near the top of the latest Sony ES series, this receiver has less power and channels than the AZ7000ES but more features than the cheaper AZ3000ES.

    Pros:
    • Has processing for a 7.2.4 speaker system
    • Four 8K HDMI 2.1 inputs
    • Includes a front HDMI input
    • Works with Acoustic Center Sync (certain Sony TVs only)
    Cons:
    • No phono input
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  3. Yamaha RX-A6A 9.2-Ch AV Receiver

    This receiver is near the top of the Yamaha AVENTAGE range of receivers. It has less power than the RX-A8A but more channels and connections than the RX-A4A.

    Pros:
    • Support for 9.2, 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 speaker layouts out of the box
    • HDMI: 7-in and 3-out with eARC
    • Zone 2 and 3 for other rooms in your house
    • Powerful 150-watts per channel
    Cons:
    • If you don't want a 9-channel speaker layout, the 7-channel Yamaha RX-A4A is cheaper
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  4. Anthem MRX 740 8K 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The mid-range model in the new Anthem 8K series which is updated with HDMI 2.1 inputs and 8K video support. It has fewer channels than the MRX 1140 8K but more features and power than the entry-level MRX 540 8K.

    Pros:
    • Anthem sound quality is among the best
    • 7 HDMI 2.1 8K inputs
    • Powerful 140 watts per channel output
    • 11.2 channel processing and pre outs for larger speaker layout with additional amps
    Cons:
    • Expensive for a 7 channel receiver
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Top High-End Receiver

If you can quite believe it, you’ve still not reached the top of the tree. You will need to invest some serious money to buy one of these beauties – but, you know, sometimes you just need to buy the best.

These AV receivers are the flagship models for each brand, and each has its strengths.

The Denon has the most channels, although the Yamaha, Marantz and Anthem aren’t far behind – and still offer the fantastic sound quality these brands specialize in.

Best High-End AV Receiver
Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver

The flagship receiver in the excellent Arcam HDA series. It has the most power and class G amplification compared to the cheaper versions.

Pros:
  • Audiophile Class G amplification.
  • 8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz and HDMI 2.1 support.
  • 15.2-channel pre-outs for creating a large speaker layout.
  • Dirac Live room correction is the best around.
Cons:
  • It only supports 7-channels out of the box.
  • It is very expensive.
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Top Pick: Arcam AVR31

Best High-End AV Receiver: Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Image Credit: Arcam

The Arcam AVR31 7.2-channel receiver has it all regarding sound quality. It doesn’t have the number of channels the others do. But this is because its Class G amplification excels at providing a dynamic and detailed sound, which is expensive to engineer.

However, an impressive 15.2 pre-out connections on the back will allow you to build a 9.2.6 surround sound system – if you buy some extra power amplifiers.

It’s definitely not cheap – but it is an excellent choice for an audiophile who wants an accurate sound with low distortion.

Yes, you sacrifice some bells and whistles typical in other receivers, but the focus is on high-end sound and video quality. If that is your priority, you will be delighted with this receiver.

The AVR31 is an updated version of the Arcam AVR30 and includes HDMI 2.1 inputs, HDCP2.3 and support for 8K video passthrough.

This is the primary difference, so check out the AVR30 if you don’t need 8K support, as you may find it cheaper.

The Denon AVR-X8500HA offers 13 channels and the most power, 150 watts per channel. However, there are four receivers with 11 channels out of the box, the Yamaha RX-A8A, the Anthem MRX 1140 8K, the Marantz SR8015 and the NAD T 778.

Arcam AVR31 Specifications
Channels 7.2
Dolby Atmos 5.2.2 (Support for 9.2.6)
HDMI In/Out 7/3 (ARC/eARC - HDMI 2.1)
Other Video In None
Other Video Out None
Audio In 6x stereo RCA, 2x Optical, 4x Coaxial
Audio Pre Out/Line Out 15.2-Ch + Zone 2 (2-Ch) / Stereo 2-Ch
Other Audio Out 1x Optical
USB Connection 1x Rear (Updates Only)
Zones Zone 2 (HDMI & 2-ch audio - powered or line out)
Auto Room Calibration Dirac Live (Ready for Dirac Live Bass Control)
Power (W/Ch)* 120
Speaker Impedance (Ohms) 8 recommended
UHD Support 8K/60p & 4K/120p, HDCP2.3
HDR Support HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Network/Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX®HD, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect
Voice Control No
Dolby Decoders Dolby Digital, DD+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos
DTS Decoders DTS, DTS Express, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD HR Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X
Other Audio Decoders Auro-3D
Selected Processing Modes Dolby Surround, Dolby Virtual Height, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, IMAX Enhanced
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17-1/16 x 6-3/4 x 16-3/4 in | 433 x 171 x 425 mm
Weight (lbs/Kg) 39.9/18.1
Year 2022
* 8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.02% THD, 2 Channels Driven

Want More Choice? Alternative High-End Receivers

  1. Marantz SR8015 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The flagship receiver in 2020's SR series, with more channels and power for your money than with the cheaper models.

    Pros:
    • A great all-rounder for the price
    • Good for music with Marantz HDAM engineering
    • Processing for 13.2 speaker layouts
    • Top quality Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction
    Cons:
    • Only one 8K HDMI input
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  2. Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The updated version of the flagship AVR-X8500H. This model supports HDMI 2.1 and 8K video passthrough.

    Pros:
    • 13 channels of audio out-of-the-box for a large Dolby Atmos layout.
    • Hefty 150 watts per channel output.
    • Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room calibration is excellent.
    • Several zone outputs for sending content to other rooms.
    Cons:
    • Huge amplifier, so make sure you have the space to install it.
    • Pricey, but you get a lot for your money.
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  3. Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The top-of-the-range receiver in Yamaha's AVENTAGE series. The main difference to the cheaper models is more channels, connections and power.

    Pros:
    • Audiophile AVENTAGE audio performance.
    • Unique Surround:AI processing mode.
    • Balanced stereo XLR input and output.
    • Powerful 150-watt output for large rooms.
    Cons:
    • No processing support for larger Atmos layouts than 11.2.
    • YPAO Multipoint works fine, but it isn't the best room correction.
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  4. Anthem MRX 1140 8K 11.2-Ch AV Receiver

    The MRX range's flagship receiver has more channels than the cheaper MRX 740 8K. The new 8K versions have HDMI 2.1 support compared to the 2020 versions.

    What Is It: The MRX range's flagship receiver has more channels than the cheaper MRX 740 8K. The new 8K versions have HDMI 2.1 support compared to the 2020 versions.
    Pros:
    • Great sound for movies and music.
    • Excellent Anthem Genesis Room Correction (ARC).
    • Processing for 15.2-channels.
    • Premium 32-bit/768 kHz DAC (AKM AK4458VN).
    Cons:
    • No voice control options.
    • A relatively limited number of audio inputs, but enough for most people.
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Learn more: Best High-End AV Receivers

Quick Comparison

Image Model HDMI In/Out Power (W/Ch) Dolby Atmos
Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Ch AV Receiver 4/1 (eARC) 80 None Check Price
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-S660H 5.2-Ch AV Receiver 6/1 (eARC) 75 None Check Price
Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Marantz CINEMA 70s 7.2-Ch AV Receiver 6/1 (eARC) 50 5.2.2 Check Price
Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X2700H 7.2-Ch AV Receiver 6/2 (eARC) 95 5.2.2 Check Price
Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X3800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver 6/3 (eARC) 105 5.4.4 / 7.4.2 (Support for 11.4) Check Price
Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X4800H 9.4-Ch AV Receiver 7/3 (eARC) 125 5.2.4 / 7.2.2 (Support for 7.2.4) Check Price
Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver
Yamaha RX-A8A AVENTAGE 11.2-Ch AV Receiver 7/3 (eARC) 150 7.2.4 Check Price
Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Arcam AVR11 7.2-Ch AV Receiver 7/2 (eARC) 80 5.2.2 (Support for 7.2.4) Check Price
Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver
Arcam AVR31 7.2-Ch AV Receiver 7/3 (eARC) 120 5.2.2 (Support for 9.2.6) Check Price
Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver
Denon AVR-X8500HA 13.2-Ch AV Receiver 7+1/3 (eARC) 150 7.2.6 / 9.2.4 Check Price

How Do You Choose an AV Receiver?

These are some of the things you want to consider before buying a home theater receiver:

  1. Price: AV receivers vary from budget to high-end models. You can quickly narrow your choices if you set a limit for your maximum price.
  2. Channels: how many surround speakers do you want? The minimum is a 5.1 system, up to 13.2 or larger Atmos speaker layouts. Or you could set up a 2.1 or 3.1 system if you don’t want surround sound.
  3. Connections: which external devices do you want to connect to your receiver? Make sure it has all the right connections for everything you need.
  4. Features: which features do you need? 4K or 8K video support? Dolby Atmos? HDR support? Zone playback in different rooms? Determine what you want, and then find a model that ticks all the boxes so you don’t pay extra for features you don’t need.
  5. Network Connections: do you want an ethernet connection for streaming content and local network streaming? Or do you need Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity?
  6. Power: how loud do you want the sound in your room? Power output makes less difference than you might think. But, if you like it loud and want to drive your speakers harder, you will want more power.
  7. Speakers: will it drive your speakers properly? Receivers support many speakers, and you will probably be fine. However, consider the maximum power and impedance of your speakers. If you don’t have speakers yet, check these specifications before buying.

Read on for more details about all the different options.

AV Receiver Buying Guide

If you’re stuck understanding all the technical jargon and features available, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

AV amplifiers can be confusing, even for more experienced users.

So, this buying guide is designed to help you navigate the often complex world of AV receivers, demystifying technical jargon and assisting you in making the right choice for your needs.

I’ll delve into the key features to look for, from the number of inputs and outputs, sound formats, and power ratings to the latest technologies such as HDMI 2.1, eARC, and all the different speaker layouts you need to consider.

I will also discuss the importance of matching your receiver to your speakers and the growing network capabilities, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and multi-room audio.

Whether you’re new to home audio or a seasoned enthusiast, our guide will give you the essential knowledge to make an informed decision.

So, without further ado, let’s begin your journey toward extraordinary audio-visual experiences!

What Is an AV Receiver and What Does It Do?

An AV receiver acts as a central hub in a home theater system. It is the ‘brain’ of your whole setup.

  • It makes connecting and selecting various playback devices easy – Blu-ray players, game consoles, video cameras, CD players – even content from your mobile devices.
  • It is a multichannel amplifier that powers your surround sound speaker system.
  • It sends the picture to your TV or projector.

Connecting all your devices into one unit makes setting up and operating multiple audio-visual sources much more straightforward.

Do You Need a Receiver for Surround Sound?

There are other ways, but it’s probably the best way.

An AV receiver will decode a surround sound soundtrack from a DVD, Blu-ray or cable TV box and then send the audio to your surround sound speakers. All in a single box.

You can add more devices with different connection types and easily change your speakers if you want to upgrade.

Alternative options are:

  • buy an all-in-one home theater system
  • buy a wireless speaker system that can be configured for surround sound
  • buy a separate preamplifier and power amplifier – like the Yamaha MX-A5200 and Yamaha CX-A5200

You should choose the best option that suits your situation, but a receiver has plenty of advantages over these other options.

What Are the Advantages of Receivers?

So, why should you consider buying an AV receiver to set up surround sound in your room? The main benefits of AV receivers are:

  • Available at various prices – from budget models to high-end audiophile brands.
  • They work with a range of speakers and subwoofers.
  • You can keep your speakers and upgrade your receiver later.
  • You can keep your receiver and upgrade your speakers later.
  • Easy to install a wide range of speaker layouts – from 2.0 to 7.2 to 9.2.4. Plus, you can change the configuration later and add more speakers – or remove some.
  • They come with many types of input connections. It is very flexible to add and remove external devices.

The main takeaway is that a receiver gives you more flexibility than most alternatives.

How Many Channels Do You Need?

AV amps support different surround sound speaker layouts, so you must buy a receiver for your desired speaker configuration.

One channel will power one speaker.

A stereo amplifier will have two channels to power two speakers – left and right.

However, an AV receiver supports surround sound, so it has more channels to power additional speakers.

The standard surround sound speaker layout is 5.1. This means three speakers at the front – center, front left and front right – plus two rear surround speakers on the left and right.

Like this:

5.1 Surround Sound System
5.1 surround sound system

The .1 refers to a subwoofer, a speaker designed to play very low bass frequencies. This can add fantastic weight and rumble to a movie soundtrack – and really annoy the neighbors!

The following table summarizes the typical surround sound speaker layouts:

Surround Sound Speaker Layout Table
Common surround sound speaker layouts

The configuration you choose may depend on how much you want to spend. After all, more speakers = more money.

Or, maybe the size and shape of your room will dictate the type of surround speaker layout you can have.

Can You Use 5.1 Speakers with a 7.1 Receiver?

Most receivers now have a minimum of 7.1 channels.

If you only want 5.1, that’s fine; you can still buy a 7.1 model and just not connect the extra two channels.

Or, you could use those extra two channels to power a set of stereo speakers in another room. If you want this feature, look for a receiver that supports multiple zones.

But, if you only need 5.1 audio, you may save money by buying a receiver with only 5.1 channels.

However, these days, only a few budget models will be 5.1, so you may not have a choice.

What are Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D Receivers?

A recent development is Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio, known as object-based soundtracks, which place sound effects using a combination of height, front/back and left/right speakers.

To fully use this type of audio, you need to install two or more overhead or upfiring speakers in your room – and the number you can install depends on how many speaker channels the receiver has.

As a rule, the more expensive models will allow for more speakers.

Dolby Atmos Overhead and Upfiring Speakers

For Dolby Atmos, you must add a minimum of two height or upfiring speakers to your 5.1 or 7.1 setup – up to a maximum of 64!

When writing this down, you add the number of Dolby Atmos speakers to the end of the standard layout.

So, while standard surround sound with one subwoofer is 5.1 – with two Dolby Atmos speakers, it is 5.1.2. Or if you have a 7.1 surround system with four Atmos speakers, it will be 7.1.4.

And a system with four height speakers and two subwoofers will be 5.2.4 – or 7.2.4. You get the idea.

These height speakers can be at the front, middle, or rear of the room, and you tell the receiver where they are located when you set them up.

High-End Dolby Atmos Speakers
Klipsch RP-500SA II Dolby Atmos-enabled Speakers
What Is It: A pair of Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers for creating an immersive surround sound effect.
Pros:
  • Versatile: can be installed as up-firing, height or on-wall rear surround sound speakers.
  • Switchable between Atmos and surround modes
  • Great quality Klipsch speaker technology
  • Excellent sound
Cons:
  • Expensive, there are cheaper alternatives
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Dolby suggests that the extra speakers for Dolby Atmos should be in-ceiling speakers – or special Atmos elevation speakers – also known as upfiring speakers.

An example of an upfiring speaker is the Klipsch RP-500SA II Dolby speaker pictured above.

These speakers are easier to install as you just place them on top of your existing floor-standing or bookshelf speakers.

In fact, the Klipsch speakers highlighted above are more advanced than most.

They can also be installed as height or on-wall speakers, and you can switch between Atmos and surround sound modes.

But you don’t have to buy dedicated Atmos speakers.

Many people just use standard direct-firing speakers for the height effects and say they prefer the sound that way.

DTS:X Speaker Configurations

DTS:X processing supports up to 32 different speaker locations from 5.1 and up – so you don’t need additional overhead or upfiring speakers.

However, you won’t enjoy the sound from above in a 5.1 layout – so height speakers will be best for making the most of DTS:X.

Aside from that, the rules for speaker location are pretty much the same as Dolby Atmos.

Auro-3D Speaker Layouts

There is another option when it comes to 3D surround sound, and that is Auro-3D. Some of the top-end models provide this as an optional add-on.

Developed by Auro Technologies, Auro-3D builds on a standard 5.1 or 7.1 sound system, adding height and an overhead layer.

The basic setup is a 9.1 speaker configuration with more overhead speakers at the front and rear, and there is also a 10.1 version that adds a single ‘Voice of God’ speaker directly above the listening position.

If you really don’t have enough speakers at this point, there are further options for 11.1 and 13.1 layouts!

What Connections Does Your Receiver Need?

One of the best/most scary things about AV receivers is the sheer number of connections on the back.

Rear View Of a Home Theater Receiver

Initially, this may make it look like something you might find on the console of a spaceship, but the advantage is you can easily connect a wide range of devices to your home theater system.

However, the number and type of connections will vary between models.

When choosing a model to buy, you must consider all the devices you will add to your setup – and what type of connections they require.

One of the most important connections is HDMI, and you will have a few of these as inputs – and one or more outputs.

Most modern AV equipment uses HDMI to send pictures and sound – all down the same wire.

Therefore, if you look at the number of HDMI inputs on the amplifier, this will determine how many input devices you can connect.

5 HDMI inputs & 1 HDMI output on the rear of an AV receiver
5 HDMI inputs & 1 HDMI output on the rear of an AV receiver

For an AV receiver, it is usually written as 5/1 – meaning there are 5 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output.

Therefore, you can connect five external devices to the receiver via HDMI – and send the output to a single TV or projector.

So, you must consider how many devices you might need to connect and ensure the receiver you buy has enough.

Sometimes, you may see the HDMI input connections written as 6+1, meaning there are 6 HDMI inputs on the back of the unit and one on the front – which can be helpful for temporarily adding a device into your system.

As for HDMI outputs, most people only require one – for their TV or projector.

However, some models offer two (or more), which can be helpful if you want to send the picture to another display or projector simultaneously or send different content to another zone.

Besides HDMI connections, you should consider all the other devices you may want to connect:

  • Games console?
  • Video camera?
  • CD player?
  • Cable TV box?

And what outputs they have:

  • Component video?
  • S-Video?
  • Composite video?
  • Optical audio?
  • Coaxial digital audio?
  • Stereo analog audio?

Does the receiver offer all the connection types you need?

And maybe you should allow for a couple of extra inputs for future purchases?

Budget receivers will have fewer connections, and more expensive models will have more options than you probably need. But, it can sometimes be better to be safe than sorry.

You might find this video useful to familiarize yourself with the rear of an AV amplifier:

YouTube video

What Is a Network Receiver?

Another feature you might want to look out for is network connectivity.

A network receiver will have an ethernet connection, allowing you to connect it to your home network.

This can allow various Internet-based features like streaming online music and radio services, such as Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and Napster.

You can also stream your own music collection over the network using DLNA.

Ethernet connection on an AV receiver
Ethernet connection on an AV receiver

While most modern receivers will have ethernet ports, the best home theater receivers will also connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast or AirPlay.

With these, you can stream content from your network – or send video and music to your system via a mobile device.

You must decide which connection types are best for your existing equipment – and purchase the receiver that ticks most boxes.

AV Amplifiers with Multi-Room Wireless Speakers

You may also wish to connect wirelessly to external speakers around your home, and many newer receivers have their own multi-room wireless speaker systems.

For example, Yamaha has their MusicCast system, and Denon and Marantz use the HEOS wireless system:

Top Wireless Smart Speaker
Denon Home 150 Compact Wireless Smart Speaker
What Is It: A portable wireless smart speaker that works with the HEOS system found on Denon and Marantz AV receivers.
Pros:
  • Excellent multi-room audio option
  • Connects to Denon or Marantz receivers - or works standalone
  • HEOS Built-in, Alexa Built-in, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth
  • Stream audio from Amazon Music, Apple Music, TIDAL and more
  • Larger 250 and 350 speakers are also available
BUY AT AMAZON FIND THE BEST PRICE

If you want to do this, go with a brand that provides multi-room wireless speakers as an extension to the receiver.

This can be an excellent alternative to the more established wireless multi-room speaker systems such as Sonos or Bose.

But, if you already have Sonos speakers, some receivers support Sonos Connect, allowing you to connect directly to your existing network.

If this sounds useful, ensure the receiver you buy has the correct network connectivity.

How Much Power Should Your Receiver Have?

Many models of AV amplifiers will show the power rating of the device.

On a basic level, this indicates how loud you can have it in the room, but there is more to it than that.

As a rule, the more expensive models will have more power per channel.

But there are many reasons they cost more – such as build quality and better components – and these are often more important than having a bit more power per channel.

Comparing the Power Output of Different Models

Comparing the power ratings of two different AV receivers can be difficult.

There are different ways of measuring the power output of an amplifier, so you must be sure you are comparing like with like.

The bigger number isn’t always better and doesn’t mean anything unless you compare power numbers rated using the same measurements.

The standard variables are:

  • the number of channels being driven – e.g., 2 channels
  • the frequency of the test signal – e.g., 20Hz-20kHz
  • the impedance of the speaker being driven – e.g., 6 ohms
  • the recorded level of distortion (Total Harmonic Distortion). Less than 1% is acceptable – e.g., 0.06% THD

While you will see different specifications, a good one to look for is a power rating given for 8 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz with 2 channels driven – and a THD of less than 1%.

This standard rating will give a good ballpark performance for day-to-day use.

However, some manufacturers don’t provide this measurement.

Amplifier power specifications

The best rating would be when all the surround channels are driven simultaneously – not just two – because this is what happens when you watch a surround sound movie.

But very few brands give these numbers.

A cynic might say this is because they like to use tests that make the power output appear higher!

However, using just the front two speakers is still helpful because these are driven hardest during everyday use, providing a valuable real-world reflection of regular use.

Power vs. Volume

Finally, a higher power rating doesn’t mean an amplifier will be significantly louder than one with a lower rating. And many people won’t need the extra volume anyway.

Doubling the power only increases the sound level by 3dB; to the human ear, 10dB is ‘twice as loud.’

So, increasing the power from 50 to 100 watts isn’t going to make that much difference to how loud everything is.

It will be louder, and 3 dB is a noticeable difference, but it’s not as much as you might think.

Final point. More power doesn’t necessarily mean it will sound better.

  • It may give you a more controlled bottom end.
  • It should handle the loud bits better – especially in movies.
  • It might give a cleaner sound.
  • It might make your speakers sound better as you can drive them harder.

But, the difference might not be as significant as the numbers suggest.

Any improvement in sound quality will have more to do with the build quality of the receiver – rather than the ‘power.’

How Much Power Do You Really Need?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer, and much will depend on the size of your room and how loud you like it when watching a movie.

The bottom line is that most people don’t need to worry too much.

Typical users won’t run their receivers even close to maximum volume, so they won’t use all the available power.

Generally, AV receiver power ratings will range from 50 to 150 watts (8 Ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, less than 1% THD, 2 Channels Driven). And 50 to 100 watts will be plenty for most rooms and speakers.

However, buying an amplifier with more power is no problem if you want. Ensure your speakers can handle the extra power if you plan to turn it up loud for long periods.

120-150 watts should mean you’ll never need to worry about this again.

Do you regularly turn the volume control over 75% and near the maximum? In that case, you might benefit from a receiver with more power because constantly running an amplifier near its limits is not a great idea.

But if you have speakers that are harder to drive, more power should help them sound better – or you could buy more efficient speakers.

Will Your Speakers Work Properly?

The specifications of your speakers should give a guideline power range that they can handle.

You will have plenty of wiggle room, so you will unlikely have issues unless you take things to extremes.

Speakers also have an impedance rating, which the amplifier should support.

Most amps and speakers designed for home use will work fine together, and you probably don’t need to worry, but if you have some exotic speakers, you might want to check this.

What Are Listening Modes and Surround Sound Formats?

There are several different surround sound audio formats on a DVD or Blu-ray disc; you learned about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X earlier.

However, LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio (and many more) are also common in home theater.

Blu-ray Audio Codecs
Blu-ray Video and Audio Codecs

Some may be supported by your amp, and some may not, but if you need something specific, you might want to check if the receiver supports it.

Receivers also have several listening modes that can alter how you hear the sound on your speaker system.

Most brands have similar options. But, again, if you’re looking for something specific, you should check that a receiver has what you want.

Some of the most useful audio options are Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X.

These upmixing modes fully use your 5.2.2 or 5.2.4 speaker system and overhead speakers.

Usually, if you play stereo or 5.1 soundtracks, your height speakers aren’t used at all. However, an upmixing sound mode creates a virtual mix that places some audio into your height speakers.

It’s not quite as good as the real thing – but it can be effective – and many people use these for all standard sound formats.

Plus, you get more use from those extra speakers you spent all that time and money installing in your room.

If you don’t have height or elevation speakers, you can still use Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X. For example, you can use them to upmix stereo soundtracks to your 5.1 speakers.

Again, many will enable these for all standard stereo TV transmissions, although others prefer to leave stereo soundtracks in stereo.

Try both and see which you like best.

Often, though, people will draw the line at music. For many, stereo music should only play on the front two speakers, as nature intended!

However, feel free to go wild and spread that stereo music around your room. You rascal.

Learn more about surround sound formats and AV receiver listening modes.

What Are Zones?

Many receivers will have additional zone connections to allow you to send video and/or audio into different areas – or zones.

A zone can be anything you like – another location in the same room, a different room or even outside in your yard.

There may be a single zone 2, or the higher-end receivers often have zones 3 and 4 too.

A zone 2 output is often a line out, which must be connected to another amplifier. Like in the picture below:

Zone 2 line out on the rear of an AV receiver
Zone 2 line out on the rear of an AV receiver

But other receivers have powered channels for the second zone – which connects directly to another set of speakers without needing a separate amplifier.

In some models, you can watch one thing in the main room and something different in another zone – whereas cheaper receivers will only allow you to watch the same thing in two distinct zones.

In some receivers, zones will be audio-only, so it varies greatly.

First, decide what you want to do, and then find a receiver that does it.

Which Series Is Right for You?

Most AV amplifier manufacturers have a range of products at different price points.

They will have a premium series with high-end components and all the latest features.

They will also have a mid-range and budget range set of receivers, which can still give great value for money and fantastic quality.

The quickest way to identify a suitable series is to start with the price.

Setting your maximum budget will narrow down the ones you can buy. Then, find the models with all the features you need.

As a rule, you get what you pay for with AV receivers. The more you spend, the higher-quality sound and better features you will get.

However, be sensible. If you have cheap speakers, you probably won’t hear a big difference in sound quality even if you buy a high-end receiver.

How Do You Buy A Cheap Receiver?

Many receiver manufacturers will bring out a new model each year, and most years, the changes are incremental rather than adding new ‘must-have’ features.

So, if last year’s model is still in stock, you can often grab a bargain. If the receiver has all the features you need, you may not need to pay a premium for the latest model.

This can be one of the best ways to buy a high-end receiver at mid-range or a mid-range at budget prices. However, the stock levels of these older receivers can be limited, and the retailers may run out of stock if you wait too long.

Another way of grabbing a bargain is to purchase a second-hand older model.

Many enthusiasts like to purchase the latest release yearly, so their old receiver will usually be available for a reasonable price. This can be a great way to buy a high-end receiver that is usually out of your price range.

An excellent place to find these bargains is on eBay – for example, you can search the AV receiver listings. Or, try the classified sections in the various forums for home theater fans, such as AV Forums Classifieds and AVS Forum marketplace.

The main downside is that you should be careful of people selling old equipment that is faulty – or doesn’t exist.

However, the places mentioned here are reputable and have systems to protect buyers. Just check out the seller as best you can before parting with your money.

Wrapping Up

Well, there you have it. Phew that is a lot of information to take in.

If you are new to the field of home theater, then it can appear impossible to know where to start. Or what you should be looking out for. Even when you do know about this stuff, it can get confusing!

However, don’t lose sight of the end goal. Having great audio in your room is a fantastic way of experiencing movies and music in your room, and you won’t regret it.

Hopefully, this guide will help you find the best AV amplifiers. Buy a good one, and it will last for years to come.

With a home theater system, you get the amplifier and speakers in one package, which is more straightforward for some people.

Have fun.

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About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been 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. You can find out more here.

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