Saturday, March 25, 2023

Best AV Receiver 2020: Build Your Home Theater Setup the Right Way

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The latest and greatest 4K TVs may be doing wonders for picture quality, but they also tend to be moving toward ever thinner designs. While those new designs make for slicker entertainment setups and also make the TVs easier to move, that thin nature tends not to lend itself to great acoustics. So, when it comes to building a top-notch entertainment center, you can go ahead and let the TV shine, but you should let an AV receiver manage the rest.An AV receiver will sit at the heart of your entire setup, connecting every device for complete control and ease of use. Many TVs and soundbars try to do that now by offering several input ports, but a good AV receiver has far more going on. In addition to the many ports they offer for channeling video streams to your TV, they also have the power and control you need to set up a truly immersive, surround sound array. Many newer AV receivers also support advanced connectivity features with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth available. As we’ve picked out only the best AV receivers, you’ll find all those features and plenty more here.

TL;DR – These are the Best AV Receivers:

1. Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-channel AV Receiver

Best AV Receiver

Our Pick

Yamaha RX-V4A 5.2-Channel AV Receiver

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There are perhaps more important things for your gaming experience than Dolby Atmos, and the Yamaha RX-V4A has them. This AV receiver is ready to deliver a thumpy experience with its 5.2-channel surround sound, and you can take advantage of DTS:X and Dolby Digital audio to make your games more acoustically immersive.

But, looking past audio, the Yamaha RX-V4A is ready for what’s coming in gaming. That’s thanks to its inclusion of four HDMI 2.1 inputs and an HDMI 2.1 output. That means it can support 4K/60Hz video coming in and going out, and a firmware update will push that to 8K/60Hz or 4K/120Hz. In addition to that high bar of quality, this receiver supports gaming features such as variable refresh rate and Auto Low Latency Mode.

2. Pioneer VSX-934 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Entry-level AV Receiver

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Pioneer VSX-934 7.2-channel AV Receiver

On Abt

If you’re looking to dip your toes into the AVR pool, the Pioneer VSX-934 is an excellent entry. At right around $300, this AVR has enough to get you started with some room to grow. The seven amplified channels can accommodate a few different speaker configurations, including 5.1 with bi-amped front channels, 5.1.2 for Dolby Atmos, or even some less common setups like 3.1.2. The VSX-934 has Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization to give you a simulated Atmos experience without needing extra speakers. And it actually works pretty well, but it requires a firmware update that was released early in 2019. It also has Sonos compatibility and DTS Play-Fi.

Most surround AVRs have some form of room correction built in, and for the VSX-934 it’s Pioneer’s MCACC. Unfortunately, that’s one of the drawbacks of this model, but it’s easy enough to get around. Speaker distance can be set manually in the AVR settings, and relative channel levels can be set using a free or cheap SPL (sound pressure level) app. And since the worst room correction problems exist in the low frequencies, try and get a subwoofer with built-in room correction. It will deal with any unruly low-end better than MCACC.

3. Denon AVR-X3700H 9.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Midrange AV Receiver

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Denon AVR-X3700H 9.2-channel AV Receiver

On Amazon

While some AV receivers can reach near-astronomical prices, the Denon AVR-X3700H offers a middle-of-the-road option. It’s not cheap, but you’ll be getting a whole lot of features for your money. This 9.2-channel receiver can naturally support an extensive surround sound setup, and it’ll back that up with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and more audio enhancements for an even more compelling 3D audio experience. If you want to relax and enjoy some music, you’ll also enjoy support for AirPlay 2, Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM directly on the receiver.

The Denon AVR-X3700H is prepared for modern viewing experiences as well. It supports video signals up to 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz and features like eARC, Auto Low Latency Mode, and variable refresh rates. And, you can enjoy your content in a wide variety of HDR formats from HLG to Dolby Vision. So, whether you want to stream the latest movies, watch high-quality broadcast TV, or enjoy a high-end gaming experience, this receiver is ready.

4. Anthem MRX 740 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best for Audio Lovers with a Bigger Room

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Anthem MRX 740 7.2-channel AV Receiver

On Crutchfield

In an ideal world, you might have a simple room with very little to affect the acoustics, but reality is hardly ever ideal. So, if you’ve got a big room that leaves you trying to tweak the sound in, the Anthem MRX 740 AV receiver can be a big help. This 7.2-channel receiver is highly flexible in how you use it, letting you reassign amp channels to power surround speakers or bi-amplify speakers that need more juice. With your speakers arranged and powered how you want, you can then use Anthem Room Correction software to measure and adjust the audio to perfection. And, once they’re set, you can enjoy features like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

The Anthem MRX 740 also supports 4K60Hz HDR video signals through its seven HDMI 2.0b ports. It features two HDMI out ports as well as a port dedicated to eARC so your TV can send surround sound audio back to the receiver. The Anthem MRX 740 is also prepared for a future where you might need even more from your HDMI ports. The HDMI board is designed for easy user upgradability, so you’ll be able to swap it out for a new board in the future if 8K video starts calling your name.

5. Marantz NR1711 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Slim AV Receiver

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Marantz NR1711 7.2-channel AV Receiver

On Crutchfield

Marantz takes it know-how in audio performance and packs it all into a slim AV receiver with the Marantz NR1711. This compact receiver can slip into tight quarters thanks to its constrained proportions – it’s just 4.1 inches tall. You won’t miss out on much in terms of performance by going small, though. It offers up seven poweramps to support a 7.2-channel setup. You also get the option of sticking with a 5.1-channel setup in one room so that you can use the same receiver to offer stereo audio to a second zone.

In terms of video capabilities, the Marantz NR1711 is built for the latest features. It has just a single HDMI output, but it’s capable of 8K/60Hz or 4K/120Hz video signals, and there’s a corresponding HDMI input for pass-through. The other HDMI ports may not accept an 8K input, but the Marantz receiver can upscale video from those ports to 8K. The Marantz NR1711 won’t leave you wanting for HDR support either.

6. Marantz SR8015 11.2-channel AV Receiver

Best AV Receiver for Audiophiles

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Marantz SR8015 11.2 Channel AV Receiver

On Amazon

If audio comes first and gaming comes second, then you should check out the Marantz SR8015. This receiver comes at a high price, but it has what you need for a healthy dose of gaming as well as some serious audio chops. The Marantz SR8015 is capable of pumping out some serious sound with 140W/ch at 8 ohms, and it can drive 11 channels as well as two subs. That’ll make for some compelling surround sound aided along by a host of audio enhancement from Dolby and DTS, including Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, DTS:X Pro, and DTS HD Master.

When it comes to video, the Marantz SR8015 can still keep up. It supports up to 8K/60Hz video or 4K/120Hz, and it can upscale content to 8K from any of its HDMI inputs. It also supports a wide range of HDR formats. And, while you’re gaming, you can make the most of variable refresh rate and Auto Low Latency Mode support.

7. Denon AVR-X8500H 13.2-channel AV Receiver

Best for if you want everything

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Denon AVR-X8500H 13.2-channel AV Receiver

On Amazon

You want all of the channels, you say? Then the Denon AVR-X8500H is for you. With thirteen amplified channels that can support 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 Atmos configurations, Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Alexa integration, and IMAX Enhanced and HEOS compatibility, this AVR has you covered. It also supports up to three separate zones for audio and video, so it can truly be the hub of your home and not just your home theater. Once HDMI 2.1 is released, there will be a hardware upgrade available to support 8K to keep it on top of technology, and it already supports eARC. As with the X3600H, the X8500H supports Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri for voice control.

8. Denon AVR-X6700H 11.2-channel AV Receiver

Best 8K Receiver

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Denon AVR-X6700H 11.2-channel AV Receiver

On Amazon

If you want to go all in on your video quality, you won’t want to miss out on the option of 8K or 4K/120Hz that’s available on the Denon AVR-X6700H receiver. Thanks to the latest HDMI spec, you can can run video and video games right through this receiver for the highest quality or a marriage of quality and smooth visuals, and you’ll still get to see that content with HDR and 4:4:4 Pure Color sub sampling. The Denon AVR-X6700H supports pretty much the full stack of HDR formats available as well, with premium versions like Dolby Vision and HDR10+ as well as the new Dynamic HDR and the broadcast standard HLG.

This receiver is no slouch when it comes to audio either. It’s got a ton of power, and it can split that out to an 11.2-channel surround setup. You can also split up speakers to set up multiple rooms. You also get some of the best surround sound enhancements from DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X, and DTS: X Pro to Dolby Atmos and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology.

The Future for AV Receivers

Honestly, the AVR market hasn’t made many leaps forward in the past few years. Most significantly has been the addition of pass-through for 4K and HDR signals and an improvement to upconverting. But on the horizon is HDMI 2.1 and HDCP 2.3 (which we’re starting to see adopted). Maybe because of that you’re thinking of waiting for the new (possible) crop of AVRs to be announced and released.

The question is then, what will HDMI 2.1 get you? Most importantly will be a significant increase in throughput, from 18 Gbps with 2.0 to 48 Gbps with 2.1. That will allow 4K signals at 120Hz (something we’ve only had possible with DisplayPort previously), or 8K at 60Hz. But hold up just a second. It will also require something that’s sending that signal and a display to accept it. So while having an AVR with HDMI 2.1 will be very important, we’re still a little ways away from it being necessary. And if there’s one truth in technology, it’s that there’s always another big thing coming around the corner.

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John Higgins has been writing and testing all manner of audio, video, computer, and gaming gear since the early ’00s. He has written for print and online publications including Home Theater, Wirecutter, Sound & Vision, SoundStage!, and Channel Guide. He is also a post audio editor, composer, and musician in Los Angeles.

Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark


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