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Published Oct. 11, 2021

An AV receiver is the hub of any quality home theater. These devices offer a streamlined solution to managing multiple sonic and visual inputs and outputs. Signals enter from Bluetooth, DVD player, television, HD radio, and more, and are then processed and exported to your screen and surround-sound system.

Like audio receivers of yore, AV receivers act as amplifiers to boost the sonic signal and send it to your speakers. Great sound requires detailed quality and amplification. But while older audio receivers made this task their sole function, today’s AV receivers pack amplification into the same box as…everything else. Media technology is complicated. Having a discrete device for every input you might want would require too many cords to untangle. The best audio receivers streamline this process, giving your cable box finesse and ease of use so that when it comes time to sit down for a slasher flick or listen to a concerto, you can have it all at the press of a button. 

How We Picked The Best AV Receivers

Methodology

To create this list, we used our own experiences as audiophiles and media buffs, while scouring the marketplace for AV receivers with everything you might need to have a top-notch home theater with great visuals and shimmering sound. We reviewed more than 25 different devices from eight manufacturers looking for the specs that matter. 

  • Audio Power: While some AV units don’t deliver the same power as a true audio receiver, the best ones give you everything you need for a thunderous and crisp audio experience. We looked for AV units with excellent quality audio and 3D sound. Where we found the best of the best, we noted it.
  • Channels and Inputs: The two main functions of an AV receiver are to amplify sound and to aggregate and streamline channels of inputs. We looked for AV receivers that are exceptionally good at streamlining multiple channels, as well as systems with special or future-proofed inputs.
  • Gaming: A home theater isn’t just about bingeing TV shows, or hosting Antonioni film screenings with cocktails and olives. Some people are here for games, too. We made sure to look for gamer-centic systems that offer low latency, high-refresh-rate video processing, and high-frame-rate 4K with little lag.
  • Multiroom Sound: A top-notch AV receiver need not be contained to the living room. We looked for AV units that double as a home audio terminal for the whole house, noting units that include connections for multiroom wireless speakers.

The Best AV Receivers: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: YAMAHA RX-V6A 7.2-Channel AV Receiver with MusicCast

All-Around Sound

This true midrange AV receiver has all the right features for a decent price. YAMAHA

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Why It Made The Cut: With solid amplification, wireless surround sound technology, gamer-focused fast visual refresh rates coming, and multiroom audio, this AV device covers everything that most users would want

Specs:

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Rated Output Power: 100 watts
  • Wireless/Bluetooth: Yes
  • 4K: Yes, 4K Passthrough: 8K60B, 4K120AB (8K upgradeable)
  • HDMI Inputs/Outputs: 7 in/1 out  (HDCP 2.3, HDR10+)
  • Dimensions: 17 1/8 x 6 3/4 x 15 inches

Pros: 

  • Excellent sonic room correction
  • Controller App allows you to control system on your phone
  • MusicCast works for wireless speakers throughout house or to supplement surround sound
  • Voice-control compatible
  • Future update will add high-refresh gaming mode

Cons:

  • Certain features are by firmware update
  • No composite or component video inputs for older devices

Yamaha has been in the music game for generations. There are few more recognizable brands in music gear. The RX-V6A AV receiver from Yamaha synthesizes all the most important features that most users would ask for from an AV receiver into one attractive package priced in the mid-range.

One of its most outstanding features is its excellent sonic room correction. With an included acoustic optimizer, this AV receiver maps optimal acoustics for the space you use it in and can be placed in multiple positions throughout a room, to create a true surround-sound landscape. With wired front speaker connections, Yamaha’s MusicCast technology will supplement your surround sound with WiFi speakers. With HDMI 2.1 compatibility, the unit is built for 4K gaming devices such as the PS5. A firmware update promises increased frame rate optimization and low latency capabilities.

With its sleek profile and central volume knob, this receiver is not only a visually attractive centerpiece to a home theater, it is a loaded workhorse that sounds great and brings all your entertainment needs together in one malleable, powerful package.

Best Value: Sony STRDH590 5.2-ch Surround Sound Home Theater Receiver

A Cinematic Deal

Surround sound has never been synonymous with cheap, but this receiver from Sony packs the goods into an affordable unit. Sony

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Why It Made The Cut: With 5.2-channel surround sound, 4K quality passthrough, Bluetooth connectivity, and even an audio calibration feature, this unit is surprisingly loaded.

Specs:

  • Channels: 5.2
  • Rated Output Power: 145 watts x 5
  • Wireless/Bluetooth: Bluetooth
  • 4K: Yes, 4K Passthrough
  • HDMI Inputs/Outputs: 4 in/1 out (HDCP 2.2)
  • Dimensions: 11.75 x 17 x 5.25 inches

Pros:

  • Automatic audio calibration
  • HDMI 2.1 compatible with 4K
  • Surround Sound Capable

Cons: 

  • No AUX in
  • Not a lot of Channels
  • No Bluetooth speaker hookups
  • Radio receiver isn’t the best

With enough outputs for a classic home surround-sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and an audio calibration device included, the Sony STRDH590 is an effective device for a decent price. If what you need is good surround sound and 4K video, this AV receiver does an excellent job.

While this device claims that its 4K passthrough delivers 4K quality from any connected device, some users claim that the HDMI 2.1 does not translate to 4K gaming. Rather, the 4K HDMI input allows them to stream HDR10 video from their PS5 or XBox One X, but not HDR10 gaming. This means that this device may not be the strongest gaming AV receiver. Some users also complain that the radio receiver doesn’t do a great job if you live in a place without a good signal. While these issues could be concerning for some users, for those who want an effective home theater system for film and TV, this device does still have the basics down.

Best for Gamers: Denon AVR-X2700H

Audiovisual Firepower

This upper-mid-priced receiver packs in everything that the average gamer could need. Denon

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Why It Made The Cut: With built-in low latency and high refresh rate capabilities, this unit is made for high-performance 4K gaming. Factoring its stunning surround sound as well, this is a natural cornerstone to a home theater.

Specs:

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Rated Output Power: 95 watts per channel
  • Wireless/Bluetooth: Bluetooth, WiFi 
  • 4K: Yes, 4K/120Hz passthrough and upscaling for most systems, 8K passthrough
  • HDMI Inputs/Outputs: 7 in/3 out  (HDCP 2.3)
  • Dimensions: 17.1 x 13.4 x 6.6 inches

Pros:

  • Excellent 3D sound
  • Primed for 4K gaming, with high frame rates and lag reduction technology 
  • 8K future-proofed
  • Features multiroom home audio capabilities with Bluetooth
  • Voice control device pairable

Cons:

  • 4K/120Hz passthrough isn’t supported from some sources

What’s not to like? Gamers will love this home theater receiver. With its high frame rate lag reduction tech, the Denon AVR-X2700H is primed for excellent quality 4K gaming. It even boasts 8K passthrough, making it future-ready enough for the next generation of media technology.

With 95-watt discrete amplifiers on each channel, your audio will sound impeccable. With the DTS Virtual: X and Dolby Height Virtualization, your surround sound gains an impressive vertical dimension and immersive circular sound. These technologies work to simulate the surround sound elements of a top-notch audio array, whatever your home setup. They widen panning and create virtual height elements, broadening the array of sound and creating extra dimensions of sonic detail.

While we tout this device as an AV receiver for gamers, it’s an excellent option for anyone who wants ultra-crisp quality sound and reliable 4K streaming on gaming and video. It also has all the other features you’d want, like a turntable hook up, WiFi connection, and Bluetooth connectivity that extends through the whole house, to bring great sound to your whole home.

If you’re about sold, but you think you might want just a little something more, consider the Denon AVR-X3700H for absolutely top-notch sound. This model offers a slight upgrade to the 2700H, expanding to nine channels with 105-watt amplification. Both models feature excellent sonic room connections.

Best Design: Marantz NR1711 8K Slim 7.2 Channel Ultra HD AV Receiver

Sleek and Powerful

This 7.2-channel future-proof AV receiver has a sleek, attractive design but packs it with all the right features. Marantz

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Why It Made The Cut: With a much smaller profile, this Marantz still offers superb sound and video quality, giving you most of what other equivalently priced models have, in a smaller frame.

Specs:

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Rated Output Power: 50 watts per channel
  • Wireless/Bluetooth: Bluetooth, WiFi 
  • 4K: Yes, 4K/120 Hz pass-through on most devices, 8K passthrough and upscaling
  • HDMI Inputs/Outputs: 6 in/1 out  (HDCP 2.3)
  • Dimensions: 7.87 x 2.16 x 3.35 inches

Pros:

  • Sleek design, under 4 inches
  • 4K gaming primed
  • Excellent surround sound, with virtual surround sound capabilities included
  • HEOS capable, so you can stream and play music all over your home

Cons:

  • Remote isn’t good quality
  • Low wattage

For a featherweight system, the Marantz NR1711 8K Slim packs a heavyweight punch. It offers contemporary 4K gaming with high refresh rates, as well as 4K streaming with the possibility of upscaling to 8K. Its sound capabilities are high-tech, offering some of the virtual surround-sound capabilities we covered with the Denon AVR-X2700H. It also uses the Denon HEOS system for multiroom sound, which allows you to stream throughout the house.

The issues with this device are few, but they are there. Having only 50 watts of power falls considerably short of some other devices on this list. Some customers complain that though the system sounds detailed and high quality, it doesn’t feel powerful enough. Some users also complained that the system’s build quality feels a little flimsy, with such a small profile, and this is worrisome. Some users also report issues when changing devices.

If space is scarce, this device comes with a small enough profile and big enough functionality to be worth it.

Best for Audiophiles: Marantz AV Receiver SR7013 – 9.2 Channel with eARC

True High Fidelity

Compete with the cinema with this high-end box of wonders. Marantz

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Why It Made The Cut: With 125 watts per channel, excellent surround sound, and top-quality ultra HD support, this is a polished powerhouse.

Specs:

  • Channels: 9.2
  • Rated Output Power: 125 watts per channel
  • Wireless/Bluetooth: Wireless, Bluetooth, Ethernet
  • 4K: Yes, 4K/60Hz passthrough 
  • HDMI Inputs/Outputs: 8 in/3 out (HDCP 2.2)
  • Dimensions: 15.83 x 17.32 x 7.3 inches

Pros:

  • Advanced multiroom options including multiple zones
  • Supports the most advanced audio formats
  • Top-notch audio fidelity
  • Added dimensionality with extra surround sound simulation
  • Room equalization

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Mediocre refresh rate at 4K

Marantz has a fifty-plus year reputation for great-sounding receivers, and this device lives up to that reputation. With the Marantz AV Receiver SR7013’s multiple zones and HEOS connectivity, you can wire the whole house into one unit. These zones offer the capability to watch TV in one room, while someone else plays music in the kitchen, and the kids listen to sports on the radio upstairs. All these zones can function at the same time. With Dolby Atmos and IMAX-enhanced tech, sound is given extra dimensionality, and the automatic panning of the visuals will make you feel as though the sound is all around you. These cinematic qualities are further augmented with the Audyssey suite of features, which automatically equalizes sound to fit the acoustic signature of your room.

As far as inputs and outputs are concerned, this box is loaded. It has dual subwoofer jacks, as well as a turntable input, eight HDMI inputs with HDCP 2.2, and nine channels. Our only gripe is with the low screen refresh rate. At 60 Hz 4K, this system is not set up for high-end 4K gaming. At this price point, we wish the device was a little more current for gaming, as 4K gaming devices are already mass market. If gaming is your thing, you may want to look elsewhere. However, if you’re shopping for a non-gaming household, the Marantz AV Receiver SR7013 offers exceptional audio quality with multiple zones, pristine HD, and all the connections you could want. This is an elegant and powerful audiophile’s system that offers great sound.

Things to Consider Before Buying an AV Receiver

Function

Receivers can do a lot. However, receivers that do everything also cost a lot. If you’re looking for a receiver for gaming, you may want to look for something that has future-proof technology like 4K Ultra HD and a 120-Hz refresh rate. This will ensure that you have a low latency passthrough that delivers a high frame rate and good definition. If you care more about sound and less about gaming, look for a device with high wattage and discrete amplification on every channel. These features will ensure that you get excellent fidelity and powerful sound. Understanding receivers requires a lot of jargon. To cut through the specifications, it’s important to know what you want out of your receiver, so you can hone in on the right AV for your home.

HD, 4K Passthrough, and Refresh Rate

HD refers to High Definition: This means that a screen will display a certain high number of pixels per inch. 

4K is a generic term meaning that a screen has a horizontal display resolution of some 4000 pixels. 

4K passthrough means that an AV receiver will receive a 4K signal from a device like a laptop or game system, and then pass that 4K signal to the attached screen or television. This is important for contemporary receivers, as some older models would receive a 4K signal and downgrade it to a lower resolution, even if the screen output was technically 4K.

The refresh rate is important in gaming and will often be notated with resolution as 60 Hz or 120 Hz. This is important especially for active games that require fast movements such as competitive shooters or racing games. A resolution of 120 Hz communicates that the screen refreshes 120 times per second.

Surround Sound

Most AV receivers offer surround sound, but receivers with more channels are better for larger and more complex systems. Some receivers offset a lack of analog speaker connections with Bluetooth speaker connections. Some receivers come with built-in software that helps your soundbar or speaker system create the illusion of added space and verticality. A great AV receiver for surround sound will come with a device to help you optimize your system for the acoustic space it inhabits.

Price

As AV receivers are quite technical, true high-end models can have staggering price tags. Be aware of what you want out— and how much you want to spend—on an AV receiver before shopping for one. For many users, all that’s required is a trusty box that functions as a solid hub for a few different devices and offers decent HD passthrough to a screen.

FAQs

Q: What is 4K passthrough, and what does hz mean?

4K passthrough means that an AV receiver that receives a 4K signal can pass it to an attached screen. A Hz (or hertz) number after the resolution amount refers to how fast a screen refreshes. A 120-Hz screen refreshes 120 times a second, whereas a 60-Hz screen refreshes 60 times a second. 

Q: Why does wattage matter?

Wattage affects the power of your system. One of the basic functions of a receiver is to amplify sound. High wattage per line means each speaker in your system will sound and feel powerful. A great system will have high wattage. 

Q: What is audio calibration?

Audio calibration sets the levels of the speakers in an audio system. Advanced systems use software to map the acoustic space that they’re set up in and tweak panning and levels to fit it. This is particularly important with high-end surround sound, as these systems can create the illusion of a whisper in your ear or rain on a tin roof.

Final Thoughts

An AV receiver is the crucial hub that works as the interlocking space to route connections, process video, and power sound in a home theater. A great AV receiver does all this and more, offering features like voice control, discrete audio zones with different media playing in a multiroom audio-rigged house, high-refresh-rate 4K gaming, and 3D sound. Consider the YAMAHA RX-V6A for an all-around powerful system that will do everything most users will need. And if you’re a dedicated gamer, the Denon AVR-X2700H has stunning sound and that sweet refresh rate you need for tense 4K competition.

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