The 7 Best 5.1 Receivers

Updated February 02, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 38 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you're looking to replicate the movie theater experience at home, one of the most important aspects is the sound. No matter how big your screen is, its tinny speakers aren't going to pack the punch you need. Our selection of 5.1 receivers will give you the booming bass and clear voices you want, whether you are watching the latest releases, playing video games, or streaming music. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best 5.1 receiver on Amazon.

7. Harman Kardon Audiophile AVR 1510S

The Harman Kardon Audiophile AVR 1510S is equipped with four 3D-ready HDMI inputs. That means you could connect a Blu-ray player, a gaming console, and a streaming box, and you'd still have another port open. Its front panel is sleek and subtle.
  • decodes audio with dts-hd
  • five 75-watt-per-channel amplifiers
  • included remote is poorly designed
Brand Harman Kardon
Model AVR 1510S
Weight 14.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Pioneer Surround VSX-531

The Pioneer Surround VSX-531 features Dolby True HD sound quality and comes with built-in Bluetooth wireless capabilities. So it can handle ultra-high definition media, and it can also link up to hardware of all different types easily.
  • automatic room tuning
  • 140 watts of power per channel
  • it is a rather bulky model
Brand Pioneer
Model VSX531
Weight 19.7 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Denon AVRS530BT 4K

The Denon AVRS530BT 4K is equipped with HDCP 2.2 signal handling, which means that it manages true 4K ultra-HD support. It has four buttons on its face that not only let you choose your source, they also remember the settings for that option.
  • hdr compatible for a dynamic image
  • convenient usb input on the front
  • doesn't play some common media files
Brand Denon
Model AVRS530BT
Weight 20.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Marantz NR1506 Bluetooth

If you're new to the process of putting together a home theater, the Marantz NR1506 Bluetooth comes with a digital setup assistant program to give you a step-by-step tutorial that will result in an incredible sound environment.
  • energy saving eco mode
  • supports 3d-video pass-through
  • built-in dynamic equalizer
Brand Marantz
Model NR1506
Weight 22.8 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

3. Pioneer Slim Audio & Video VSX-S520

If you want the components of your home theater to take up as little space as possible, you'll love the design of the Pioneer Slim Audio & Video VSX-S520. It's less than half the height of most other models on the market, but it still drives 80 watts of power.
  • dual band wi-fi connection
  • remote app for mobile devices
  • built-in 4k upscaling
Brand Pioneer
Model VSXS520
Weight 11.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Sony STRDH550 5.2

The Sony STRDH550 5.2 takes your standard surround sound layout and gives you the option of adding in an extra subwoofer to better provide the rumbling, bass-heavy experience of actually going to the movies. Without that second sub, it still performs wonderfully.
  • auto-calibrates for easy setup
  • four hdmi inputs
  • 4k pass-through support
Brand Sony
Model STRDH550
Weight 19 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Yamaha RX-V383BL

The Yamaha RX-V383BL features a clean 4K pass-through with HDCP 2.2 support, so you'll get the most out of the audio and video signals you use in your home theater. Music lovers will appreciate its Bluetooth connectivity for easy streaming, as well.
  • adjusts to the sound of the room
  • 145-watts effective output power
  • mimics famous venues with cinema dsp
Brand Yamaha
Model RX-V383BL
Weight 19.4 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Total Immersion Through Sound

Today's home entertainment scene is advancing more quickly than it has in the history of television. Screens are flatter and bigger and clearer than ever. Projectors are brighter and more readily available, making the home theater a legitimate possibility for families of many different income levels. Even 3D-TV, as well as 4k and 8k video, are now a reality for high-end consumers. But what good is an 80-inch projector screen if the soundtrack is playing through an iPhone speaker?

No matter how beautiful the ultra-HD video shining out from your 75-inch OLED, it's still only half of the equation for an immersive movie and TV experience. Indeed, audio with crisp highs, clear dialogue, and deep bass really helps you get the most out of your entertainment system. 5.1 surround sound is a six-channel system designed to put the user right in the middle of the auditory action. Of the six channels, five transmit full-spectrum audio and one is just for a powered subwoofer. Ever since its debut in 1979's iconic Vietnam War blockbuster Apocalypse Now, rumbling, powerful lows and precise sound placement have made 5.1-channel surround sound the basic medium of choice for delivering theatrical greatness.

And why not? Actual movie theaters, after all, have only one screen, yet they sport dozens of speakers and amplifiers that make it sound like you really are deep in the heart of the Cambodian jungle, or crashing violently to the surface of an uncharted planet.

Even relatively smaller home theater displays are effectively complemented by the right 5.1 audio system. A clear, precise sound experience is sure to add incredible depth to any programming, whether its a three-hour fantasy epic or game seven of the finals. Thankfully, routing your audio to six (or more) speakers has never been easier thanks to today's selection of 5.1 surround sound receivers.

How Does 5.1 Surround Work?

Interestingly enough, the first iteration of surround sound was a three-channel system, pioneered for Disney's Fantasia in 1940. It would be over 30 years before a split-stereo method was popularized. This step forward led to two channels on either side with fifth speaker front and center.

The additional tracks of audio data are carried alongside the video data in an HDMI cable, or through a dedicated audio cable in some cases. The receiver then routes the audio through five main channels and one low-frequency line-out. This low-end plug is used for a self-powered subwoofer; most HD receivers don't include bass amplification.

It's of prime importance to pay attention to details when setting up your home theater. For optimal sound quality, all five speakers should be the same distance from the viewer. The center speaker often pumps out a majority of the volume of the dialogue in movies, so many times that center channel will have its own volume adjustment to ensure a properly balanced listening experience. Some receivers even make use of ceiling speakers, letting you take advantage of 3D audio supplied by high-quality video sources.

And if your video source doesn't supply a surround sound stream, these A/V units can come to the rescue. The technology built into their digital chipsets creates a mix-down of the two stereo channels, providing an in-depth, simulated surround experience.

Keeping Up With Audio Technology

As with a lot of modern A/V equipment, there is a handful of communication modes and connection ports that you need to know when looking for a surround sound-capable receiver. Luckily, it's not quite the same swamp of competing standards as is present in, for example, wireless HDMI; Dolby and DTS (Dedicated To Sound) both propagate opposing means of digital surround sound, and those two languages make up most of the field.

Within the two companies' proprietary brands, more advanced decoders are always being developed to take advantage of the latest data and equipment. For that reason, it's important to make sure that you consider a receiver that can handle the high video and audio resolutions that you'll throw at it. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS product lines utilize lossless decoders in their high-end products that are ideal for Blu-ray-quality sound replication. These are called TrueHD and HD Master Audio and are available on some of the more expensive home theater hubs today.

There are a number of other features you'll find when comparing different models of receivers. Many options offer support for older television sets with a variety of different connectors such as composite, component, or s-video. A number of models use Bluetooth connectivity to stream music from your mobile devices.

In addition to high-quality decoding units to process multimedia data without losing quality, some of these hubs support 7.1-channel digital audio. This is another feature of modern Blu-ray releases that's on the cutting edge of entertainment technology. Some models also support dual subwoofers, allowing for greater bass consistency throughout every seat in the room.

Many units are available with multiple HDMI inputs. These are great for households with a few multimedia devices connected to the theater display. If you want the best sound and picture from your computer, HDMI antenna, Blu-ray player, or game console, the right 5.1-channel receiver will seamlessly make the most of your high-performance A/V setup.

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Last updated on February 02, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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