10 Best Receivers | March 2017

We spent 25 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Looking to amp up your home theater experience? Take your sound to a whole new level, with our selection of today's receivers that include all kinds of cool functions, including surround sound, Bluetooth capability, Internet radio playback, memory for terrestrial AM and FM radio stations and, of course, outstanding audio quality. Skip to the best receiver on Amazon.
10 Best Receivers | March 2017

Overall Rank: 5
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 8
Best Inexpensive
The Onkyo TX-RZ800 pushes out 185 watts per channel and is THX Select2 Plus certified, so you will feel like you are at the theater when watching movies. It uses separate amp and processing blocks and has low-impedance amp circuitry, ensuring there is no unwanted feedback.
While the Marantz SR-6011 has impressive sound, it seems a bit overpriced when looking at the flimsy remote and basic user interface. Its volume scales well, so dialogue and vocals can be clearly heard at all volume levels, and the display passthrough adds almost no lag.
The Denon AVR-S510BT gives you great bang for your buck, featuring compatibility with HDMI 2.0a specification, clear onscreen displays and an easy setup. It's a great option if you're looking to build a 5.1 system on the cheap and don't have a lot of tech knowledge.
The Onkyo TX-NR545 has six HDMI inputs, three of which can handle HDCP 2.2 copy protection encoded content, and, with Wi-Fi connectivity, it supports music streaming from apps like Spotify and Pandora. It also allows you to adjust settings without interrupting playback.
  • features accueq music calibration
  • dynamic audio reproduction
  • user interface feels clunky
Brand Onkyo
Model TX-NR545
Weight 23.1 pounds
The Denon AVR-S920W can provide a premium home theater experience with 3D and 4K Ultra HD compatibility. For sound optimization, it uses Audyssey MultEQ with automatic room acoustic measurement and correction, and features a powerful 32-bit quad-core DSP processor.
  • plays most audio file types
  • low distortion at all volume levels
  • energy efficient eco mode
Brand Denon
Model AVR-S920W
Weight 24.3 pounds
The Yamaha RX-A1050 has a rigid chassis and a symmetrical amp layout that uses ESS Sabre DACs for optimum sound transfer. This means that you'll have a high quality sound experience whether you are using a traditional analog input or streaming music from an online source.
  • multi-zone fuctionality
  • 60 fps hd video pass-through
  • uses dolby atmos
Brand Yamaha
Model RX-A1050
Weight 37.7 pounds
It's hard to go wrong with the affordably priced Sony STRDN1070. It is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ready and supports 4K video for a premium viewing and listening experience. The streamlined remote and user interface makes it good for non-techie people too.
  • can control it with smart devices
  • 8 hi-def inputs
  • a natural sound with a spacious feel
Brand Sony
Model STRDN1070
Weight 25.4 pounds
The Pioneer Elite SX-N30 has a sleek look with its brushed aluminum front panel and subtle amber LEDs. It features a headphone jack and a USB port on the front for easy access, and it can deliver 85 watts of power per channel in stereo mode at 0.1% or less THD.
  • powerful dynamic amps
  • integrated wi-fi connectivity
  • apple airplay compatible
Brand Pioneer
Model SC-97
Weight 44.4 pounds
The Yamaha RX-V681 can handle any type of connection you can think of. It has a phono input for turntable use, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities, and 4K Ultra HD pass-through with HDCP 2.2 support. It is available with or without a speaker system bundle.
  • easy to navigate user interface
  • multi-room audio with musiccast
  • auto ypao sound optimization
Brand Yamaha
Model RX-V681BL
Weight 26.2 pounds
The Sony STRZA3000ES is a future-proofed 7.2 channel receiver that has 8 assignable inputs; two component and six HDMI. It doesn't have as many features as some of the less costly models, such as Wi-Fi and AirPlay, but it blows them away in terms of sound quality.
  • giga ethernet hub with 8 ports
  • fully 4k compliant
  • best choice for audiophiles
Brand Sony
Model STRZA3000ES
Weight 35.8 pounds

The Heart Of Your Entertainment

When I was in school in Virginia, my dad let me use his beat up old 1991 Honda Civic hatchback to get around. It was a great car, despite appearances. The big problem with it, though, was the engine. White smoke intermittently spewed out the tailpipe, the engine massively overheating.

You see, your audio receiver is a lot like the engine of your theater or sound system. That makes whatever input device you use–be it a DVD, CD, Blu-Ray, TV box, Roku, etc.–kind of like your gasoline.

Your receiver takes that incoming signal and amplifies it and redirects it out through a surround system that you've hopefully set up. That redirection can split the incoming audio signals into a few different sound maps, in part based on the data coming into the receiver from the source.

If a video game, for example, is designed with Dolby 6.1 surround, you could actually hear the sound of an enemy sneaking up behind you in the center rear speaker, so it actually sounds like they're behind you. That's because 6.1 translates to a seven speaker setup: center, center-right, and center-left are all in front of you, right and left are literally beside you, and a rear center speaker lives centered behind you. The seventh speaker is the subwoofer indicated by the .1 in Dolby-speak.

If the audio input doesn't support that kind of mapping (maybe it's an old DVD with only 5.1 data available), you'll still hear audio coming out of all speakers including the rear, but it won't create that three-dimensional environment as realistically.

Surround Yourself With Quality

We spoke for a moment there about surround sound, and, among audio receivers, the availability of different surround formats is crucial to your selection. There's a caveat here, however, as it isn't quite as simple as just spending more money to get more quality.

If Dolby is the only name that comes to mind when you think of surround sound, you're missing out on a format that actually has better specs across the board than the king of the hill does. I'm talking about Digital Theater Systems, or DTS. DTS uses a much higher bit rate in their compression algorithm, which dedicates a lot more data space to the dynamic range and channel discretion of your audio.

Think of the bit rate of a given audio signal as its room to breathe. If an audio signal were a puppy and you wanted to transport it in an airplane, you'd want to put it in as big a cage as you were allowed to bring on board, wouldn't you? Well, DTS offers a cage for your puppy roughly three and a half times the size of the cage that Dolby offers, so your audio signal has more room to stretch out and display its nuances, to show off lower lows, and higher highs, and to place specific sounds around the room with more precision.

Now, it's safe to say that most audio receivers on the market support DTS, though some are built with DTS in mind over Dolby, and these receivers will work more fluidly with the data. The issue that arises here is that there's not as much DTS source audio available, so even if you spend the extra cash on the best hardware and software combination to make the most out of your DTS experience, that experience might not even be available to you.

In my opinion, it's better to have a receiver with the best DTS and Dolby platform options, so that you can get the most out of whichever format you have in hand.

War Begets Audio

It was primarily US soldiers returning from the battles of WWII who began the audio revolution. A number of fighting men learned electronics and radio operations in the war, and many others took advantage of the GI bill to get themselves a legitimate education in the field. A lot of the audio innovations through the 40s, 50s, and 60s, came at the hands of these vets.

Spurned on by the musical revolutions occurring from the birth of rock through to the musical rebellion fueled by the war in Vietnam, a new generation of music lovers began demanding more from their listening experience by the mid to late 60s. Here you see the advent of the stereo store. Where previously, radio stores sold parts for their tinkering hobbyist customers, now you had customers coming in and demanding systems outfitted with certain technologies.

One of these pieces, the centerpiece, actually, of these systems, was the audio receiver. These were analogue amplification devices that usually fed only two speakers or a set of headphones, and the sound quality was greatly determined by the quality of the wiring, all the way up to the arrival of digital audio on the consumer stage in the 1980s.

Fortunately, that audio advancement didn't require a war to gain momentum, though the battle between Dolby and DTS is pretty close.

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Last updated: 03/30/2017 | Authorship Information