Choosing the best AV receiver Surround Receivers

Choosing the Best AV Receiver


Everybody wants the best. It’s no less obvious than when people ask me “Which is the best AV receiver?” To which I reply, “That depends. What’s your budget and what do you want to do with it?”

Budgeting for the Best AV Receiver

The best place to start when choosing an AV receiver is budget. How much you are able to spend determines how much receiver you can afford. Think of how silly it would be to walk onto a car lot saying “I want to buy a car!” What’s your budget? Are we talking luxury or economy?”

Budget is an important question. With that in mind there are several break points for AV receivers. An “entry level” model is anything from the $249 to $399 range. These will typically get the job done, providing plenty of HDMI inputs, enough amplifier power for smaller or more efficient speaker systems, and even the potential of network streaming services like Pandora. At around $600 or so, you get the ability to upconvert analogue video to HDMI. You also get additional amplifier flexibility for the Surround Back channels (like being able to assign them to a second discrete zone). At $999 AV receivers start to add more advanced features. They may have some video processing, additional zones, significantly greater amplifier power and additional functions like advanced network features and scaling.

Features That Matter

We hinted at many features above, but features matter. It does no good to buy a flagship AV receiver if it’s going to power an efficient set of satellite 5.1 speakers. Conversely, you don’t want to get an entry level model with HDMI video switching when what you really need is analogue video upconversion to handle a legacy piece of gear. It’s also a good idea to think about how many zones you want to run and if you want to enjoy features like Internet radio, Bluetooth, or streaming files from a networked PC or server.

Questions are your friend. They will help you decide what is truly needed. There are so many questions, in fact, that I’ve outlined a few key ones here which I hope will be helpful in selecting the right product for your needs.

Question Worksheet

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What size speakers are you planning on powering with this receiver (How much power do you need?)
  3. How many zones do you need?
  4. Do any of those zones need to be powered?
  5. Do you want to stream audio from a connected server or PC (via DLNA)? How about Internet radio?
  6. Do you want Bluetooth or Apple Airplay?
  7. How important is video upconversion? (Do you have legacy analogue video sources?)
  8. Do you need 4K support?
  9. What is your priority (audio quality, features, budget)?
  10. Do you need seven channels of amplification or just five?
  11. Do you need an MHL front input for sending photos and video from portable electronics?
  12. Do you want a USB audio input?
  13. Do you want THX certification (And does any of your other gear have THX certification)?
  14. Do you need two HDMI outputs? Do they need to be discrete?

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11 comments on “Choosing the Best AV Receiver

  1. Anthony

    Please advise… Have an Acoustimass 6:1 system installed and am upgrading from my 10 year old 5:1 SONY AV Amp to something up to date with WiFi, Blue tooth etc. Was contemplating the Sony STR 1050 but now like the sound of Dolby Atmos… was considering re-decorating anyway!

    Am hoping for a significant Amp upto £650 with, hopefully a trigger out or a builtin AC output for switching Acustimas off and on etc…

    What can you suggest for me please?

    Many thanks,

    Anthony R.o.I

  2. Liberty B

    Hi – I’m building a new house and want to purchase Polk RC80i recessed speakers – 2 in wall and 2 in ceiling. Sound quality is important to me along with Bluetooth streaming and TV surround. I’m in the woods so I may not have very good internet connection. (I doubt it will) I don’t care about any other features but the tv and audio through my iPhone. Which receiver would you recommend and should I add a floor/shelf subwoofer for full bass? Thank for your input in advance!

  3. Donald Kerr

    Since reviewers look lnly at new gear, dorability/ reliability rarely gets a look in.
    My Onkyo 80.2 is a case in point. Costing $2100.00 some 4 yers ago it hs been a source of aggravation since.
    Within 4 months of purchase it went in for repairs under warrantee The repairs took upwards of 3mths(“spare parts delays”!!!)
    I had to recalibrate it several times—-it lost the Audessey settings.
    The main HDMI went south after 18 mths. Rather than pay the $350.00 plus repair, I resorted to the other HDMI out.
    That failed a year later.
    I now use it only for the7 channel audio.
    The authorised repair shop is 45 miles away, the thing is heavy(c.40lbs) my theater is up 22 steps and I am 81 years old.
    PLEASE, try to find a way to evaluate reliabilty. Donald Kerr

  4. Gianluca

    Hi Clint,

    ..going to renew my denon avr x1000 damaged for lightning (Hdmi section blown away). I was satisfied with denon but looking at the market I’ve seen many interesting items in the entry level of yamaha/denon/marantz…given that my priority is music..what is the best for audio quality?

    • There’s no real way to answer this as all of these companies have excellent products for various applications. If you are primarily interested in music then at the lowest levels I might favor (slightly) Marantz.

  5. Eugene

    Hi,
    I’m looking to purchase this configuration of speakers.

    1 x Center – Klipsch RC-64 II
    2 x Floorstanding – Klipsch RF-7 II
    4 x Surround – Klipsch RS-62 II
    1 x Subwoofer – Klipsch R-115SW

    What would be the best Receiver that has just enough power to drive these guys?

    And another question, I was thinking to replace the RF-7 II with RP-280FA so I can have Atmos stuff. Is it worth it? What receiver shall I consider in this case?

    Thx

  6. estevan hernandres

    Hi, I’m planning on buying the Pioneer SP-PK52FS Andrew Jones 5.1 Home Theater Speaker Package and was looking for a good receiver I mostly plan on using this with a Projector, but will probably use it once in awhile on a TV. What AV Receiver would you recommend?

  7. Dimmi

    I am looking at the Yamaha v679 and the tsr 5810. They are $300 and $320. This is mainly for movies and TV. I have a older Polk surround setup. From what I can see the 5810 adds the Atmos and DTSx. I don’t have the setup for it yet. The 679 is from Amazon and the 5810 from Costco. Not too many reviews on the 5810 yet so I would appreciate your opinion.

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