Five Best A/V Receivers

The humble receiver is a crucial and often overlooked part of your home entertainment setup. It's responsible for organising and funnelling all of the audio and video from your Blu-ray player, game consoles, HTPC, and other devices to your TV and your speakers. The best receivers offer streaming audio and video and multiple ports, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. Here's a look at the top five, based on your nominations.

Photo by William Hook

Shopping around definitely makes sense with audio receivers. You'll find competition is keen online, but if ordering from overseas, remember that you'll have to spring extra for power adaptors and may have to go through extra steps for warranty repairs.

Onkyo TX-NR Series (TX-NR414, TX-NR616)

Onkyo's NR series of receivers has been widely praised. Many readers argued that you can't go wrong with the NR line, since they almost universally offer excellent sound quality (all THX certified), internet-enabled features such Pandora streaming and Airplay, and lots of inputs — more than many other manufacturers cram into their devices. Additionally, while Onkyo has been known to have issues with its HDMI controllers, those seem to have been resolved in recent models.

Marantz NR Series (NR1403, NR1603)

Marantz also has an strong following amongst audiophiles. Enthusiasts have fun tweaking, restoring, and retooling older 2230 models to suit modern entertainment centres, while first-time buyers can give models like such as NR1603 a spin to get great features in a slim, space-saving and attractively designed unit. The NR1603 packs Airplay and 7.2 channel audio into a small package. If you're on a budget, the heaper NR1403 still has a lot to offer in an even smaller size. If you're ready to step up a level (and spend a fair bit more money), check out the SR line, which sports internet-enabled features and Airplay, along with support for 4K video for those interested in future-proofing.

Yamaha RX-V Series (RX-V473, RX-V673)

The Yamaha RX-V Series of receivers are both budget-friendly and feature-packed. The RX-V673 was the most popular choice amongst Lifehacker readers, who liked its 7.2 channel surround sound, streaming music features (Airplay, Pandora, Rhapsody,) reliability and customer support. The includison of an an Android app to control Yamaha receivers with your phone is also a nice touch.

Denon AVR Series (AVR-1713)

Denon makes some incredible receivers, and many of you noted that you found yourself defecting to Denon after having bad experiences with other models. The Denon AVR-1713 was a particularly popular choice, delivering a wealth of streaming and internet-enabled features, including the ability to act as a media server that you can connect other devices to via Airplay (including the ability to play Airplay music in a separate zone at the same time, something rather unique to Denon's receivers.

Emotiva Separate Components

Some of you noted that to really get the best, you should be buying separate components, not an all-in-one receiver to manage all of your audio and video components. Those of you who specified a brand or model identified Emotiva's amplifiers preamps, and accessories that, when combined, can create a fierce (and fiercely expensive) home theatre experience. If you're designing a home theatre from the ground up and money is no object, buying components is a great way to go.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Tell us, and tell us why, in the comments.


Comments

    I know a few guys who repair this stuff for a living. They both said the same thing. Avoid the entry level models, after that, the best three brands (internally and for reliability/repairability) are Yamaha, Yamaha and Yamaha. Between them, they were mainly critical of Onkyo and Denon in particular, but I don't remember who criticized what (ie. I think both disliked Denon, one disliked Onkyo).
    These guys are mainly interested in the internals, although one if them has a 2nd job as a sound engineer.

      Yeah, I've always been a fan of Yamaha gear for that reason. They just keep working. For their price point, they really seem the best to me.

      In the last 12 years, I've only replaced my yamaha receiver once, and that was because I wanted an upgrade to HDMI inputs, and because the old remote wasn't functioning too well, after the years of abuse I had given it.

      Some of these network features look pretty awesome, so in a year or two that's what i'll get again when I upgrade.

      I'm still using the original yamaha speakers and subwoofer I purchased 12 years ago too. As an audiophile, i know there is much better stuff available (costing 3x the amount) but for a $1500 outlay 12 years ago, my floor standing speakers, sub and receiver have given me superb reliability, surviving many hot summers of overheating (i have a much better cabinet now) and laziness by me (not dusting) and the old receiver even had debris of cornice fall inside of it once, but it just kept on going for years after that.

      Very happy Yamaha customer.
      (btw this is the first time i've commented about receivers on lifehacker)

      Last edited 25/02/13 10:11 am

    I'd steer clear of the Onkyo offerings. It appears their HDMI issues are far from resolved. A bit of research would have showed this:

    http://www.avsforum.com/t/1415258/the-official-onkyo-tx-nr414-515-616-problems-thread

    AVS has many *official* threads about equipment, but not many *official* threads about problem equipment.

    From this list I'd probably go the Yamaha.. good track record.. though probably best to go for a re-furbished (and upgraded) model rather than a new untested model.

      This is the kind of thing I am talking about:
      http://www.excelhifi.com.au/refurbished-en/home-theatre-receivers-en/

    See, this is why I like LH and Giz. I've been looking for an upgrade for my Denon AVR-590 for awhile now and I'm thinking the Yamaha RX-V773 @ $1300 might just be the beast I'm looking for.
    Now all I need to find is a decent set of wireless speakers for the back wall, so I don't have to run wire around the walls.

      Yes, I am definitely going with wireless speakers next time... though it might be a while before my wife will allow me to buy a new setup. Our Sony setup does the job at the moment but the left side of things is almost completely silent now.. all needs replacing.. it's maybe 10 years old now.. and I could probably do it with new speakers alone but having to lay wires down on the carpet and use packaging tape to keep from tripping over is a MacGuyver setup at best.. Might have to wait till we buy our apartment/house first.

        Yep.. Definitely put the house in front of entertainment, you won't regret that... :)

        No system is 100% wireless. A 'wireless' speaker has to have an inbuilt amp and these need power which means you need a powerpoint nearby and a cable running to it.

      Have you considered in-ceiling or in-wall speakers?

    The Anthem MRX 700 (link http://www.anthemav.com/products/anthem/a-v-receiver/mrx-700) is what i have and i demoed god knows how many amps. It is made by the same people that make Paradigm speakers -- They use to only make rack shelf amps that most theatres hard cores use for there setups and recently went into the home market.

    I got my MRX 700 for around $1,600 and it honestly is the most kick ass amp i have ever heard.

    The new denons are all fairly cheap and crap to be honest. My mate bought a denon as it was sub $1k mark and he regrets it each time he comes over to my place.

    Also you wont find decent wireless speakers. Just spend the slightly extra cash that wireless speakers cost and have someone run it in the wall for you.

    Last edited 25/02/13 10:40 am

    I was just checking through the Yamaha range. Notably absent is a DAB+ receiver. I realise that radio reception is a secondary concern but why bother with just AM/FM?

    ^ but I do like that most function as a HDMI hub - I only have 2 HDMI ports on my TV.

    I bought one of the Marantz 1603's a month ago, beautiful little bit of gear it is. Pretty crazy when you can upgrade your A/V receivers firmware over the net.
    One feature you did miss is the dual-zone feature, where you can re-purpose the additional 2 channels of the amp to a completely different place in the house. Seeing as my deck and lounge share a common wall, I'll be wiring those two channels to some outside speakers, great for bbq's. Also has unreal internet radio support as well, and plays nice with every piece of A/V equipment in the house. It's also WIndows Media compatible out of the box, so DLNA "just works".
    The wife even worked out how to use Airplay without me even telling her it was on there.

    I got a Yamaha RXV-773 from Harvey Norman for $1k best cash I ever spent.

      So you got it for a grand even or somewhere in the ballpark? I'm considering this one too. :)

    Loved my Yamaha RXV-2095 but replaced it after 12 years because of a lack of HDMI. Went with another Yamaha, the RXV-3900, unfortunately I got about 18 months worth of life out of it before the main card with the HDMI connectors on it failed and it was going to cost about $1400 to repair. Wasn't prepared to commit another $1400 to something I had already spent $3000 on so went and bought an ex-demo Onkyo TXR-808 for $1000 and that is brilliant. Now my Yammy is only good as a boat anchor which is a shame because it was a great receiver. I'll never buy Yamaha product again, even though my RXV-2095 is still going strong after 14 years. A 12 month warranty is very poor for something so expensive and is obviously indicative of the quality of the products they make these days.

    ( Tiny tiny voice in the background)

    Hi,
    I have an old hitachi amp from ebay, $80. Its stereo, no hdmi anything.

    Wharfedale speakers from cash converters, $100

    A valve buffer stage from ebay $100. Plus an old cd player someone gave me. Totally happy for what its good for; Listening to music.

    For the $1500 mark, I would want to spend an hour in the showroom (a listening room) with the speakers I use at home hooked up to the 1500 dollar amp :) I'm no expert but would it be fair to say that its best to first evaluate what the a/v amp is to be mainly used for? If its mainly music you may be able to get away with something a bit cheaper (possibly).

    cheers......

    ps old audio stuff is a hobby of mine

      Logic? In an audio review? Wow, are you in the wrong place...
      Seriously, I have an old Sony amp, and a wall projector. The amp's only problem is a lack of HDMI. What it does have, however, is an optical input.
      I could have spent $1500 upgrading my Sony amp. Instead, I found a HDMI switch that also has an optical output. It cost about $60.

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