Let’s face it, TV speakers are junk. Sure they’ll do in a pinch, but you’re never going to “Award-winning Sound” and “Television” in the same sentence (at least you shouldn’t). Modern 4K TVs can also be limited in inputs, and someone should never have to choose which console gets left out in the cold.

Enter the AV Receiver (AVR). It acts as the hub of your home entertainment setup, connecting all video and audio sources and sending the signals out to your display and stereo, surround, or Dolby Atmos speaker setup. Some soundbars can function in a similar way, but they’re never as robust and feature-full as an AVR. Having one is an absolute necessity for a fully immersive home gaming experience.

All of the receivers below (except the two Anthem models) have Bluetooth connectivity, built-in Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, and passthrough for 4K/60, HDR (HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision compatible), BT.2020 wide color gamut, and 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.

TL;DR – These are the Best AV Receivers:

1. Pioneer VSX-934 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Entry-level AV Receiver

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If you’re looking to dip your toes into the AVR pool, the Pioneer VSX-934 is an excellent entry. At right around $300, this AVR has enough to get you started with some room to grow. The seven amplified channels can accommodate a few different speaker configurations, including 5.1 with bi-amped front channels, 5.1.2 for Dolby Atmos, or even some less common setups like 3.1.2. The VSX-934 has Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization to give you a simulated Atmos experience without needing extra speakers. And it actually works pretty well, but it requires a firmware update that was released early in 2019. It also has Sonos compatibility and DTS Play-Fi.

Most surround AVRs have some form of room correction built in, and for the VSX-934 it’s Pioneer’s MCACC. Unfortunately that’s one of the drawbacks of this model, but it’s easy enough to get around. Speaker distance can be set manually in the AVR settings, and relative channel levels can be set using a free or cheap SPL (sound pressure level) app. And since the worst room correction problems exist in the low frequencies, try and get a subwoofer with built-in room correction. It will deal with any unruly low-end better than MCACC.

2. Denon AVR-X3600H 9.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Midrange AV Receiver

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This is where we start to get into some more customizable audio setup options. The Denon AVR-X3600H has two individual subwoofer outputs that can each have their own calibration settings (some other dual sub output receivers share the same settings for both subwoofers). Using two subwoofers can get you a smoother, more even bass response for all seats in your home theater if they’re calibrated properly. And it’s achieved with Audyssey MultEQ XT32, which sounds similar to the Audyssey room correction on the two Marantz above, but it’s significantly better. Technologically it has more high-frequency and bass filters with the ability to measure from more listening positions.

The extra amplified channels can accommodate more speaker positions, if you’re so inclined. The X3600H supports 5.2.4 and 7.2.2 Atmos configurations, or you can use some of the extra channels for a multi-room setup. Its internal processing can handle even more channels (up to 11.2) if you want to add an extra stereo amplifier. There are also multi-channel outputs if you want to connect to even more external amps and use the X3600H as just a processor. It also supports IMAX Enhanced, a certification that combines 4K HDR, DTS, and the IMAX aspect ratio under one banner. Support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are also included.

3. Yamaha RX-V485 5.1-channel AV Receiver

Best non-Atmos Budget AV Receiver

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Games implementation of Atmos is slow going, so maybe you don’t want to buy those extra speakers and bother to install them on your ceiling. The Yamaha RX-V485 is a fantastic option for traditional 5.1 surround configurations thanks to its five amplified channels. And it even supports the MusicCast 50 or MusicCast 20 for use as wireless surround speakers if you don’t want to run speaker cable to the back of the room.

The RX-V485 HDMI supports 4K with HDCP 2.3 so you’ll be ready when you upgrade to HDCP 2.3 components in the future. The Yamaha YPAO room correction is pretty good at fine-tuning speakers to its surrounding environment (we generally like its results). It only has four HDMI inputs though, which could pose a problem depending on how many devices you need to connect. If you have Alexa or Google Assistant, the RX-V485 can be controlled by either, or by Siri over Apple AirPlay 2.

4. Marantz NR1710 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best Slim AV Receiver

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For those not familiar with AVRs, the name Marantz might be foreign, but they’ve been producing excellent audiophile products for decades ranging from entry level (like the NR1710 for $749) to expensive separates (that is, separate amplifier and processor units) that cost thousands of dollars each.

The NR1710 is a slimline AVR that’s half the height of the other options on this list. Its seven channels can be set up for Atmos speakers, or you can use the Atmos Height Virtualization. If you only have or need five speakers and don’t care about the Height Virtualization, the NR1510 is very similar and costs $150 less.

The Audyssey MultEQ room correction is a step up from the YPAO room correction found in the Yamaha RX-V485. Another Audyssey feature called Dynamic EQ helps preserve the cinematic experience when listening below reference level, which is louder than most of us listen to movies in our home, by keeping the perceived volume balanced across frequencies. Lastly, Dynamic Volume controls the dynamic range of the sound (which your close neighbors and fellow apartment dwellers will appreciate).

The Marantz NR1710 supports HEOS (Home Entertainment Operating System), Denon’s multi-room wireless system. There are a bunch of HEOS speakers available that range from $200-900. In addition to passing HDR, the eight HDMI inputs are eARC compatible and will upconvert your video signal to 4K. And for gaming, there’s an auto low latency mode to link up with TVs that support it. Both Alexa and Google Assistant are supported for voice command.

5. Marantz SR5014 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best First Audiophile AV Receiver

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Apart from the chassis, the Marantz SR5014 might look very similar to the NR1710. Both have seven amplified channels, eight HDMI ports (one with eARC), Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, auto low-latency mode, Alexa and Google support, and HEOS built-in. But the SR5014 has twice the amplifier power as the NR1710 and, more importantly, Marantz’s proprietary amplifier circuitry. When you get into AVRs considered to cater to the audiophile crowd, it’s the circuitry that gives a more dynamic sound. And the SR5014 is no exception, with a nice warm sound.

6. Anthem MRX 720 7.2-channel AV Receiver

Best for Audio Lovers with a Bigger Room

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The MRX 720 is very similar to the 520 and includes the same Anthem Room Correction, but it also adds two more amplified channels for 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos and 11.2 total pre-amp channels if you want to and more amplifiers to the mix. The increase in built-in amp power makes it perfect if you have a good sized home theater room. While there’s still no Bluetooth, the MRX 720 adds in Wi-Fi connectivity and is compatible with DTS Play-Fi.

7. Denon AVR-X8500H 13.2-channel AV Receiver

Best for if you want everything

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You want all of the channels, you say? Then the Denon AVR-X8500H is for you. With thirteen amplified channels that can support 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 Atmos configurations, Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Alexa integration, and IMAX Enhanced and HEOS compatibility, this AVR has you covered. It also supports up to three separate zones for audio and video, so it can truly be the hub of your home and not just your home theater. Once HDMI 2.1 is released, there will be a hardware upgrade available to support 8K to keep it on top of technology, and it already supports eARC. As with the X3600H, the X8500H supports Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri for voice control.

The Future for AV Receivers

Honestly, the AVR market hasn’t made many leaps forward in the past couple years. Most significantly has been the addition of pass-through for 4K and HDR signals and an improvement to upconverting. But on the horizon is HDMI 2.1 and HDCP 2.3 (the latter has already been implemented in some models). Maybe because of that you’re thinking of waiting for the new (possible) crop of AVRs to be announced and released.

The question is then, what will HDMI 2.1 get you? Most importantly will be a significant increase in throughput, from 18 Gbps with 2.0 to 48 Gbps with 2.1. That will allow 4K signals at 120Hz (something we’ve only had possible with DisplayPort so far), or 8K at 60Hz. But hold up just a second. It will also require something that’s sending that signal and a display to accept it. So while having an AVR with HDMI 2.1 will be very important, we’re still a little ways away from it being necessary. And if there’s one truth in technology, it’s that there’s always another big thing coming around the corner.

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John Higgins has been writing and testing all manner of audio, video, computer, and gaming gear since the early ’00s. He has written for print and online publications including Home Theater, Wirecutter, Sound & Vision, SoundStage!, and Channel Guide. He is also a post audio editor, composer, and musician in Los Angeles.

Source: IGN.com Hook Up Your Home Theater the Right Way With the Best AV Receiver