For every impressive home theater system, there’s a workhorse receiver at the helm. The best receivers will brilliantly reimagine your A/V equipment, delivering mighty sound to your speakers and breathtaking visuals to your favorite TV.
If you’re interested in gaming, watching videos, or listening to music, you probably already have some concept of what an A/V receiver is. Although we consider the Anthem MRX 1120 the best receiver on the market, there are still plenty of options available.
With a lifetime of experience in the electronic community reviewing TVs, amplifiers, A/V receivers, and more, our team has put together a current list of the best A/V receivers you can find.
The best A/V receivers at a glance:
- The best A/V receiver: Anthem MRX 1120
- The best cheap A/V receiver: Sony STR-DH590
- The best A/V receiver with phono input: Yamaha RX-A680
- The best A/V receiver for music: Yamaha RX-A1080
- The best next-gen A/V receiver: Denon AVR-X3700H
Why you should buy this: It offers fantastic sound and every feature you could want.
Who it’s for: Anyone who places a premium on top-notch sound.
Why we picked the Anthem MRX 1120:
Anthem is a well-known name among those who demand top-tier sound quality in their A/V receivers, and the 11.2-channel MRX 1120 is the top dog of the company’s latest offerings. The MRX 1120 packs a massive Toroidal power supply, offering a claimed 140 watts of clean power per channel at 8 ohms. It features support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound, in either 7.1.4 or 5.1.4 configurations, depending on whether you want to leave channels free for a second zone for another room in your home. And that’s just for starters.
The MRX 1120 also offers wireless multiroom connectivity via DTS Play-Fi. This is bolstered by built-in support for a number of popular music-streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, SiriusXM and internet radio. For those who value fidelity over convenience, hi-res audio support is included as well and makes good use of the receiver’s 32-bit/768 kHz differential-output digital-to-analog converters (DACs).
When it comes to video, the MRX 1120 naturally offers support for 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) content in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats, with support for 4:4:4 chroma and BT.2020 colorspace. A built-in upscaler is also included, bringing standard and high-definition signals up to 4K quality, independent of your 4K TV’s internal upscaler. A total of eight HDMI inputs are included, all of which support HDMI 2.0a (for the aforementioned 4K/HDR device connections) and HDCP 2.2. There are also two HDMI and three digital audio outputs.
Finally, the Anthem MRX 1120 makes setup a snap via Anthem Room Correction software, which is one of the best room-calibration systems out there. The company even includes a high-quality mic and stand for measuring your room’s acoustic properties right in the box.
Why you should buy this: It fits easily within most people’s budgets, yet the Sony STR-DH590 still provides nearly every feature found on much more expensive receivers.
Who it’s for: Those who want a full-fledged home theater system without spending thousands.
Why we picked the Sony STR-DH590:
When it comes to A/V receivers, reducing your budget invariably means reducing the number of features. The key is to preserve as many of the features that most people value. The Sony STR-DH590 manages to do this is stellar fashion by supporting all of the latest audio and video formats, including 4K and HDR (HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision). It also comes with its own acoustic calibration circuitry, which takes the guesswork out of setting up your speakers to the right levels.
For utmost audio fidelity, the DH590 is equipped with Sony’s Pure Direct mode for the cleanest sound the receiver has to offer. It does so by disabling the 590’s front display panel, eliminating unnecessary component noise from escaping into the mix of whatever content you’re consuming. Keep in mind that engaging Pure Direct also bypasses several of the receiver’s internal equalizers. It’s a great feature for listening to music through analog sources, but if you’re a fan of big cinema sound, it’s probably something we’d leave alone when watching a movie.
Although the DH590 has Bluetooth for direct music streaming from a compatible smartphone or tablet, the receiver isn’t internet-connected, so you won’t be able to stream music without a Bluetooth device. That being said, Sony’s high-res audio support kicks in when you’re beaming tunes to the receiver, which adds a little more belly and top-end to your sound.
In terms of main source connections, the DH590 only has four HDMI inputs. While you won’t be powering any rock concerts, it’s more than enough receiver for a very satisfying home theater experience.
Why you should buy this: It has a dizzying array of modern features like Dolby Atmos, 4K, HDR, and streaming services plus a rare phono input.
Who it’s for: Those who want the latest and greatest A/V receiver features, plus an easy way to kick it old-school with vinyl for when the mood strikes you.
Why we picked the Yamaha RX-A680:
There is no lack of capable models to choose from when it comes to mid-range A/V receivers. But when you start to ask which of those models can support a turntable without the use of a pre-amp? Well, it’s a much shorter list. Chief among them is the Yamaha RX-A680, a full-fledged 5.2.2 A/V receiver that also packs a phono-input, which simplifies your setup considerably.
Don’t let its vinyl-friendly jacks fool you: This receiver is blistering with modern, high-tech features like 4K, HDR (HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision), HDCP 2.2, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. It’s part of Yamaha’s Aventage lineup of products, which the company claims can achieve better sound through better components. We’re definitely fans of the flexibility that’s been built-in to the RX-A680. You can run the rear surround channels as classic rear surrounds, or as height channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, or you can run them as powered second-zone stereo speakers if you have another location you want to wire up. On the wireless side of things, it gets even better. Bluetooth is standard as is Wi-Fi, which gives the receiver AirPlay compatibility. Cleverly, its Bluetooth connection is two-way, which means you can stream to the RX-A680 from a tablet or smartphone, but it can also stream out to wireless headphones or speakers.
If there’s one limitation to be aware of, it’s the small selection of HDMI inputs — you only get four, which means you may need to supplement with an HDMI switcher in the future.
Why you should buy this: It hits the sweet spot with abundant audio and video options, plus a new A.I.-powered surround sound system.
Who it’s for: Those who want total control over their A/V environment.
Why we picked the Yamaha RX-A1080:
We’ve called the Yamaha RX-A1080 the best A/V receiver for music, and with its Yamaha MusicCast multiroom wireless audio system and discrete phono input, that’s certainly true. It’s a 7.2.2 unit but with a twist: If you crave more power for your main channels (front, center, and rears) you can choose to use the included pre-amp outputs for these speakers and use a dedicated amplifier, instead of the powered speaker terminals.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out just how capable this unit is as a powerhouse video system. Naturally, it has support for all of the latest A/V technologies: 4K, HDR (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision), Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and HDCP 2.2. It’s ready for HDMI-eARC (with a software upgrade) and is compatible with hi-res audio files up to 32-bit/192 kHz.
But you also get some truly advanced features, like its three-way HDMI outputs. These ports give you the option of watching two different video sources on two separate screens simultaneously or the same signal on two screens at once. At the same time, you can use the third port to send uncompressed audio to a soundbar — though why you would do that when you already have a 7.1.2 system at your disposal is anyone’s guess. With seven HDMI inputs, you’ll have lots of room for expansion before needing to look into an external HDMI switcher.
We’re also intrigued by Yamaha’s Surround A.I., a machine-learning system that analyzes your audio and video signals in real time and optimizes the sound based on what’s happening on-screen. The RX-A1080 is the least expensive A/V receiver in Yamaha’s lineup that offers Surround A.I., making it a great choice for those who want leading-edge tech at a still-affordable price.
Why you should buy this: You want a titan of a home theater brain, combining power, performance, and longevity.
Who’s it for: Early adopters of cutting-edge home theater, especially 8K enthusiasts.
Why we picked the Denon AVR-X3700NH:
Often, the cost of buying into the next generation of home theater can be rather steep. While $1,200 isn’t exactly a bargain, it is considering all the things the Denon AVR-X3700NH can do for the gear you own now, as well as the upgrades you may make in the future — particularly, 8K TVs and compatible 8K devices.
In the video corner, the AVR-X3700 supports 8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ (Dynamic HDR, HLG). There’s also 8K upscaling for adding new dimensions to your existing 4K Blu-rays and subscriptions to Netflix in UHD; and with 7 HDMI inputs and 3 outputs, you won’t have to worry about buying a selector for additional devices. We also love Denon’s consideration of the gaming world at large. With receiver features like Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), current and next-gen games will look and play better than ever.
Then, there’s the audio corner. The X3700 has everything we expect from a higher-tier receiver. We’re talking Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS: Virtual X, and other highly dimensional codecs, coming at you at a clear and crisp 105 watts per channel. You can set up 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 traditional Atmos arrangements, or opt for simulated height channels with the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization feature.
Music enthusiasts will feel right at home with the X3700’s suite of digital music support from services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Soundcloud and more. There’s also Denon HEOS support if you’ve got multiple zones of Denon gear in your home. Control and share all your music right from your phone, or teach the HEOS skill to your Echo speaker for immersive Alexa controls. The X3700 also supports Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Josh.ai.
There’s a lot to be had with the X3700, and while it may ding the wallet upfront, the years of service you’ll be getting are definitely worth the investment.
Research and buying tips
- Are some A/V receivers better for music than movies?
- Do all A/V receivers support 4K?
- What about 8K?
- Can I easily use an A/V receiver with a turntable?
No. Most receivers do very well for movies as well as music, with performance scaling up in tandem as you move into premium models. However, music can be more revealing of sound quality and character than movie soundtracks, and those who value music listening may find one brand more sonically satisfying than another.
Yes. All of the models we highlight support 4K and most also support HDR as well.
While 8K is available in some form or another today, the technology is still new and prohibitive for most people. There aren’t any consumer A/V receivers on our list that support 8K as of this writing, as the technology is still in its nascent stage.
As long as it has a phono input, yes. If not, you’ll need a phono preamp which can be quite affordable for entry-level models.
How we test
Collectively, the A/V team at Digital Trends has been testing A/V receivers for just over 40 years. Testing takes place both in a dedicated home theater lab at our headquarters in Portland, Oregon, as well as our individual home theater spaces.
Source equipment includes a Roku Streaming Stick+, Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, Panasonic UBP900P 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, Pioneer BDP-88FD Blu-ray player, U-turn Orbit turntable, various smartphones, Spotify, Tidal, and Pandora. We also keep a Peachtree Nova 220 SE integrated amplifier nearby for reference.
Connected speakers include a rotating cast of speakers, including many Dolby Atmos-enabled models. Past test speakers include Pioneer Elite floor standing, bookshelf and center channel speakers, Aperion Audio Verus Grand, Bowers & Wilkins CM8 S2, Elac UB5, Paradigm Monitor 8 subwoofer, and GoldenEar technology SuperSub XXL, though our assortment of test speakers constantly rotates with new models.
Test material includes a wide array 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround encoding, Super Audio CDs, DVD-Audio discs, Redbook CDs, hi-res audio files, and Spotify’s high-quality (320 kbps) music streams.
While we routinely run any given receiver’s auto setup routine to gauge its accuracy and user experience, we ultimately perform a manual calibration using an analog SPL meter, carefully choosing crossover points for connected speakers based on in-room measured low-frequency response. Surround speaker arrangements will vary between 7.2 and 5.2.4.
Receivers are tested for ease-of-use, with special attention paid to how easy it is to stream music to the receiver as well as direct-stream internet radio stations. We also pay attention to how clear on-screen guides and setup instructions will be for novice users.
Sound quality tests include analysis of dynamic expression, overall power, timbre, and tonality, speaker-to-speaker transitions of sound effects, and general soundstage quality.
Is now a good time to buy?
For some time, the rate at which features were being added made buying any A/V receiver a risky proposition if you didn’t want to be stuck with something that quickly went out of date. With 4K, HDR, HDMI, and HDCP seemingly having everything worked out for the 4K era, it’s much safer to buy a receiver now without worrying that you’ll quickly see the future pass you by. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X seem entrenched as the two major leaders in object-based surround sound — no surprise, given the lead both Dolby and DTS have generally had in surround sound technologies — so you should be safe there too.
The one area that could possibly change is high-resolution audio, as even many of the above models don’t support everything possible yet, though that is quickly changing as well. If this is very important to you in a receiver, you may want to consider a separate digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
Something else worth noting: You won’t get HDMI 2.1 with any of these models. The updated spec adds 48 gigabits-per-second in bandwidth to support video signals up to 120fps and up to 10K resolution, among other benefits. As nice as that is, the reality is that HDMI 2.1 won’t be very relevant for all but the most enthusiastic (and rich) cinephiles for some time. Hardware and content support for that level of fidelity is still in the infant stages, and it could be a few more years before that stuff takes off. Only wait for a newer receiver if you absolutely need to be future-proofed for the 8K (and higher) resolution or you need incredibly high framerates for gaming. For everyone else, it’s a fairly safe bet that any of the above models should keep you happy for a long while.
- 4K: Higher resolution than HD (3840 X 2160). Quickly becoming the standard for new TVs.
- Dolby Atmos: One of the two most popular object-based surround formats, Atmos adds height information so sound can seem to come from above and all around you.
- DSD: Direct-Stream Digital. A hi-res audio file format alternative to .WAV, .AIFF, and others that aims to reduce distortion.
- DTS:X: The other most popular object-based audio format, DTS:X can be more flexible than Dolby Atmos when it comes to where speakers are placed and how many of them there are.
- HDCP 2.2: A form of copy protection, this version is required in order to play 4K content.
- HDMI 2.0a: While it isn’t the newest version of HDMI, this version is the first that allows HDR signals and 4K content at up to 60 frames per second.
- HDMI 2.1: Not yet widely available, HDMI 2.1 supports higher frame rates and up to 8K resolution, among other key benefits you can read about right here.
- HDMI eARC: eARC — or “enhanced audio return channel” — is an upgrade to the standard HDMI ARC interface. The tech was designed to allow one-cable transmission of audio and information to and from the TV to simplify home theater setups, but the eARC upgrade also adds full support for hi-res surround sound formats.
- HDR: High Dynamic Range, offers better contrast and more color volume than standard dynamic range. Considered by some a bigger visual improvement than 4K resolution.
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