Written By
Published Mar. 10, 2022

If you’re setting up a home theater, a killer game rig, or even a multiroom music system, an AV receiver (AVR) is a necessary component for tying it all together. It can function as the hub of your system, inputting a variety of audio formats, passing through HDMI signals, and providing connection and amplification for all your speakers. In the alphabet-soup world of home-entertainment technology, figuring out which AVR is right for you isn’t easy. We aim to inform and demystify your shopping experience by recommending the best AV receivers in various price ranges and for different applications.

How we selected the best AV receivers 

We considered dozens of the best AV receivers for this story and focus on those that offer overall excellence in their price range. We also wanted to present products that excel for specific applications such as gaming or audiophile music listening or multichannel surround sound. All the units we’re recommending are made by solid, reputable companies and should give you years of excellent performance. The PopSci writers and editors have decades of combined experience writing about technology and home theater gear and these recommendations are a mixture of first-hand experience, spec comparisons, user impressions, and editorial reviews. 

What to consider when shopping for the best AV receivers

With a product as complex as an AVR, you have many variables to consider. Some essential questions to ask yourself include: Can it support what I have (or want to have) in my system? Does it have enough HDMI inputs to cover all my gear and have at least one leftover for expansion? Does it support the main surround format I plan to use? Does it deliver enough power per channel to give me plenty of volume, given the size of my room? Does it offer 8K support so that I’m future-proofed? Does it have phono inputs for my turntable? The best AV receivers, which we’re recommending in this article, cover a pretty extensive range when it comes to both features and price. Look for the one that will best meet the needs of your current or planned home-theater setup.

Is 8K video capability important in an AV receiver?

Right now, 8K isn’t necessary because there’s precious little 8K content available, even if you have an 8K TV. But that will likely change in the next couple of years, and if it’s important for you to watch shows and movies or play games with the best quality available, you’ll need a receiver that supports it. Fortunately, most of the products that we recommend in this article do. The Yamaha RX-4VA doesn’t now but will be able to soon with a simple firmware update.

Do I need a receiver that supports Dolby Atmos?

Atmos is a pretty “hot” format now, offering the dimension of height and the traditional directionality of surround sound to create an even more immersive sonic environment. A lot of movies now offer Atmos mixes and they can be spectacular. Atmos systems require a receiver with seven channels at the minimum for a hardwired system, consisting of a 5.1 speaker setup with two additional Atmos ceiling-mounted speakers. If you don’t want to mount speakers in the ceiling, you could get Atmos-enabled speakers that fire forward and upward. The latter bounces the sound off your ceiling to simulate having speakers up there. (And don’t forget the speaker wire!)

Another option is an Atmos-enabled soundbar, like the Sennheiser AMBEO or the Sony HT-A7000. Such products create an Atmos-like effect from one multi-speaker device. Finally, several of the receivers in this roundup support Virtualized Atmos, which simulates Atmos from whatever speaker configuration you have. The soundbar and the virtualized Atmos won’t compare to hardware-based Atmos systems, but you do get some of the effects, and it’s a lot less money. DTS:X is a competitor to Atmos and gives you a similar immersive effect. It also has a simulated version, DTS Virtual:X. Again, you need a receiver or soundbar that supports it.

HDMI input and output

On the HDMI outputs on AVRs, you’ll see the letters ARC or eARC. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), introduced with HDMI 2.1. Both ARC and eARC allow bidirectional audio. With the emergence of smart TVs, which stream content from the internet, you need a way to get the audio from that content out of your TV and into your AVR or soundbar so that it gets amplified and routed to speakers. If you have eARC, it supports up to 24-bit/192kHz audio, as well as uncompressed audio from 5.1 and 7.1 surround content. In addition, it works with compressed formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio coming from your TV. And don’t forget the HDMI cables!

The best AV receivers: Reviews & Recommendations

The best AV receivers integrate the various components in your home theater and music system. Most offer optical and analog (RCA) inputs in addition to their HDMI ports. That way, AVRs can incorporate digital sources like Blu-ray players, streaming devices, game consoles, smart TVs, analog turntables (although you might need a phono preamp), or older CD or DVD players. AVRs receive audio over the Internet and via Bluetooth from your mobile devices and many can provide you with wireless multiroom audio. Having a home theater with a music system and maybe a gaming system would be unmanageable without an AV receiver as its nerve center. You can assume that each AVR that we mention includes a remote control and a setup/calibration system of some type.

Best under $500: Yamaha RX-4VA 

YAMAHA

Check Price

Why it made the cut: It offers a surprisingly rich feature set for the money if you don’t need every bell and whistle.

Specs

  • Channels: 5.2
  • Power: 80W per channel (into 6 ohms, 0.06% THD)
  • HDMI ports: 4 in/1 out
  • Highest video supported: 4K currently, 8K upgrade via firmware available soon

Pros 

  • Affordable price for a surround-capable receiver
  • Supports multiple video and music formats
  • Will support 8K and VRR, QMS, ALLM and QFT with a future firmware update

Cons

  • Requires (free) HDMI-board replacement for 4K/120Hz gaming
  • No Dolby Atmos height virtualization or DTS Virtual:X support
  • No phono input

This 5.2-channel unit makes a solid centerpiece for home theater, gaming and music listening. With four HDMI 2.1 inputs and an eARC output—along with optical, coaxial, and analog RCA inputs (but no phono inputs for a turntable)—it’s compatible with a wide range of gear. The unit supports Dolby and DTS surround sound decoding, streaming via Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect, and can be voice-controlled with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. 

The RX-4VA comes with Yamaha’s MusicCast multiroom system (minus the speakers, of course), allowing you to connect with other compatible Yamaha components wirelessly. A USB port lets you play music from an external storage device. 

On the negative side, the RX-4VA doesn’t support virtualized Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual:X. It’s also one of the receivers whose chipset has a bug that makes it unable to handle 4K/120Hz gaming for Xbox Series X or NVIDIA RTX30. Fortunately, Yamaha is offering a free HDMI-board update program to fix it. Although it supports HDMI 2.1, it doesn’t support 8K out of the box. However, Yamaha will soon offer a firmware update that will add 8K capabilities as well as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low-Latency Mode), QMS (Quick Media Switching), and QFT (Quick Frame Transport), which are HDMI 2.1 features designed to enhance gaming.

Best under $1,000: Denon AVR-X2700H 

Why it made the cut: This mid-priced AVR has a full feature set and is ready for the future.

Specs

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Power: 95W per channel (into 8 ohms, THD: 0.08%)
  • HDMI ports: 6 in /2 out
  • Highest video supported: 8K     

Pros 

  • Great sound quality
  • Broad multichannel format support
  • Lots of connectivity options

Cons

  • None to speak of

By shelling out a tad under $1,000 for this unit, you get an AVR with an impressive feature set that should remain relevant for at least five years for both home theater and gaming. Serving up a solid 95W of power per channel, the AVR-X2700H (which replaces the AVR-X2600H) passes through 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video and supports Dolby Atmos, Atmos Height Virtualization, DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X surround audio formats. 

It offers a wide range of connectivity options, including Apple Airplay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, USB, HEOS, and even terrestrial radio. It’s compatible with all the major voice control formats, including Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. If you’re into vinyl, the unit has phono inputs for MM-cartridge turntables.

Best audiophile: Marantz SR6015

Marantz

Check Price

Why it made the cut: Get it for the Marantz sound quality and enough channels for true Dolby Atmos.

Specs

  • Channels: 9.2
  • Power: 110W per channel (into 8 Ohms, THD: 0.08%, 2-ch driven)
  • HDMI ports: 7in/3 out
  • Highest Video Supported: 8K    

Pros

  • High-quality Marantz audio
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, both hardwired and virtual.
  • Built-in HEOS

Cons 

  • Remote lacks backlight

Marantz has a longstanding reputation for high-quality sound, so it’s no surprise that the 9.2-channel SR6015 offers audiophile quality. It includes a phono input so you can connect your turntable without an external preamp and sports separate 110W amplifiers for each channel. As for HDMI ports, you get a generous seven inputs and three outputs. One of the inputs is dedicated to 8K video pass-through at 60Hz and 4K at 120Hz. It’s more than capable if you want to set up a 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos system. It also supports Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X, and other multichannel sound formats. If you’re looking to create a multi-room system, it also features built-in HEOS (Home Entertainment Operating System). Its remote lacks a backlight, but otherwise, this is a killer AVR.

Best high-end: Arcam AVR30 

Why it made the cut: It can process up to 16 channels of multichannel audio.

Specs

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Power: 120W per channel (into 8 ohms at 0.02% THD, 2-ch driven)
  • HDMI ports: 7in/3 out (HDMI 2.0b)
  • Highest Video Supported: 4K

Pros

  • 16 channels of processing
  • Broad multichannel format support
  • Class G amplification provides excellent sound  

Cons

  • No 8K support
  • No HDMI 2.1
  • No phono input

Arcam’s high-end AV receiver offers seven Class G amplification channels, which offer better efficiency than the more typical class B or AB designs. It also has the ability to process 16 channels simultaneously. Using its preamp-outs to feed an additional power amp, you could configure a 15.1 system. The AVR30 has Dirac Live 3.0 room correction and a measurement mic to calibrate all those speakers correctly. 

What’s more, it offers broad support of multichannel audio formats: Dolby Atmos, TrueHD, Digital Plus, DTS:X (but not DTS:X Pro), IMAX Enhanced, and Auro 3D. From an HDMI standpoint, it offers seven in and three out, including one eARC output. However, it only supports HDMI 2.0b rather than 2.1. It also lacks 8K capabilities. As a result, it’s not as future-proofed as some of the other AVRs in this story. 

Unlike Arcam’s previous generation, the AVR30 comes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast support, and an FM tuner. You’ll need a phono preamp to connect a turntable. But overall, if you’re looking to set up a massive multichannel system in your home theater, the AVR30 makes an outstanding central hub to build around.

Best for PS5: Marantz NR1711 

Marantz

Check Price

Why it made the cut: The half-size frame and full feature set will appeal to gamers and those with space-limited home theater setups.

Specs

  • Channels: 7.2
  • Power: 50W per channel (into 8 ohms, with 0.08 % THD, 2-ch driven)
  • HDMI ports: 6in/1out (eARC)
  • Highest Video Supported: 8K

Pros

  • Slimline form factor saves space
  • 8K support provides future-proofing
  • Comprehensive implementation of Dolby and DTS multichannel formats

Cons

  • Only 50W per channel

The NR1711 is a diminutive 3.5 inches in height, about half that of the typical AVR. Yet somehow, Marantz was able to engineer it with a competitive feature set for its price range. Because of its half-sized housing, Marantz had to scale down the amplifier size, so its power output is only 50W per channel. But unless you’re setting it up in a large room, it should still give you plenty of oomph. 

Gamers who are short on space will appreciate the NR1711’s “Slimline” form factor. They’ll also love its 8K support, which will serve them well for the next generation of gaming consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Home theater buffs will appreciate the impressive list of surround formats supported by the NR1711, such as Dolby Atmos, Dolby Speaker Virtualizer, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Surround. DTS is also well represented with DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X, DTS Neural:X, and DTS Digital Surround, to name just some. 

You can set up and calibrate your system with built-in Audyssey MultiEQ, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume processors. If you want to spin some vinyl, the NR1711 sports phono inputs along with its other analog I/O. Additional goodies include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi support, AirPlay 2, HEOS, and Alexa support.

Best budget: Sony STRDH590 

Why it made the cut: It offers a low-cost path into the surround-sound world.

Specs

  • Channels: 5.2
  • Power: 90W per channel RMS at 6 ohms, 0.09 percent THD, two channels driven.          
  • HDMI ports: 4in/1out (ARC)
  • Highest video Supported: 4K HDR pass-through

Pros 

  • Low price for an AVR
  • A good option for 5.1 surround
  • Quality sonics

Cons

  • No Atmos or DTS support
  • No HDMI 2.1
  • Limited wireless capabilities

The STRDH590 is an entry-level AVR that can handle Ultra-HD content such as 4K Blu-ray and HDR video. With 90W RMS per channel, it’s got plenty of sonic punch, and it supports Dolby and DTS surround sound decoding. If you’re looking for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support, you won’t find it here. But if you’re satisfied with good old 5.1 surround sound and don’t care about transitioning to 8K, then the STRDH590 is the best 4K AV receiver for you at this price point. 

Sony equipped the unit with four HDMI inputs and one ARC out. Notice that it’s not eARC because the STRDH950’s HDMI ports are of the 2.0 variety rather than 2.1. Other input ports include optical, coaxial, and analog. There are no phono inputs, though, so you’d need an external preamp for connecting a turntable. However, you get an FM antenna port and a front-panel USB input for playing music from external drives. The unit includes Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (DCAC) and includes a built-in measurement mic for setup. For streaming, it features Bluetooth connectivity so you can pair your mobile device and play music or other audio. 

Overall, if you’re not trying to keep up with the latest and greatest but want to watch movies or play games in 5.1 surround sound, the STRDH590 will get you there for less without sacrificing quality.

FAQs

Q: How long do audio receivers last?

The general consensus is that five years is the typical lifespan for an AVR. It’s not like it will just up and die after a certain number of years, like a water heater. Your receiver could function well for 20 years or more. But with the relentless forward march of technology, it will begin to feel like a dinosaur around the five-year mark. Even if you don’t care about staying up with the latest and greatest, there comes a time when it’s hard to resist the allure of the new technology.

Q: Do receivers make a difference in sound quality?

Context matters here. If you’re just talking about music quality, then a dedicated power amp is superior. However, AV receivers are much more than just amplifiers. They’re the hub of a home theater or gaming setup (or one that does both) and offer a vast range of connections, both wired and wireless. Incoming audio gets routed to their amplifiers and into whatever speaker system you’re using. AVRs can also pass the video content from streaming boxes, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and game consoles through to your television. They don’t process the video; they just pass it through in whatever format it’s in, assuming it’s one they support.

Q: Are AV receivers worth it?

The best AV receivers are totally worth it if you want more than just a home stereo system. If you’re looking to create a home theater, a gaming rig, a streaming music system, or all the above, the easiest way to accommodate the diverse range of connectivity required is with an AV receiver. It takes the incoming content, whether it’s from a streaming box or a set-top box or a gaming console, processes it in the appropriate format (assuming it supports it) and sends the audio off to the speakers while sending the video through to your TV. What’s more, most AVRs offer some form of multi-room audio, so if you get the appropriate speakers, you can also run audio to your entire house or apartment from your receiver.

A final word on the best AV receivers

As you may have noticed from our roundup, there are a lot of choices and a wide range of prices in the AVR market. To decide which one is right for you, you need to consider the price and the kind of system you’re trying to create. Do you want to move up from 5.1 to a more complex multichannel format, like a 7.1 or an Atmos system? Will you have to also upgrade your TV and speaker system to achieve your goals? Because AV receivers are multifaceted and encompass or support so many technologies, it helps to be as informed as possible when deciding which one to buy. In this article, we’ve offered you a diverse range of products and a lot of information. However, you still have plenty of issues to consider regarding the specifics of your system, the space you’re putting it in and what your goals for the system are, before you can choose which of the best AV receivers is best for your needs.

MORE TO READ