Best AV Receivers
for Home Entertainment
Best Mid-range Home Theater Receivers Reviews
Do you really want to enjoy surround sound? Invest in a home theater receiver! An HTiB would get you their but not if sound quality matters. And the single speaker sound-bar option, while ideal to keep your room free from speaker clutter, does not deliver a truly immersive sound even at its the best spot.
You see, the serious home theater enthusiast would never settle for anything less than a 5.1 speaker setup coupled with a fully-fledged home theater receiver. For many however, selecting the best AV receiver for their home entertainment from the numerous models and brands is not easy.
We therefore hope that this Best Home Theater Receivers review will come to your assistance; it covers what in our opinion are the best mid-range home theater receivers on the market.
Onkyo TX-NR717 7.2 AV Receiver
THX Select 2 Plus certified
AV receiver 125W/ch
A great AV receiver capable of superb sound clarity and numerous features, including Internet music streaming, Audyssey DSX and Dolby PLIIz, multi-zone music, and 10 HDMI connections.
Why a mid-range AV Receiver?
Getting the best AV receiver deal for your money
Any home theater receiver is perfectly adequate in delivering surround sound, irrespective of whether it is an entry-level model or a premium AV receiver.
Entry-level AV receivers typically cost less than $400, at times even significantly less. Do not expect audiophile performance at this lower price bracket; this is part of the compromise for at the lower price tag. But sound quality, and output power are generally not issues even at these lower prices.
And you would still enjoy a number of enhanced features like 3D support, networking with DLNA support and Internet access. So... If you manage to find a receiver at this price range that delivers the features you want, just go for it! Great inexpensive home receiver options are available from a number of major brands - including Sony, Onkyo, and Yamaha.
Sony STR-DH520: The Sony STR-DH520 is a 100W per channel 7.1-receiver; At around $230, this Sony home theater receiver is one of the cheapest and one of the best AV receivers at the lower price bracket.
It is a great all rounder that apart from delivering good quality sound, it also incorporates some of the latest features on its HDMI inputs like audio return channel and 3D pass-through. It surely represents a best-value 7.1 channel home theater receiver option.
However, if features matter more than having two extra audio channels, it is worth looking elsewhere, more specifically at Onkyo and Yamaha with their NR414 and the V373 AV receivers respectively. Both fall within the same price bracket as the Sony but come as 5.1 channel receivers instead of 7.1 and include loads of worthy features.
Onkyo TX-NR414: Similarly priced as the Sony, the Onkyo TX-NR414 is a 5.1-channel receiver; it is a 3D compatible network home theater receiver that visually looks the same as the Onkyo TX-NR717 receiver featured above. At under $260, the NR414 represents one of the best AV receiver options capable of 80 Watts-per-Channel, more than enough for a medium size room.
Features include 6 HDMI with 3D and audio return channel support, USB port supporting iPod/iPhone or USB flash drives, DLNA network connectivity, is wireless ready ( requires the optional Onkyo Wi-Fi adapter), and include Internet Radio access. The only thing missing is video up-scaling but that in our opinion is not much of an issue with AV receivers since that is something best carried out by your disc player.
Yamaha RX-V373: The Yamaha RX-V373 featured here is one of the best AV receiver options from a top brand. It is a relatively basic 5.1 x 100 Watt per channel AV receiver but that still includes a few extra enhancements we do not normally associate with entry-level models.
These include enhanced connectivity with a front USB port supporting iPhones/iPods and mass storage devices, and four HDMI inputs with 2K-4K pass-through, 3D and audio return channel, on-screen TV display. There is also an eco power mode, and more important, the new Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer or YPAO system.
YPAO uses the included microphone to analyze the room acoustics and adjusts the different audio parameters for optimum sound performance. It is a great feature to find on a sub-$250 AV receiver. The following video by Yamaha better explains how the YPAO works.
Irrespective of brand, these are all solid AV receivers that have attracted extensive positive feedback from users and professionals. They represent great entry-level receiver options capable of much better sound than the many HTiB solutions available for the home theater on a budget. But...
At the entry-level AV receiver category, you would be missing many of the latest features, like Wi-Fi networking with Internet access and audio streaming, and better sound quality with lower noise and lower distortion at higher output volumes. And this apart from the reduced connectivity and often limited video switching capabilities found on budget-class surround sound receivers.
Instead, move on to mid-range home theater receivers and there you will find all sort of appealing features. You see, it is the feature list that is main differentiating factor between entry-level and midrange systems. Midrange receivers deliver the best overall value for your money. In addition, cross the $500 price mark and you will be within reach of more worthy 7.1/7.2 audio video receiver system. If you are unsure where to opt for a 5.1 or a 7.1/7.2 receiver, we suggest going through our 5.1 vs. 7.1 article.
Still, features and pricing are very much dependent on model and brand. Unfortunately choosing the best AV receiver option for your budget from the numerous models is not easy.
It is here that this home theater receivers review discussion comes in. We have selected what in our opinion are at present the best AV receivers for features, performance and price, within the midrange category. Our analysis factors both our professional opinion, as well as feedback posted by both experts and users.
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Best AV Receivers: More than just Surround Sound!
Here in order of preference, we look at what we consider the top three mid-range AV receivers that deliver the best overall value.
These are the Onkyo TX-NR717 , which in our opinion is the best AV receiver for overall value and performance, the Pioneer VSX-1122-K- which is the receiver that excels in overall feature set at this price bracket, and the Harman Kardon AVR-3650 - the best AV receiver for overall audio/video performance.
Practical Home Theater Guide Top Choice: Onkyo TX-NR717 7.2-Channel 3-D Compatible Network AV Receiver
Onkyo has long been the AV receiver maker delivering the most featured home theater receivers for your money; but not only, Onkyo's reputation as the brand with the best AV receivers for overall has been gained as a result of its continuous effort in delivering among the best units for overall value and performance. In this respect, the Onkyo TX-NR717 is definitely among the best AV receivers for 2012.
Onkyo TX-NR717 7.2 AV Receiver
The Onkyo TX-NR717 is one of the very best AV receivers that really deliver in terms of overall features and performance for the price. At its present online price of less than $600, this Onkyo home theater receiver comes fully packed with a feature list one would expect to find on significantly more expensive models.
The TX-NR717 is a 7.2-channel surround sound receiver rated at 110W/Ch 8 ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08%, all channels driven, FTC, at signal-to-noise ratio of 106dB on its line-level inputs and 80dB on the Phono input.
This Onkyo AV receiver comes with THX Select2 Plus certification. As further detailed in our THX home cinema guide, THX Select2 Plus certification is specified for the small to medium size rooms where the screen-to-seat viewing distance is close to 10 feet and the room volume is around 2000 cubic feet.
You will also find extensive connectivity complemented by eight HDMI ver. 1.4a inputs with 3D compatibility and audio return, two HDMI outputs, Ethernet with DLNA for audio streaming and Internet access. The latter brings with it a huge array of Internet radio channels from Pandora, SIRIUS and the like, apart from the possibility to update your home theater receiver firmware straight from the Internet.
This receiver supports all imaginable surround sound formats, from high-definition Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, to the latest Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX formats, as well as includes extensive multi-zone features that operate irrespective of input. The two Front Wide or Front High channel outputs may be used to power speakers in two other rooms using a zone 2 or zone 3 configuration, with zone 2 and zone 3 operating in stereo mode while the main room in 3.1 surround when powered zone 2 and 3 are both used.
Other features include bi-amping capabilities, virtual surround, HDMI upscaling up to 4K using Marvell Qdeo video processor chip, iPod support, on-screen GUI via HDMI which makes setup pretty simple, and a full suite of Audyssey features designed to help bring about the best listening environment through the use of auto setup routines, dynamic volume controls and dynamic equalization processes.
This Onkyo AV receiver is capable of doing a pristine job especially when handling movie playback and uncompressed audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD, with an almost spot on performance, clear dialog and great enveloping sound.
This Onkyo AV receiver is also capable of a satisfying 2-channel music playback, but performance with 2-channel music does not match its movie playback performance. This is typical of most midrange home theater receivers. In addition, the Onkyo performance is very much dependent on the settings you select - whether you opt to go through a manual tuning of the AV receiver to your liking or by activating the appropriate built-in features. For example, activating the 'Pure Audio' feature would result in a more natural sound with 2-channel sources without that extra bass push often associated with movie playback material.
The TX-NR717 also exhibits solid video handling, with hardly any artifacts when converting between sources and upscaling. In general, upscaling and processing of the video signal is best left either to your TV itself or to the video source; but if you have a problem with either, there is no reason why you should not use the video processing on the Onkyo receiver.
In use, this Onkyo home theater receiver does get warm - depending on the volume levels; but then remember that here we are dealing with a 110W x 7-channel receiver. In other words, allow for proper ventilation especially if you plan to run the receiver at high volume levels for extended periods in an enclosed AV rack.
The bottom line: Do not expect a home theater receiver within this price bracket to deliver the perfect sound, but then the Onkyo TX-NR717 home theater receiver is one of the best AV receivers, capable of delivering sound that is better than most of the competition. If you are in the market for a well-equipped network capable 3D-compatible AV receiver with the latest features, you would be hard pressed to find a better AV receiver at this price than the Onkyo TX-NR717.
This Pioneer VSX-1122-K AV receiver is our preferred choice thanks to its excellent sound and great overall performance.
At a reduced online price of around $500, this Pioneer home theater receiver delivers great overall value for your money despite it misses on features like Airplay Video support; but then these are features one can live without.
Pioneer VSX-1122-K 7.1-channel
The VSX-1122-K is an improved version of the popular Pioneer VSX-1022-K, with the main upgrade features over the cheaper version being the use of a more advanced MCACC speaker setup system, an additional surround speaker configuration, provision for video adjustments like image brightness, contrast, hue, etc., WiFi connectivity via an optional USB adapter, and a convenient front mounted HDMI input.
Main features include:
1] An efficient graphical user interface which makes system setup and control much easier to handle than just using the remote control; the latter is somewhat cluttered with small buttons that makes it rather unpractical in use.
2] Extensive connectivity complemented by six (with one on the front panel) HDMI inputs ver. 1.4a with 3D compatibility, wired Ethernet with DLNA support for audio streaming from networked PCs and Internet radio playback, and a front USB port that is 'Works with iPhone' certified so you can easily incorporate your iPod, iPad or iPhone into your home theater as your control center.
3] Supports full analog video up-conversion and digital upscaling up to 1080p irrespective of source.
4] Extended audio format support, including decoding for high-definition audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as the latest Dolby's Pro Logic IIz format; the latter replaces the two back surround channels with two front height channels for added front speaker setup flexibility.
5] Pioneer's proprietary Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) to provide an almost perfect receiver setting. Many professionals agree this is one of the best calibration systems around. The VSX-1122-K comes with an advanced MCACC version that uses a 9-band equalizer during calibration, auto-crossover settings, and can even send charts of its measurements to your PC via USB.
6] As with most 7.1-channel AV receivers, the Pioneer VSX-1122-K can be configured as a 5.1 home theater receiver with the two extra channels used as part of a zone B audio system.
7] Support iTunes and Apple AirPlay to stream music from iTunes and play it through your home theater system without docks or cables as well as Pioneer's iCntrolAV2 Apps to enable you to control your AV receiver using your Apple or Android device.
What really gets our thumbs up for the Pioneer is not the feature set; most midrange AV receivers come with similar features. Mind you, it is not that we have any complaints what-so-ever with the Pioneer feature set, which in our opinion is one of the most complete. However, it remains a fact that the VSX-1122-K edge over the competition at this price bracket is its excellent sound performance - one that almost sounds perfect, partly thanks to Pioneer's advanced calibration technology. This is further complemented by an equally excellent video handling performance.
Harman Kardon home theater receivers are generally more expensive than the competition.
Therefore, the whole issue at a price bracket where consumers are more price sensitive is what you will get for the more expensive price tag. Well...
The AVR-3650 is a follow up to the extremely successful AVR-3600 and one of the most elegant AV receivers around; it comes with a number of interesting features, including 3D support on its HDMI inputs, and solid overall audio performance.
This Harman Kardon receiver main upgrade over the previous model include more audio power output and front panel HDMI and USB ports; instead, on the negative side, the Bridge III iPod docking station (for full audio and video playback and control even from an iPhone) which was included with the AVR-3600 model, has now become an optional extra. We find this strange considering the rather more expensive price of the Harman Kardon over that of the competition.
In terms of audio power, the Harman Kardon AVR-3650 AV receiver is rated at 110W per channel - which is more than enough for a medium size room especially when considering that Harman Kardon generally applies more conservative ratings to its receivers.
The AVR3650 comes with an excellent graphical user interface that guides you through the setup process; system calibration and equalization are equally simple processes thanks to the EzSet/EQ calibration system that uses the included microphone to automatically configure the receiver for the best settings with your speakers and home theater room.
Connectivity is adequate for a midrange AV receiver with six HDMI ver. 1.4a with 3D compatibility and audio return channel. However, this is two short of the Onkyo TX-NR717. In addition, there is no AIRPLAY support and Ethernet connectivity is limited to Internet radio and music streaming on your network.
On a positive note, this AV receiver comes with Dolby Volume processing, which means that once you set your preferred volume, it maintains that level across all inputs.
More important for most users is that the Harman Kardon home theater receiver comes with one of the best audio and video switching capabilities. One particular feature in this respect is its solid analog video upscaling to 1080i and analog to HDMI conversion at 1080p. All related display settings can be independently optimized for each video input, while all receiver video processing can be bypassed (HDMI Bypass mode) should the user desires so, say to minimize lag when playing games.
As one may expect, this receiver will play all common Dolby and DTS surround sound formats - including high-definition Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.
Included is a Zone 2 option; you may configure this 7.1 AV receiver for use in a 5.1 multi-channel speaker configuration by freeing the surround back channels for use in Zone 2 operation. Harman Kardon also provides a second remote for the Zone 2 operation - something missing on the less expensive Harman Kardon models. But as with the rest of the other midrange AV receivers featureless in this review, Zone 2 operation only supports analog sources. In other words, the CD/DVD player you will be using for Zone 2 audio have to be connected via its analog outputs to the AV receiver.
There is no doubt that the AVR3650 is one of the very best AV receivers; it is capable of very good audio performance with a relatively warm sound, and excellent dynamic response - giving the impression that the Harman Kardon is capable of delivering more power than its actual rating. On-screen guide is also excellent.
The only real problem we see is the higher price with respect to the competition for the features on offer.
The bottom line: This is not among the cheapest home theater receivers but if audio performance is your priority, then there is definitely a lot like about the Harman Kardon AVR-3650 especially at its present reduced price. Add the stylish design, excellent easy-to-use user interface, the included Zone 2 remote, and there you have one of the best AV receivers within the midrange category.
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