For every impressive home theater system there is a workhorse receiver at the helm. The best receivers will brilliantly reinterpret your A / V equipment, delivering powerful sound to your speakers and breathtaking images to your favorite TV.
If you want to play games, watch videos, or listen to music, you probably already have an idea of what an A / V receiver is. While we consider the Anthem MRX 1120 to be the best receiver on the market, there are still plenty of options available.
With years of experience in the electronic community reviewing TVs, amplifiers, A / V receivers, and more, our team has compiled an up-to-date 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
Why You Should Buy This: It has fantastic sound and all the features you could want.
For who it is: Anyone who values first-class sound.
Why we chose the Anthem MRX 1120:
Anthem is a household name among those who demand premium sound quality from their A / V receivers, and the 11.2-channel MRX 1120 is the frontrunner among the company's latest offerings. The MRX 1120 has a massive toroidal power supply and supposedly offers 140 watts of clean power per channel at 8 ohms. It offers support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X object-based surround sound in configurations 7.1.4 or 5.1.4, depending on whether you want to leave channels free for a second zone for another room in your home. And that's just to start with.
The MRX 1120 also offers wireless multiroom connectivity via DTS Play-Fi. This is aided 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 loyalty and convenience, high-resolution audio support is also included, which uses the 32-bit / 768 kHz DACs (digital-to-analog converters) with differential output of the receiver.
When it comes to video, the MRX 1120 naturally offers support for 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) content in the formats HDR10 and Dolby Vision with support for 4: 4: 4 chroma and BT.2020 color space. A built-in upscaler is also included that brings standard and high-definition signals to 4K quality regardless of the internal upscaler of your 4K TV. A total of eight HDMI inputs are included, all of which support HDMI 2.0a (for the 4K / HDR device connections mentioned above) and HDCP 2.2. There are also two HDMI and three digital audio outputs.
With the Anthem MRX 1120, setup is a breeze using Anthem Room Correction software, one of the best room calibration systems on the market. The company even offers a high quality microphone and stand for measuring the acoustic properties of your room right in the box.
The best cheap A / V receiver: Sony STR-DH590
Why You Should Buy This: It easily fits into most people's budgets, yet the Sony STR-DH590 offers almost all of the features found on much more expensive receivers.
For who it is: Those who want a full-fledged home theater system without spending thousands.
Why we chose 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 get as many features as most people appreciate. The Sony STR-DH590 does this in an outstanding way by supporting all current audio and video formats, including 4K and HDR (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision). It also comes with its own acoustic calibration circuit which takes the guesswork out of setting your speakers to the correct levels.
For the highest audio quality, the DH590 is equipped with Sony's Pure Direct mode for the cleanest sound the receiver has to offer. To do this, deactivate the front display of the 590 to avoid unnecessary component noises getting into the mix of the content you are consuming. Note that activating Pure Direct also bypasses several internal equalizers in the receiver. It's a great feature for listening to music through analog sources, but if you're a fan of great cinematic sound, it's probably something we'd leave alone while watching a movie.
Although the DH590 has Bluetooth for streaming music directly from a compatible smartphone or tablet, the receiver is not connected to the internet, so you will not be able to stream music without a Bluetooth device. That being said, Sony's high definition audio support is activated when you stream music to the receiver, which gives your sound a little more belly and top-end.
In terms of main source connections, the DH590 only has four HDMI inputs. While they won't be giving rock concerts, it is more than enough receiver for a very satisfying home theater experience.
The best A / V receiver with phono input: Yamaha RX-A680
Why You Should Buy This: It has a dizzying array of modern features like Dolby Atmos, 4K, HDR and streaming services, as well as a rare phono input.
For who it is: Those looking for the latest and greatest A / V receiver features, plus an easy way to go old school with vinyl when the mood hits you.
Why we chose the Yamaha RX-A680:
There is no shortage of powerful models when it comes to high-performance A / V receivers. But if you're wondering which of these models can support a turntable without a preamp? Well it's a much shorter list. The most important among them is the Yamaha RX-A680, a full-fledged 5.2.2 A / V receiver that also has a phono input, which greatly simplifies your setup.
Don't be fooled by the vinyl-friendly jacks: this receiver offers modern high-tech functions such as 4K, HDR (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision), HDCP 2.2, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. It is part of the Aventage product range from Yamaha which, according to the company, can get better sound with better components. We are definitely fans of the flexibility built into the RX-A680. You can use the surround back channels as classic surround back channels, or as height channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, or as activated stereo second zone speakers when you have another location that you want to wire. It gets even better on the wireless side. Bluetooth is standard, as is Wi-Fi, which gives the receiver AirPlay compatibility. Cleverly, the Bluetooth connection works in both directions. This means that you can stream to the RX-A680 from a tablet or smartphone, but also to wireless headphones or speakers.
If there is one caveat to keep in mind, this is the small selection of HDMI inputs – you only get four, which means you may need to add an HDMI switcher in the future.
The best A / V receiver for music: Yamaha RX-A1080
Why You Should Buy This: It offers the sweet spot with numerous audio and video options as well as a new surround sound system with A.I. power supply.
For who it is: Those who want complete control over their A / V environment.
Why we chose the Yamaha RX-A1080:
We've named the Yamaha RX-A1080 the best A / V receiver for music. With its Yamaha MusicCast wireless multiroom audio system and discrete phono input, this is certainly true. It's a 7.2.2 device, but with a twist: if you want more power for your main channels (front, center, and rear), you can use the included pre-outs for those speakers and use a dedicated amplifier instead, the active ones Speaker connections.
But we wouldn't be sure if we didn't point out how capable this device is as a powerful video system. Of course, all the latest A / V technologies are supported: 4K, HDR (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision), Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and HDCP 2.2. It's HDMI-eARC ready (with a software upgrade) and compatible with high resolution audio files up to 32 bit / 192 kHz.
But you also get some really advanced features, like the three-way HDMI outputs. These connections allow you to view two different video sources simultaneously on two separate screens or the same signal on two screens at the same time. At the same time, you can use the third port to send uncompressed audio to a soundbar. Why you would do this when you already have a 7.1.2 system is unclear. With seven HDMI inputs, you have plenty of room for expansion before looking into an external HDMI switcher.
We are 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 the screen. The RX-A1080 is the most affordable A / V receiver in the Yamaha line of products, the Surround A.I. offers. This makes it a good choice for those who are looking for cutting edge technology at a still affordable price.
The best next-generation A / V receiver: Denon AVR-X3700NH
Why You Should Buy This: You want a titan of a home theater brain that combines strength, performance, and longevity.
Who is it for: Early adopters of cutting-edge home theater, especially 8K enthusiasts.
Why we chose the Denon AVR-X3700NH:
Often times, the cost of buying the next generation home theater is quite high. While $ 1,200 isn't a bargain, it does take into account all of the aspects the Denon AVR-X3700NH can do about the equipment you own now and the upgrades you may find in the future – especially 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 an 8K upscaling feature to add new dimensions to your existing 4K Blu-rays and subscriptions to Netflix in UHD. With 7 HDMI inputs and 3 outputs, you don't have to worry about buying a selector for additional devices. We also love Denon's view of the gaming world in general. With receiver features like VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), QFT (Quick Frame Transport) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), current and next-gen games look and play better than ever.
Then there is the audio corner. The X3700 offers everything that we would expect from a higher-level receiver. We're talking about Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, DTS: Virtual X and other high-dimensional codecs that come at you with crisp and crisp 105 watts per channel. You can set up traditional 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 Atmos arrangements, or opt for simulated altitude channels with the Dolby Atmos altitude virtualization feature.
Music enthusiasts will feel right at home with the X3700's digital music support from services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Soundcloud and others. Denon HEOS support is also available if you have multiple zones of Denon gear at home. Control and share all of your music right from your phone, or teach your Echo speaker the HEOS skill for comprehensive Alexa controls. The X3700 also supports Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Josh.ai.
There's a lot to do with the X3700, and while it puts a strain on your wallet, the years of service you get are definitely worth the investment.
Research and buying tips
Are some A / V receivers better for music than movies?
No. Most receivers are very suitable for both movies and music. The performance is increased at the same time as you switch to premium models. However, music can reveal sound quality and character better than film scores, and those who value music may find one brand more sonically satisfying than another.
Do all A / V receivers support 4K?
Yes. All of the models we highlighted support 4K and most of them also support HDR.
What about 8K?
While 8K is available in some form today, the technology is still new and unaffordable for most people. There are currently no consumer A / V receivers that support 8K on our list as the technology is still in its infancy.
Can I easily use an A / V receiver with a turntable?
As long as it has a phono input, yes. If not, you'll need a phono preamp which can be quite cheap for entry-level models.
How we test
Overall, the Digital Trends A / V team has been testing A / V receivers for a little over 40 years. The tests take place both in a dedicated home theater laboratory at our headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and in our individual home theater rooms.
The equipment includes a Roku Streaming Stick +, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player UBP900P 4B Ultra Panonic, a Pioneer BDP-88FD Blu-ray player , a U-turn orbit turntable, various smartphones, Spotify, Tides and Pandora. We also have a Peachtree Nova 220 SE built-in amplifier nearby for reference.
Speakers connected include rotating speakers, including many Dolby Atmos-enabled models. Earlier test speakers included Pioneer Elite floorstanding speakers, bookshelf and center channel speakers, Aperion Audio Verus Grand, CM8 S2 from Bowers & Wilkins, Elac UB5, Paradigm Monitor 8 subwoofer, and SuperEub XXL with GoldenEar technology, although our range on test speakers constantly rotating with new models.
The test material includes a wide range of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X surround encoding, Super Audio CDs, DVD-Audio discs, Redbook CDs, high-resolution audio files and Spotify's high quality (320 kbps) music streams.
While we routinely run a receiver's automatic set-up routine to measure its accuracy and user experience, we ultimately perform a manual calibration with an analog sound pressure meter, carefully selecting the crossover points for connected speakers based on the low frequency response measured in the room. The arrangement of the surround speakers varies between 7.2 and 5.2.4.
Receivers are tested for ease of use, paying special attention to how easy it is to stream music directly to the receiver as well as internet radio stations. We also pay attention to how clear the on-screen instructions and setup instructions are for beginners.
Sound quality tests include analyzing dynamic expression, overall performance, timbre and tonality, speaker-to-speaker transitions of sound effects, and overall soundstage quality.
Is Now a Good Time to Buy?
The speed at which features were added made buying an A / V receiver a risky undertaking for some time if you didn't want to cling to something that was quickly becoming out of date. With 4K, HDR, HDMI, and HDCP all seemingly working out for the 4K era, it's much safer to buy a receiver now without worrying that the future will be over quickly. Dolby Atmos and DTS: X appear to be entrenched as the two main leaders in object-based surround sound – no surprise given the head start that Dolby and DTS had in surround sound technologies in general – so you should be safe there, too.
The only area that could potentially change is high resolution audio as even many of the above models don't yet support all sorts of things, although this is also changing rapidly. If this is very important to you in a receiver, 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 specification offers a bandwidth of 48 gigabits per second to support video signals with up to 120 fps and up to 10K resolution. As nice as that is, the reality is that HDMI 2.1 will only matter to the most enthusiastic (and wealthy) cinephiles for a while. Hardware and content support for this level of fidelity is still in its infancy, and it could be a few more years before the stuff hits the market. Just wait for a newer receiver if you absolutely need to be future-proof for 8K resolution (and higher) or need incredibly high frame rates for gaming. For everyone else, it's a pretty safe bet that any of the above models should keep you happy for a long time.
- 4K: Higher resolution than HD (3840 x 2160). The standard for new televisions quickly.
- Dolby Atmos: One of the two most popular object-based surround formats, Atmos adds height information so the sound appears to be coming from above and from everywhere.
- DSD: Direct-Stream Digital. A high-resolution 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 and how many speakers are placed.
- HDCP 2.2: This form is a form of copy protection and is required to play 4K content.
- HDMI 2.0a: While not the latest version of HDMI, this version is the first to allow HDR signals and 4K content at up to 60 frames per second.
- HDMI 2.1: HDMI 2.1 is not yet widely used and supports higher frame rates and a resolution of up to 8K. You can find other important advantages here.
- HDMI eARC: eARC – or "Enhanced Audio Return Channel" – is an upgrade to the standard HDMI ARC interface. The technology was developed to allow audio and information to be transmitted to and from the television over a cable to simplify home theater setup. However, the eARC upgrade also offers full support for high-resolution surround sound formats.
- HDR: High dynamic range, offers better contrast and more color volume than the standard dynamic range. Regarded by some as a greater visual enhancement than 4K resolution.