Whatever piece of equipment you are thinking of purchasing next for your home theater, we are putting together a number of Top 10 guides over the coming weeks that will hopefully make your choices easier. Although we have not had a chance to review every product that makes these lists, we have researched what’s hot, what’s been getting the good reviews and what should deliver on both price and performance. Here is a selection of ten receivers and processors in various price brackets that should accommodate most people’s tastes and that we think you should at least check out before handing over the plastic.
Sony STR-DN1080 Receiver $599
Already in its third year of production, the DN1080 enjoys both sturdy sales and sustained interest from the hi-fi and home theater community. This 7.2 receiver packs audio performance that some reviewers have branded “punchy”, “spellbinding” and “insightful” into a solid-looking and multi-talented black box. With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X configurable as 5.1.2, 6 x HDMI inputs and exemplary hi-res music support options – all at a highly affordable price – there is talk of this receiver single-handedly heralding the Japanese corporation’s return to form.
Onkyo TX-NR696 Receiver $579
The Onkyo TX-NR696 has established itself in the past year as one of the undisputed champions of budget receivers. Although priced officially at $579, you should be able to find it for well below $500 now, which makes it quite a steal. As well as its reportedly impressive sonic performance on both movies and music, this attractive black box from Onkyo – with its 7 x 100W per channel of amplification – sports an extraordinary list of features, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio for your movies, and all the latest 4K and HDMI connectivity, such as Dolby Vision pass-through. With 7 HDMI inputs, Bluetooth, a phono connection for vinyl fans and a host of streaming options, you get the feeling that there’s not much more that Onkyo could have thrown in for the price.
Marantz NR1711 Receiver $799
If you’re looking for something with a lower-profile design for a living space, check out the 8K-ready NR1711 (recently replacing the NR1710). Whether you intend to wire up a 7.1 or 5.1.2 immersive home theater, the Marantz will easily satisfy movie and music lovers with robust and “gorgeous” sound, courtesy of 50W per channel amplification. It even supports multi-room designs via the home-grown HEOS app and there is connectivity for Zone 2 included. Belying its size, the NR1711 carries a host of streaming options and gaming-friendly features.
Denon AVR-X3600H $1,099
You can save yourself $600 if you plump for the Denon AVR-X3600H (shortly to be replaced by the AVR-X3700H this year) rather than the upgraded AVR-X4500H (below). There is a compromise on power output reduced to 105W per channel, but you can still drive 11 channels for a 7.2.4 setup with the addition of an external two-channel amplifier, and you also get to hang onto all the streaming mod cons, HEOS compatibility and IMAX Enhanced certification of the higher-ticket 4000 series. Denon has added two power amplifiers over the preceding AVR-X3500H to take the onboard total up to nine, and the word on the street is that bass response, timing and clarity have all benefited from a comprehensive redesign of the 3000 series.
Marantz SR6014 Receiver $1,499
The nine-channel Marantz SR6014 has garnered somewhat greater accolades than its cheaper $999 SR5014 sibling, which has been occasionally criticized for lacking the flare of other receivers in the line. More characteristic of Marantz, however, the SR6014 receiver is considered both “muscular and musical” while providing no less than 7 HDMI inputs and “class leading” connectivity. Like the Denon X4500H, you can build out a 7.2.4 immersive setup with the assistance of an external amp, and if you haven’t quite got round to purchasing your height speakers yet, there’s Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and DTS Virtual:X to keep you going. You also get IMAX Enhanced certification if it’s one of your must-haves.
Denon AVR-X4500H Receiver $1,699
Denon’s 9.2-channel feature-rich mid-range war horse, the AVR-X4500H, has been described as producing “dynamic and detailed” audio. With IMAX Enhanced added to the bill via firmware, the unit can also process 11.2 preamp outs for a full 7.2.4 setup, and offer up 125W per channel into 8 ohms (two channels driven). Although replaced recently with the 8K-upscaling and Quick Media Switching (QMS) AVR-X4700H, the 4000 series has been consistently rated for delivering extraordinary bang-for-buck, and therefore lapping up huge sales year-on-year.
Yamaha CX-A5200 Processor $2,699
Like the Anthem AVM 60 (below), when heading north of the $2,500 price point, in many cases this means contemplating a preamplifier for your home theater, rather than AV receiver (with its own amplifiers on board). While there is the added expense of purchasing further black doorstops to power your speakers, the marked uptick in audio performance is almost universally game-changing for most listeners. The CX-A5200 stops short of the 13 channels available in the Denon AVR-X8500H receiver, but users are treated to a great swathe of Yamaha’s expert DSP effects modes and inherent musicality in performance. Audio is considered neutral, uncolored and natural, and purists will be pleased to see balanced XLR outputs for power amp hookup.
Anthem AVM 60 Processor $2,999
Back in November, Dave Upton reviewed and raved about the Anthem AVM 60 pre/pro. Although launched more than four years ago now, the product continues to receive feature updates, one of which recently included the company’s own
ARC Genesis room correction system, responsible for knocking some serious competitors off their perch. While eschewing the usual cornucopia of streaming and integration features of similarly priced pre/pros from the likes of Marantz and Yamaha, the AVM 60 delivers top-notch audio performance for the category. Add that fact to the now unassailable legacy of the Anthem and Paradigm names behind this beast, and you might well ask what’s not to like here. Purchase at Crutchfield
Denon AVR-X8500H Receiver $3,999
If you find you need six overhead or nine ear-height speakers in your media room, you could opt for Denon’s tier-topping AVR-X8500H receiver. This 13.2-channel behemoth supplies 150W per channel to each speaker in a 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 architecture (although keep in mind that DTS:X is limited in its channel output). Some speak of no receiver sounding better than this one, while others suggest the soundstage scale is “immense”, but if you prefer your tech full-featured and without compromise, the X8500H might be the one for you.
Lyngdorf MP-40 Processor $9,500
Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect room correction software celebrates its 14th birthday this year and yet it still has the capability of making home theaters sound utterly sublime. The warmth and detail that can be heard in stereo and multi-channel sources on the company’s new MP-40 processor is nothing short of astounding, and these great Danes certainly have set a new bar for their competitors to attain. Whatever it takes, give it a listen before you finally decide it’s outside your budget. See our full review here and click here to find a dealer.
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