Are you looking to untangle the hopeless mess of wires around your TV? Maybe you’d like to switch inputs more easily. Or maybe you just bought a 4K TV and really want to make the colors pop. Whatever your reason for buying, shopping for AV receivers can be confusing. There are so many specs and settings that it’s hard to know what anything really does. Here are five of the best AV receivers on the market today. We’ll go over the features and explain what everything does, to clear up any confusion. Finally, we’ll answer some common questions people have about AV receivers.
Our Top Pick
We chose the Denon AVR-S740H as our top pick for best av receiver. The Denon AVR-S740H is a beast of a machine that punches well above its weight in terms of price. It connects to just about everything, and is compatible with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplay devices. You can use the smartphone app to turn your phone into a remote control, or use Alexa for full voice control. Most Smart TVs will pair with the Denon AVR-S740H, so you can control your TV and your receiver from one interface.
This receiver supports full 4K Ultra HD. It supports BT.2020, Wide Color, Gamut and 4:4:4: Pure Color sub-sampling. What this means, in English, is that you’ll get an ultra-crisp picture with eye-popping color on your 4K screen. It will work with 5.1, 7.1 and 7.2 surround sound systems. In addition to a whopping 7 HDMI inputs, it also has a phono input and a convenient USB port on the front for playing MP3, FLAC, and WAV files. If that’s not enough, the AVR-S740H also has native support for Tidal, Spotify and Pandora.
How to Choose an AV Receiver
When you’re looking at an AV receiver, you’re really looking at is one machine that does two things. It processes both audio and video signals. This is one thing that gets people’s wires crossed when they’re trying to understand all the specs. For example, a receiver may have HDMI and 7.2 surround sound outputs. This does not mean you need a 7.2 surround sound system to use this kind of receiver, or that the receiver will somehow make your TV have surround sound. The receiver will send video via the HDMI cable, and give you the option of using the HDMI or 7.2 surround sound for audio.
Another common idea is that having more inputs is automatically better. Look at your devices first. If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, for example, your turntable probably outputs via a phono cable. A newer model turntable may also have a USB output. Either way, an AV receiver with 10 HDMI inputs – and nothing else – won’t serve your needs. If you find a receiver you really like, but one of your devices won’t plug into it, there are adapters for pretty much everything these days. Other things to look for include:
- Connectivity options. Most modern receivers will connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both. Many also have companion apps, and will work with Siri or Alexa.
- 4K pass-through and 4:4:4 color sampling. If you’ve got a 4K TV, these are a must. These features make sure your 4K video never gets downgraded, and gives you higher quality from source to screen.
Our Top 5 AV Receivers for 2020
The Denon AVR-S740H is the best value of all the receivers we reviewed, and is probably the best all-around choice for the average homeowner. The main reason for this is its incredible connectivity. This receiver will connect to virtually any speaker, anywhere in your home. Whether your speakers connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Airplay, the AVR-S740H will connect seamlessly and give you great audio quality. You can even play different audio in different rooms. For example, you can watch a movie in the living room, with the audio on your surround sound, while streaming Pandora music to the kitchen.
As you’d expect from a device with this kind of whole-house appeal, the AVR-S740H is easy to control from anywhere in the house. The Denon AVR Remote app is available on Android and iOS, and lets you use your smartphone as a remote control from anywhere in your home. Or mess with your family members by changing their music while you’re on the road. If you have a smart TV, it should pair with this receiver easily, allowing you to use the app to control your TV as well. The AVR-S740H rounds out its list of features by supporting Tidal, Spotify and Pandora right out of the box.
This receiver delivers full, 4K Ultra HD to compatible screens. It supports BT.2020, Wide Color, Gamut and 4:4:4: Pure Color sub-sampling. If you want vivid colors and a clean, sharp image, look no further than the AVR-S740H. It supports 5.1, 7.1 and 7.2 surround sound. It has a phono input, 7 HDMI inputs, and has a USB port on the front. Just plug in your flash drive, and play your MP3 or FLAC files straight from the receiver.
The Onkyo TX-NR777 is a bit pricier than the AVR-S740H, and has similar connectivity options. You can connect to speakers and other devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplay. It also supports multi-room audio, but only for devices that are compatible with FireConnect streaming services. For other devices, you’ll only be able to listen to whatever you’re listening to on your primary output. The Onkyo Controller app is available for iOS and Android, and allows you to control inputs and outputs from your phone.
This receiver comes with some fun features for true AV enthusiasts out there. For one thing, the audio processor upscales legacy signals to 5.2 surround sound. This is a nice feature for vinyl lovers with modern sound systems. It’s also great for watching older movies that don’t have modern surround sound. For the truly hardcore, the TX-NR777 also has a 12-volt switch for controlling a projector screen. Yes, you can use your smartphone app to control a projector screen. How cool is that?
The Onkyo TX-NR777 will deliver full 4K Ultra HD video to two screens simultaneously. This is convenient if you run a small business, or even if you’re just having a bunch of friends over for the big game and want to have the living room and your man cave on the same feed. The stereo output is limited to a disappointing 5.2 surround sound, so people with newer, 7.1 or 7.2 channel systems will want to look elsewhere to get the most out of their speakers.
The Yamaha RX-V685 is a more expensive model. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplay, Spotify Connect and Music Cast. For wired audio, it supports full 7.2 surround sound for two channels in two rooms. In addition, it provides wireless 5.1 surround sound audio via Music Cast. Other wireless connections will provide regular stereo. It comes out of the box with support for Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, Tidal, Napster and several other streaming music apps. There is no companion app for this AV receiver, although it does work seamlessly with the Music Cast app.
The RX-V685 has seven HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs for watching two different things in different rooms, and a phono input for your older devices. It has 4K Ultra HD pass-through for optimal HD picture quality, and also has upscaling for lower resolution video. This makes it a good choice if you have a first generation 4K TV with outdated upscaling software. It also outputs a whopping 150W per channel, making it powerful enough for use in large, loud spaces. With all these features, the RX-V685 is a great option for small businesses.
This is a medium-priced option for people who want top sound and video quality in multiple rooms, and are less concerned about connectivity options. While the TX-RZ810 connects via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Airplay, it only works with FireConnect compatible speakers, which means you’ll need to have the right speakers if you want to take advantage of all the TX-RZ810’s features. The lack of a companion app is disappointing, since you’ll need to use the remote control for all features.
That said, this receiver is a workhorse. It will deliver full 4K Ultra HD video from two different sources to two different screens. It will also support 7.2 surround sound in both of these rooms. In addition to that, you’ll still have preamp channels for a third room, although this room will only be in regular stereo. The TX-RZ810 has 7 HDMI inputs, as well as a USB port for plug-and-play audio from your flash drive.
The Sony STRDN1080 is a premium AV receiver that comes at a premium price. It connects via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Airplay to all your mobile devices. It only provides wireless audio to Sony speakers, so this may not be the best option if you’ve already purchased other wireless speakers. This is the STRDN1080’s only limitation. Sony’s Music Center App is available for iOS and Android, and makes controlling this unit a breeze.
It has the best legacy support of all the receivers we looked at; in addition to the 6 HDMI inputs, it also has coaxial, digital optical, antenna, component audio, a phono input, and 2 old-school component AV inputs. It outputs full 4K Ultra HD and 7.2 surround sound in two different rooms, and will provide wireless 5.2 surround sound to a third room via compatible speakers. It also has a USB port on the front of the unit, for easy flash drive use.
AV Receiver FAQ
- Should I be worried about upscaling for 4K video? Yes and no. Unless your input is 4K, your video will need to be upscaled in order to display correctly. Even 4K video services like DirecTV will usually only provide a small amount of content in 4K, like newer movies and sporting events. The other 90 percent or so of content will need to be upscaled. That said, most 4K TVs have excellent integrated upscaling software which is much better than anything in an AV receiver. If you have a first generation 4K TV, you may want to look for a receiver with upscaling to improve your picture quality. Any TV made after that will handle upscaling just fine.
- What’s the difference between 5.1, 5.2, 7.1 or 7.2 surround sound? How do I know what kind of system I have? Those numbers refer to how many channels, or speakers, the surround sound system has. 5.1 and 5.2 systems have a center speaker, a front left and front right speaker, and two rear speakers, a left and a right. This makes for a total of 5 speakers. 7.1 and 7.2 systems have additional speakers directly on either side of the room, for a total of 7 speakers.
In addition to the main speakers, 5.1 and 7.1 systems have one subwoofer, which is usually placed directly below the center speaker. 5.2 and 7.2 systems have two subwoofers, which are placed on either side of the center speaker. So how do you know how what kind of system you have? Count your speakers!
- I’m only interested in listening to music. What do I need? It depends. For music that was recorded pre-Dolby Digital, you’ll do just fine with a barebones stereo receiver. If your music was recorded in Dolby Digital, you’ll get the full benefit of a 5.1 surround sound system, and experience the full richness of the recording.