What is the best home theater receiver you can buy? Well, that depends on a number of factors. Those being: where you plan to use it, number and location of your speakers, your taste for high end sound and your financial situation. In a previous write-up I unveiled my top choice. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the space or the money to make that purchase. So, let’s take a look at the best receivers for the rest of us. The following choices are a great fit for even the tightest of spaces…and budgets.
Denon AVR-S540BT– This is the best entry level receiver I have found and it’s quite affordable. You’re only going to get 5.2 channels, but many rooms can’t accommodate the additional speakers anyway. If that’s your situation, the AVR-S540BT is for you. It pumps out a respectable 70 watts per channel and offers 4K Ultra HD pass-through capability. That is essential if you want to pair it with one of these budget conscious 4K TVs. You are also going to get Dolby TruHD and DTS decoding for fantastic sound.
Streaming music from your smartphone works well with the included bluetooth support, but you also have the option to plug in directly. There is a USB port for this purpose conveniently located on the front of the unit. No need to use the remote if you download the great Denon remote app for iOS or Android. For inputs, you get five HDMI with 2.2 support (required for 4K Ultra HD copy-protected content).
Yamaha RX-V385– Yamaha’s entry level version is also limited to five channels. It is comparable to the Denon, but is a bit pricier and does not allow for a second subwoofer. It only has four HDMI inputs, but all have 2.2 support (required for 4K Ultra HD). The Yamaha has been upgraded to 100 watts per channel in this year’s model and will also support HDR 10 and Dolby Vision.
The RX-V385BL does it’s streaming and remote connectivity via Wifi and has it’s own remote app available for iOS and Android. If you’ve got a smallish room and/or can’t accommodate a full sized home theater, you can’t go wrong with this Yamaha.
Yamaha RX-V681BL – Stepping up in class a bit we have the Yamaha RX-V681BL offering an upgrade to 7.2 channels and 90 watts of power. This is an older model, but still packs a punch. Check out the RX-V685BL below to get the latest version. With the addition of Dolby Atmos surround sound and DTS:X your gonna be happy with either one. This one gives you five HDMI inputs with 4K Ultra HD pass-through and upscaling, all of which are 2.2 4K compliant. You even get a phono input if you are still hanging on to that turntable and enjoy listening to the old record albums.
In addition to having HDR (high dynamic range) capability, you can also stream with WiFi, Bluetooth and AirPlay. You can stream Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM radio and more. Not to mention the added ability of voice control via an Alexa device like those in the Echo family of products. Finally, you can add audio in up to nine separate rooms using Yamaha’s MusicCast.
Denon AVR-X2500 – Denon has a great 7.2 channel option as well. Like the previously mentioned Yamaha, it also has Dolby Atmos decoding and processing. Furthermore, it is able to decode DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X. For fantastic video to match the immersive sound, it’s fully compatible with HDCP 2.2 on all eight of its HDMI inputs. The AVR-X2500W also includes support for 4K Ultra HD, 60Hz video, 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling, and High Dynamic Range (HDR).
The amplifier has decent power, delivering 95 watts per channel. In additon, multi-room capability lets you enjoy different sources in two different rooms at the same time. Of course, this unit also gives you full wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth using two antennas. You can stream your favorite music through AirPlay and Spotify Connect.
And don’t forget the Denon AVR Remote app, which can control the receiver from a smartphone or tablet. You can get this from the Apple app store, Google Play, and the Amazon app store.
Onkyo TX-RZ620 – The only brand name outside of Yamaha and Denon that I typically buy for a receiver is Onkyo. The RZ620 is one of the best that I’ve looked at and nicely priced at under $500. I love the way it looks…nice, clean and powerful. At 100 watts per channel, I think there is something to that. This one is also 7.2 channels and comes with Dolby Atmos and DTS surround sound decoding. You can change it up and go with a 5.2.2 setup. This would switch the rear to a “height” channel and take advantage of the Dolby Atmos processing.
You’ll get seven HDMI inputs which are all fully compatible with HDCP 2.2 for 4K content. Like all the others I have reviewed, the Onkyo also offers a multitude of streaming options and multi-room capabilities. They have their own remote app for your smartphone or tablet, but I have yet to try it out for myself. I have no doubt it is comparable to the Yamaha and Denon apps.
In this price range, you won’t find a better combination of power and features.
Yamaha RX-V685BL – What is different about this 7.2 channel Yamaha compared with the V681? Other than a few minor enhancements, like switching one of its HDMI inputs to a second HDMI output…nothing really. This is simply the newer version of a fantastic receiver. If you are the type (like me) who needs to have the latest and greatest version of everything, than the 685 is for you. However, you really can’t go wrong with either choice.
Please note, there is a model from Yamaha in between the 681 and 685 that can save you some money. The Yamaha RX-V683BL is still available and selling at a discount on Amazon right now. It too, is comparable to the RX-V681BL as previously reviewed.
Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A1070BL – The last one I want to take a look at is this 7.2 channel offering from Yamaha. Naturally, it offers Dolby Atmos and DTS decoding like its younger brothers. It gives you all the same streaming and multi-room capabilities too. This one gives you a lot more bang for your buck, though. It comes in at a very nice 110 watts per channel. In addition, it has eight HDMI inputs, seven of which use the HDCP 2.2 technology for compatibility with 4K Ultra HD sources and TVs.
This Yamaha is the best receiver you can get unless you decide to upgrade to a more Dolby Atmos friendly 9.2 or 11.2 model. If you love movies like I do, you need a receiver that lets you get the most out of the new cutting edge soundtracks. This model is most certainly up to that task.
Good luck with your search and enjoy the sound!