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Surround sound AV receiver reviews

A Surround sound AV receiver is your home theatre system's command centre.
 
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01.Introduction

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We review 16 AV receivers, priced from $499 to $1499.

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which AV receivers:

  • have the best sound quality
  • are the easiest to use
  • handle video well
  • have lots of useful features, and
  • use the least energy.

On this page:

Why buy an AV receiver?

We haven't been too impressed with the quality of most "cinema in a box" products currently available. The speakers that come with most home theatre kits are usually inadequate, and the units themselves are limited in their support for connecting more than a couple of devices at once.

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An AV receiver allows you to choose the speakers that best suit your room, budget and taste. You can start out with just two good-quality speakers and add further speakers to the mix later on.

It's the ideal central point for a home theatre system. It takes audio and video information from your DVD/Blu-ray player, CD player, iPod, games console, AM/FM or internet radio and/or set-top box, and sends it through to your TV screen and speakers.

Want to listen to music only? You can enjoy stereo audio through the two main speakers. Watching a DVD? You can play the movie and listen to 5.1 surround sound - two speakers both front and back, as well as a centre speaker and a subwoofer providing the low-frequency sound effects.

A 7.1 system adds two satellite speakers to the mix.

For more information about home theatre systems, see the Sound subpage in our Entertainment section.

Models tested

  • Denon AVR-X1000
  • Denon AVR-X2000
  • Denon AVR-X3000
  • Harman/Kardon AVR-270
  • Harman/Kardon AVR-370
  • Marantz NR 1504
  • Marantz NR 1604
  • Onkyo TX-NR525
  • Onkyo TX-NR626
  • Pioneer VSX-528-K
  • Pioneer VSX-923-K
  • Sony STR-DH540
  • Sony STR-DN1040
  • Sony STR-DN840
  • Yamaha RX-V475
  • Yamaha RX-V675

How we test

Amplifier tests in both 2.1 and 5.1 modes include listening tests, output power, and signal to noise ratio. In addition, we check the amplifier's ability to keep the same level with different sources, noise levels when changing settings or having devices on the same power circuit, protection against short circuiting of speaker outputs, and the efficacy of the automated speaker setup.

Ease of use is tested by five testers who check the following: documentation, physical setup, initial usage, tuner setup, on-board controls, remote control, basic usage (changing sources, volume and onscreen feedback), tuner setup and use, sound settings, onscreen and on-device display, operation via smartphone or tablet, network setup and DLNA, internet radio and Airplay.

Video testing is done by checking signal quality via HDMI, component and composite modes (where applicable), lip sync, and video-audio cross talk.

Versatility is calculated based on hardware connectivity, AV formats available, and ease of access to these features.

Tuner sensitivity, signal to noise and distortion levels are measured for AM and FM bands. RDS functionality is checked. Internet radio is checked, noting the time it takes to begin a signal from turning on, time to change channels within presets, and the number of presets available.

Power usage is measured in: off mode, standby, standby with HDMI pass through, standby with wake-on-LAN active, on but with volume at zero, operating with volume set to 84dB at listening position in 5.1 mode.

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