Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Receivers

Updated September 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 14 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 132 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best receivers

    Last Updated September 2018

    Audio-video receivers, better known simply as receivers, are the heart of home stereo and home theater systems all over the world. They take our favorite content – whether from cable boxes, 4K gaming consoles, vinyl turntables, or streaming services – and amplify the audio through two or more speakers. Whether you’re looking to build your first hi-fi setup or ready to get serious about home theater surround sound, you’re going to need a good receiver.

    If you’re ready to buy a receiver, check our most recommended models in the grid above. Continue reading our shopping guide to get the lowdown on receivers, including the features you can’t live without and the ones that aren’t anything to write home about.

    Some receivers are sold as a bundle with speakers, wire, and Blu-ray player. These “Home Theater in a Box” kits and are a good entry-level way to get into home theater.

    Stereo receivers vs. home theater receivers

    Most receivers are designed for one of two uses: as a two-channel stereo for music or a multichannel surround sound setup for home theaters.

    • Stereo receivers have two channels: left and right. They’re ideal for music and often favored by audiophiles and turntable enthusiasts. If you want a home music setup, a stereo receiver is your best bet. Stereo receivers are generally more affordable than surround sound receivers.

    • Home theater receivers, or surround sound receivers, are designed to “surround” the viewer with the audio from a TV show or movie. Surround sound receivers are generally more expensive than stereo receivers because they have to power more speakers, in some cases up to 12, and two subwoofers. Surround sound receivers can also be used to play back stereo audio, but audiophiles find fault with the sound quality of the music using surround sound receivers.
    EXPERT TIP

    If you plan to connect your receiver to a turntable to listen to vinyl, be sure to buy one with a Phono input to properly amplify the signal from the record player.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Receivers can get hot after being used for several hours. Put your receiver in a well-ventilated place with at least two inches of breathing room above it.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Speaker madness: receiver surround formats

    If you’re buying a receiver to build a home theater, it’s important to understand the various surround sound formats, what you’ll need to enjoy them, and the content that’s most likely to feature high-end audio.

    Receivers describe the surround audio formats based on how many speakers they utilize. There are three primary types of surround sound available on receivers

    • Five speakers: You can find the traditional 5.1 just about everywhere these days. A 5.1 setup includes a center channel speaker, left and right front speakers, left and right rear speakers, and one subwoofer. Most cable TV and streaming video is available in 5.1.

    • Seven speakers: The 7.1 surround format builds on the 5.1 standard by adding two side speakers. In a 7.1 home theater, the left and right rear speakers are behind the viewer, and the left and right side speakers are positioned left and right of the viewer. Most Blu-ray discs come with 7.1 surround audio.

    • Object-based audio: Cutting-edge receivers support object-based audio (OBA) formats like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. A setup like this adds two or four additional speakers, typically in the ceiling. With these additional speakers, an Atmos or DTS:X receiver can coordinate the sound much more precisely. For example, if you’re watching video of a rainstorm using a proper 7.1.x setup, it will sound as though the rain is falling in the room.
    DID YOU KNOW?

    When a surround sound format is described as 5.1, it means that it has five main speakers and one subwoofer.

    Premium receiver features

    Most receivers are good at the basics, but there are a few luxury features to look out for. As you’re shopping for a receiver, consider which of the most common premium features may be right of you.

     

    Pass-through

    If your TV supports 4K resolution with high dynamic range (HDR), and you have the appropriate source content, you’ll need a receiver that can properly pass the full signal through to your TV. Both 4K and HDR offer significant upgrades to your TV’s picture quality, so it's worthwhile making sure your receiver enables you to enjoy both.
     

    Bluetooth

    Everyone’s favorite smartphone streaming protocol can be found on many receivers, making it easy to stream music or play your own MP3s from your phone or tablet.  

    Music-streaming apps

    Some receivers include built-in apps for streaming music over the web from services like Spotify or Pandora. Streaming apps are great for playing your favorite playlists – just keep in mind that you’ll need to connect the receiver to your home network. If you don’t have a nearby network jack, look for a model with built-in WiFi.  

    The Bluetooth wireless protocol has evolved over the years, with new iterations bringing improvements both to sound quality and distance range. If Bluetooth is a high priority for you, make sure the receiver you buy supports the Bluetooth 4.2 standard at a minimum.

    Receiver prices

    Don’t get suckered into paying too much for a receiver! Familiarize yourself with the main price ranges before you start shopping.

    • Inexpensive: In the $75 to $250 range, expect to find basic stereo receivers and low-quality home theater receivers. Receivers in this price range won’t get very loud and don’t support convenience features like Bluetooth. Low-end receivers are good for small spaces like dorm rooms, but if you’re looking for better audio quality or you have a decent-sized viewing area, you’ll need to spend a little more.

    • Mid-range: In the $250 to $600 range, you’ll find some audiophile-quality stereo receivers and strong surround sound receivers. In this price range, you’ll get almost all of the best premium features – like support for WiFi, Bluetooth, streaming music, and audio formats like DTS-HD Master Audio. While these receivers lack a few cutting-edge features like support for Dolby Atmos, they still pack quite an audio punch and represent the best value for the money.

    • Expensive: For $600 to $1,300, you’ll find surround sound receivers that have every feature you can think of – plus a few more. If you’re building a high-end home theater with full support for the latest audio formats, expect to pay at least this much. If you’re eager to have all the features without the high price tag, look for a refurbished version of the receiver you want.

    Tips

    As you’re selecting the right receiver for you, keep these tips in mind.

    • If your receiver comes with a calibration microphone, go through the entire calibration process before listening to anything else. The calibration process typically takes about five minutes, and it customizes your listening experience based on your preferences, as well as data gathered about the local sonic environment. Most receivers do an excellent job of creating a sound profile that’s perfect for your tastes (and your neighbors).  
    • Rename the input sources on your receiver’s display. Most modern receivers allow you to customize each of the inputs you plan on using, so you’ll always know exactly what’s connected. For example, you can set your receiver to show “Cable TV Box” when using that input.
    • If you own an iPhone, buy a receiver that features AirPlay. Apple’s proprietary casting protocol makes it simple to stream any audio from your iPhone. It’s faster and more reliable than Bluetooth, and it doesn’t require any device-pairing steps.
    Some receivers include support for two subwoofers. Adding a second subwoofer isn’t necessary in most viewing spaces, but if you have an exceptionally large TV area – or you’re just a bass fanatic – it might be worth looking into receivers that support two subwoofers at once.

    FAQ

    Q. Many receivers list iPod compatibility as a feature. What does that mean?
    A.
    If a receiver says it’s iPod compatible, that usually means it has a USB port on the front that you can use to connect your iPod or iPhone. You’ll then be able to play back through the receiver any music stored locally on the device. Keep in mind that iPod compatibility only works with Apple devices running iOS, and it won’t work with any Android devices.

    Q. Can I use a receiver with a soundbar?
    A.
    No. Soundbars have their own built-in amplification, so adding the amplification of a receiver would result in distorted sound and could cause permanent damage to the soundbar.

    Q. Can I connect a streaming stick like Chromecast to a receiver?
    A.
    Yes and no. Most receivers can be connected to any video source via a standard HDMI cable. However, some devices like the Google Chromecast are bulky and wide near their HDMI output, which on a receiver can make it difficult to access neighboring HDMI ports. If you plan on using any type of streaming stick with your receiver, make sure you’ll still be able to connect all of your other devices, or find a receiver that has an open HDMI port on the front side.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director

    BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
    and give us feedback about your visit today.

    Take Survey