A handsome unit with modern tech capabilities – offers built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. Delivers reliable connectivity and simple streaming. Additional features include ample outputs, balanced sound, and radio presets.
The phono function doesn't provide the best sound experience for vinyl. A few reported issues downloading apps, and of "clicking" noises from unidentifiable sources.
In addition to crisp sound, it offers 270 watts of power, an auto shut off feature, and 5 analog audio outputs. In spite of having no Bluetooth connection, its mini plug offers a dependable access to most smart devices.
Lacks some of the technology of more costly models, including WiFi. Has a clunky remote and weak bass. No HDMI connection.
With 200 watts of power, clear sound, and a compact design, it has a lot to offer for a budget-priced receiver. Fairly straightforward to set up.
Though it has Bluetooth capabilities, the connection range isn't very long. No HDMI connection. Reports of faulty remotes. Substandard instructions and customer service.
Stands out for its advanced technology that improves low ranges and produces exceptional base for a system of its modest size. Features Bluetooth, 5-channel surround sound, and 4K UHD HDMI inputs.
Some consumers received "lemons." Somewhat confusing to pair to some devices. Several reports of faulty subwoofers and wires.
Sports 4K UHD, USB port, 5 channels, and 3 HDMI inputs that combine to deliver versatile entertainment options. Easy to set up.
It has Bluetooth, but it lacks reliable connectivity and is difficult to pair to some devices. Doesn't have the best sound, and the bass isn't very deep. Subpar remote.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When a surround sound format is described as 5.1, it means that it has five main speakers and one subwoofer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As you’re selecting the right receiver for you, keep these tips in mind.
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.
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