AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 14, 2012 2 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Strong texture, imaging, dynamics • Dolby Volume for low-volume listening • Relatively affordable price • Subpar video processing

The Good Ship Arcam steers a different course than most manufacturers of audio/video receivers. That means the prospective buyer has to read spec sheets in a different way. At 75 watts per channel, this $1,799 receiver shares a power spec with much, much cheaper competitors. But that doesn’t mean it performs the same. For one thing, Arcam specifies power output with five channels driven (1 kilohertz )—a hurdle most manufacturers don’t even try to clear. The figure rises to 80 watts (20 hertz-20 kHz) or 90 watts (1 kHz) with two channels driven. This leads to what might be called the Arcam Paradox: If you’re willing to step down in the specified number of watts per channel, you can optimize a product, especially its power supply, so that it will drive five reasonably efficient speakers to high levels without hardening the top end or collapsing the soundfield.

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David Vaughn Posted: Jan 27, 2012 0 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,399 At A Glance: Fabulous video processing • Outstanding audio performance • Nine channels of amplification

When one looks to upgrade an AVR, one must take much into consideration: features, number of inputs and outputs, multizone capability, channels of amplification, power rating, and, of course, cost. The sub-$1,000 market is loaded with AVRs that offer a terrific value but lack many of the bells and whistles that are found once you cross the $1,000 barrier, such as multizone, nine channels of amplification, and more HDMI inputs than the average person will ever need.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 29, 2011 1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: High-quality amplification • Logic 7, Dolby Volume listening modes • Distinctive gray and black look

The home theater system’s beating heart is the audio/video receiver. It supports a heroic workload: routing video and audio signals from source components to display and speakers, gussying up the video, decoding audio formats, massaging audio signals with listening modes, cabalistically correcting room acoustics—and last but not least, performing the heavy lifting necessary to drive loudspeakers. The final item on that list is among the AVR’s most significant attributes. But in the race to jam in as many features as possible, amplification is in danger of becoming an afterthought. In Harman Kardon’s AVR 3650, the top model in its new receiver line, the manufacturer took the road less often traveled and acts more like a high-end boutique manufacturer than a mass marketer. It went the extra mile to make this AVR sound great and rigorously stripped it of back-panel clutter. The result offers comfort to the music lover who cares about the fundamentals of performance.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Dec 28, 2011 0 comments

The company that makes most everything (and makes most everything it makes pretty damned well), Yamaha has been tuning up its forks, and the result seems to be ever more feature-packed, value-focused designs.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 14, 2011 0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $900 At A Glance: Clean, smooth amplification • Direct USB input and app for iDevices • Bluetooth, DLNA media access

Some manufacturers of audio/video receivers offer two different lines. There’s a value-oriented line for the hardheaded consumer who wants as many features per dollar as possible. And then there’s a higher-end line for the consumer who also wants a full feature set but is willing to pay more for better build quality and higher performance. Yamaha goes a step further, dividing its 13 receivers into three lines.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 05, 2011 3 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $900 At A Glance: Elite build quality • AirPlay, control app, iDevice USB • Great sound for under $1,000

Do you prefer wine sold in a box or in a bottle? Boxed wine does have its advantages: It’s available in a greater variety of package sizes, it’s easier to carry to a picnic, and the lighter packaging reduces manufacturing cost, shipping cost, and carbon emissions. Yet most oenophiles prefer bottled wine for quality and selection. One is more practical, the other more aspirational. In theory, boxed wine can be as good as bottled wine—and here, as the knowledgeable oenophile is aware, our metaphor is in danger of breaking down over warring factors such as oxidation and shelf life. But in reality, the best wine producers and their most discerning and passionate customers prefer the bottle.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Nov 30, 2011 0 comments

When I reviewed one of the first of NAD’s long-awaited “new-generation” A/V receivers almost 2 years ago (can it be?), I liked it a lot.

Know what? I like this one even better.

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Kim Wilson Posted: Nov 23, 2011 7 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $349 At A Glance: 3D compatibility • Audyssey MultEQ auto calibration • On-screen display via HDMI • iPod/iPhone/iPad connectivity • no component video I/O

Of all the sub-$400 AVRs I've reviewed, the Denon AVR-1612 is my favorite so far. It offers just the right balance of features for my needs, and its audio performance is robust and powerful. It offers the bare minimum of operational and setup features I believe are necessary to assure a satisfying user experience. Moreover, it's audio performance is quite good considering the price.

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Nov 14, 2011 5 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,600 At A Glance: Future-proof modular construction • Great ergonomics • Trades features for performance

Oh, it’s coming, all right. Are you ready for it? That’s right, Smell-O-Vision! I’m not talking about old-school scratch-n-sniff cards, but the real, electrified olfactory emitters specified in the HDMI 1.5 standard. OK, I’m clearly exaggerating the contents of the next HDMI version, but even if that travesty comes to pass, NAD’s Modular Design Construction topology means the T 757 can be upgraded by your dealer, instead of a forklift.

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Kim Wilson Posted: Nov 03, 2011 2 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $330 At A Glance: 3D-compatible • On-screen display, analog only • Compatible with iPod/iPhone and iPad using supplied USB cable • Bluetooth compatible; requires adapter

This entry-level A/V receiver is a small investment that gets you into the new 3D landscape. It's powerful enough for a small to moderate-sized room, it provides essential surround codecs for the latest movie soundtracks, and it offers quick setup with Pioneer's exclusive auto-calibration system. While it does offer an onscreen display, giving it some points beyond even lower-priced AVRs, it doesn't output the OSD via HDMI. Bluetooth compatibility and a USB port provides some additional functionality and accommodation for wireless headphones and portable media devices.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 24, 2011 0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $600 At A Glance: A/V receiver with Blu-ray player • Trove of network A/V content • Supplied iPod/iPhone dock

Whenever I want to watch a movie, I plunge a fiberoptic cable into the back of my neck. Apart from a persistent dribble of blood from my neck jack, the results are enviable. In my mind, I experience a full 360-degree 3D image—there’s not even a frame—accompanied by surround sound with height and depth channels that extend from heaven to hell. Music is just as easy. I just access the 100-zettabyte solid-state drive built into my brain. My doctors tell me that with one more firmware update, I can have lossless audio with a bit depth of 831 and a sampling rate of 90,245 kilohertz. Almost as good as vinyl.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments

Each generation of A/V receivers brings at least a few new features — one of which will prove useful while others stick out as head-scratchers that nobody asked for. You could hardly find a better illustration of this natural law than Pioneer’s new VSX-52, the sub-penultimate model of its latest Elite A/V receiver range.

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Kim Wilson Posted: Oct 06, 2011 6 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $250 At A Glance: 5.1-channel, 3D compatible • iPod/iPhone & Bluetooth compatible with optional adapters • Compressed Music Enhancer restores frequency response of MP3s

The Yamaha RX-V371 offers some excellent features for an entry-level A/V receiver. To keep the cost down, however, there are significant compromises, such as the lack of an onscreen display and auto calibration for an easier and faster setup. Also, spring-loaded speaker terminals for the center and surround channels prevent the use of higher-end cables. Once it is set up, the unit's sonic performance is good—in fact, surprisingly good for an AVR at this price point.

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Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 03, 2011 11 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,100 At A Glance: Nine Class D amps that sound good • Most fun you can have with a remote smartphone app • Home networking champ, including Apple AirPlay

I’m usually suspicious of celebrity endorsements of audio gear (think Dr. Dre’s association with the Beats headphones bearing his name). But the Air Studios logo on the front panel of this attractive-looking, innovative flagship Pioneer Elite A/V receiver represents more than a casual association.

Filed under
Kim Wilson Posted: Sep 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $229 At A Glance: Low cost • 3D passthrough • Supports all current audio codecs • No onscreen display, networking, auto calibration, video upconversion • Spring-loaded speaker terminals

The audio and video performance of the Sony STR-DH520 is more than acceptable, especially given it's price and ability to pass 3D content, decode all current audio codecs, and deliver a full seven channels of amplification. However, setup and operation are limited by the features it lacks. If you can live with only five channels, there are other choices that offer similar performance, 3D compatibility, an on-screen display, and auto calibration. Step into the $400 price range and you will find increased value compared with the STR-DH520.

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