AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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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.

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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.

Michael Berk Posted: Sep 26, 2011 0 comments

Lots of news on the soundbar front this week, so if you're looking to cram a surround experience into a tiny space you're in luck.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $500 At A Glance: iPhone/iPod dock and USB cable included • iDevice remote control app • Mixing studio listening modes

There are two hard-wired options for integrating content from an iPod or iPhone into a receiver-based home theater system. The A/V receiver might have a Made for iPod–compatible USB jack, allowing you to plug the device right into the front or back panel. Or the iPod can fit into an accessory dock. But wouldn’t it be great to have both options?

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Ken C. Pohlmann Posted: Sep 21, 2011 0 comments

For many years, the mantra in hi-fi design was "bigger is better." Your system didn't measure up unless you had a lofty stack of electronics and your speakers were tall enough to be called towers. Today, the reverse is true. It's a post-iPod world, where smaller is cooler. The iPod also advanced the notion that electronics don't have to be complicated; convenience is the new norm.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

Once, all you needed to enter the receiver business was audio-engineering chops, competence in packaging efficiency, and a sharp pencil over the bottom line. That was then before the digital audio/video revolution and the birth of the A/V receiver as we know it. Today, you need at least as much smartsin the computer, DSP, and software/firmware fieldsas you do in plain ol’ audio, a fact that has thinned,and continues to thin, the herd of receiver makers noticeably.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

The speaker world is anything but conservative. Think of the different types you can buy: good ol' cones 'n' domes, electrostatics, planar magnetics, ribbons, horns, pulsating spheres, and more, mounted in all sorts of enclosures or in no enclosures at all.

The world of custom home theater is less daring. Installers want speaker systems that sound great, play loud as hell for hours on end, place reasonable demands on amplifiers, and install easily. This is why you rarely see anything but cone 'n' dome speakers used in custom home theaters.

Of the companies catering to the custom market, BG Radia is one of the few that does things differently.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 16, 2011 1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $650 At A Glance: AirPlay and direct iDevice link • Expansive Audyssey suite • Browser control, network audio features

In A/V receivers, there are two prevailing philosophies when it comes to certain must-have features—room correction and dynamic volume modes being good examples. Some manufacturers prefer to develop their own in-house versions. This gives them the ultimate control over what they sell to consumers, sometimes offering greater versatility or an unusual spin. Others are content to license features from other companies. The advantage of resisting the “not invented here” philosophy is that technology licensors such as Audyssey devote all of their attention to making their stuff work and are constantly improving it.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 01, 2011 14 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: Unique construction • YPAO auto setup and room correction • Bluetooth compatible with optional adapter

It must have been a dream. Suddenly, I found myself living in a world where young people were rediscovering vinyl, jazzing up their iPods with audiophile earbuds, and even experimenting with tube amps. LP sections in record stores came back from the dead, steadily enlarging and proliferating. The once ridiculously overpriced CD suddenly became a bargain in wallet-box anthologies and affordable reissues. High-performance, high-value speakers became available over the Internet. I never wanted to wake up—until I realized I hadn’t really been asleep in the first place. All of this stuff is actually happening. We’re living in a new golden age of audiophilia, vibrant with lovingly excavated ideas and manic energy. An increasing number of people care about good sound again.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray player • Energy-efficient digital amplifier • Good build quality • No video inputs

My review sample of the Harman Kardon BDS 5 Blu-ray receiver arrived shortly after the death of Dr. Sidney Harman. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the life of one of the audio industry’s founding fathers. Harman and partner Bernard Kardon pioneered the A/V receiver category in 1954 with the Festival D1000, the first audio product to combine the functions of a mono power amp, preamp, and radio tuner. The stereo version, the Festival TA230, arrived shortly afterward. By the time Harman retired in 2008, A/V receivers were wearing his name. Harman International eventually became an audio empire, not only continuing the Harman Kardon brand, but also encompassing JBL, Infinity, Lexicon, Revel, Mark Levinson, and others. Harman was a renaissance man: an activist, philanthropist, professor, and public servant, the quintessential tough businessman with a heart of gold.

Michael Berk Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

There's a lot of action on the AVR front this week, with new models and upgrades from major manufacturers.

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