AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
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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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.

Filed under
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.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 10, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $550 At A Glance: iControlAV2 app for iPod/iPhone/iPad • AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA • Internet radio, browser control

I’d like to begin this review with drugs, guns, and money.

I have a recurring dream about sitting on the New York City subway late at night with two shady-looking guys who have a gym bag sitting between them. They get off the train without the bag. Panic-stricken, they try to get back on, but the doors close in their faces. Alone on the train, I open the bag to find packets of white powder, gleaming gunmetal, and wads and wads and wads of good old American green. I get to my stop and carry the bag home. Donning latex gloves, I carefully remove the drugs and flush them down the toilet. The guns I leave on the doorstep of the local police precinct while wearing a Donald Trump mask to evade detection by security cameras. With the cash, I proceed to live the good life, buying iPods for every member of my family, touring the capitals of Europe, writing the Great American Novel, and pinching goddesses from Charlie Sheen.

Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $599 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified • Audyssey and THX loudness modes • iDevice Onkyo Remote app

With gas approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country, most consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending in order to make ends meet. If you have to drive an SUV (like I do), then a trip to the local gas station could set you back $100 to fill the tank. In times like these, your quest to find the greatest bang for your buck might even extend all the way to your equipment rack. If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you won’t have to look far thanks to Onkyo. What if I told you you could have seven channels of amplification, first-rate video processing, and many of the features found on the flagship products for less than $600? If I’ve piqued your interest, then keep on reading, because the TX-NR609 is one of the best values that’s come down the pike in a long time.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 28, 2011 5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: Homegrown room correction and listening modes • Rated 60 watts into 8 ohms with five channels driven • 3D ready via software upgrade

An Anthem A/V receiver? AVRs were Anathema to anthem, I mean anathema to Anthem, until recently. This company’s heart has always been in surround separates—bleeding-edge surround processors, muscle amps that live on steak and steroids. The quintessential Anthem product—to digress from the main subject for a moment—would be the P5 five-channel amplifier, basically five 325-watt monoblocks in a single gut-busting enclosure.

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