AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 19, 2014 3 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $650

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
HDMI 2.0
Cool cardboard mike stand included
Minus
Slow DLNA media access
No MHL for phone streaming

THE VERDICT
The Denon AVR-S900W offers high value at a crowded price point, with superb performance, a competitive feature set, and a supplied stand for the room-correction mike.

You can’t set up room correction without a microphone, and you can’t use the mike without bringing it to ear-level elevation. But few A/V receiver makers include a mike stand. Along with Anthem, Denon is now one of the happy exceptions. No, the stand packed with the AVR-S900W isn’t a metal photography tripod with all the mechanical trimmings. But it is an effective platform for the mike used to set up Audyssey room correction. Constructed entirely of black card stock, it consists of a four-finned base, two plain column pieces, and a third column piece with sawtooth holes for height adjustment. Piece it all together, top it off with the customary Hershey’s Kiss–shaped mike, and you have something that looks like a rocket. Run Audyssey’s auto setup and room correction program—in this case, the MultEQ version, which measures from six seating positions—and your home theater system is ready for liftoff.

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Aug 14, 2014 7 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Ready for UHD with HDMI 2.0
Refined amplifiers headline strong sonics
Outstanding multiroom abilities, including dual HD-on-HDMI programs
Dolby Atmos capability
Minus
Proprietary auto-EQ had much subtler effect than previous-gen’s Audyssey

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s usual benchmark audio and video get incremental upgrades, plus new features that include future-proofing HDMI 2.0 and Dolby Atmos.

Onkyo may or may not be the actual market leader in audio/video receivers, measured by unit sales, dollars, or any other B-school metric you care to name. But I’m fairly certain that, year in, year out, they produce more new AVR models combining performance, value, and innovation than anyone else. The TX-NR838 is a suitable example. On the face of things, the receiver seems identical to last year’s TX-NR828, which it replaces: unchanged power ratings, same basic specs, nearly identical quantities of inputs and outputs (this year’s version drops the composite count by one and kicks S-video to the curb altogether), and largely untouched cosmetics and user interface. But look a bit closer, and distinctions begin to come to light.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 05, 2014 9 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and
Bluetooth built in
Balanced and dynamic sound
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 for future UHD Content
Front-panel buttons are tough to see
Single-position room correction

THE VERDICT
Sony updates its triple-threat Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth AVR with more balanced sound, and it’s about the best we’ve heard at this price.

Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu? Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu? Sometimes I get that feeling when I review receivers across multiple generations. Sometimes I get that feeling when I review receivers across multiple generations. Oh, all right, I’ll stop. Oh, all right…but having reviewed the Sony STR-DN1020 in 2011, the STR-DN1030 in 2012, and the STR-DN1040 in 2013, I am well situated to pass judgment on the STR-DN1050 in 2014.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 29, 2014 33 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Advanced build quality
Subtle room correction
Crisp, dynamic sound
Minus
No wireless anything
A tad analytical

THE VERDICT
The top model among Anthem’s second-generation receivers omits needless features and splurges on performance.

“From Canada with love,” says weatherman Mr. G of WPIX New York every time a sinister polar vortex is about to sweep down from the frozen north. That cool Canadian breeze can be a trial in winter. In summer, however, it’s a breath of fresh air—and that’s also a good description of AV receivers from Ontario-based Anthem. They’re built like tanks, obsessively performance-oriented, and shorn of (what some might deem) frivolous features.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 25, 2014 Published: Jul 24, 2014 0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price $300

At A Glance
Plus
Five amp channels
Virtual Cinema Front
Darkish tonal balance
Minus
Bargain-basement speaker terminals
No wireless or network audio features

The Verdict
The Yamaha RX-V377 is an accessibly priced entry-level receiver with most of the essential features and mercifully dark-toned voicing.

If you think surround sound is just for the well-to-do, think again. The Top Picks page on this site is loaded with compact 5.1-channel speaker systems, starting at $520 for a setup based on the Pioneer SP-BS522 monitors, designed by loudspeaker guru Andrew Jones. Cheap Blu-ray players abound, these days. All you’d need to do is add another $300 for something like the Yamaha RX-V377 receiver, reviewed here, and your starter system weighs in at under a grand (and those are list prices).

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Jul 03, 2014 Published: Jul 02, 2014 5 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2-compliant
Solid amplifier performance
Fine Qdeo video processing on tap
Upgradeable for Dolby Atmos
Minus
Some menu layouts a bit unintuitive
Cramped, non-illuminated remote

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s latest high-value offering arrives in an up-to-the-minute HDMI 2.0 flavor.

Want to know what next year’s $700 AV receivers will offer? Just take a look at this year’s $1,000 models. With every spring season, a whole new crop of receivers sprouts up, offering more for less. Competitive pressures and the relentless march of HDMI standards are the likely catalysts, but whatever the reasons, all the major brands roll out whole phalanxes of new AVRs. And with each iteration, last year’s step-up features seem to move one place lower on the price grid.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 20, 2014 0 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $650

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Modest but clean power
Slim form factor
Apple AirPlay
Minus
Not for demanding speakers
Bluetooth costs extra

THE VERDICT
This sensible little AVR has enough good-sounding power to run an efficient set of speakers or passive soundbar.

When is less more? Is there ever a time when you’d rather have less power? Let me rephrase that: Is there ever a time when you’d like to have less power running smaller and/or more efficient speakers? The answer in this instance may be yes.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 11, 2014 11 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-drawer room correction
Strong dynamics
Bounteous custom features
Minus
Bluetooth requires accessory

THE VERDICT
The Denon AVR-4520CI and Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction combine to produce a close to perfect-sounding receiver.

Denon and its sister brand Marantz are among the most popular A/V receiver makers. The AVR-4520CI is Denon’s top-of-the-line model, the brand’s best shot at building every feature worth having into a nine-channel powerhouse. It does not attempt to be all things to all people (Bluetooth users, for instance). But it does offer a feature set that is strong in custom integrator features; hence the CI designation in the model number. And, as I discovered in this review—you won’t mind if I give away the ending, will you?—it also offers the best implementation of Audyssey room correction I’ve ever heard. Room correction has always seemed like a great idea, but the results have been hit or miss. Here it consistently produced great sound.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 27, 2014 1 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $850

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi adapter supplied
AirPlay built in
iOS-USB and MHL-HDMI
Minus
Bluetooth adapter is optional

THE VERDICT
Great sound and no-extra-charge Wi-Fi functionality for well under a thousand bucks.

“There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not.” Robert Benchley’s Law of Distinction might also apply to audio/video receivers as they vie for the attention of two warring tribes, the Apple tribe and the anything-but-Apple tribe. For Apple loyalists, the Yamaha RX-V775WA offers AirPlay wireless connectivity, a front-panel USB jack into which you can plug any recent iOS device, and an iOS-speaking control app.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 19, 2014 22 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Efficient D3 amplification
AirPlay and iOS savvy
Dynamic, smooth, clean sound
Minus
Labyrinthine ergonomics
No multichannel ins or outs

THE VERDICT
Pioneer is the only AVR maker replacing Class AB amps with Class D on a large scale, and the results are excellent.

Add a feature, drop a feature—usually, that’s how the story goes for a new AV receiver. But features aren’t the whole story, or even the part of the story most readers want to hear. We found that out when we ran a poll at our website SoundandVision.com asking, “What’s your AVR deal-breaker?” The top two complaints were “not enough power” at 35 percent and “ineffective room correction” at 21 percent. “Too few features” and “too many features” got just seven points each, and trendy features like AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi scored in even lower single digits.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 04, 2014 10 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rail-switching amplifiers
Muscular dynamics
Smooth, not sizzly
Minus
Extra-cost wireless
Vertigo-inducing price

THE VERDICT
This British audiophile receiver is steeply priced but worth every ha’penny, and its rail-switching amplifier is among the best there is.

The Arcam AVR600 blew my socks off when I reviewed it in 2009. I’ll discuss how it sounded later&mdashbut for the moment, I want to tell you how it made me feel:: pleased, then surprised, then amazed, grateful, stimulated, intrigued, and determined to play as much of my music library as time would permit before the review sample was pried out of my covetous hands. Only the price kept me from adopting it as my new reference receiver. But just because I have to live within fiscal limits doesn’t mean you should. I want you to have as much fun as you can afford.

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 23, 2014 5 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful yet lightweight
Fast, HD onscreen menus
Built-in Wi-Fi
Minus
Limited audio streaming formats
Unfriendly DLNA streaming navigation
Surround-mode selection a bit clunky

THE VERDICT
A highly competitive audio and video performer in the kilobuck range, H/K’s AVR 3700 should do any home theater justice.

Harman/Kardon is among the quartet of major brands of American audio launched following World War II. (McIntosh, Marantz, and Sherwood are the others.) It’s further distinguished as the only one continuously retained by its owners as a U.S. company—though H/K today is just one brand of the sprawling Harman International empire. (History sidebar: During the Carter presidency, H/K was sold to Beatrice Foods while founder Sidney Harman served as Carter’s Under Secretary of Commerce; Harman then reacquired the company.)

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 20, 2013 3 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
AirPlay
Streamlined interface
New binding posts
Minus
No Bluetooth

THE VERDICT
Denon has successfully rethought the budget receiver, a real achievement, and produced an all-around good performer at a reasonable price.

The Denon AVR-E400 reminded me that I’m a guy who gets excited about speaker terminals. Make of that what you will.

The receiver had been out of its box for only a few seconds before I noticed something different on the back panel. There I found speaker terminals of a type I’d never seen before on a receiver. Press in on Denon’s new spring-loaded binding posts, and a hole opens at the side to accept the cable tip or banana plug. This is a different arrangement than the collared binding posts on most receivers—which accept cable tips through a hole on the collar, or banana plugs through a second hole in the center of the plastic nut, before you tighten the nut to secure the cable. The new posts are an upsized version of those used on some satellite speakers. The practical result is that the terminals grip the cables so tightly that it’s nearly impossible for them to fall out without your permission.

Filed under
David Vaughn Posted: Nov 08, 2013 0 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audiophile sound quality
Outstanding build quality
Successful YPAO room correction
Minus
Pedestrian power output
Suboptimal video processing
Crowded, hard-to-use remote

THE VERDICT
A $700 receiver that puts the audio first.

The AVR is the Grand Central Station of our home entertainment systems. Everything runs into one box from our source components and then out to our speakers and displays for audio and video. In the process, we hope the video signal moves through the AVR without being harmed and that the amplifiers in the receiver mate well with our speakers, providing them plenty of juice without any distortion or clipping.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 02, 2013 4 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Nine amp channels
Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Excellent sound quality
Minus
No direct USB input for PC/Mac playback

THE VERDICT
Reference-worthy A/V receiver that offers great bang for the buck.

When I review speakers, I have dozens of major and minor brands to choose from. When I review audio/video receivers, the same names come up time and again. There just aren’t that many of them. You might think reviewing the same AVR brands repeatedly would leave me jaded. But it doesn’t. Every one of those heavy black boxes is a new quest. Every manufacturer has to prove itself all over again—and prove it to me, someone with a frame of reference that goes back decades. My method is pretty simple. I act as a surrogate for the consumer: I am you. I pull the product out of the box, lift it onto my rack, punch through the interface, turn it up loud, and consider both what I hear and how I feel about it.

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