AVR Shopping

I am in the market for an A/V receiver in the $500 price range. With such a variety of brands, it is hard to pinpoint one. I have a medium-size room, and I am planning to use two Definitive Technology BP-8020ST floorstanding speakers. I don't want to clutter my room with speakers in every corner. I will use my receiver to watch TV and my DVD player and VCR, no iPod or iPad. I have looked at user reviews on Amazon, and every receiver has some 1-star ratings, which tells me the technology is not that advanced yet since they break so often. Could you recommend any reliable receiver or amplifier for my setup?

Alex Frisch

With a nominal impedance of 8Ω and the ability to handle power from 20 to 250 watts, the BP-8020ST can be easily driven by any modern A/V receiver. In the $500 range, HT's current Top Picks are the Pioneer VSX-1021 ($550, reviewed here) and Onkyo TX-NR609 ($599, reviewed here), both shown above.

If you're going to use only two speakers, be sure to go into the AVR's speaker menu and set the front left and right speakers to "large" and disable all the other speakers (center, surrounds, subwoofer). However, you will be missing out on a greatly enhanced sonic experience with surround soundtracks on DVDs and many TV channels. I highly recommend that you reconsider adding a center speaker, surround speakers, and a subwoofer from DefTech to match the BP-8020STs—for example, the CS-8040HD center, SR-8040BP surrounds, and SuperCube 2000 sub. If you can't afford these right now, I'd save up for them. Trust me, the surround experience is well worth some speaker clutter in the room.

As far as user reviews are concerned, there will always be isolated cases of failure with any product, which tend to get reported more readily than when everything works. I wouldn't worry about a few negative user reviews; if you have problems with the particular receiver you buy, contact the manufacturer and get it resolved.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

aopu.mohsin's picture


Do you think the THX certification on the Onkyo TX-NR609 has a little edge over the Pioneer VSX-1021 model? How do they compare sonically?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
In this case, I don't think it matters much, since we've determined that the Pioneer is an excellent performer. THX certification assures a certain level of quality, but that doesn't mean products without it can't also be superb. Other than auditioning them for yourself in an acoustically reasonable environment with good speakers and source device, the best way to know is to read our reviews. I haven't heard either of these models; I'll ask Mark how they compare sonically.
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to offer any comments on how these two AVRs compare sonically, especially since they were reviewed by different people. And even if they had been reviewed by the same person, it would not have been at the same time, so there could be no direct A/B comparison. All we can say is that both sound great for the money, and I suspect the sonic differences are minimal. If you can find a dealer with both on hand for an A/B demo, that would be the only way to determine any sonic differences.
aopu.mohsin's picture

Thanks Scott. Appreciate the response.

Yes, I had been meaning to go to a local store to audition myself, but haven't had a chance yet. I am, however, little biased toward Pioneer brand over others, mainly because of their Kuro Plasma TV and Pioneer Elite Bluray players. They are both stunningly good.

I am also in the market for a good receiver as I currently own an old Onkyo receiver from the pre-HDMI era :-) So, I use its 7.1 pre-out to get bluray's lossless audio. It's been working fine so far. But I wonder if I am missing out from the 'Auto Calibration Setup' these newer receivers offer. I hear lot of good things about them (Audyssey, MCACC, YPAO), but not sure which one better than the other.

Also, do you have any particular advice on what to look for before buying a good receiver? Like its power rating, SNR, video processors, audio dacs, etc.?


JayMargolis's picture

Personally I'm going to recommend the Pioneer. I find Onkyo a bit funky. Their receivers including the new 509/609 models still don't use "normal" db values for volume like everyone else. They really are the "low-end" receiver in my view. The bonus for Onkyo really is that the 509 is not a bad receiver and is a true bargain at roughly 300. With IP control support at that price level, it's an amazing receiver and unique for its feature set.

But what you'd want I think is the Pio 1021. The world is changing over to IP control of systems. Pioneer has been the leader there for a couple years at least. The 1021 really is a higher-end receiver marked down, while the 509 is a low-end receiver for an amazing price. (Personally I'd get either 509 or 1021, ignore the 609). Both support IP control so you can then control your full system with something like Roomie Remote for iOS that doesn't even need infrared.

notabadname's picture

I've had the TX-SR805 for nearly 2 years and love it. It gets some serious use in my home theater, and has proven to be very reliable as well as a great sounding AVR. I particularly like the Audyssey setup feature for balancing your channels but the Pioneer has an equivalent setup. The 609 seems to be pretty well reviewed, but so is the 1021. Both with 1.4 HDMI, but the TX-NR609 has Marvell Qdeo upconversion (same as in the new Oppo BDP-93 BD Player) and upscaling all the way up to a 4k resolutions. That could be a nice feature to have in a receiver you will likely be running for the next decade or better.

Tough choice, and I don't imagine either would be a "mistake" or disappointment. Good luck and let us know which wins out and your opinions when you get it home.

Remonster's picture

I've never used a Pioneer receiver but I have a couple Onkyos in different rooms and think they're a great value, never had a problem with any of them. I also have a pair of Denon receivers in that price range which I highly recommend.