Searching for an AVR

I'm upgrading my home-theater system with a Panasonic TC-P65VT30 plasma TV and Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player. I also want to replace my Yamaha RX-V793 A/V receiver, but I'm not sure what make and model would be best. I plan to keep my Paradigm Cinema Phantom tower speakers (front left and right), CC-170 center speaker, Atoms (left and right surrounds), and PDR-12 subwoofer.

I'm willing to pay for an AVR that will provide video performance to take full advantage of the TV and Blu-ray player. Likewise with sound performance; I see no point in paying for a higher performing AVR than my existing speakers can handle.

BTW, my room is 18x12 feet, and the TV will be located on one long wall with the sofa along the opposite wall. Also, I have carte blanche from my wife to get what I want in designing the media room.

Darren Benjamin

First of all, I recommend putting the sofa out in the room a bit, not against a wall, which compromises the sound you hear. The ideal viewing distance from a 65-inch screen is about nine feet, so that's where I'd put the sofa. Hey, you have carte blanche, right?

As for an AVR, the most important thing video-wise is to make sure it does no harm to the signal, such as clipping above-white and below-black and/or reducing resolution. Any video processing it offers might be as good as that found in the TV or Blu-ray player, or it could be worse, but it's probably not going to be significantly better, so this is not as important in my book. The best way to determine if an AVR does no harm to video is to look at the Video Test Bench section of HT's AVR reviews.

In terms of audio, your speakers have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and relatively low power requirements. The Cinema Phantoms are spec'd for 15 to 110 watts with a maximum sustained power of 85W, while the Atoms can handle 15-80W with a maximum of 50W sustained. (I couldn't find the CC-170 on Paradigm's website, but I assume it's similar.)

You don't say what your budget is for an AVR, but seeing as how you're getting a 65-inch VT30 plasma and Oppo BDP-93, I'll assume you're in the midrange price category. Of our Top Picks in that category, I recommend the Onkyo TX-NR1009 ($1399) and Pioneer Elite SC-57 ($2100), both of which deliver about the right amount of power—actually, a bit more than you need, but that's okay as long as you don't crank it all the time—and they don't do anything untoward to the video signal. (The others in our midrange Top Picks didn't score quite as well on the chroma-resolution test.)

If you have an A/V question, please send it to

stilespj's picture

"...Also, I have carte blanche from my wife to get what I want in designing the media room."

Darren really lucked-out in the wife department.


loop7's picture

If you are viewing a lot of standard def content, DVDs and/or streaming, may consider Pioneer to be ahead of the game in the upscaling area.

techguy378's picture

I would only recommend a Denon receiver. They make the very best sounding receivers on the market for the best price. As for video processing, wouldn't the TV do a good enough job for both HD and standard def content? Heck, for Blu-Ray Oppo's players are usually among the top performing players when it comes to video quality.

msardo's picture

I do not think that Denon receivers are the only ones to recommend, but I can see where techguy378 is coming from - as I have a Denon AVR 3311CI, the Oppo BDP-93 and am very pleased with both. :-) I am sure that there are some other excellent receivers, in addition to what Scott has recommended.

As far as the original question, let me see if I understand - I think the writer and Scott are assuming (yes?) that the Oppo and other components would be connected to the AVR and then a one cable HDMI connection made to the TV (or projector). Thus, allowing the AVR to do the video upscaling/converting work. Otherwise, if you send separate video connections to TV - then you have to decide for each whether to have the TV or the component do the upscaling. AVR's seem to have gotten good at this job, and my Denon does quite well, so I can attest to letting the AVR doing the work and let everything else be as it is.

Mark from Upstate New York

AVtheaterguy's picture


Both picks by Scott are good options, but I'd probably recommend either an Integra (Onkyo's Custom Installer line), or a mid-range Denon.


First off, both brands offer a three year warranty on their product (Denon is 3 yr for CI product). Secondly, both brands offer "HDMI THROUGH" mode for video, where-in the receiver does not process the Video. This feature is very important for your OPPO which has an AWESOME video processor, and you don't want to double process that already great picture signal.

I'd recommend either the DENON AVR-3312CI, or the INTEGRA DTR-50.3. Both of these units offer over 125 watts @8ohm, which will give you plenty of headroom for your system. Additionally both offer Audyssey's MULTEQ-XT audio calibration suite, which will help a bunch with getting the most out of your room and your speakers. In addition to the Audyssey suite built into the units, both the DENON and INTEGRA are Audyssey PRO ready, which means you can have an Audyssey certified sound calibrator come out and really bring the sound up to 100%.

The DENON goes for around $1200 list, and the INTEGRA runs $1500 I believe. The Integra offers a little bit better Video Processing with the HQV and Marvell chipset, but the DENON is now slouch either.

From an end user perspective I personally find the DENON to be a bit more user friendly with their Quick Select function, but the INTEGRA shouldn't be IMPOSSIBLE to configure either.

I'd personally get either one of these units over the Onkyo or the Pioneer.

Just my two cents.


mailiang's picture

I have to agree with Scott that most AVRS don't scale better then a TV set and some may be worse. You are probably better off if you shut off the scaling feature if you can. I have found through experimentation that I get the best results by letting my TV's rather then other devices in the signal chain do the scaling.


andlee2k's picture

Have you guys ever considered the new Yamaha RX-A 3010?

Ever considered a review of this fabulous AV receiver, that I believes will fulfill all as Darren Benjamin required both on the audio and video side.

-Anderson Lee

dbenja73's picture

Thank you, Scott, for posting my letter. You’ve made my day. Thanks also to everyone else for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. I really appreciate all the feedback.

About the carte blanche thing: This is my second wife. The first one left when I started talking about a home theater ;-)

I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I looked up the specs on my Paradigm speakers because the Phantoms I have (~13 yrs old) are an earlier version, I think, than the Cinema Phantoms that Scott mentioned in the article. My Phantoms have a “Suitable Amplifier Power Range” of 15-160 watts with a “Maximum Input Power” of 100 watts. (Sorry, Scott, I couldn’t find the specs for “maximum sustained power.”) My CC-170 center speaker has a “Suitable Amplifier Power Range” of 15-120 watts with a “Maximum Input Power” of 80 watts.

@Mark from Upstate New York: You make a good point. I had been wondering about how best to hook up the Oppo player. I’m not opposed to sending the video straight to the TV via HDMI. If I do, what do I do with the audio? I read somewhere that the Oppo’s DAC is excellent. If that’s the case, should I run the audio to the AVR via the analog outputs?

Finally, should I let go of my fascination with THX certification? I doubt my speakers are THX certified, so does it really matter if the AVR is THX certified?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Glad we can help! In my research about your question, I saw that Paradigm specifies "maximum input power," which I assume means maximum sustained power. Also, the Cinema Phantom was the only "Phantom" model designation on the Paradigm site, so I assumed that's the one you meant. I guess that company doesn't keep info about speakers that old available, though I think it should.

I totally agree with Mark in Upstate New York; since you're getting a new AVR, it's best to connect all the sources to the AVR via HDMI and the AVR's HDMI output to the TV, assuming the AVR doesn't degrade the video as I discussed in my reply. If the TV or Oppo Blu-ray player does a better job of upscaling and deinterlacing, just set the AVR's processing to "bypass." As far as audio is concerned, the BDP-93 does have a great DAC, though if you're going to go that route, the BDP-95's DAC is even better, albeit at twice the price.

Regarding THX certification, I don't think it's necessary at all, as long as the AVR performs well. THX certification assures a certain level of performance, but many non-certified AVRs also perform well.

albert26's picture

Remember you have great speakers,,why would you degrade them by thinking of an Onkyo or Intrega,exactly the same product,plz don't b tricked by the know it all sales people,who generally lie!!
Denon AVR 3312 is a perfect solution,also you can add all seperate amplifiers down the road,,if you can step up a little
A Rotel will blow away anything outhere right now,,,remember just my opinon,,great Plasma,& great Bluray,,so do the rest Right

Dar_of_Emur's picture

Unless I am very wrong, even 'pass through' modes can alter the image. For a receiver to be able to put info on screen (like the volume blocks, or name of input), it HAS to have the image go through a scaling process (then it overlays the volume blocks on top of the image). So you could be in a setting that you think is a simple pass through, but the receivers processor can still be mucking up the image in some way (altering the pixel mapping, rescaling, clipping WTW or BTB, etc).

My Integra prepro only truly passes 1080p24 through. In that mode, I cannot see the volume indicators on my screen when I turn up/down, or name of input when I toggle. When I send a 1080p60 from the STB, or a 480p signal from a DVD player, the processor will show volume and input on the screen when changed.

If your receiver or prepro is set to some 'pass through' mode, and you can see the volume levels on your screen when you alter it... trust me, the receiver is probably degrading your image in some way.

Scott? Am I wrong with the above?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
It makes sense that, even in pass-through or bypass mode, the signal might still be affected by the video circuitry that displays the menu, volume, etc. However, this might or might not degrade the picture quality. In our video tests of AVRs and pre/pros, we send a 1080p signal with resolution and video-clipping test patterns, and in many cases, they are not degraded at all. So I wouldn't say the receiver is "probably degrading your image in some way," but rather that it is possibly degrading the image in some way. The only way to know for sure is to perform the tests we do—or read the Video Test Bench section of our reviews!