Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $999 AT A GLANCE Plus Solid two-channel and multichannel power 3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X virtual height effects Excellent Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction HEOS wireless multiroom Minus Wired multiroom limited to one zone THE VERDICT A fine seven-channel amp, attractive ergonomics, full 4K/HDR-readiness, and 5.2.2 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X make for a very competitive midrange option. Denon&rsquo;s new AVR-X3400H A/V receiver scored points with me even before I got it out of its box: The four-piece packaging foam (top/bottom front and back) allows for easy removal of a heavy-ish item without battling box flaps, splintering full end-cap pieces, or leaving a trail of Styrofoam crumbs behind. (Yes, I&rsquo;m packing-material obsessive.) But let me not prejudge.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,600 AT A GLANCE Plus Impressive dynamics and clarity in both stereo and multichannel Quick-response onscreen interface Four-zone multiroom capability plus wireless MusicCast Excellent, responsive streaming-audio client Minus Remote control is crowded and not illuminated THE VERDICT Fully competitive with other flagship AVRs in basic performance, the Yamaha RX-A2070&rsquo;s proprietary DSP music listening modes are an added attraction that could win over even the most serious listeners. Once, receivers used to receive (radio waves), and amplify, period. They still do, but those are almost beside-the-point functions. Receivers nowadays are more concerned with decoding, casting, wireless-connecting, virtualizing, surround-formatting, multi-room-extending, auto-analyzing, and more. In fact, I don&rsquo;t know why we still call these things &ldquo;receivers,&rdquo; but, whatever.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $2,995 AT A GLANCE Plus Neutral sound from Class A/B amp Upsamples and converts PCM and DSD Compact form factor Minus Futuristic design means no mechanical controls No wired headphone output THE VERDICT Cary Audio&rsquo;s all-in-one system looks great, sounds great, and is packed with cutting-edge features. Cary Audio is known in the high-end audio scene for making vacuum-tube and solid-state stereo components, and the brand has also established a foothold in the home theater world with its Cinema 12 preamp/processor and multichannel amplifiers. Cary&rsquo;s AiOS (All-in-One System) is the first offering in the company&rsquo;s Lifestyle series. With built-in aptX Bluetooth, wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, AirPlay and PhoneShare support, and onboard Tidal, Spotify, and vTuner streaming, the AiOS really does have everything you need to immediately start playing music. Just download the company&rsquo;s iOS/Android app, connect speakers, and you&rsquo;re good to go.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $3,800 AT A GLANCE Plus Muscular Class A/B amp PC-USB and phono inputs Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 7.1.4 decoding Minus No auto setup Limited access to seven-channel amp for Atmos/DTS:X THE VERDICT Rotel returns to analog amplification for their latest top-of-the-line home theater machine&mdash;and the results are golden. Is the Rotel RAP-1580 the surround receiver that dares not speak its name? In keeping with the two-channel distinction between stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers, Rotel calls it a surround amplified processor because it doesn&rsquo;t include an AM/FM tuner. But to my mind, the defining trait of a surround receiver is that it combines a surround preamp/processor and a multichannel amp in one box. So I prefer to call this an audiophile receiver. You say tomato... [Editor&rsquo;s Note: I&rsquo;d call it a surround amplifier, and I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s the last of this type we&rsquo;ll be seeing...but, whatever.&mdash;RS]
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE$479 AT A GLANCE Plus Satisfying power for both two-channel and multi-channel modes 3.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X setup option with phantom surrounds Surprisingly responsive home-network streaming Basic auto-setup/EQ on board Minus Five-channel power requires choice between height or rear channels No analog multiroom capability No audio outputs other than HDMI THE VERDICT Good five-channel power, 4K/HDR readiness, excellent streaming responsiveness, and phantom-rear-channel Atmos give this affordable AVR its distinct attractions. Everybody knows what to expect from a flagship or cruiser-class A/V receiver: top-bracket power of 120 watts per channel or more, with nine, 11, or even 13 channels ready for latest-generation surround technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as hightech auto-setup routines and DSP on board. And then there are the deluxe extras, such as extensive multiroom capabilities, 4K/HDR passthrough and 4K scaling, and plenty of internet- and computer-audio streaming options. But what can you expect from the other end of a brand&rsquo;s AVR fleet? Not so much, right?
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $799 AT A GLANCE Plus 110 watts x 2 PC-USB and phono inputs Bass, treble, balance controls Minus No HDMI or other video switching Ethernet but no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth THE VERDICT Although not an AVR, Outlaw&rsquo;s second-generation stereo receiver has an intelligently chosen feature set, bodacious industrial design, and lots of clean power for music lovers on a budget. One might argue that no single product category has brought vastly improved sound to so many, so fast, as the now-retro stereo receiver. Models poured in during the (mostly) Japanese mass-market audio explosion of the 1970s, when Classic Rock was just rock. My first receiver was a 15-watt-per-channel Pioneer SX-434, but it just as easily could have been a Marantz, Sansui, Kenwood, Luxman, or any of several other storied brands. Today, top-line stereo receivers from the &rsquo;70s&mdash;their shiny silver faceplates bristling with knobs, buttons, and toggles&mdash;command eyebrow-raising prices on eBay and are lovingly restored by vintage hi-fi buffs.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $2,399 AT A GLANCE Plus Unimpeachable audio and basic video quality Generally good ergonomic design Eminently useful pop-up Quick Menu Minus No aptX for Bluetooth Local-streaming audio doesn&rsquo;t display file type/sampling info Fairly downscaled remote THE VERDICT Onkyo&rsquo;s latest A/V preamp/processor adds the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X and 4K/HDR capabilities needed to bring the brand&rsquo;s pre/pro current, while maintaining very solid value in the field. The A/V preamp/processors from Onkyo (and sister brand Integra) have been through five or six generations over the years, and I think I&rsquo;ve tested or at least used just about all of them. And for that decade-plus span, my overall reaction to them has remained pretty consistent: all the A/V-system quarterbacking any rational being needs at a fair price. Onkyo&rsquo;s latest iteration, the PR-RZ5100 network A/V controller, seems unlikely to change that conclusion while updating the series to 11.2-channel, 4K/HDR status.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $999 AT A GLANCE Plus App-driven HEOS eco-system Up to 5.1 channels Wireless HEOS surround and sub options Minus Nearly no front-panel controls No low-volume mode No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X THE VERDICT The Denon HEOS AVR reimagines the black-box receiver as a sleek, shapely, app-driven beauty that leverages the home network to provide wireless sub and surrounds. Having successfully developed their own wireless ecosystem under the HEOS brand, Denon is using it to reinvent the audio/video receiver. What the company calls the HEOS AVR departs from the black-box norm by offering suave dove-gray aluminum as an optional alternative to the usual black. It isn&rsquo;t a box, either, or at least not a pure rectangular solid, thanks to a diagonally split, convex front panel. Whereas other A/V receivers wear lots of buttons or conceal them behind a flip-down door, the HEOS AVR has a front panel that&rsquo;s pointedly devoid of any controls except a large metal volume dial. And in lieu of a front-panel display, it has only a large horizontal LED stripe in the HEOS style for volume and status. This isn&rsquo;t just another receiver. It&rsquo;s a deliberate provocation.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $600 AT A GLANCE Plus Fine amplifier sonics and power Excellent, quick-responding home-network streaming plays most formats, including HRA and DSD Speaker Relocation &amp; Phantom Surround feature Minus Scales only 1080p/24 video to 4K THE VERDICT Excellent audio performance and a unique feature set counterbalance a somewhat quirky and (in a few cases) slow user interface. It&rsquo;s been several years since I&rsquo;ve had a Sony AV receiver in my rack, so when the STR-DN1080 arrived on my porch, I was eager to see what the foundational brand&rsquo;s 7.1-channel Dolby Atmos/DTS:X model had to offer. Sony has been synonymous with consumer electronics for so long that today&mdash;in the more specialized corners of the field, such as home theater&mdash;it&rsquo;s easy to overlook the company that was such an early player in the game. But Sony still has an enviable market position, as well as design and engineering firepower aplenty to compete in any sphere they choose.
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,800, $2,950 AT A GLANCE Plus High power in compact, Class D package Dynamic, uncolored sound Runs relatively cool Minus Channel configurations not ideal for typical surround layouts THE VERDICT All the power most will ever need, with the sound quality you want in a slim, cool-running package. Power amplifiers are God&rsquo;s gift to the long-suffering audio reviewer, his (or her) compensation for all those A/V receivers, smart-streamers, net-connected speakers, and assorted other CPU-centric components that gray and thin our hair. No arcane MAC or IP addresses for the power amp; no obfuscatory wireless setup routines, stubbornly mute computer connections for auto-EQ procedures, or HDMI ports that refuse to shake hands with other HDMI ports. Whatever its provenance, the power amp demands little more than audio inputs, speaker outputs, and a power cord and calls it good.