The Best A/V Receivers for 2021

For every impressive home theater system, there’s a workhorse receiver at the helm. The best receivers will brilliantly reimagine your A/V equipment, delivering mighty sound to your speakers and breathtaking visuals to your TV.

If you’re interested in gaming, watching videos, or listening to music, you probably already have some concept of what an A/V receiver is. Although we consider the Marantz SR8015 the best receiver on the market, there are still plenty of options available. 

With a lifetime of experience in the electronics community reviewing TVs, amplifiers, A/V receivers, and more, we’ve put together a current list of the best A/V receivers you can find.

The best A/V receivers at a glance:

The best A/V receiver: Marantz SR8015

The Marantz SR8015 receiver on a dresser.

Why you should buy this: It’s got plenty for home cinema, but its audio capabilities are just as compelling a reason to go with it.

Who it’s for: Those who want to make sure music sounds as good as any movie or show does.

Why we picked the Marantz SR8015:

This is a pricey option, but Marantz made sure to improve upon past A/V receivers by covering otherwise empty bases from prior models. The SR8015 is equipped with an array of A/V technologies to make it fit in any home theater environment. Starting with all things audio, it’s got Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhanced, Auro 3D, plus the ability to connect a turntable for some vinyl playback or to stream from the likes of Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, AirPlay 2, among others. You also get access to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, plus the ability to do multiroom setups through HEOS.

It’s compatible with hi-res audio files and lossless formats that go up to 24-bit/192 kHz, and you can stream them to the receiver from a USB or network storage drive. The 11.2 channel system can run in 7.2.4 or 9.2.2 configurations when using all the channels. You can also keep some free-to-play music in different zones, where you get up to two extra. There are 140 watts of output per channel, so Marantz built the SR8015 to handle just about any speaker arrangement you have in mind. The Audyssey MultEQ XT32 support only helps the cause further with its room-correction technology to compensate for acoustics inside.

On the video front, the SR8015 is no less capable. It brings in 8K video at 60Hz (including upscaling) to go with 4K/120Hz, HDR (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dynamic HDR, Dolby Vision), and HDMI-eARC that lets you pass full resolution surround sound from your TV through to the receiver. There are 8 HDMI inputs, plus 3 outputs, including useful add-ons like a Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) to accommodate gamers who need them.

There’s a lot to work with here because Marantz left little to chance, and that bodes well for how long this receiver may last in the years to come. We’re interested to see what future firmware updates might bring to the table, should Marantz’s SR8015 stay relevant after an eventual successor appears.

The best budget A/V receiver: Sony STR-DH590

Sony DH-590 with Bluetooth controls.

Why you should buy this: It fits easily within most people’s budgets, yet the Sony STR-DH590 still provides nearly every feature found on much more expensive receivers.

Who it’s for: Those who want a full-fledged home theater system without spending thousands.

Why we picked the Sony STR-DH590:

When it comes to A/V receivers, reducing your budget invariably means reducing the number of features. The key is to preserve as many of the features that most people value. The Sony STR-DH590 manages to do this in a stellar fashion by supporting all of the latest audio and video formats, including 4K and HDR (HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision). It also comes with its own acoustic calibration circuitry, which takes the guesswork out of setting up your speakers to the right levels.

For utmost audio fidelity, the DH590 is equipped with Sony’s Pure Direct mode for the cleanest sound the receiver has to offer. It does so by disabling the 590’s front display panel, eliminating unnecessary component noise from escaping into the mix of whatever content you’re consuming. Keep in mind that engaging Pure Direct also bypasses several of the receiver’s internal equalizers. It’s a great feature for listening to music through analog sources, but if you’re a fan of big cinema sound, it’s probably something we’d leave alone when watching a movie.

Although the DH590 has Bluetooth for direct music streaming from a compatible smartphone or tablet, the receiver isn’t internet-connected, so you won’t be able to stream music without a Bluetooth device. That being said, Sony’s high-res audio support kicks in when you’re beaming tunes to the receiver, which adds a little more belly and top-end to your sound.

In terms of main source connections, the Sony STR-DH590 only has four HDMI inputs. While you won’t be powering any rock concerts, it’s more than enough receiver for a very satisfying home theater experience.

The best A/V receiver with phono input: Denon AVR-X1700H

The Denon AVR-X1700H 1 receiver.

Why you should buy this: It has a dizzying array of modern features like Dolby Atmos, 4K, HDR, and streaming services, plus a rare phono input for turntable types.

Who it’s for: Those who want the latest and greatest A/V receiver features, plus an easy way to kick it old-school with vinyl for when the mood strikes you.

Why we picked the Denon AVR-X1700H:

There is no lack of capable models to choose from when it comes to midrange A/V receivers. But when you start to ask which of those models can support a turntable without the use of a pre-amp? Well, it’s a much shorter list. Chief among them is the Denon AVR-X1700H, a modern 7.2 home theater receiver that also packs a phono input, which simplifies your setup considerably.

Don’t let its vinyl-friendly jacks fool you: This receiver is blistering with high-tech features including support for three 4K/120 HDMI 2.1 inputs, Dolby Atmos and Atmos Heigh Virtualization, DTS Virtual:X, and upscaling up to 8K resolution. It also includes compatibility with HEOS connections, AirPlay 2, Alexa voice commands, Bluetooth, and onboard Wi-Fi.

The Denon AVR-X1700H also offers multi-room audio for more complicated setups, supports both ARC and eARC for simplified connections, and offers digital audio and composite video ports, as well as two line-level subwoofer outputs for adding extra rumble. At 80 watts per channel, the audio is quite powerful, and room calibration is top-notch, too. This is an excellent pick if you want phono support without giving anything up, are looking for a more affordable upgrade to HDMI 2.1, or want the latest format support for your media.

The best A/V receiver for movies: Yamaha Aventage RX-A2A

The Yamaha Aventage RX-A2A receiver on a shelf.

Why you should buy this: It hits the sweet spot with abundant audio and video options, plus high-tech modes for movie optimization.

Who it’s for: Those who want total control over their A/V environment.

Why we picked the Yamaha Aventage RX-A2A:

The 7.2 Aventage RX-A2A is more than capable as a powerhouse video system. Naturally, it has support for all of the latest A/V technologies: 4K, HDR (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, etc.), Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and HDCP 2.3. It’s also ready for HDMI-eARC and is compatible with hi-res audio files up to 32-bit/192 kHz.

HDMI 2.1 is also supported if you like to stay on the cutting edge of A/V support for your entertainment system, and future updates will add support for things like 8K and the latest formats. Inside, you’ll find features like a high slew rate amplifier for more accurate audio response and low distortion, as well as advanced modes for movie optimization. Outside, the design includes an A.R.T. (Anti-Resonance Technology) wedge to help dampen nearby vibration and improve audio quality further. MusicCast features with wireless 5.1 surround sound support also help if you like to play music on the system as well.

Don’t worry about a lack of connections, either. The Yamaha Aventage RX-A2A includes seven HDMI input options to handle any devices you may want to set up. There’s even compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant when you can’t find the remote.

The best A/V receiver for music: Anthem MRX 1120

The Anthem MRX 1120 on a shelf.

Why you should buy this: It offers fantastic sound and every feature you could want.

Who it’s for: Anyone who places a premium on top-notch sound for their music, and then some.

Why we picked the Anthem MRX 1120:

Anthem is a well-known name among those who demand top-tier sound quality in their A/V receivers, and the 11.2-channel MRX 1120 is the top dog of the company’s offerings. The MRX 1120 packs a massive Toroidal power supply, offering a claimed 140 watts of clean power per channel at 8 ohms. It features support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound, in either 7.1.4 or 5.1.4 configurations, depending on whether you want to leave channels free for a second zone for another room in your home. And that’s just for starters.

The MRX 1120 also offers wireless multiroom connectivity via DTS Play-Fi. This is bolstered by built-in support for a number of popular music-streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, and internet radio. For those who value fidelity over convenience, hi-res audio support is included as well and makes good use of the receiver’s 32-bit/768 kHz differential-output digital-to-analog converters (DACs).

When it comes to video, the MRX 1120 naturally offers support for 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) content in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats, with support for 4:4:4 chroma and BT.2020 colorspace. A built-in upscaler is also included, bringing standard and high-definition signals up to 4K quality, independent of your 4K TV’s internal upscaler. A total of eight HDMI inputs are included, all of which support HDMI 2.0a (for the aforementioned 4K/HDR device connections) and HDCP 2.2. There are also two HDMI and three digital audio outputs.

Finally, the Anthem MRX 1120 makes setup a snap via Anthem Room Correction software, which is one of the best room-calibration systems out there. The company even includes a high-quality mic and stand for measuring your room’s acoustic properties right in the box.

The best next-gen A/V receiver: Denon AVR-X4700H

The Denon AVR-X4700H receiver on a shelf.

Why you should buy this: You want a titan of a home theater brain, combining power, performance, and longevity.

Who’s it for: Early adopters of cutting-edge home theater, especially 8K enthusiasts.

Why we picked the Denon AVR-X4700H:

Often, the cost of buying into the next generation of home theater can be rather steep, as this receiver’s $1,700 price tag makes abundantly clear. But when you consider all the things the Denon AVR-X4700H can do for the gear you own now, as well as the upgrades you may make in the future — particularly, 8K TVs and compatible 8K devices — it starts to show its long-term value.

The AVR-X4700 is a modest upgrade from the previous AVR-X3700NH in that Denon packed more power at 125 watts per channel compared to the 105 watts its predecessor pumped out. In the video corner, the AVR-X4700 maintains support for 8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ (Dynamic HDR, HLG). That also includes the 8K upscaling that you can apply to your existing 4K Blu-rays and subscriptions to Netflix in UHD. With 8 HDMI inputs and 3 outputs, you won’t have to worry about buying a selector for additional devices. We also love how Denon gave a nod to the gaming world by giving current and next-gen gamers features like Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM).

In the audio corner, the X4700 has kept everything intact that we’d expect from a higher-tier receiver. We’re talking Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS: Virtual X, and other highly dimensional codecs, like new Auro 3D support as a three-dimensional audio alternative to Dolby Atmos. You can set up 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 traditional Atmos arrangements or opt for simulated height channels with the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization feature. You can also do similar setups using Auro 3D if you prefer that route.

Music enthusiasts will feel right at home with the X4700’s suite of digital music support from services like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Soundcloud, and more. There’s also Denon HEOS support if you’ve got multiple zones of Denon gear in your home. Control and share all your music right from your phone, or teach the HEOS skill to your Echo speaker for immersive Alexa controls. The X3700 also supports Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Josh.ai.

There’s a lot to be had with the Denon AVR-X4700H, and while it will ding the wallet upfront, the years of service you’ll be getting are definitely worth the investment.

Research and buying tips

Are some A/V receivers better for music than movies?

No. Most receivers do very well for movies as well as music, with performance scaling up in tandem as you move into premium models. However, music can be more revealing of sound quality and character than movie soundtracks, and those who value music listening may find one brand more sonically satisfying than another.

Do all A/V receivers support 4K?

Yes. All of the models we highlight support 4K and most also support HDR as well.

What about 8K?

While 8K is available in some form or another today, the technology is still new and prohibitive for most people. There aren’t any consumer A/V receivers on our list that support 8K as of this writing, as the technology is still in its nascent stage.

Can I easily use an A/V receiver with a turntable?

As long as it has a phono input, yes. If not, you’ll need a phono preamp which can be quite affordable for entry-level models.

How we test

Collectively, the A/V team at Digital Trends has been testing A/V receivers for just over 40 years. Testing takes place both in a dedicated home theater lab at our headquarters in Portland, Oregon, as well as our individual home theater spaces. That spans a wide variety of sourcing equipment able to handle the latest standards.

Connected speakers include a rotating cast of speakers, including many Dolby Atmos-enabled models. While we routinely run any given receiver’s auto setup routine to gauge its accuracy and user experience, we ultimately perform a manual calibration using an analog SPL meter, carefully choosing crossover points for connected speakers based on in-room measured low-frequency response. Surround speaker arrangements will vary between 7.2 and 5.2.4.

Receivers are tested for ease of use, with special attention paid to how easy it is to stream music to the receiver as well as direct-stream internet radio stations. We also pay attention to how clear on-screen guides and setup instructions will be for novice users.

Sound quality tests include analysis of dynamic expression, overall power, timbre, and tonality; speaker-to-speaker transitions of sound effects; and general soundstage quality.

Is now a good time to buy?

For some time, the rate at which features were being added made buying any AV receiver a risky proposition if you didn’t want to be stuck with something that quickly went out of date. With 4K, HDR, HDMI, and HDCP seemingly having everything worked out for the 4K era, it’s much safer to buy a receiver now without worrying that you’ll quickly see the future pass you by. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X seem entrenched as the two major leaders in object-based surround sound — no surprise, given the lead both Dolby and DTS have generally had in surround sound technologies — so you should be safe there too.

The one area that could possibly change is high-resolution audio, as even many of the above models don’t support everything possible yet, though that is quickly changing as well. If this is very important to you in a receiver, you may want to consider a separate digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

Note that HDMI 2.1 is still on the rise and won’t be available on every device (including the hardware you already have). Only wait for a newer receiver if you absolutely need to be future-proofed for the 8K (and higher) resolution or you need incredibly high frame rates for gaming. Note that a couple of our newest picks do come with HDMI port options that support HDMI 2.1.

Associated terms

  • 4K: Higher resolution than HD (3840 X 2160). The latest standard for TVs and AV receiver models, although some are even going up to 8K these days..
  • Dolby Atmos: One of the two most popular object-based surround formats, Atmos adds height information so sound can seem to come from above and all around you.
  • DSD: Direct-Stream Digital. A hi-res audio file format alternative to .WAV, .AIFF, and others that aims to reduce distortion.
  • DTS:X: The other most popular object-based audio format, DTS:X can be more flexible than Dolby Atmos when it comes to where speakers are placed and how many of them there are.
  • HDCP 2.2: A form of copy protection, this version is required in order to play 4K content.
  • HDMI 2.0a: While it isn’t the newest version of HDMI, this version is the first that allows HDR signals and 4K content at up to 60 frames per second.
  • HDMI 2.1: Only starting to become widely available, HDMI 2.1 supports higher frame rates and up to 8K resolution, among other key benefits you can read about right here.
  • HDMI eARC: eARC — or “enhanced audio return channel” —  is an upgrade to the standard HDMI ARC interface. The tech was designed to allow one-cable transmission of audio and information to and from the TV to simplify home theater setups, but the eARC upgrade also adds full support for hi-res surround sound formats.
  • HDR: High Dynamic Range, offers better contrast and more color volume than standard dynamic range. Considered by some a bigger visual improvement than 4K resolution. Even if you want a stereo receiver, HDR is still an important perk for your image quality.

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