7 Best Home Theater Receivers: Buyer’s Guide

A home theater receiver

Denon The right home theater receiever can greatly improve your Friday night home movie experience.

A home theater receiver — or, more accurately, an AV receiver — is like a central switching station for all the audio and video gear in your home theater, living room, or media room. If you don’t already have an AV receiver, you might have cobbled together a home theater by directly connecting various components — like DVD player and streaming media player — directly to your TV, but even so, the sound is still terrible because you can’t easily connect a surround sound speaker system.

That’s where an AV receiver comes it. It lets you connect your components to your television or projector. It also includes the amplifiers needed to power your speakers. There are a lot of receivers out there, and a huge variety in what they’re capable of doing. This is one of those areas of tech in which your options aren’t all more or less the same thing — you need to consider how many channels your AV receiver should support (that’s the number of speakers, in plain English), what kind of surround sound you get, whether it supports multi-room audio, if it’s 4K ready for your current (or future) 4K UHD TV, and more.

For a roundup of the best home theater receiver available today, read on. And check out the end of the article for a thorough but straightforward explanation of the home theater receiver lingo and how to pick the right one for yourself.

What Are the Best Home Theater Receivers For Sale in 2020

A Denon AVR-X4500H home theater receiver Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Lots of power
  • 4K switching
  • Support for Atmos and DTS:X
Price: $1,199.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Denon AVR-X6500H home theater receiver Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Lots of power
  • 4K switching
  • Support for all important surround formats
Price: $1,799.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Denon AVR-X8500H home theater receiever Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 150 watts per channel
  • Comprehensive support for existing standards
  • First 13.2 receiver
Price: $3,999.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Denon HEOS AVR 5.1-Channel Network A/V home theater receiver Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very simple and straightforward
  • Modern, clean aesthetics
  • Designed for wired or wireless speakers
Price: $599.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Marantz AV Receiver SR8012 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Tons of power
  • Easy setup and calibration
  • Support for Atmos 7.1.4 surround
Price: $3,378.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Sony STR-DN1080 home theater receiver Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Great graphical interface
  • Chromecast and other streaming
  • Atmos support
Price: $598.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
A Yamaha Aventage RX-A1080 home theater receiver Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Atmos support
  • Yamaha MusicCast
  • HDMI output for second zone
Price: $1,199.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Denon AVR-X4500H

    Pros:
    • Lots of power
    • 4K switching
    • Support for Atmos and DTS:X
    Cons:
    • Generates a lot of heat
    • Running a full Atmos speaker configuration can tax the receiver's power capabilities
    • Remote is more complicated than the space shuttle

    Power: 125W | Channels: 9.2 | HDMI inputs: 8 | HDMI outputs: 3 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X | Voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions: 6.7 x 16.9 x 15 inches

    The Denon AVR-X4500H sits aboutr midway up Denon’s family tree, delivering 125 watts of power to each of its nine channels, and you can add a separate stereo receiver to drive a second “zone” in another room or turn the system into a 7.2.4 system. The front of the receiver will look familiar to anyone who knows Denon products; it has two large control knobs — one for volume and the other for source selection, with a flip-down panel that hides a slew of additional (and rarely used) controls, with a large display sitting above. Around back, you get seven HDMI inputs and three outputs with HDCP 2.2 support for watching copy-protected content. (There’s another HDMI input in front, which is handy for quickly plugging in a laptop or some other temporary source). There is no shortage of connectors in back, including virtually every legacy input you could possibly need.

    There’s a general caveat for the Denon AVR-X4500H that applies to most higher-end receivers in 2020: With HDMI 2.1 on the way, no receiver fully supports it yet, so purchasing this unit means possibly being incompatible with certain 2.1 features when it’s fully implemented. That said, it does support the elements that are probably going to be most important. 

    The receiver has Audyssey speaker calibration, of course, which makes initial setup super easy. The receiver is fully 4K ready with Dolby Vision and High Dynamic Range (HDR10) support as well. Denon also packs in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay 2, so you can stream content wirelessly to the receiver from virtually any device. You can also control it via voice with Amazon Alexa, and make the theater a part of a whole-house audio system with HEOS, if you have other HEOS components. This receiver is pricey, but it offers a substantial amount of power and a lot of features. 

     

     

  2. 2. Denon AVR-X6500H

    Pros:
    • Lots of power
    • 4K switching
    • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
    Cons:
    • 11.2 configuration can tax receiever's power capabilities
    • Clumsy Denon remote
    • Generates a lot of heat

    Power: 140W | Channels: 11.2 | HDMI inputs: 8 | HDMI outputs: 3 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D | Voice assistants: Alexa | Dimensions: 6.7 x 17.1 x 14.9 inches

    When it comes to AV receivers, the field of companies making genuinely excellent products is surprisingly small. That’s why Denon appears several times in this list; the company makes a number of superb receivers and crowds out a lot of the competition. The Denon AVR-X6500H is one such model, a step up in the Denon family from the AVR-X4500H. This receiver delivers a more robust 140 watts of power per channel and features 11 discrete channels. One thing to beware of right out of the game, though: This is technically an AV amp, not an AV receiver since Denon opted not to include a full-fledged tuner in this package. Instead, you get a tuner input. That might not be a huge deal for most folks, since tuners are very 20th Century, and Denon has included internet radio support anyway — a much more modern implementation that gets you to the same place in the end. 

    Visually, there’s no doubt this is a Denon, thanks to the signature front panel (volume and source dials flanking the flip-down panel which hides other controls, and the large display). There’s an HDMI input in front if you should have a need to plug a temporary source into the receiver, but otherwise, you’ll find a generous array of ports in back — including 7 HDMI inputs, 3 outputs, and a wealth of component inputs and legacy connections. 

    Since this receiver has 4K switching, you’re largely future-proofed whether you have a 4K set now or not. You also get Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D support, along with Alexa voice control. You can stream to the receiver via Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 as well. It includes Denon’s familiar remote — a little hard to use, especially in the dark. 

     

  3. 3. Denon AVR-X8500H

    Pros:
    • 150 watts per channel
    • Comprehensive support for existing standards
    • First 13.2 receiver
    Cons:
    • Very pricey
    • Denon hasn't embraced Roon
    • You'll need an installer to get the most out of this receiever

    Power: 150W | Channels: 13.2 | HDMI inputs: 8 | HDMI outputs: 3 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D | Voice assistants: Alexa | Dimensions: 6.7 x 17.1 x 14.9 inches

    It’s easy to look at the Denon AVR-X8500H and think that it is a slight variation on all the other look-alike receivers in the Denon family lineup. But in this case, you’d be mistaken: this is Denon’s flagship and represents a significant step up in any number of ways compared to its siblings. For starters, it is the world’s first 13.2-channel AV receiver. If you want to build an Atmos surround sound system, you can have unparalleled flexibility for adding height channels, such as two front, one center, and two rear height channels, either by mounting real height channels on the ceiling or using upward-firing speakers to simulate height. Denon also claims the system is essentially future-proof, with an upgrade path to full HDMI 2.1 compatibility. 

    Speaking of surround, the AVR-8500H supports all the current formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced, has 4K switching, and a wealth of streaming options. It has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, and compatibility with HEOS. You can even voice-control the system with Amazon Alexa. 

    If you’re looking for a reciever for a new home or a major renovation, you’ll find that the AVR-X8500H is an installer’s dream.  It integrates easily with many popular home automation systems including Control4 SDPP, Josh. ai, Creston, and others. 

     

  4. 4. Denon HEOS AVR 5.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver

    Pros:
    • Very simple and straightforward
    • Modern, clean aesthetics
    • Designed for wired or wireless speakers
    Cons:
    • Relatively weak 65 watts
    • No supports for Atmos
    • No phono input

    Power: 65W | Channels: 5.1 | HDMI inputs: 4 | HDMI outputs: 1 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: DTS HD Master Audio | Voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions: 17.1 x 3.6 x 11 inches

    The Denon HEOS AVR looks utterly unlike a Denon AV receiver; in fact, it looks unlike most any AV receiver. In the conservative world of home theater electronics, the HEOS AVR is like something that fell out of a space ship from the future. The front has nothing but a single volume control, and even the remote control is minimalist nearly to the point of useless — that’s because this system is intended to be controlled almost exclusively via the full-featured and friendly app for iOS and Android.

    TDenon design the HEOS AVR to appeal to people who are intimidated by traditional AV receivers. The back is almost as straightforward as the front; there are binding posts for six speakers (two front, two rear, center and subwoofer), but you don’t even have to use those; this receiver works with wireless HEOS speakers, so you can configure the entire theater wirelessly (you’ll still need to connect the TV with an HDMI cable, of course). You get four HDMI inputs, so this receiver is best if you have a limited number of components, though you’ll also find USB, Ethernet, and other digital inputs as well. 

    Keeping things simple, the capabilities are modest: It has 4K switching, but only 5.1 surround sound and no Atmos support — but you can control the receiver using Alexa and Google. And with a HEOS backbone, you can control music throughout the house. It has internet radio, supports apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music HD, Pandora, Tidal, and others, and has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support for streaming audio from other sources.

  5. 5. Marantz AV Receiver SR8012

    Pros:
    • Tons of power
    • Easy setup and calibration
    • Support for Atmos 7.1.4 surround
    Cons:
    • Expensive
    • Runs a little hot
    • Remote is poorly laid out

    Power: 205W | Channels: 11.2 | HDMI inputs: 8 | HDMI outputs: 3 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D | Voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions: 6.7 x 16.9 x 15 inches

    If you’re looking for a powerful and flexible home theater receiver capable of delivering a full 7.1.4 (or 9.1.2) Atmos surround implementation, take a look at the Marantz AV Receiver SR8012, the company’s flagship receiver (and its first 11.2 model). The aesthetics are professional and conservative; you get a selector and volume control in front with a minimal, rounded “portal” display. But open the front panel, and you get a lot of additional controls, a USB and HDMI input, and a much larger display. 

    In back, you get seven additional HDMI ports with 4K switching, three HDMI outputs, a slew of well-organized component inputs and binding posts for all 11 speaker channels. If you need a lot of power, this Marantz might be the single best option on the market right now: each channel delivers an identical 205 watts — that’s right, 205 watts. But there’s a caveat here: numerous independent looks at this system seem to bear out that the real-world performance is much closer to 140 watts per channel, and when you put a load on all 11 channels, the amp will have trouble delivering — but that’s already more than almost any home theater is ever likely to need. 

    The system is HEOS-compatible and works with voice-controlled services like Alexa and Google. You also get streaming audio via a laundry list of connected services like Spotify and Tidal, not to mention Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 support. 

     

  6. 6. Sony STR-DN1080

    Pros:
    • Great graphical interface
    • Chromecast and other streaming
    • Atmos support
    Cons:
    • Can't grow with you past 5.1.2
    • Limited options for connecting components
    • No phono input

    Power: 165W| Channels: 7.2 | HDMI inputs: 6 | HDMI outputs: 2 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X | Voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions: 19 x 15 x 8.38 inches

    In many ways, the Sony STR-DN1080 is the perfect AV receiver for today’s average media room. If you want a great home theater experience — more than a soundbar can offer but you don’t want the complexity and expense of a flagship AV receiver — then Sony thinks this is the model for you. It has a ton of features and capabilities, nearly as well equipped as many pricier models, but has a user-friendly graphical interface on the television to control virtually all of its features. That’s a breath of fresh air if you’re used to noodling around with virtually indecipherable remote controls. 

    Visually, the front of the receiver is polished and streamlined, with a source selector and volume dial, minimal digital display, and USB input. That’s it, though — no hidden controls behind a flip-down panel or front-facing HDMI port. Around back, you’ve got a minimal presentation as well — there are six HDMI inputs and a pair of outputs, along with speaker posts that let you put together a 7.1 system or a 5.1.2 with Atmos two height speakers. What’s missing here is all the connectivity you’d get with many other receivers — you’re mostly limited to HDMI inputs. But if you don’t mind that, you can also take advantage of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, AirPlay and a slew of streaming services like Chromecast, Spotify, Pandors, and many others.

    The bottom line is that for all but the most ambitious home theater installations, Sony’s STR-DN1080n is well-equipped to accommodate your needs.

  7. 7. Yamaha Aventage RX-A1080 7.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver

    Pros:
    • Atmos support
    • Yamaha MusicCast
    • HDMI output for second zone
    Cons:
    • No front-access HDMI
    • Limited legacy component inputs
    • Surround maxes out at 7.1

    Power: 110W | Channels: 7.2 | HDMI inputs: 7 | HDMI outputs: 3 | Video support: 4K, HDR | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X | Voice assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions: 17.3 x 17.1 x 7.2 inches

    Yamaha has had a lot of success with its Aventage family of AV receivers, and the Yamaha Aventage RX-A1080 could well be in the sweet spot for many home theater enthusiasts. The design of the Aventage RX-A1080 doesn’t have a lot of surprises; the front has a source selector and volume dial which flank a panel that flips down to reveal additional controls and a USB input — but no HDMI. In back, you’ll find seven HDMI inputs and a pair of outputs, plus a third specifically for zone 2, so you can control TVs in different rooms with the same receiver. There are also inputs for a handful of components — not as generous as most Denon receivers, but certainly enough for the vast majority of modern home theater owners. 

    This 7.2-channel receiver has a respectable 110 watts of power per channel. It includes Atmos surround processing, so you can configure your theater with as much as a 7.1 speaker configuration or add two height speakers with a 5.1.2 array. 

    In addition to Atmos, Yamaha includes DTS:X processing, both of which compliment the 4K video support nicely. Similar to other receivers in this price range, you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2 for streaming, as well as connected services like Spotify and Pandora for internet streaming. Yamaha relies on its own MusicCast multi-room streaming service, which lets you play music from your phone or other mobile device, or from many different streaming services. If you have multiple Yamaha receivers, you can stream music to them in much the same ways as Sonos, with different receivers playing different music at the same time, or mirroring the same content. It’s very flexible. 

     

How to Shop for a Home Theater Receiver

As you can see from this article, you can spend anywhere from below $500 to over $3000 on home theater receiver. Where to start? Ask yourself these questions:

How many channels do you need? This is the equivalent of deciding how many seats your car should have or how many rooms you need in your next house -- everything else flows from this first, most basic question. Channels is just another word for speakers, so a 5.1 channel receiver can drive five main speakers (two front, one center, and two surround) as well as a subwoofer. A 7.1 system has four surround speakers --two in the back and two on the side. And the new Atmos surround standard includes "height" speakers -- either ceiling mounted or speakers that fire up and bounce sound off the ceiling. A 5.1.2 Atmos system has the usual five-plus-subwoofer plus two height speakers. So figure out how many speakers you want to install in your theater and go from there. 

How much power do you need? This is often a much less critical question, but if you plan to drive a lot of speakers at relatively high volume, you'll want more power. Generally, 100 watts per channel or more is a good starting place for a modern home theater. 

What components do you need to connect? The receiver is a switching station that connects your components (DVD player, streaming video player, and so on) to your TV and speakers. Make sure you get a receiver with enough HDMI ports and the right kind of other connectors. Increasingly, less expensive receivers no longer support phono inputs, so if you still play vinyl, you might have to choose your receiver specifically for compatibility with older components. 

How tech-savvy are you? If you feel comfortable with arcane interfaces and lots of techno-jargon, great -- many AV receivers aren't especially user friendly. But if you want to keep it simple, look for receivers like the Denon HEOS AVR and Sony STR-DN1080 which were intentionally designed to be as friendly as possible. 

The Best Value in a Home Theater Receiver

There's a vast range of prices for home theater receivers, and unlike a lot of products, you can easily see how spending more money on receivers directly translates first and foremost to more channels and more wattage, and to a lesser degree, more features. That means it's critical to decide what you really need and scope your purchase to that. If you never plan to go beyond a simple 5.1-channel configuration, for example, buying an 11.1-capable receiver is literally money wasted.

If you're new to the videophile world and preparing to build your first home theater, a receiver like the Sony STR-DN1080 is an excellent choice. It has a wealth of HDMI inputs and can see you through to as much as a 7.1.2 surround sound system. The only serious shortcoming: no phono input.

If you want a little more power and flexibility, the Denon AVR-X4500H and Yamaha Aventage RX-A1080 both give you beefy amplification, excellent surround options, and support for legacy components like a phonograph -- you just need to decide whether you prefer Yamaha's MusicCast or Denon's HEOS platform.

If money is no object, then there's no real debate: get the Denon AVR-X8500H, a receiver that can accommodate more speakers than most movie theaters and has unparalleled support for existing the future standards.

See Also

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