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Boasting high-quality audio, modern AV receivers offer everything you need to power an excellent home theater system. There are tons of receivers on the market and include a grab-bag of features such as 8K video, Dolby Atmos and Wi-Fi music streaming.
So how do you know which is the best AV receiver for you? We’ve tested the most popular models between $500 and $2,000 to help you find out. Gamers in particular should be aware though that until fairly recently, 8K-compatible receivers had issues displaying video from certain gaming consoles and PCs. This is something to be mindful of in case you buy an 8K TV in the future — or for gamers with an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 who want the latest video features.
We’ll explain all of that in-depth below, but first, here are our current picks for best AV receivers of 2022. Be aware: Some of these products are currently on backorder, so check back periodically.
Which receiver should I buy?
The Yamaha RX-V6A is CNET’s favorite receiver under $1,000 and offers striking looks with the performance chops to match. It also has plenty of connectivity options including a wealth of HDMI 2.1 ports for connecting the Xbox Series X and more. On that last point, it is worth noting that until mid-2021 all models were susceptible to a bug making them non-4K/120Hz-compliant, and there may be some of these left on the shelves. However, the company has fixes standing by, as you’ll see below.
If you want to be on the safer side, the Onkyo TX-NR6100 is the receiver to buy. The Onkyo is an excellent performer and offers easy setup, excellent usability, solid looks and useful features, including the best streaming suite. It was never prone to the 4K issue.
Meanwhile, the Onkyo TX-RZ50 is an excellent receiver if you’re looking for the next level of features and a performance bump over sub-$1k models. It offers an excellent, if slightly scary, calibration routine from Dirac Live and the best number of streaming features on the market. It sounds great with music and movies alike. Alternatively, if it’s home theater thrills you’re after the Yamaha RX-A4A offers crisp, dynamic sound and fantastic build quality for the same $1,400 — and unlike the Onkyo it’s available to buy right now.
This Yamaha RX-V6A offers a fresh look at AV receiver design, with its futuristic edges and simple controls, while also maximizing sound quality. The Yamaha might even make you forget about visiting a cinema ever again, and it’s no slouch with music, either. It offers plenty of connectivity with Wi-Fi bringing AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Yamaha’s MusicCast system for streaming from your devices. However it does come with a caveat: The early 2021 models are not compatible with 4K/120Hz video, and will need to be returned to the manufacturer to perform a 8K board upgrade.
Read our YAMAHA RX-V6A review.
Onkyo’s TX-RZ50 is a perfect step-up model for users looking to upgrade their systems for a set of better-quality speakers or to add a turntable. Like its budget-oriented labelmate, the TX-NR6100, it’s stacked with features including the audiophile-quality calibration routine called Dirac Live as well as the best streaming suite in an AV receiver. Also, being able to request songs directly from Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa is a real boon.
What improvements does the $1,400 TX-RZ50 offer on the $800 TX-NR6100? Firstly, it offers double the number of 8K compatible inputs (six versus three) plus it offers more power (120 watts versus 80 watts). It also has two-way Bluetooth for streaming as well as listening on wireless headphones.
Performance was excellent whether watching a movie (and we haven’t heard Dolby Atmos sound this convincing in a long time) or listening to streamed music. The addition of Dirac Live adds its own complexities in setup — please, only use the Onkyo Controller mobile app in combination with the supplied microphone — but doing so rewards with a highly-involving performance.
Be aware that the Onkyo is currently out of stock, but it is worth waiting for. Otherwise, the competitive Yamaha RX-A4A may not be as good with music, but it offers better home theater performance based on our direct comparisons. Plus, it does have a great phono pre-amp.
Read CNET’s first take on the Onkyo TX-RZ50.
We’re big fans of the Yamaha RX-V6A here at CNET and so were curious to see what the step-up RX-A4A brings to the table. As it turns out, this Yamaha offers even better build quality and a huge cinematic sound.
Look through the fancy top grill and you’ll see neatly packed components and a distinguished transformer. The system is capable of a beefy 110 watts per channel (stereo) and has seven HDMI ports for your connectivity needs.
Sound quality tends toward the cinematic rather than the musical and offers a big, roomy sound for your favorite blockbusters or moody Japanese dramas. What is surprising is that the onboard phono amp is even better than the one on the rival Onkyo RZ50, and so it is recommended for people who don’t want a separate pre-amp.
It’s worth mentioning here that the receiver is not yet 4K/120Hz compliant — a patch is expected within the next few weeks to enable it. So we can’t yet recommend this receiver for gamers until we test this feature for ourselves.
As the Yamaha is not yet compliant and doesn’t sound as good with music streaming, the Onkyo is still our current favorite.
Read CNET’s first take on the Yamaha RX-A4A.
The TX-NR6100 is the follow-up to my favorite receiver of the past few years, the Onkyo TX-NR696. Like its predecessor, the NR6100 offers great sound and a wealth of connectivity, which now includes support for 4K/120Hz from gaming consoles. It also boasts the best selection of streaming formats, including Chromecast built in, DTS Play-Fi, Spotify Connect, AirPlay and Bluetooth. However, the NR6100 is not quite as good a deal as its predecessor because it now costs $150 more, and the Yamaha RX-V6A offers better sonic performance for less.
One of only two mainstream designs released in 2020, Denon’s AVR-S960H may not be as glittering and shiny as the Yamaha RX-V6A, but it still offers excellent sound quality. The receiver is laid-back, blends well with forward-sounding speakers and replays music beautifully. It has almost everything you need, including 8K video, voice control via both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant speakers, Dolby Atmos, and Apple AirPlay 2.
Be aware that versions of the Denon AVR-S960H bought before April 2021 are affected by the 4K/120Hz bug and owners should sign up for one of the free dongles.
Read our Denon AVR-S960H review.
How We Test
At CNET we test audio equipment from compact soundbars though to surround sound systems, but regardless of the device our methodology is largely the same. We always compare products against one or more reference devices which offer the best performance at a similar price.
When it comes to receivers we want to see how well a system performs with music as well as with movies, as most people will want to do both. We watch a handful of test scenes from 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for example) and evaluate aspects such as Dolby Atmos surround performance and dialog clarity. We also use a number of test music tracks and evaluate any streaming features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It’s systems that can perform well with both types of entertainment which inevitably score the highest.
Check out our receiver buying guide for more about the features and things you should consider when looking for a new system.
AV Receiver FAQs
Should you buy an 8K receiver?
Standards change all the time, but the bare minimum right now is support for HDR and Dolby Vision, and at least HDMI version 2.0 or better. All of these models support not only 4K and HDR video but 8K support as well, even if 8K content is hard to find.
Be aware that all 2020 8K-compatible receivers were prone to a bug preventing them from displaying variable refresh rate video, and from the Xbox Series X in particular. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha announced fixes for existing models, while compliant models from Yamaha RX-V6A began shipping in summer 2021 and Denon and Marantz receivers sold after April 2021 should be 4K/120Hz compatible. Yamaha users can check for 4K compatibility here while Denon and Marantz users should check with their dealer.
The $799 TX-NR6100 is the first receiver I tested which I found to both pass 4K/120Hz and also is recommendable to new buyers
Is 4K/120Hz support a big deal?
The short answer is: Only if you own an Xbox Series X, and a brand-new TV. As I write this, there is a growing number of Xbox Series X games that support this optional mode — Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, to name a couple — but the advantages of 4K/120Hz over 60Hz are minimal as far as we’ve seen at this point. Future games and even video sources may make the differences clearer, and that’s why you might want a receiver that’s fully compatible.
If you do buy an older receiver, you don’t care about the Xbox Series X, or don’t want to send your 8K model to the shop, you can always hook a fancy new console directly to the TV, then use eARC to get audio to the receiver. However, despite the mess that AV receiver manufacturers have found themselves in over the last 12 months, there is one thing the aforementioned models have in common: great performance.
Other features to look for in sub-$1K receiver
AV receivers are notoriously complex, with reams of features and confusing technical specifications. (For example, what’s „Ultra HD“ anyway?) Yet, what are the things that really matter when buying a new model? I’m going to sum up the most important ones right here.
HDMI inputs: As many as you can get
With most TVs and set-top boxes supporting HDMI, you should buy a receiver that has as many of these HDMI input ports and outputs as possible. Front-mounted HDMI ports are kind of like an appendix — unneeded, because most users don’t hot-plug HDMI devices — making the number of rear inputs what’s most important. (How else are you going to connect your Roku, Blu-ray player, Nintendo Switch and all your other devices?) The Onkyo has six rear-mounted HDMI ports, while the Denon and Yamaha go one better with seven. If you want to connect two different displays — a TV and a projector, for example — all but the Yamaha offer a second HDMI output. You should also be sure you have an extra HDMI cable or two on hand — these things are like the second sock of a pair in that you can never find them when you need them.
You don’t really need Dolby Atmos ‚height‘ speakers
Most receivers in the $500-and-above price range include Dolby Atmos capability and DTS:X, but the effect they have on your home theater movie-watching can be subtle, or in most movies, nonexistent. In other words, don’t worry about missing out on these formats if you don’t install an extra height speaker or two. Mounting your rear surround speakers high on the wall will get you halfway there in terms of quality, immersive sound.
Wi-Fi music streaming
Most midrange receivers have onboard Wi-Fi network connectivity for wireless music streaming through your speaker system. There are plenty of standards for wireless streaming services, but the most universal are Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 1 and 2 and Google Chromecast built in. If you’re looking to build a multiroom system with a variety of AV systems and speakers with wireless connectivity, these are the three flavors to aim for. Onkyo is the only device that supports all three. The Denon receiver model lacks wireless streaming via Chromecast, but ups the ante to AirPlay 2 and the proprietary HEOS system. Meanwhile, Yamaha has its own MusicCast system.
For more general information on what you should be looking for, check out this AV receiver buying guide.
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