Nothing beats the movie theater for its stunning picture and captivating sound, but it’s not always convenient to watch the latest blockbusters on the big screen. Fortunately, with an AV receiver, you can bring some of the movie theater experience right into your living room. The best models offer 8K video, Dolby Atmos and Wi-Fi music streaming, but with detailed specs and hardware, shopping for one can be a bit daunting. Luckily, CNET is here to help, and we’ve rounded up the best AV receivers you can buy right now.
If you split your time between watching TV and listening to music, there are several models that can do both well, including two excellent Onkyo receivers in the TX-NR6100 and TX-RZ50. The recently reviewed Sony STR-AN1000 is also a strong contender under $1,000, though it costs a bit more than the others.
So how do you know which is the best AV receiver for you? I tested the most popular models between $500 and $2000 to help you find the best AV receivers 2023 has to offer. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that some of these products may be back-ordered, so check back periodically.
What receiver should I buy?
If you’re spending under $1,000, there are four basic receivers to choose from—the Sony STR-AN1000, Yamaha RX-V6Aon Onkyo TX-NR6100 and the Denon AVR-960H. All offer excellent performance, so the short answer to which one to buy is the one that comes at the lowest price. Right now it’s either the Denon or the Onkyo, which sell for under $600 as I write this. I especially recommend Onkyo TX-NR6100 for its combination of excellent performance and connectivity. Onkyo offers easy setup, excellent usability, solid looks and useful features, including the best streaming package alongside Sony. As an added plus, Onkyo has never been prone to A 4K issue that plagued early versions of the Yamaha RX-V6A.
Meanwhile, the upgraded Onkyo TX-RZ50 is an excellent receiver if you’re looking for the next level of features and performance improvement over sub-$1,000 models. It offers an excellent, if slightly intimidating, calibration routine from Dirac Live and the best number of streaming features on the market. It sounds great with both music and movies.
Finally, if you’re looking for a home theater thrill, the Yamaha RX-A4A offers clear, dynamic sound and fantastic build quality for $1,300 (street price $1,144).
How CNET tested
At CNET, I test audio equipment from compact soundbars to surround sound systems, but regardless of the device, my methodology is essentially the same. I always compare products to one or more reference devices that offer the best performance at a similar price.
When it comes to receivers, I want to see how well a system performs with music and movies, as most people will want to do both. I watch some test scenes from 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for example) and appreciate aspects like Dolby Atmos surround performance and dialogue clarity. I also use several test music tracks and appreciate streaming features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Systems that can work well with both types of entertainment inevitably get the highest score.
Check out CNET receiver buying guide for more information on features and things to consider when looking for a new system.
Other AV receivers I’ve tested
- Denon AVR-S960H ($549, save $250): The Denon may not be as shiny and glitzy as the Yamaha RX-V6A, but it still offers excellent sound quality. The receiver is quiet, pairs well with front-firing speakers, and plays music beautifully. It’s not as good as the Yamaha RX-V6A or the Onkyo TX-NR6100, as it has neither the home theater options of the former nor the streaming options of the latter. It’s currently on sale, making it a great price. Read CNET’s review of the Denon AVR-S960H.
- Yamaha RX-V6A ($650, save $200): This Yamaha RX-V6A offers a new take on AV receiver design, with its futuristic edges and simple controls, while maximizing sound quality. Yamaha can even make you forget about going to the cinema once again, and the music is no slouch either. It offers plenty of Wi-Fi connectivity with AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Yamaha’s MusicCast system for streaming from your devices. While the price of the receiver increased by $200 in September 2022, the V6A is back to around $650 on sale. It should be noted that the TSR-700 is identical — it’s an exclusive model to some outlets — and you can find it for $550 here on Amazon. Learn more in CNET’s Yamaha RX-V6A review.
- Marantz SR6015 ($1,599, save $600): The Marantz SR6015 does everything you’d expect—Dolby Atmos, music streaming, 4K/120Hz throughput—and with a lot of aplomb. It sounds great, but it’s not as flexible as the best receivers here – for example, you can’t watch a video source while listening to music like the Onkyos can, nor can you ask Google Nest to play a song on it. The Marantz SR6015 was replaced by Cinema 500 but since it’s selling for its original price, it’s a good deal.
AV Receiver FAQ
Other features to look for in an AV receiver
AV receivers are extremely complex, with multiple functions and confusing technical specifications. (For example, what is 4K/120Hz anyway?) Still, what are the things that really matter when buying a new model? I’ll summarize the most important ones right here.
- HDMI inputs: Since most TVs and set-top boxes support HDMI, you should buy a receiver that has as many of these HDMI input ports and outputs as possible. The front-mounted HDMI ports are something of an addition—unnecessary because most users don’t hot-plug HDMI devices—which makes the number of rear inputs most important. (How else will you connect your Roku, Blu-ray player, Nintendo Switch and all your other devices?) The Onkyo TX-NR6100 has six rear-mounted HDMI inputs, while the Denon AVR-S960H and Yamaha RX-V6A 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 make sure you have an extra HDMI cable or two on hand – these things are like a second pair of socks as you can never find them when you need them.
- Dolby Atmos capability: Most receivers in the $500 and up price range include Dolby Atmos ability and DTS:X, but the effect they have on home theater viewing may be subtle or non-existent in most movies. In other words, don’t worry about missing out on these formats if you don’t install a speaker or two with extra height. Mounting your surround back speakers high on the wall will put you right in the middle in terms of quality, immersive sound.
- Wi-Fi music streaming: Most mid-range receivers have built-in Wi-Fi network connectivity for wireless music streaming through your speaker system. There are many standards for wireless streaming services, but the most universal are Spotify ConnectApple AirPlay 1 and 2 and Google Chromecast built-in. If you want to build a multi-room system with a variety of AV systems and wireless speakers, these are the three options to aim for. Onkyo and Sony are the only devices that support all three. Denon’s receiver model doesn’t have Chromecast wireless streaming, but it ups the ante AirPlay 2 and the proprietary HEOS system. Meanwhile, Yamaha has its own MusicCast system.
For more general information on what to look for, see this AV receiver buying guide.
More for those looking for a great home theater