An AV receiver, though not the most glamorous part of your home theater or gaming system is a vital part of the set up. This is because you may have other components plugged in and ready to go, but no AV receiver to route the signals to the speakers and screens and enhance them so you get the best and most efficient output.
If you set out to look for one, you will find that AV receivers are expensive. But don’t lose heart, we have compiled a list of AV receivers that cost less than $500. If you are new to this, chances are that you may not need really expensive AV equipment. Take a look at our compiled guide of best AV receivers under $500 for your home system.
Top Reviews of Best AV Receivers under $500
- Most Reliable: Yamaha RX-V385 — This affordable home theater system has some excellent features and is an all-round performer; Bluetooth is a nice addition.
- Feature Packed: Sony STR-DH790 — This base-level receiver offers powerful sound in an affordable package, powered by Dolby Atmos.
- Best Value for Money: Yamaha RX-V485BL — Clutter-free setup with beautiful realistic surround sound; turns the living room into an entertainment den.
- Consistent Performer: Pioneer VSX-LX303 — Shows great flexibility while performing consistently; compatibility with Google Assistant a definite plus.
- Great Compatibility: Marantz 1608 — Loaded with codecs that can play virtually any file; supports Alexa voice control technology.
If you are looking to set up an affordable home theater system, the Yamaha RX-V385 is an excellent choice. This receiver is packed with many features such as 5.1 channel surround sound (meaning you can connect up to 5 speakers, which are more than enough for a small apartment), 4K Ultra HD support, YPAO (Your Personal Custom Installer) auto-calibration for better surround sound, no matter the type of speakers you are connected to. You can connect your speakers, headphones or smart compatible devices via Bluetooth, in addition to the 4 HDMI inputs.
The receiver has overall positive customer reviews, with most of them praising the ease-of-use and have said the unit is excellent value for money. The YPAO technology analyzes the acoustics of your living space and enhances the sound accordingly.
- DTS and DOLBY surround sound decoding
- YPAO technology for perfect sound
- Compatibility with the latest HDMI standards
- Supplied with a remote control
- Works with any speaker without any distortion
- Changes the dynamics of your listening area with many presets making it more realistic
- Streaming made easy over Bluetooth on a tablet or a smart device
- Very easy to set-up, easy-to-use operation
- Some users do not like the user interface of the RX-V385
- Other customers have complained of receiving faulty units
Sony has always been a trustworthy name when it comes to electronics, and its AV receivers are no exception. The DH790 is sleek, compact and lightweight, so it can fit on any size of shelf easily. It is equipped with a full-fledged 7.2 surround sound system which will make you feel like you are sitting in a movie theater. It also supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound to give you a complete experience. Pair that with S-FORCE PRO that uses only 2 speakers and you will never leave your living room! And, of course, you can also connect your smartphone via Bluetooth to play streaming music.
Setting it up is a breeze; all you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions. Some people may grumble about the lack of network connections (Wi-Fi or Ethernet), but that is not exactly a deal breaker. If you have Apple hardware, you will be pleased to know that the DH790 supports AAC codec.
- 7.2 channel surround sound system
- Advanced Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C.) for calibrating and optimizing the sound
- High dynamic range for better-than-before contrast and brightness
- 4K compatibility
- Bluetooth compatibility lets you connect to your tablet or smartphone easily
- Supports the latest sounds formats such as DTS:X and Dolby Atmos
- Power amplifier reduces distortion and vibration
- Reinforced frame maintains signal fidelity
- Available at an attractive price; good value for money
- Some customers have complained that the unit does not support Bluetooth speakers or headphones
- Other customers have complained of the sound being inconsistent
Best Value for Money:
The RX-V485BL may be limited to a 5.1 system (which is more than what most people can ask for), but it comes packed with goodies. Unlike the other AV receivers reviewed which only have Bluetooth connectivity, the RS V485BL has so much more such as Wi-Fi, music cast, Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, which is bound to please a lot of consumers. Additionally, it supports Alexa voice control. The only missing component here is the exclusion of Google Chromecast which may disappoint some users. As far as looks go, it looks more or less the same as its contemporaries but is a little shorter than most. It has 1 HDMI output and 4 HDMI inputs, which should be sufficient for a home user.
The set up is quite simple and doesn’t take a long time, and the printed manuals that come with it are helpful. This reliable and powerful receiver is bound to please first-time customers.
- Spotify Connect, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 in addition to Bluetooth connectivity
- Also works with Amazon Alexa, Napster, Pandora, TIDAL, Deezer and more
- 5.1 channel surround sound
- Smartphone remote control
- YPAO technology for optimized sound output
- East set up, great for first-time users
- Very cost effective and versatile
- Neat design, the front panel hides the wires
- Efficient power consumption
- Excellent sound output
- Some customers have said that the unit performs inconsistently
- Other customers have said that the unit is of poor build quality and missing parts
The VSX-LX303 has a large display so you can read off it from a distance without having to squint. It also has a conveniently-placed front panel that also houses USB and HDMI ports. It features a 9.2 channel amplifier that makes it possible to run speakers in multiple rooms. If you already have a Sonos home sound system, you can seamlessly connect the VSX-LX303 for an enhanced and seamless experience. It also has Google Chromecast built-in, so you can control the audio using your laptops, tablets or smartphones. Besides, it also accepts voice commands from Google Home.
The unit also has reflex optimizer that uses phase control technology to get more focus out of the Dolby Atmos speakers. It has 6 HDMI outs, which means you can run two TVs simultaneously in two separate rooms and many other applications.
- 9 x 170 watts 9.2 channel network
- 6 HDMI ports for better functionality
- Compatible with Dolby Atmos
- The Pioneer remote app lets you use your smart devices to control the wireless speaker
- Availability of surround modes such as sports, pop/rock, classical, extended mono, drama, entertainment and many more
- Works right out of the box, minimal set up required
- Simple, user-friendly remote control, auto power-off
- Built-in Chromecast and Google Home support
- Some customers have complained of receiving a defective or “broken” unit
- Other customers have said that setting the device up takes a long time
The NR1608 is from the Marantz Slimline series and has been popular among customers for its consistent performance, reliability and sleek looks. It features a powerful HEOS multi-room system, which means you can enjoy your music anywhere in your house and control them via the HEOS app that comes free. This also means you can play the same music in the house or different tones in different rooms! It has 8 HDMI ports, 2 more than its predecessors, for more functionality. It is also controllable via lead voice control agents such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri.
- DTS:X and Dolby Atmos compatibility
- Upscales to 4K
- Audyssey Dynamic equalizer
- Wi-Fi-enabled, Bluetooth and supports AirPlay 2
- On-screen guide for easily setting up the device
- Android or iOS devices can be configured as remotes
- Wi-Fi connectivity is stable even at long distances
- Supports Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant
- Some customers have complained of dead HDMI ports
- Other customers are not too pleased with the auto-sound tuning
Do I Need an AV Receiver?
If you are one of those people who enjoys listening to music in the comfort of their homes, an AV receiver can make a big difference in the listening experience. Think of the AV receiver as the brains behind your home theatre system. It acts as a middleman between your cable box and receives and interprets the TV audio signal, processes it and sends it to the TV and the speakers. The beauty of this system is that it does not require complicated setup and can make ordinary speakers sound awesome.
So, you can pair an AV receiver with your existing TV to create a movie theater-like experience right in your living room.
What to Look for in an AV Receiver?
The market is flooded with AV receivers, with each offering more cool features than the other, which is great as far as the choices go, but it can also make selecting the right one for you quite difficult.
In the following guide, we will list down the factors you should look for before investing in an AV receiver.
Setting up and Calibration
Most of the newer AV receivers have an auto-setup and calibration option that will make your life easier if you are a novice. Some manufacturers even have software that will help calibrate the speaker output according to the room acoustics. This feature is generally useful for first-time users but is looked down upon by experts. But you can graduate to calibrating the system manually once you get the hang of it.
Much has been written about it in guides and everyone seems to agree that 70-130 watts per channel is more than enough for the average user. Also, the power output capabilities will differ from model to model and is usually exaggerated to the extent of creating confusion. Typically though, if you are a movie buff, 100 watts per channel should suffice, since compared with music, movies have a far more dynamic range. Here is an excellent article that explains this in detail.
Inputs and Outputs
Depending on the model, the AV receiver will have many connections for audio and video components such as BlueRay, DVD, MP3 players, satellite/cable TV and so on. Some even have phono (or turntable) input. The one thing you will find in every receiver are the HDMI ports since these can process both video and audio through a single cable.
Most receivers have at least 5 channels, but the more channels the merrier. This means that you can dedicate a certain number of speakers for surround sound and rest in other rooms. This will depend upon your requirement, that is, where would you be using the speakers.
- Bluetooth: A built-in Bluetooth is becoming fairly common in AV receivers these days. This would allow you to play your music using a smartphone, a tablet or a Bluetooth-enabled device.
- Wi-Fi: New receivers are equipped with this functionality. This is for people who like to stream their audio.
- Multi-Room: You can play music wirelessly in multiple rooms using this functionality.
Are There Any Specific Brands to Look For?
We have covered most of these brands in this guide. There is the ever-popular Yamaha, Pioneer, Sony and Marantz, all of which produce entry to expert-level receivers.
When Should I Buy a Receiver?
If you are a movie buff and are very specific about your music, you should invest in a receiver. If you already own one, you are probably aware that it would become obsolete in a couple of years. Also, buying a new receiver would give you more functionality and access to new technology such as Dolby Atmos.
Would 2 Speakers Be Enough?
We recommend going with at least 5 speakers if you are serious about your home theater system. You could have as many as 9 throughout your house but only go for it if you have the budget and space for it.
Specific Number of HDMI Inputs?
The more the merrier! You will find that most receivers these days offer at least 4-6 HDMI inputs. If you want any more, you can always opt for external HDMI switchers.
Do I Need App Control?
Depends entirely upon you. If you are a purist and like to fiddle with buttons the old-fashioned way, you can stick to the analog way. But app control will give you the power to use the receiver from wherever you are in the house.
Before you set your heart on a receiver that offers the latest features, keep in mind that you might not be using them right away. It may look like you have wasted money on something you are not going to use, but in fact, you are future-proofing yourself. And so, you may not need to be wary about your unit becoming obsolete soon. Besides, once you have your preferences and goals in sight, the list to choose from will become fairly manageable.
Last update on 2020-03-30 at 09:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API