Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.The RundownBest Overall:Denon AVR-S960H at Amazon"The Denon AVR-960H is a solid choice for just about anyone."Best 5.1:Yamaha RX-V385 at Amazon"Provides many of the features you need—4K support, HDMI with HDCP 2.2, Bluetooth, and 5.1-channel surround sound support."Best 9.2:Denon AVR-X3700H at Amazon"The Denon AVR-X3700H has just about every feature you could possibly imagine in a receiver."Best Budget:Sony STR-DH790 at Best Buy"It lacks symmetry, but this unit offers solid performance and features at a great price."Runner-Up, Best Budget:Sony STR-DH190 at Best Buy"This is a receiver for music, and vinyl lovers in particular might appreciate this model."Best Value:Sony STR-DN1080 at Best Buy"For a feature-rich receiver that provides a lot of bang for your buck, consider the Sony STR-DN1080."in this articleExpandOur PicksAbout Our Trusted ExpertsFAQsThe Ultimate Home Theater Receiver Buying Guide
The best mid-range home theater receivers serve as command centers for your home audio and video systems. With a receiver, you can connect your TV or projector, streaming devices, surround sound speakers, subwoofer, and gaming consoles to one main place. This makes it easy to control the volume and inputs, as you have everything organized and ready to use. They're a great fit for anyone building a home theater that doesn't want to spend a fortune on a high-end option.
Receivers should have lots of HDMI ports to be able to support your entire setup. They should also be able to connect to and amplify all of the speakers in your system. If you have a 7.1 surround sound system for instance, you'll need a receiver that supports that type of setup, as some receivers only support 5.1-channel surround sound. You'll also want to make sure your receiver supports the video and audio technologies you plan on using, so keep an eye out for 4K support, as well as different audio tech like Dolby Audio. You know you have a great receiver when there is hi-res audio, video switching and processing, and 4K upscaling.
We examined dozens of mid-range home theater receivers, and our pick for the best is the Denon AVR-S960H because it offers 8K pass through, up to 7.2 channel support, and other high-end features at a mid-range price. If the AVR-960H isn't for you, we've also included our picks in other categories like the best budget A/V receiver, and the best options for different surround sound setups.
Best Overall:Denon 8K Ultra HD 7.2 Channel AV ReceiverBuy on AmazonBuy on EBayBuy on Abt.comWhat We Like
8K pass through
Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Up to 7.2-channel surroundWhat We Don't Like
The Denon AVR-960H is a solid choice for just about anyone—gamers, movie buffs, and sports fans can all appreciate what this receiver has to offer. It supports 4K/120Hz pass through, as well as variable refresh rates and an auto low latency mode for the best possible gaming experience. You can watch movies in up to 8k, and the receiver has six HDMI-in ports and two HDMI-out ports for connecting devices. Only one of the HDMI inputs supports 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video pass-through and upscaling (this port also supports eARC), but having six input ports means you can connect your PS5, FireTV stick, and BluRay player and still have three extra HDMI ports available.
The AVR-960H allows for up to 7.2-channel surround sound. It boasts a seven-channel discrete amplifier with 90 watts (8 ohms) per channel, as well as dual subwoofer outputs for booming bass. If you connect a good projector and surround sound system, you'll have a movie theater-like experience at home. The 960H supports Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, and several other audio and video technologies. Plus, you can take advantage of Wi-Fi, Airplay support, and even voice assistant control via Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant. If you're looking for a receiver that offers flexibility, you can't go wrong with this Denon model.The 6 Best Under-$400 Home Theater Receivers
Best 5.1:Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel A/V ReceiverBuy on AmazonBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Includes mic for room calibrationWhat We Don't Like
If you're looking for a receiver that will do the job at a reasonable price, the Yamaha RX-V385BL is a good choice. It provides many of the features you need—4K support, HDMI with HDCP 2.2, Bluetooth, and 5.1-channel surround sound support—yet it doesn't cost a fortune. The package comes with a YPAO microphone, so you can auto-calibrate the sound to your specific space.
Because this receiver costs significantly less than some of the other picks on our list, you're going to give up some of the more advanced features like 8k pass through, a second HDMI output port, Wi-Fi, and compatibility with voice assistants. The receiver has four HDMI inputs and only one output, but that's usually sufficient for most people. It has Bluetooth for wireless connections, and it supports Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio, so it has a few perks. It's just a bit more basic than a higher-priced receiver. This is a good option for people who are just getting started with a home theater system, or for those who primarily watch movies and shows. Sports fans and gamers may prefer a different option.
Best 9.2:Denon 8K Ultra HD 9.2 Channel AV ReceiverBuy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Plenty of HDMI ports
Excellent for gamingWhat We Don't Like
Originally, we selected the discontinued 3600 model as our pick for the best 9.1 channel receiver, but then we came across this model. The Denon AVR-X3700H has just about every feature you could possibly imagine in a receiver. It has seven HDMI inputs and three outputs, and there's a dedicated port that supports 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video pass-through and upscaling. Gamers will appreciate the high video quality, but they'll also enjoy variable refresh rates, quick frame transport, and an auto low latency mode—all of which make the gaming experience faster, smoother, and higher quality. Sports fans will appreciate the high res picture, awesome sound, and accurate colors that come through on the screen.
The AVR-X3700H supports 3D audio, as well as Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization for when you can't have the perfect speaker placement. In addition to supporting numerous audio and video technologies, it has Wi-Fi, wired connectivity, Bluetooth, Airplay support, and compatibility with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home. You can set up a rather advanced surround sound system, given this receiver has a nine channel amplifier at 105 watts per channel (8 ohms). It has 11 different connections for speakers, and dual subwoofer connections for a maximum of 11.2 channels. The 3700H is an ideal pick for those who are serious about their home theater picture and sound, but still want to stay in a reasonable budget range.
Best Budget:Sony STR-DH790 7.2 Channel Receiver4.1 Buy on Best BuyBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Automatic setup with included microphone
Great pricing for the features
Clear markings for 5.1 and 7.1 channel useWhat We Don't Like
The STRDH790 is one of the stranger looking receivers we've encountered, as it lacks symmetry, but this unit offers solid performance and features at a great price. It provides four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, which should be sufficient for most home theaters. If you connect a 4K TV or projector, the receiver has 4K pass through, so you can get a beautiful picture without compromising on quality. It supports 3D, HDR10, and Dolby Vision, so you get the best possible quality out of your devices.
Unfortunately, this model lacks Wi-Fi compatibility or an Ethernet port, but it does have Bluetooth. You can even use your smartphone to power on the receiver. Audio is where this model really shines though. It's hi-res compatible, and you can set up a 5.1 or 7.1-channel surround sound system that's uniquely calibrated to your space. The build quality is impressive too, and this receiver should last quite a while.Sony STR-DH790 7.2 Channel Receiver Review
“The Sony STR-DH790 is a well-equipped receiver that's perfectly capable of providing a decent surround sound system. If you're looking to dip your toe into the home theater world, then this is a great starting point.”—, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Budget:Sony STR-DH190 Stereo Receiver4.3 Buy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartBuy on B&H Photo VideoWhat We Like
Good for purists
Low harmonic distortionWhat We Don't Like
No HDMI ports
An extremely affordable option, the Sony STR-DH190 isn't like the other receivers on this list. It's not for watching the game, Netflix binges, gaming, or watching anything really. This is a receiver for music, and vinyl lovers in particular might appreciate this model because of its clean sound with minimal distortion. It has a total harmonic distortion rate of only one percent. Some of the other models on this list come in at ten times that rate.
The STR-DH190 uses four analog (RCA) audio inputs and one analog audio output. You can plug in your turntable via the phono input, and there's a headphone jack as well. The two-channel receiver has Bluetooth, but it lacks Wi-Fi, HDMI, and many of the technologies you'd find on a home theater receiver designed for movies or gaming. However, if you're a music buff who wants pure sound, this model might be worth a look.
Best Value:Sony STR-DN1080 Network Home Theater ReceiverBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Plenty of ports
4K and 3D support
Wi-Fi readyWhat We Don't Like
A bit expensive
For a feature-rich receiver that provides a lot of bang for your buck, consider the Sony STR-DN1080. This model boasts flexible surround setup options, providing a 7.2-channel speaker configuration or a 5.1.2 channel Dolby Atmos or DTS:X setup. For those with limited space, there are additional options. With Phantom Surround back, you can experience a seven-channel surround effect with only five speakers. S-Force Virtual Surround provides a limited surround effect with only two front speakers. In addition to its surround sound capabilities for movie viewing, the STR-DN1080 also incorporates Hi-Res two-channel audio listening from local and USB-connected sources.
For video, the receiver provides six 3D, 4K, and HDR-compatible HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs —all of which are compatible with today's 4K video sources and external media streamers that offer access to 4K streaming content from services like Netflix. In addition to core audio and video features, the STR-DN1080 includes both network and internet streaming access via either Ethernet connection or built-in Wi-Fi. It also provides Bluetooth and Airplay for direct streaming from compatible portable devices.
If you're looking for an affordable home theater receiver with connection/content access flexibility for a variety of setups and good sound quality, definitely consider the STR-DN1080.
The Denon AVR-S960H offers 8K pass-through, Wi-Fi connectivity, plenty of HDMI ports, lag-free gaming, and up to 7.2 channel surround sound all for a pretty reasonable price. It's the best option all around, and it provides flexibility for those who use their home theater for gaming in addition to movies and sporting events. If you're looking for a more affordable receiver that will still provide excellent video and sound quality for your 5.1 channel system, the Yamaha RX-V385BL is the way to go.
About Our Trusted Experts
Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she's spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, games, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets.
Robert Silva started reporting on consumer electronics in 1998. Since 2000, he's focused more closely on home entertainment and home theater technology. Since studying electronics in high school, he's been a fervent electronics and audiophile hobbyist.
How can you add Bluetooth to a stereo receiver?Some budget receivers don't come with native Bluetooth connectivity, but luckily, adding it is fairly simple. It just involves purchasing a wireless Bluetooth adapter, like the Harmon Kardon BTA-10 over at Amazon. Plug it into your receiver and you'll instantly be able to stream audio to it from any Bluetooth-enabled device.
How do I connect a subwoofer to a stereo receiver?As our handy guide explains, it's easy to connect a subwoofer to your new receiver by way of RCA or LFE cables, or via the speaker output if your subwoofer features spring clips.
What's the best way to clean a stereo receiver?Like a lot of audio equipment, receivers can be sensitive to harsh chemicals and can get damaged when cleaned improperly. The best way to tidy up your receiver is using a can of compressed air to dispel dust on the surface and in the cavities, especially useful if you open up the chassis. It's also advisable to occasionally remove the knobs, faceplate, or switches, and clean any point of contact with contact cleaner, which is specially designed for cleaning electronics.
The Ultimate Home Theater Receiver Buying Guide
By Robert Silva
The home theater receiver also referred to as an AV receiver or surround sound receiver, is the heart of a home theater system. It provides most, if not all, the inputs and outputs that you connect everything, including your TV, into. A Home Theater Receiver provides an easy and cost-effective way of centralizing your home theater system.
The Home Theater Receiver Defined
A home theater receiver combines the functions of three components.A tuner for AM/FM, and, in some cases, built-in, or the ability to add, access to HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and/or internet radio and music streaming services.A Preamp that controls which audio/video source is selected ( Blu-ray Disc Player, DVD player, VCR, CD player, iPod, etc...), processes the incoming stereo/surround sound signals and distributes audio to the channels and subwoofer output. Video from designated components is routed to a TV.A built-in Multi-channel amplifier (5, 6, 7, 9, or 11 channels) that sends the surround sound signals and power to the speakers. Also, one or two preamp outputs for connection of a powered subwoofer is also provided.
What to Consider When Choosing a Home Theater Receiver
Now that you know what a home theater receiver is, it is time to learn about what to consider when purchasing one.
First, there are the core features:Power OutputSurround Sound FormatsConnectivity
In addition to core features, depending on the brand/model, you may have one, or more of the following advanced options available to you:Automatic Speaker SetupMulti-Zone AudioWireless Multi-Room/Whole House AudioiPod/iPhone Connectivity/Control and BluetoothNetworking and Internet Audio/Video StreamingHi-Res AudioVideo switching and processingAdditional Control Options
Ready to dig into the details? Here we go...
The power output capabilities of home theater receivers vary depending on the price you are will to pay and depending on what size room and the power requirements of your loudspeakers should be taken into consideration with regards which brand/model home theater receiver you might purchase. However, confronted by sales hype and reading specifications can be confusing and misleading.
Surround Sound Formats
The main feature attraction of home theater receivers for most consumers is the ability to provide a surround sound listening experience.
These days, even the most basic home theater receivers offer several options, including not just standard Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround decoding, but more advanced Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding (which are the primary formats used on Blu-ray Discs), as well as (depending on the manufacturer) additional surround processing formats.
Also, as you move into mid-range and higher home theater receiver models, surround sound formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or even Auro3D audio may be included or offered as options. However, DTS:X and Auro3D Audio often require a firmware update.
In addition, be aware that inclusion of the various surround sound formats also dictate how many channels a home theater receiver may be equipped with — which a can range from a minimum of 5 to as many as 11.
Automatic Speaker Setup
Although not always included in the more inexpensive home theater receivers, almost all mid-range and high-end home theater receivers provide a built-in automatic speaker setup system utilizing a built-in test tone generator and special plug-in microphone.
Using these tools, a home theater can balance the speaker levels in accordance with speaker size, distance, and room acoustics. Depending on the brand, these programs have different names such as AccuEQ (Onkyo), Anthem Room Correction (Anthem AV), Audyssey (Denon/Marantz), MCACC (Pioneer), and YPAO (Yamaha).
All home theater receivers provide speaker connections, as well as special output for connection of one, or more subwoofers, and several audio connection options that include analog stereo, digital coaxial, and digital optical, and video connection options that may include composite and component video. However, composite/component options are becoming less available on receivers of each successive model year due to the increasing use of HDMI, which is discussed in further detail next.
In addition to the connection options discussed above, HDMI connectivity is provided on all current home theater receivers. HDMI can pass both audio and video signals through a single cable. However, depending on how HDMI is incorporated, access to HDMI's capabilities may be limited.
Many lower-priced receivers incorporate pass-through HDMI switching. This allows the connection of HDMI cables into the receiver and provides an HDMI output connection for a TV. However, the receiver can't access the video or audio portions of the HDMI signal for further processing.
Some receivers access both the audio and video portions of the HDMI signals for further processing.
Also, if you are planning to use a 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray Disc player with your home theater receiver, keep in mind that your receiver should be equipped with HDMI ver 1.4a connections. If you have a home theater that does not have that ability, there is a workaround that may work for you.
It must also be noted that HDMI 1.4 and 1.4a connections also have the ability to pass 4K resolution video signals (30fps), provided that feature has been activated by the receiver manufacturer.
However, since 2015, home theater receivers have been implemented HDMI connectivity that adheres to both the HDMI 1.4/4a standards as well as HDMI 2.0/2.0a and HDCP 2.2 standards. This is to accommodate 4K signals at 60fps, as well as the ability to accept copy-protected 4K signals from streaming sources and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format, as well as sources that include HDR-encoded video content.
Another HDMI connection option that is available on some home theater receivers is HDMI-MHL. This updated HDMI connection can do everything that a"normal"HDMI connection can, but has the added capability to accommodate the connection of MHL-enabled smartphones and tablets. This enables the receiver to access content that is either stored on or streamed to, portable devices, for viewing or listening through your home theater system. If your home theater receiver has an MHL-HDMI input, it will be clearly labeled.
Multi-Zone is a function in which the receiver can send a second source signal to speakers or a separate audio system in another location. This is not the same as connecting additional speakers and placing them in another room.
The Multi-Zone function allows a Home Theater Receiver to control either the same or a separate, source than the one being listened to in the main room, in another location. For example, the user can be watching a Blu-ray Disc or DVD in the main room, while someone else can listen to a CD in another, at the same time. Both the Blu-ray or DVD or CD player are controlled by the same Receiver.
Some higher-end home theater receivers also include two or three HDMI outputs. Depending on the receiver, the multiple HDMI outputs may provide either a parallel audio/video signal to additional zones or might be configured independently so that one HDMI source can be accessed in the main room and a second HDMI source can be sent to a second or third Zone.
Wireless Multi-Room/Whole House Audio
In addition to traditional wired multi-zone options, some home theater receivers also offer the ability to wirelessly stream audio to compatible wireless speakers connected via a home network. However, each brand has its own closed system that requires the use of specific brand-compatible products.
Some examples include: Yamaha's MusicCast, FireConnect from Onkyo/Integra/Pioneer, Denon's HEOS, and DTS Play-Fi (Anthem)
iPod/iPhone Connectivity/Control and Bluetooth
With the popularity of the iPod and iPhone, some receivers are equipped with iPod/iPod compatible connections, either via USB, an adapter cable, or a"docking station". What you should look for is, not only the ability for the iPod or iPhone to connect to the receiver but for the receiver to actually control all iPod playback functions via the receiver's remote control and menu functions.
Also, many home theater receivers incorporate built-in Apple Airplay capability, which eliminates the need to physically connect an iPhone to the receiver, you can just sit back and send your iTunes to your home theater receiver wirelessly.
Also, keep in mind that if you connect a Video iPod, you may only have access to audio playback functions. If you desire to access iPod video playback functions, check the receiver's user manual before you purchase to see if this is possible.
Another addition now found on most home theater receivers is Bluetooth. This allows users to stream audio files directly from a compatible Bluetooth-enabled portable device.
Networking and Internet Audio/Video Streaming
Networking is a feature that more home theater receivers are incorporating, especially in the mid-to-high price point. Networking is executed via an Ethernet connection or WiFi.
This can allow several capabilities that you should check for. Not all networking receivers have the same capabilities, but some features commonly included are: Streaming audio (and sometimes video) from a PC or the internet, internet radio, and firmware updating directly from the internet. To find out the networking and/or streaming features included in a specific receiver, check the user manual, feature sheet, or a review ahead of time.
Another option available on an increasing number of home theater receivers is the ability to access and play two-channel Hi-res audio files.
Since the introduction of the iPod and other portable listening devices, although making access to music a lot more convenient, they have actually taken us backward in terms what we settle for as a good music listening experience — the quality is degraded from that of the traditional CD.
The term, Hi-Res audio is applied to any music file has a higher bitrate than the physical CD (16 bit linear PCM at a 44.1khz sampling rate).
In other words, anything below"CD quality", such as MP3 and other highly-compressed formats are considered"low res"audio, and anything above"CD quality"is considered"hi-res"audio.
Some of the files formats that are considered hi-res are; ALAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, DSD (DSF and DFF).
Hi-Res audio files can be accessed via USB, home network, or downloaded from the internet. Generally speaking, they cannot be live-streamed directly from the internet. However, there is movement from services, such as Qobuz (not available in the U.S.) to provide this capability via Android phones. If a specific home theater receiver has this capability, it will either be labeled on the receiver's exterior or outlined in the user manual.
Video Switching and Processing
In addition to audio, another important feature in home theater receivers is the incorporation of video switching and processing. When buying a receiver for your home theater system, will you be connecting all of your video sources to the TV directly, or would you like to use the receiver as your central video hub for switching, and, or video processing?
If you plan to use your receiver for video, there are two options, some receivers merely pass-through all video signals untouched to your TV or video projector and some provide extra layers of video processing that you can take advantage of. It is not a requirement that you pass video through your home theater receiver.
In addition to using a home theater receiver as a central location for connecting both audio and video components, many receivers also feature video processing, just as they offer audio processing.
For those receivers, a basic video processing feature available is the ability of many receivers to convert Composite video inputs to Component video outputs or composite or component video connections to HDMI outputs. This type of conversion may only improve the signals very slightly, but does simplifies connections to HDTVs, in that only one type of video connection is needed from the receiver to the TV, instead of two or three.
When considering a receiver, a second level of video processing to check for is deinterlacing. This is a process whereby video signals coming in from the composite or S-video inputs are converted from interlaced scan to progressive scan (480i to 480p) and then output via Component or HDMI outputs to the TV. This improves the quality of the image, making it smoother and more acceptable for display on an HDTV However, keep in mind that not all receivers can perform this function well.
In addition to deinterlacing, another level of video processing is very common in mid-range and high-end home theater receivers upscaling. Upscaling is a function that, after the deinterlacing process is done, mathematically attempts to match an incoming video signal to a specific screen resolution, such as 720p, 1080i, 1080p, and in a growing number of cases, up to 4K.
However, keep in mind that this process does not actually convert standard definition to high definition or 4K, but improves the image so that it looks better on an HDTV or 4K Ultra HD TV. For more details on video upscaling, check out: DVD Video Upscaling, which is the same process, just substitute Upscaling receiver for upscaling DVD player.
Remote Control via Mobile Phone App
One feature that is really taking off for home theater receivers is the ability to be controlled by either an Android or iPhone via a free downloadable app. Some of these apps are more comprehensive than others, but if you lose or misplace the remote that comes with your home theater receiver, have a control app on your phone may be a convenient alternative.
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that when you buy a home theater receiver, that you may not initially use all of its features, especially if it is a mid-range or high-end model, that provides several surround sound decoding and processing formats, speaker configuration options, multi-zone, and network options.
You may think that you have paid for a lot of stuff that you may never use. However, keep in mind that a home theater receiver is designed to be the centerpiece of your home theater system, so future expandability as your preferences and content sources change should be taken into consideration. Things change fast, and you have a home theater receiver that offers a little more than you need right now, you may have a cushion against rapid obsolescence.
If you have the budget, buy as much as you can afford, with the strategy of leaving enough money to purchase any other needed times, such as loudspeakers and a subwoofer — you will be making a better investment.
Of course, buying the home theater receiver of your choice is just the first step. After you get it home, you need to get it set up and running.