AV receivers can be intimidating, with their giant metal chassis and overwhelming back panels. The Marantz NR1403 ($400) seems like a reaction to that, with a slimline design and sparse back panel that's decidedly different than your typical mainstream AV receiver's. There are sacrifices made in the spirit of simplification, most notably the lack of any networking capability, which rules out gee-whiz features like smartphone control and integrated streaming services. On the other hand, it's well-stocked with HDMI connectivity for the price, offering up six inputs, including a front-panel port. And despite the small size, its sound … Read more
The pitch for Pioneer's VSX-823-K ($400 street price) is straightforward: six HDMI inputs, built-in AirPlay, and not much else. That's more HDMI connectivity than the similarly AirPlay-equipped Denon AVR-E300 ($400) offers, and AirPlay gives it an edge against other receivers that offer six HDMI inputs at this price, like the Marantz NR1403 and Onkyo TX-NR525.
Where the VSX-823-K falls short is wireless connectivity. There's no built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and adding those features later is pricey, with Pioneer charging over $100 for each of its accessories. The lack of wireless wouldn't be so glaring if it … Read more
Onkyo has resisted adding support for Apple's AirPlay standard to its AV receivers, but historically the company has made up for that shortcoming by offering more HDMI inputs for significantly less than the other guys. The Onkyo TX-NR525 ($400 street) sticks to that script, offering more HDMI inputs (six) than other $400 networked AV receivers, plus niche features like dual subwoofer outputs and second-zone audio support. Onkyo is also the only manufacturer to offer reasonably priced accessories to add Bluetooth ($50) and Wi-Fi ($30) via small USB adapters.
But the TX-NR525 doesn't quite stand out as a exceptional … Read more
AV receivers tend to feel out of step with current technology: they're bulky, hard to use, and typically lack basic features that are taken for granted these days, like Wi-Fi.
Thankfully, none of that is true with the Sony STR-DN1040 ($600 street), one of the first relatively affordable AV receivers that actually feels modern. A lot of that is thanks to its slick, responsive onscreen interface that's miles better than what competitors offer. The STR-DN1040 also packs built-in Bluetooth, AirPlay and Wi-Fi, making it easy to interface with tablets and smartphones, where a lot of your music may … Read more
AV receivers are supposed to have inputs and outputs for everything, but manufacturers have been surprisingly slow to meet modern needs, especially when it comes to wireless audio streaming.
The Onkyo TX-NR626 ($500 street) is an exception, offering both built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which makes it much easier to use with increasingly ubiquitous smartphones and tablets. From the other end of the spectrum, the TX-NR626 is the only midrange AV receiver we've seen with a dedicated turntable input, a convenient bonus for anyone who still likes to spin vinyl. Pair that up with six HDMI inputs and there's … Read more
Power line networking -- the technology that enables electrical wiring to transfer data -- is about to get a lot faster.
Broadcom announced on Monday what it claims to be the industry's first HomePlug AV2 power line system-on-a-chips (SoCs) that deliver up to 1.5Gbps data speed. That's about three times the speed of the top existing power line devices.
HomePlug AV2 is the next-generation power line standard that uses an extended frequency band of up to 86MHz, while HomePlug AV was limited to 30MHz. In addition, HomePlug AV2 supports Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) -- a technology … Read more
I've had a run of bad luck with some of the latest AV receivers' autosetup programs; they set the subwoofer volume way too loud, or misidentified the "sizes" of the speakers (one receiver tagged our small Aperion 4B satellites as large speakers). These reviews have yet to post, but that boo-boo played havoc with the sound. Rerunning autosetup sometimes fixes the problem, but not always. When I'm testing speakers I always do a totally manual setup. In this man versus machine contest, I always win.
Automatic calibration programs started to appear on Pioneer's higher-end receivers … Read more
When we set up our first head-to-head listening tests with the latest crop of 2013 AV receivers, Yamaha's RX-V475 ($400 street) came out on top, besting Pioneer's VSX-823-K ($400) and even Denon's $600 AVR-E400.
But edging out its competitors in our subjective listening tests isn't quite enough to make the RX-V475 our top pick at the $400 price point. Differences in AV receiver sound quality tend to be subtle, and factors such as room acoustics and your choice of speakers have a much larger impact on the sound quality you'll hear.
Despite its advantage in … Read more
In home networking, the fastest way -- in terms of data speed -- to connect devices together is via network cables. However, running cables properly, which involves making networking ports and connector heads, is no easy task. This is part of the reason the wireless network (Wi-Fi) has become so popular. But chances are, there's a spot in your home that the Wi-Fi signal can't reach, because of distance or thick walls. This is when a power-line connection can be a useful alternative.
Power-line adapters basically turn the electrical wiring of a home into network cables for a computer network. You need at least two power-line adapters to form the first power-line connection. The first adapter is connected to the router and the second to the Ethernet-ready device at the far end. There are some routers on the market, such as the D-Link DHP-1320, that have built-in support for power-line connectivity, meaning you can skip the first adapter. After the first connection, you just need one more adapter to add another Ethernet-ready device to the home network.
Apart from the ability to bridge the network through thick walls, power-line connections are also a lot more stable than Wi-Fi signal and have as low latency and a regular Ethernet wired connections.
Currently there are two main standards for power-line networking, HomePlug AV and Powerline AV 500. They offer speed caps of 200Mbps and 500Mbps, respectively. The following is the list of top five power-line adapters on the market. This list is sorted by the review date, starting with the most recently reviewed. It will be updated as more devices are reviewed.… Read more
Even the most die-hard home theater buffs will admit that setting up an AV receiver can be a chore, and that goes double for those who don't know what they're doing. Denon's AVR-E400 ($600 street) is at the top of the company's midrange AV receiver line, for which the company has focused on ease of use in 2013. There are worthwhile improvements: an onscreen setup guide, a simpler remote, and push-in speaker connectors that are more convenient with bare speaker wire.
But in other ways, the AVR-E400 misses the mark. It's hard to truly herald … Read more