When Sony announced its 2010 line of AV receivers in February, the STR-DN1010 was the first AV receiver announced with 3D pass-through capability, and it was a step-up feature over Sony's STR-DH810. Since then, however, 3D compatibility has become commonplace, trickling down to receivers as inexpensive as Denon's $250 AVR-391 and Pioneer's $230 VSX-520-K.
That largely tells the story of Sony's midrange AV receiver, which is certainly an improvement over last year's STR-DN1000, but lags in comparison with competitors, which offer more HDMI inputs, better sound quality, and easy iPod/iPhone connectivity. Even its once … Read more
Pioneer ran away with our Editors' Choice in the AV receiver category in 2009, with the VSX-1019AH-K delivering an unmatched combination of performance and features in its price class. Pioneer hasn't slowed down with the new 2010 model, the VSX-1020-K, upping the HDMI connectivity to six inputs while keeping the same excellent sound quality we loved on last year's model.
Our main knock is that the VSX-1020-K lacks some of the newest HDMI features available on competing receivers, such as audio return channel and standby pass-through. We're also not thrilled it's the only receiver at this … Read more
New models of AV receivers always roll out later in the year and we're in the midst of rounding up the best midrange models of 2010. AV receivers certainly don't change as quickly as other home theater products, like HDTVs and Blu-ray players, but every year there are few new features that are important to be aware of when making a buying decision. Here's a quick look at some of the changes to look out for this year in the midrange price level.
3D pass-through Even though it's a completely new feature for 2010, 3D compatibility … Read more
Few big-screen-TV buyers are willing to invest in bona-fide home theater systems with a receiver, five (or more) speakers, and a subwoofer. Most folks are satisfied with the sound from the tiny stereo speakers built into the display. That's sad, since based on what I've heard from the displays being reviewed at the CNET offices the sound is at best barely passable. In fact, the quality of the built-in speakers is getting worse with each passing year. Great-looking high-definition video matched to lo-fi sound doesn't work for me, but we all have our priorities, don't we?
Those considering stepping up to a $300 sound bar speaker are more sophisticated buyers, and by the time we get to home theater in a box systems, with five or more speakers and a subwoofer, we're getting to the elite buyer class. I'm not joking, HTIB buyers can deal with a tangle of wires, and nearly all the setup hassles associated with a receiver-based home theater system. If you want an even higher quality home theater system with a receiver and full-size speaker/subwoofer system plan on spending close to $2,000. Sure, you can spend less, but you'll just wind up with something that doesn't sound much better sounding than a really good HTIB.
Here are my recommendations for the best-sounding affordable home theater solutions. (Editors' Note: The following list is Steve Guttenberg's personal opinion, based on his evaluation of sound quality and audio performance. For a more complete list of CNET's official product recommendations [which takes design and features into account], check out CNET's in-depth list of best home audio products.)… Read more
Yamaha has announced a new line of AV receivers, Aventage, designed to put a greater focus on performance, with Yamaha claiming that the new models have been redesigned from the ground up. For those of you counting, Aventage is now the fourth separate line of Yamaha AV receivers, in addition to the existing RX-V, HTR, and NeoHD lines. Aventage consists of five new models--RX-A700 ($650 list), RX-A800 ($800), RX-A1000 ($1,100), RX-A2000 ($1,500), and the RX-A3000 ($1,900)--which will be released throughout August and September.
In terms of features, the low-end RX-A700 doesn't offer much that's … Read more
Judging by the Comments responding to my recent "Do receivers have too many features?" blog post, a lot of folks think today's receivers are overstuffed with gizmos. Now sure, if you crave a full complement of the latest doodads--streaming Rhapsody-Napster-Pandora-Flickr, USB inputs, iPhone certification, Audyssey MultEQ XT Auto Calibration, Wi-Fi, Windows Vista, DLNA, HD Radio, Internet Radio, multiroom-multizone connectivity, Ethernet and RS-232C ports, or Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmission Capability--rush out and buy a home theater receiver. Enjoy reading the 120-page operating manual and exploring layer after layer of setup options. Good times!
But if the goal is to simply enjoy music and a movie every now and then, do yourself a favor and consider a stereo receiver, or if you don't care about radio, an integrated amplifier (an integrated amp is essentially a receiver without a radio). Another plus for stereo home theater converts, they'll never have to deal with convoluted speaker setup menus, or risk an out-of-balance sound mix. Stereo is nearly impossible to get wrong.
A lot of people think stereo receivers are old hat and they "have to" buy a surround receiver. Wrong! And as I pointed out in the blog post the other day, home theater receiver features aren't "free"; manufacturers pay very significant licensing fees and royalties to the companies that developed those features. To bring a receiver in on budget, engineers and product planners make cost-saving decisions to cut back on other aspects of the design. The audio circuitry is probably the first to take a hit.
With stereo receivers the engineering budget is directed to the audio side and Denon, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha all make stereo receivers. Apparently, there's still a market for stereo components, and now that more and more folks are getting into LPs, most new stereo receivers have turntable inputs. … Read more
Do you remember when you bought stereo receivers based on their power and connectivity? The entry-level models were low in power and had just a few inputs. As you moved up in the line, they got more power, more ports, and an extra feature or two. The top models looked cooler than the entry-level ones, with a more high-end design flair and they hid their lesser-used controls under a flip-down panel. If someone bought a more expensive model, it's because they wanted better sound quality.
Home-theater receivers followed the same course, except the higher end models had more speaker … Read more