My speakers can beat up your high-end A/V receiver

Why buy an expensive receiver when the money would be better spent on better speakers and sub?

Denon AVR-1909--why pay more?

Are high-end A/V receivers, which for the purpose of this blog is any receiver with a MSRP over $1,500, worth it? True, they're loaded with features, stuff like all of the latest surround formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. But wait a sec--Denon's soon to be released $649 AVR-1909 receiver has them, too. It's got three HDMI inputs and all of the latest Audyssey auto speaker set up and equalization doodads.

Let's take a look at Sony's $1,699 STR-DA5300ES. What does the extra $1,000 buy you? Not so much. Faroudja DCDi Cinema Technology, great. Video sources connected via composite, S-video and component cables get bumped up to a 1080p over HDMI. The Sony is rated to deliver 120 watts per channel versus the Denon's 90 per. Oh, and it boasts six HDMI inputs. That's cool, and I'm probably overlooking some details, but does that sound like it's worth an extra $1,000-plus?

Thing is, I just reviewed three high-end receivers for a magazine, and I do think they sound a wee bit better than the lower-price alternatives. We're not talking day and night differences here, so I'll pretty much guarantee adding an extra $1,000 to your speaker budget will deliver much better sound. So instead of buying a $1,700 A/V receiver--and (for example) a $1,500 sat/sub package--get a $700 receiver and a $2,500 sat/sub package. Total cost will be the same, but the sound will be way better with better speakers and/or sub.

The receiver manufacturers have so loaded up their midprice receivers they killed the market for the upper-end models. I think that's great. Before they wise up, take advantage of their stupidity.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.


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