Update (February 12, 2009): Check out our, with full reviews of all the products mentioned here.
I receive a lot of e-mail asking why we haven't reviewed many AV receivers in recent months. First off, let me say: mea culpa. Reviews coverage of this category has suffered, mostly because AV receivers are among the most time-consuming products to analyze (because they now need to be examined in detail for their audio and video performance). But enough of the excuses; here's what we're doing to remedy the situation.
We're concentrating our efforts on receivers that deliver the maximum value in the sub-$500 range. That means as many HDMI inputs as possible (ideally, at least four), support for Blu-ray lossless audio decoding (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio), and the ability to convert analog video inputs to HDMI (i.e. HDMI upconversion of composite, S-video, and component inputs). That latter feature is becoming somewhat less important now that most every new home video device tends to sport an HDMI output, but there are still plenty of sources--most notably the Nintendo Wii--that don't.
With those bullet points in mind, here are five models on our reviews radar. All of the models listed below are 7.1-channel models that offer lossless audio decoding, HDMI inputs, automatic speaker calibration, onscreen interfaces, built-in compatibility with Sirius and/or XM satellite radio, and analog-to-HDMI video conversion:
Keep in mind that the Onkyo is the only one we've actually reviewed so far, with the Yamaha, Denon, and Pioneer soon to follow. (We're hoping to get the Sony as well.) Still, even just from the spec sheets, I think it's safe to say that any of the models listed above would be a better buy than the most recent AV receiver we reviewed: the