Roundup: Which AV receiver is right for you?

CNET compares midrange AV receivers based on what kind of buyer they appeal to.

Pioneer VSX-1020-K
CNET/Sarah Tew

When people ask "Which AV receiver should I buy?" the answer depends on what you're looking for. For some, the Pioneer VSX-1020-K's excellent out-of-the-box iPod connectivity is a must-have feature, but audiophiles couldn't care less about listening to an iPod on their home stereo system; they're better off with the Denon AVR-1911. Our list of best AV receivers is still the easiest way to see how rank different models, but here we've tried to narrow down the choices based on what kind of buyer you are.

Best overall value: Pioneer VSX-1020-K
The Pioneer VSX-1020-K isn't the highest-rated receiver we've tested, but it's the one we'd most frequently recommend for the average buyer. That's because it offers unparalalled value, with its street price running as low as $360 these days. That low price is even more impressive when you consider it has excellent sound quality, six HDMI inputs and the ability to connect your iPod directly to its front panel USB port--and Pioneer even includes a cable.

Best overall midrange receiver: Yamaha RX-V667
If you don't mind paying a little extra, the Yamaha RX-V667 is the flat-out best overall midrange receiver we tested. Great sound quality, six HDMI inputs, 7.1 analog inputs and a best-in-class graphical user interface add up to the top-rated AV receiver for 2010. It's not quite as good of a value as the Pioneer because of its $500 street price, but it may be worth paying for if you want any of its niche features.

Best-sounding AV receiver: Denon AVR-1911
For the audiophile, the choice is easy: buy the receiver that sounds the best. That's the Denon AVR-1911, which outclasses both the Pioneer VSX-1020-K and Yamaha RX-V667 in audio performance. Its overall rating was held back a litte by its lack of a graphical user interface and less overall connectivity, but if you can get past those shortcomings, the AVR-1911 will wow you with its sound.

Best looking AV receiver: Marantz NR1601 or Harman Kardon AVR 2600 Honestly, looks aren't a high priority when I'm choosing an AV receiver, but for some buyers decor matters. The Marantz NR1601 is truly unique with its slimline design, and its sleek metal front panel is attractive, too. The Harman Kardon AVR 2600 is another excellent design pick, with its handsome two-tone style giving it a more refined look than other "black box" AV receivers.

Most HDMI connectivity for the money: Onkyo HT-RC260

The Onkyo fared worse in our review than some of the company's previous AV receivers, but its ace in the hole is that the HT-RC260 offers six HDMI inputs and sells online for a little over $300. On the other hand, with the VSX-1020-K available for only $360, we think most buyers would be wise to spend a little more.

Want more details? Be sure to check out all the full reviews, plus our full AV receivers comparison chart.