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Roundup: Midrange AV receivers compared

CNET compares six midrange AV receivers, finding the Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K as its top pick.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Prices on AV receivers range from as little as $100 up to several thousands, but most home theater buyers focus in on the "sweet spot," where you get most of the important features and performance for the least amount of money. We tested the midrange models from nearly all the major AV receiver manufacturers to see how they stack up, and after completing our roundup we came away with some clear picks depending on what you need for your home theater.

The standout AV receiver is the Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K, which we awarded the Editors' Choice. The VSX-1019AH-K does just about everything right--it has four HDMI inputs, a graphical user interface, and outstanding sound quality. It can upconvert analog video signals to 1080p with average image quality, which is impressive because receivers at this price generally have poor image quality on upconverted sources.

The most unique feature is the VSX-1019AH-K's iPod-compatible front-panel USB port, which allows you to browse and play back songs from your iPod using the receiver's onscreen display. (Pioneer even throws in an iPod cable.) It's a little more expensive than some of the other receivers we looked at, but you'll feel like you got your money's worth.

Next in line are the two Onkyo receivers. The trump card for these units is HDMI connectivity; the TX-SR607 has six HDMI inputs and the HT-RC160 has five (it lacks the front-panel HDMI input of the TX-SR607.) They also measure up well in terms of sound quality, which won't surprise fans of the Onkyo brand. On the downside, both have poor upconverted image quality and surprisingly lack a multichannel analog input. Both receivers offer a lot of value, but the HT-RC160 is an incredible deal with its street price inching below $400. If you just need HDMI connectivity and powerful sound, the HT-RC160 is the way to go.

Denon's AVR-1910 is the most expensive midrange model we looked at, but it ended up with an average score. That's mostly because of two factors: average sonics and a lousy remote. The rest of its feature set is in line with the competition, and its image quality on upconverted analog video signals was superior (by a large margin) to every other receiver we tested. Ultimately, we didn't feel like the AVR-1910 offered enough to justify its price, but it's the hands-down best choice if you need solid upconverted image quality.

Last year's Sony STR-DG920 was our favorite midrange receiver pick, but the STR-DN1000 doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. It's held back by poor upconverted image quality and the lack of traditional multiroom functionality (although it does support Sony's proprietary S-Air system).

On the upside, we did appreciate the STR-DN1000's sound quality, which is particularly impressive considering it costs considerably less than the competing models we tested. If you're on a tight budget and can live with its limitations, the STR-DN1000 is a sweet-sounding alternative to some of the more fully featured options available.

Coming in at the bottom of the roundup is the Yamaha RX-V665BL. While nothing was necessarily bad about the RX-V665BL, we couldn't find a good reason to pick it over the other models. It's also the only model we tested that doesn't allow you to assign audio inputs, which seemed like a strange limitation that didn't plague Yamaha in the past. If you find the RX-V665BL at a steep discount, it can get the job done, but otherwise we'd stick with its competitors.

Related content: Side-by-side comparison of these midrange AV receivers