Want to find the best AV receiver under $500? I've recently tested some of the most popular big black boxes from the major brands, and the feature sets and performance levels are impeccably high in this middling price range. From to to , these models have everything a home theater enthusiast will need and enjoy.
Thanks to recent price cuts, one offers better bang for the buck than any I've reviewed so far.
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Which receiver comes out on top?
Of the receivers I've reviewed recently, theis my favorite. The sound offers a good cinematic experience with dynamic range (especially when paired with quality speakers); it looks great; and it offers plenty of up-to-date features.
It's a 2018 product but still perfectly modern, and now that 2019 receivers are starting to appear, the Onkyo has come down to an affordable $300. At that price it's an absolute steal.
Runners up include theand , from 2017 and 2018, respectively. I rated all of three "excellent," with just a little daylight (two-tenths of a point) separating their overall CNET ratings. Prices fluctuate regularly, so if one brand of the three costs significantly less than the others at the time you read this, go for it.
The most recent receiver I've reviewed is thefrom 2019. It has a few extra features compared to the 740H, but it didn't sound quite as good to my ear, and more importantly it's about $70 more expensive right now. I'll be reviewing more 2019 models soon, and their prices will fall later in the year. Until then, the 2018 models are the ones to enjoy.
The field is exceptionally close in terms of both sound quality and features for the money, but the Onkyo TX-NR585 pulls ahead as a total package. It offers an exhaustive list of wireless streaming extras, bomb-proof sound and excellent ease of use. It was CNET's 2018 Editor's Choice and at $300, it's an amazing value in mid-2019 as well. Read CNET's review
The 2018 Denon AVR-S740H has been replaced by the 750H (see below) but it's still available for sale, and the audio quality was a little better than the new product in my tests. Unlike the Onkyo, it offers Apple AirPlay 2 and lacks Chromecast built-in wireless streaming, and its sound is on par with the Onkyo. Read CNET's review
The Sony STR-DN1080 was our 2017 Editor's Choice, and it's still an excellent package. Sound quality is not quite as strong as those of the Denon and Onkyo, but they're all very close. If you want a receiver that offers ease of use and integrates both AirPlay (but not AirPlay 2, so no multi-room) and Chromecast wireless streaming, this is a great option. Read CNET's review
The 2019 AVR-S750H replaces the excellent S740H, and while it's been tweaked a little, it appears to be essentially the same receiver. It has everything you need, including voice control compatible via both Amazon Alexa and Google speakers, Atmos and AirPlay 2. The 2018 model is a better value, however. Read CNET's review
The Yamaha RX-V485 offers quality sound at an affordable price, but for most people, it's worth paying more for extra HDMI outputs and inputs and Dolby Atmos capability, available in all of the models above. Read the CNET review
What to look for in sub-$500 receiver
AV receivers are notoriously complex, with reams of features and confusing technical specifications. I'm going to sum up the most important ones right here.
- 4K HDR compatibility
You want to make sure your new receiver can keep up with the latest TVs and video gear. Standards do change all the time, but the bare minimum right now is support for(at least or better). All of these models support 4K and HDR video.
- At least four HDMI inputs
With most televisions and set-top boxes supporting HDMI, you should buy a receiver which has as many of these as possible. Front-mounted HDMI ports are kind of like appendixes -- unneeded, because most users don't do hot-plugging of HDMI devices -- making the number rear ports what's most important. The Yamaha has the least at four while the Sony and Onkyo have the most, at six. The Sony also offers a second HDMI out for Zone 2.
- You don't really need Dolby Atmos "height" speakers
The Yamaha is the only model here that doesn't supportand but the effects they have on your movie watching can be subtle, or in most movies: non-existent. In other words, don't worry about missing out on these new formats if you don't install the extra speakers. Mounting rear surrounds high on the wall instead will get you half of the way in terms of immersive sound.
Most midrange receivers have onboard Wi-Fi network wireless streaming for music. There are plenty of standards for wireless streaming, but the most universal are Apple and Chromecast built in. If you're looking to build a multiroom system with a variety of AV systems and speakers with wireless connectivity, these are the two flavors to aim for. The Onkyo and Sony are the only two that support both. The Denon models lack wireless streaming via Chromecast but up the ante to .
For more on what you should be looking for, check out.