These days, home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs), which usually consist of matching speakers and a combination DVD player/receiver, are overwhelmingly more popular than traditional A/V receivers. The problem is that most of them sound kind of small. Budget shoppers who want bigger sonics would do well to invest in a low-cost A/V receiver. At $219 (list), JVC's RX-6040B is one of the most affordable receivers we've tested at CNET, but it still offers full-fledged surround processing, component-video switching, and the obligatory 100 watts per channel. If you combine it with the right budget-speaker package and DVD player, you'll probably wind up with a system that performs better than an equivalently priced HTIB. As 100-watt-per-channel receivers go, the 19.5-pound JVC RX-6040B is a lightweight, but it has full-size dimensions, measuring 17.3 inches wide and 16.2 inches deep.
The RX-6040B's Quick Setup feature requires minimal effort on your part, which is a good thing, because we found the full setup routine something of a hassle. The lack of onscreen menu displays wasn't the main snag; the problem was that we couldn't navigate most of the setup routines with the remote. You'll have to make your way through setup using only the controls on the RX-6040B's front panel.
The tiny remote jams in a lot of buttons and was pretty easy to use, but we would have preferred something a bit larger.According to its spec sheet (see Performance), the JVC RX-6040B delivers 100 watts to each of its five channels. It lacks the sixth channel found on 6.1 receivers such as Onkyo's TX-SR502, so it can't power surround-back speakers. The JVC is outfitted with every 5.1 surround format, including Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II, DTS, and DTS 96/24. It also has inputs to accommodate SACD and DVD-Audio players.
The RX-6040B includes a few unusual extras, such as a five-band DSP digital equalizer for the front-left and front-right speakers, and a five-step tone control for the center speaker. You can easily turn off the subwoofer output without trudging through menus--a feature that might be useful during late-night listening sessions. There's also a nifty 3D headphone processor that effectively opens up the sound of stereo headphones. Finally, the RX-6040B has a two-year parts-and-labor warranty that's pretty rare in this receiver's reasonable price class.
Connectivity is fairly limited but should be adequate for basic home theaters. You might not have expected component-video switching on a $220 receiver, but the 6040B can handle two component sources, such as an HDTV cable box and a DVD player. We counted two A/V and S-Video inputs and outputs, three analog stereo inputs, and three digital inputs (two optical, one coaxial). Unfortunately, the speaker-wire connectors are cheesy spring-clip types, and the front panel doesn't have another input set.We started our auditions with a hair-raising concert DVD, Jimi Plays Monterey, and the JVC RX-6040B took us back to the Summer of Love in 1967. Jimi Hendrix's guitar wizardry dazzled, and the disc's surround mix was surprisingly effective.
So far, so good, so we upped the ante with a more modern concert DVD: the Rolling Stones' Four Flicks, which was recorded during the band's 2003 tour. We've played this set over countless receivers, and we detected the RX-6040B's budget roots. Yes, the Stones' energy was intact, but the visceral chops were lacking. In other words, we felt that JVC's claims of 100 watts per channel were a shade optimistic.
When we played the Lion King DVD at more moderate volume levels, the RX-6040B had plenty of oomph. Over the course of a two-hour movie, however, we experienced some fatigue--the sound was too harsh for extended high-volume listening. We were trying to fill a rather large room (700 square feet), which soaks up a lot of power, so we recommend that you restrict this receiver to smaller spaces. We checked out the RX-6040B with our reference Dynaudio Contour speakers, but smaller systems such as Paradigm Electronics' Cinema 70 or VT-12 satellite/Hsu Research's STF-1 subwoofer package would make more sense.
The RX-6040B produced acceptable CD sound quality but lacked the finesse of pricier receivers such as Yamaha's RX-V550. JVC's Bass Boost feature added more kick to the bass, and we appreciated the extra juice on our Bob Marley CDs. Jumping over to classical music, the RX-6040B didn't satisfy. It lacked the warmth of our favorite Denon receivers, so the strings sounded a little steely--but we're fussy audiophiles. Most folks will enjoy the JVC's talents well enough.