If Apple made a Home Theater Receiver...
September 10, 2011 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Does a minimalist but high-quality stereo receiver exist? For me, the ideal receiver would have the essential inputs and outputs with a focus on the latest technology instead of every input for every occasion. It would only need to be 2.1 but 5.1 would be Ok. It would be beautifully designed. And it would likely be a bit expensive. It would essentially be the 'Macbook Air' of receivers. Does anything like this exist?

I understand that 'essential' is different for everyone, but somehow Apple does a good job hitting the important things when they design a product. Help me get a new receiver!
posted by verevi to Technology (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
you are looking for something pretty with excellent sound to listen to your iDevice with?
Look no further than Bower Wilkins' Zeppelin speakers.
I have this in my home and LOVE it. Spendy yes, but worth it.
posted by seawallrunner at 2:27 PM on September 10, 2011

No, I think the OP is looking for a home theater A/V receiver with a minimalist aesthetic.

I think that Harman Kardon puts out some great receivers that are well-designed and minimal (at least from the front), but the inputs are still pretty comprehensive (as they should be for a product that is meant to bring together devices from different manufacturers, not to mention different audio and video formats and transmission methods).
posted by BobbyVan at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2011

damn, the link was borked - here it is again just in case Zeppelin
posted by seawallrunner at 2:39 PM on September 10, 2011

Have it built for you.
posted by krilli at 3:03 PM on September 10, 2011

(Seriously, bespoke building is actually a real possibility. It's more likely that you'll find something readymade though :). ... Please do post in this thread when you find something like you're looking for!)
posted by krilli at 3:05 PM on September 10, 2011

Assuming you don't need it to do video, the class of thing you're looking for is called an "Integrated Amplifier."
posted by contraption at 3:07 PM on September 10, 2011

I think the answer is yes, but a few caveats - I'm not a home theater person, so I might be wrong about a few things. First, a 'receiver' is a term for an integrated amplifier with a radio tuner built in. Unless that's important to you, you might want to focus your search on 'integrated amplifiers' which don't have radio tuners in them. With that said, you might check around audiogon.com in the intergated section to see what various high end stuff looks like. Secondly, when you say the 'essential inputs' - except for specific phono inputs, all inputs on integrated amplifiers are the same, at least as far as RCA inputs go, so even if something is labeled 'CD' you could still plug the out from your DVD player to it. Anyway, I bring that up because you should be able to find a stereo (2 channel) integrated with four or so inputs and run whatever you want through it. If you're looking for 2.1, I think you have have options, but more if you're willing to run your sub off of the left or right channel (not technically 'true' 2.1, though.)

None of this stuff is going to look like a macbook air, per se, but there are plenty of stereo companies that make nice, well designed, integrated amps that sound great.

The integrated amp section of audiogon: http://www.audiogon.com/a/g?Integrated-Amplifiers

Music Hall integrated amp:

Music Fidelity integrated amp:

You get the idea, I think it's just a matter of searching audio retailer's websites until you find something that's gotten good reviews and looks the way you want it to. I like Audio Advisor, but I'm sure others can suggest other places to look.
posted by drobot at 3:09 PM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: Cambridge Azur 340R 5.1 HDMI AV Receiver

I don't do home theatre but have the equivalent stereo amp and it was a great value. Cambridge has several higher end models than this, the 6.1 and 7.1, but the added features do result in a slightly more cluttered design.
posted by Lorin at 4:05 PM on September 10, 2011

You want Bang & Olufsen.
posted by bricoleur at 4:13 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

That Music Hall amp is beautiful, drobot!

NAD might have something too. Here's their high-end M3 model.
posted by krilli at 4:14 PM on September 10, 2011

If you want something with speakers integrated, the yamaha soundbar is a pretty amazing bit of technology.

That's not the same as the cheap ones you usually see in stores that use digital processing to get faux-surround. It's actually got a bunch of individually controlled speakers that you can use to reflect sound around the room to get surround sound.
posted by empath at 4:27 PM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: You're pretty much describing NAD to a T.

"Fewer parts, better sound. NAD"

I used to have this, gorgeous, simple, elegant
posted by Cosine at 5:23 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

McIntosh Labs have been making high end audio products since 1949. A C28 pre-amp and a 2105 power amp I bought from them in 1974 are still cooking, and look not unlike this very classic modern thing. When you buy McIntosh, you're buying for the long, long haul.
posted by paulsc at 6:07 PM on September 10, 2011

Yamaha released a few stereo models last year.
posted by ridogi at 6:34 PM on September 10, 2011

Response by poster: The NAD stuff looks great. This would be perfect if it included BLURAY:

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I should have specified A/V, but I think I'm getting closer to finding it.

2.1 + HDMI inputs + BLURAY (ideally) would be sweet.
posted by verevi at 7:21 PM on September 10, 2011

Bang & Olefson is pretty much the equivalent of the Apple brand for audiophiles.
posted by yesster at 7:47 PM on September 10, 2011

I have a Harman Kardon 3490 that I think meets your criteria in terms of looking really good in a minimalist way and having solid technology and a well-designed interface. It is also crazy powerful for its price point and can sound really good driving a set of 4Ω speakers, if that's important to you. On the other hand, it's really damn big, so it's not like a Macbook Air at all in that respect.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:58 PM on September 10, 2011

Perreaux do high end audio components with a very minimalist aesthetic.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 1:07 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bang & Olefson is pretty much the equivalent of the Apple brand for audiophiles.

That's a very astute comparison. Because just like Apple, you're looking at form over function, design as the be-all, end-all. And you have a slavering fan-base that equates beauty with technological perfection, even in the face of much better quality alternatives. That's not to say B&O are bad… they're very good, just like Apple is very good. But nowhere near the best. But the truth is, most people don't care about the "best" when your hardware is this cool (that hand-wave proximity double-door vertical-mount system is inspired!)

I would say McIntosh if you want something that you can use for the rest of your life, and probably your children's lives provided they don't change the layout of A/C sockets in the next hundred years.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:32 AM on September 11, 2011

Best answer: The Denon S-5BD is beautiful, it has built-in Blu-ray and it is expensive.
posted by caddis at 5:43 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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