AV Receiver recommendations for the ignorant me.
January 22, 2007 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations and advice about AV receivers. Specific model recommendations, or good research pointers both appreciated.

I'm in the market for a new AV receiver. Now, the last/first one I ever owned was from when Pro-Logic was still the hotness, and from research thus far, my head hurts.

So far, I've got desired features narrowed down roughly like so:

* Minimum three component video inputs. HDMI input is nice, but not strictly necessary--it'd be more in the realm of "future-proofing." But it seems that HDMI availability is actually far more common than enough component options.

* I don't have the space/room-shape to go up to 7.1, so simply remaining at 5.1 sound doesn't bother me. I've already got speakers available to use, though a subwoofer may be in the future.

* I've heard that some receivers these days will auto-calibrate speaker balance & sound delays and so forth, based on just putting a mike in the usual listening spot. I'm lazy enough to make that sound very desirable.

* I can go up to five hundred bucks, but am going to get twitchy at anything more.

Any sites that are a good source for comparing models, searching for desired features, etc., would be great to hear about. Also, anything that I really should be looking for, or at least keeping in mind, that I don't currently know about, etc.
posted by Drastic to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been a big fan of the bang for the buck of Onkyo receivers. Depending on where you look and/or what deals are going on the TX-SR604 or TX-SR674 look like they hit all of your bullets and come in at or under your price range.
posted by togdon at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2007

Ive just bought a Denon AVR 1906 and I must say I am more than happy with it.

It comes with a calibration microphone for setup just as you describe. Ive not used it, as I have not moved to my new house yet. But I cant wait to get it set up properly.

It IS 7.1, but if you wish to. you can set it up to use the rear speaker chanels to Bi-Amp the front channel for greater clarity.
posted by gergtreble at 2:56 PM on January 22, 2007

I wouldn't shy away from a receiver that can do HDMI switching, even if you don't have (m)any sources with HDMI. Sounds like you don't buy new receivers very often, and with the growing popularity, quality, and simplicity of HDMI, it's better to buy a receiver you can grow into than out of.

And get a subwoofer, stat!

Second the recommendation to check out Onkyo, maybe Denon. Could also look at Pioneer, though you may need to look at Panasonic or maybe Sony (ugh) if you want to buy new and stay wtihin your price range.
posted by wubbie at 2:59 PM on January 22, 2007

They don't usually have rock-bottom prices, so you might not want to buy from them, but Crutchfield is a valuable source of information about electronic stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2007

Another vote for Onkyo. I work for a Home Theater/Home Automation company, and we install Integra (Onkyo's "professional" brand) as our baseline surround receiver. Our customers are always happy with them; plenty of power, great sound for the price, decent UI, very configurable and reliable. The regular Onkyo line appears to basically the same units sans rs232(which you'd only need for integration) and with a different front panel look.

Other guidelines: avoid Kenwood (reliability issues) and also Sony and Bose (compatibility issues). I'd also recommend checking out Denon and Marantz, though I'm not sure exactly what they offer in your price range.

As for websites, visit AVSForum if you haven't already.
posted by contraption at 3:07 PM on January 22, 2007

I got the Onkyo TX-SR803 in April. It's likely around that price range now - it's quite a nice receiver that does what you want it to do.
posted by kuperman at 4:25 PM on January 22, 2007

I would also look for HD up-converting. Even if you don't have an HDTV yet. I also vote for Onkyo.
posted by afx114 at 4:42 PM on January 22, 2007

Do not let your AV receiver do any scaling for you. While the current trend of HDMI-everything is nice from a connectivity standpoint, your television is going to do a far better job upscaling than your receiver ever will. Best to find a system that passes the HDMI signal through unmolested. I don't know of any off the top of my head, but this would be a deal-breaker if I were you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:26 PM on January 22, 2007

I picked up an Onkyo 604B and have been very happy with it.

Basically, if you just want component video and 5.1 surround, you can meet those needs with a $200 receiver. For an average urban apartment with a 15x20 living room, that receiver should just be enough. If, however, you're planning on upgrading your house, or upgrading other components, then it makes sense to invest a little more in a receiver that will grow with you. Before I bought the 604B, I had another receiver that I owned for seven years, and I plan on holding on to this unit for a similar period or longer.

What are you buying for more money? More power to your speakers, mainly, and support for HDMI to a high definition TV set. You also get fancier sound processing, which allows for custom sound fields, but that might not matter as much if you're not a big audiophile. In general, once you go above the $200 entry level, you won't find many receivers that will provide 5.1 surround. The price for implementing 5.1 vs. 7.1 has narrowed to the point where 5.1 only makes sense for basic, entry-level receivers. So, throw down another $100 and you'll double the power to your speakers and get 7.1 surround in the process. Throw down another $100 and you get HDMI and XM Satellite support. If you want a receiver that will ultimately pass 1080p video to an HD box, you're looking to start at $500 right now.

As additional tips -- J&R Music World and Crutchfield are the mass market online vendors of choice for home theater electronics. Wide product range, competitive prices, and if you live in New York, I've known J&R sales guys to haggle in person; though you probably won't see too much flexibility on a midrange item like a $500 receiver. With that said, I bought mine from Circuit City because they were cutting deeper deals than either of those guys when I was looking to buy; and there's an intangible, subjective appeal to having a local service department.
posted by bl1nk at 10:35 AM on January 23, 2007

I'll just chime in and say that the auto-calibration / set-up is sweet and completely 100% worth it. I have a Yamaha if that matters.
posted by FastGorilla at 11:12 AM on January 23, 2007

Re: 5.1 v. 7.1: One thing you get on 7.1 capable Integra receivers (not sure if this is also true of the regular Onkyo line, but I'd imagine it is) is the ability to use the extra 2 channels of amplification to drive your Zone 2 speakers if you only have a 5.1 setup. This means you can have a pair of stereo speakers in another room that plays independently from the main zone with respect to source and volume.

Mine are in the bedroom.
posted by contraption at 3:14 PM on January 23, 2007

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