Technology

AV Receiver Test: These are the best amplifiers


Sound and picture like in the cinema – only at home

25. 02. 2020, 09: 00 | by

Content from our partner Wirecutter, A New York Times Company

The best AV receivers in the test

After this year 16 AV receiver have tested, we are confident that the Yamaha RX-V 685 is the best model for those who want to buy a home theater system or upgrade theirs. Of course, this should be compatible with the latest standards and at a reasonable price. The Yamaha offers excellent sound quality for surround or stereo and supports good, wireless surround sound via rear speakers. The receiver has five HDMI inputs that are compatible with the current HDR standards, as well as integrated Bluetooth, AirPlay and also supports the most important music streaming services.

The test was carried out by Wirecutter.com carried out in America. Products that are available in Germany but not in America may therefore be missing. You are reading the German translation.

Our top recommendation for an AV receiver: Yamaha RX-V 685

The Yamaha RX-V 685 Home theater receiver offers excellent sound quality and creates a wider sound stage and clearer details in the medium and high frequency range than most competitors. If you can't or don't want to route cables around the room, it can output clean, wireless surround sound through Yamaha MusicCast rear speakers. With 7.2 channels, the Yamaha also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS: X soundtracks if you need the additional channels. Instead, it can also create an active second zone for stereo speakers.

The five HDMI 2.0 inputs are sufficient for most systems and its two HDMI outputs are ideal if you are using both a TV and a projector. Yamaha's built-in calibration function analyzes your speakers and room acoustics; various audio parameters are then automatically adjusted. An optional app makes it easy to set up anyway. The RX-V 685 also supports Spotify Connect, internet radio , Bluetooth, AirPlay and other streaming services. A firmware update later this year will roll out support for eARC and AirPlay 2.

  • Source: Amazon / Yamaha

    Yamaha RX-V 685

    Good sound quality, wide sound stage and clear details – the Yamaha RX-V 685 was convincing in the test.

Our budget recommendation for an AV receiver: Yamaha RX-V 485

If you are looking for a simple 5-channel home theater receiver, the Yamaha RX-V 485 a few more functions than most other inexpensive AV receivers – for just a few euros more. It offers many of the features of our favorite, including the options to use wireless surround speakers and Wi-Fi to stream music directly from Spotify or other online sources. On the other hand, the RX-V 485 fewer HDMI inputs, the calibration function is not as sophisticated as that of our favorites, the phono input is missing and the receiver does not support Dolby Atmos or a second active audio zone.

  • Source: Amazon / Yamaha

    Yamaha RX-V 485

    Simply more features for the price: the RX-V 485 is our favorite's little, cheaper brother ,

Our upgrade recommendation for an AV receiver: Denon AVR-X 3500H

If you have a rather large setup and therefore need more than five HDMI inputs and / or want to operate several subwoofers that need to be individually calibrated in the calibration function, the Denon AVR-X 3500 H the solution to your problems. The receiver uses Audyssey XT 32, the most advanced calibration function that we have tested this year (and the system with the best audio quality all in all). With more HDMI inputs, this receiver can supply larger setups, and it still has pre-outs if you want to add external amplifiers (and therefore more speakers).

  • Source: Amazon / Denon

    Denon AVR-X 3500H

    The best calibration function in the test and also eight HDMI connections – the Denon already offers something for the price.

That's why you can trust the article

I have been writing reviews of AV devices for various publications for over a decade and have dealt with countless receivers, processors, preamplifiers and amplifiers during this time. This year I got over 15 hours in read the AV receiver matter before I test it 16 have ordered different models. I have over 100 spent hours adjusting them all correctly, a little in the test listen more closely and then compare the models directly.

Who needs an AV receiver?

A home theater receiver is suitable for someone who wants more than just a TV with a sound bar. An AV receiver enables you to create a real surround sound experience and to connect additional AV sources – and you can easily switch between them. If you have an older AV receiver that doesn't offer 4K / HDR video support (or has no HDMI connectors at all), now is a good time to upgrade. All new, tested models support HDMI 2.0 and the HDCP 2.2 copy protection, so they work with Ultra HD 4K displays and sources. So if you plan to buy a 4K TV and the AV receiver switches between 4K sources, you can definitely consider upgrading.

The wireless audio Streaming has also become much easier with the newer receivers. Our favorite is compatible with AirPlay, Bluetooth, Pandora, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Sirius XM and more, as well as the option to connect directly to internet radio stations and local DLNA servers. If you still need to connect your tablet or smartphone directly to your receiver instead of streaming wirelessly, an upgrade also makes the process much easier.

Many new models support Dolby Atmos and DTS: X soundtracks (which add overhead effects to make them sound even more intense), but since the audio technologies require more speakers, this shouldn't be a major reason to upgrade. Dolby Atmos gives you the option of using Atmos-capable front speakers or Atmos modules to operate the surround channels without laying cables. Although this is not ideal, it is still very good and unfortunately something that you could not use without Atmos support.

If you already have an HDMI receiver and not If you plan to use 4K sources or want to or need to stream audio sources wirelessly, you can put off buying a new receiver for the time being. In most cases, new receivers don't necessarily sound better than what you already have at home; they only offer more functions and security.

Which AV receivers came into the test – and why? Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

So we chose

In order not to have to test all receivers on the market, we had to set some basic conditions for the devices – which we believe every receiver must be able to do. The receiver must support at least 5.1 audio; 7.1 or more channels would be desirable, but are not mandatory. The receiver should also have at least five HDMI 2.0 inputs so that it can process today's 4K HDR signals and is reasonably future-proof.

Music streaming should also be possible wirelessly, both via Wi-Fi and via Bluetooth, since most people listen to music this way today – even people like me with extensive physical media collections. A receiver must have a calibration function that starts automatically, among other things, to correctly integrate a subwoofer into the speaker constellation or to recognize and correct various acoustic problems.

So we tested

We have 16 various receivers tested in a 5.1 or 5.1.2 setup to find out firsthand how the devices perform in terms of features, user-friendliness, sound quality or more. For the normal 5.1 setup we used a speaker setup from Q Acoustics, our test winner at the time for the best bookshelf speaker that sounds great enough for us and where we thought that establishing a connection with a normal receiver was simple enough.

When we used 5.1.2 channels to play Atmos soundtracks, I used the KEF Ci ceiling speakers 200 RR, which I installed in my home theater for the top channels.

In the end, I ran blind A / B tests between receivers with an ABX test box from Audio by Van Alstine to find out which sound best, with and without the calibration function activated .

Detailed test report: Yamaha RX-V 685

If you are about to set up a home theater system with full surround sound, the Yamaha RX-V 685 the right AV receiver for you. The receiver offers excellent sound quality and a high-precision measurement function, supports streaming audio from a variety of sources and has five HDMI inputs that are compatible with all common HDR standards. Wireless surround speakers are also supported and there is an app for easy setup. In the future, the receiver will also work with AirPlay 2 and eARC.

Nothing else is more important with an AV receiver than the sound; the Yamaha clearly did the best in its price range in terms of sound quality. Compared to the competition, it offered far more details in the mids and highs with good bass control. The AV receiver enables a wider sound stage than other receivers, which makes the music sound more open and not so “caught” between my front speakers.

With the Yamaha Rx-V 685 is also the connection to wireless surround speakers possible. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

The streaming of Music on the Yamaha RX-V 685 thanks Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, AirPlay (soon also with AirPlay 2), internet radio and Yamaha's own MusicCast system are extremely easy. If you use the Yamaha MusicCast app with your smartphone, you also get access to Pandora, Tidal, Deezer, Napster and SiriusXM. We had no problems reproducing anything.

The YPAO calibration function of the RX-V 685 works really well for measuring only at a single point in the room. The calibration process is easy to start and, in contrast to many other systems, can also be adjusted after the process has been completed. You can have a preview of the settings made on the loudspeakers, but unfortunately you cannot manually set which frequencies are screwed and turned on (such as with better calibration functions).

If you want to listen to music wirelessly, you need the Yamaha MusicCast. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

The Yamaha RX -V 685 is very easy to set up, and the optional app makes the process even easier. If you use the RX-V 685 for the first time , you will be asked via the screen interface to set up the WiFi connection (which is very easy if you have an iOS device), but you won't get any more instructions from the device itself. If you are new to the subject, we recommend downloading the Yamaha app as it will guide you through everything from setting up the speakers to connecting other devices, even down to the cables you need. The app then sends this information to the receiver. The whole thing is not that easy, but it does the job just as well.

For people who want to enjoy real surround sound but cannot lay cables or simply don't feel like it the RX-V 685 also the possibility to use the wireless speakers MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 from Yamaha. I did that with two MusicCast 20 speakers tried and it worked perfectly. The setup is a bit more complex than I would like, but once I was done, I never had to think about it again. If you can lay cables, the Yamaha also supports normal surround speakers with cable connection without any problems.

The RX-V 685 has five 2.0 HDMI input and two output connectors. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

The Yamaha RX -V 685 has a total of five HDMI inputs, all of them HDMI 2.0 with full bandwidth, HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Vision support. The HDMI output will also be compatible with eARC in the near future after a firmware update, which means that televisions with eARC can send a surround sound signal (such as DTS: X or Dolby Atmos) back to the receiver via HDMI without any losses. The current ARC value is limited to a clearly compressed Dolby Digital signal. The RX-V 685 also has two HDMI Outputs for people with a television and / or a projector in the system.

The renaming of inputs on the Yamaha is very easy because the receiver reads the EDID information via HDMI, to automatically change the name. During the tests, the receiver automatically assigned the correct devices to my HDMI inputs, such as Apple TV, Fire TV and Panasonic BD. You have to rename non-HDMI devices in the settings menu, but this is quite easy to do.

The Yamaha remote control is larger than ordinary, but the button layout is anything but intuitive. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

With seven amplifier channels offers the RX-V 685 also support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X-Audio in 5.1.2 setups. With a special pair of Atmos additional speakers on the front channels, you can even use Atmos and DTS: X without a surround cable and still enjoy the advantages of object-based audio playback. You can also use the other two channels of the amplifier for a second zone of stereo audio or for the “presence speakers” that Yamaha supports through its DSP modes.

Via one with moving magnet compatible phono input you can connect a turntable, even without an integrated preamplifier, to the RX-V 685.

The Zone 2 output allows you to play both external analog sources and internal digital sources while many other receivers only allow analog playback. So if you want to stream Spotify, Bluetooth audio or an analog device in Zone 2 while the main zone is operating, this is possible here. You can also play the audio of the main zone in Zone 2 at the same time, even if this audio comes from an HDMI source hould.

Minor flaws, but no deal breakers

If you use the free Yamaha Setup App do not want to use, the setup of the RX-V 685 not as easy as with the Denon models. The only information you get when you switch on the receiver for the first time is to set up the network function; after that you stand there haphazardly – you don't find out that there is an app for everything else, including the rest of the configuration. A special note or the entire configuration instruction on the screen of the receiver would be very nice – only one app is rather poor.

The YPAO measurement in the subwoofer channel is not so clean how it could be. It only offers five EQ bands and most of them are above the 80 Hz limit, which is usually recommended for a subwoofer.

The RX-V 685 unfortunately still lacks support for an automatic low-latency mode, which turns your TV when playing a video game automatically switches to game mode. At the moment, the only TVs that support this feature are 2018 he can use models from Samsung and only with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One – but that's not a big deal, although more features are likely to come in the future. In addition, you can still manually activate the game mode of the TV if necessary.

An HDMI input at the front would also make sense if you have a PC, a digital camera or a game system wants to connect to the receiver rather rarely.

Detailed test report: Yamaha RX-V 485

Dem Yamaha RX-V 485 Unfortunately some of the features of our favorite are missing, but it is still a good 5.1-channel AV receiver. You only have four HDMI inputs instead of five and the YPAO measurement unfortunately does not work as well as the version of our top recommendation, so the sound quality suffers somewhat – although it is still very good. You can use integrated Wi-Fi and also access AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and MusicCast. In addition, you still have the option to use wireless surround sound systems.

Yamaha RX-V 485: Solid performance with a few fewer features and control options. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

All four HDMI 2.0 inputs are compatible with all common HDR formats, but unfortunately there is only a single HDMI output instead of the dual outputs, which is largely okay for most people. You cannot access Dolby Atmos, DTS: X or a second active audio zone either, but not everyone needs these features. The RX-V 485 uses the same setup app as the RX-V 685, but offers almost no help on the screen the first time you switch it on.

There are also fewer connections for less money: four 2.0 HDMI outputs and only one input connection. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

Of course there are AV receivers that are even cheaper than the RX-V 485, but they rely almost exclusively on Bluetooth to stream audio. We are therefore of the opinion that it is worthwhile 50 to 100 Euro more to spend on the integrated Wi-Fi of the RX-V 485 and to get the opportunity to realize wireless surround sound.

The buttons are absolutely tiny and therefore difficult to operate. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

Detailed test report: Denon AVR-X 3500H

The Denon AVR-X 3500H with eight impressive HDMI 2.0 inputs and the more powerful Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 Calibration function, which even supports two independent subwoofers. You can also play separate HDMI sources in a second audio zone, convert your analog video sources to 4K HDMI and integrate even more control platforms into your smart home system. The Denon sounded the best of all receivers in the test, but that alone is probably not enough for many – at least in view of the hefty price.

The Denon scores above all with its calibration function – the number of connections is also impressive. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

The 7.2-channel AVR-X 3500 H offers other advantages over the Yamaha RX-V 685: High-resolution on-screen graphics and on-screen menus; an even more powerful amplifier, one should rather use less efficient speakers (like the system from ELAC that our surround sound system Favorite is); and pre-outs if you want to buy an external amplifier later.

In addition to eight 2.0 HDMI output connections, several subwoofers can also be controlled separately. Wirecutter / Kyle Fitzgerald

What to look forward to in the future

Denon has at the beginning of June 2019 three new receivers of the S series were presented, including the almost 550 Euro expensive AVR-S 750H. The new models support eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode for Gaming), both of which are features of HDMI 2.1. They also offer Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization technology, which is designed to create a better height feeling for non-Atmos content. With the release of the new model, the price for our number 2 has dropped; that makes it an even better deal if you don't really need the newer features.

Denon has also added two new models to its slightly more expensive X series: the 560 Euro expensive AVR-X 1600H and the 680 Euro expensive AVR-X 2600H. These models also support eARC, ALLM and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and are compatible with the AVR-S 750Dog AVR-S 950H almost identical, but offer a better calibration function and more features for an even more individual installation. However, the company does not yet have a new version of our upgrade recommendation, the AVR-X 3500 H, announced.

Pioneer has introduced three new models : the VSX – 534 , the VSX 834 and the VSX – 934 . The 534 and 834 the internet connection is missing, but the 7.2-channel VSX – 934 offers Wi-Fi plus support for AirPlay 2 and DTS Play-Fi. Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and DTS Virtual: X are integrated, but you won't get HDMI 2.1 functions like eARC and ALLM.

The soon appearing 5.2-channel TX-SR 393 and 7.2-channel TX-SR 494 from Onkyo support Dolby Atmos and DTS: X as well as Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and DTS Virtual: X. But here HDMI 2.1 functions like eARC and ALLM are missing. The only wireless streaming option is Bluetooth only.

Denon and Marantz's parent company, Sound United, recently announced that Onkyo Corporation , which also includes the brands Onkyo, Pioneer and belong to Integra. We do not know how this change will affect future product ranges.

What is HDMI 2.1 anyway?

HDMI 2.1 is the newest version of HDMI and was the beginning 2017 announced. The connector remains the same, but offers significantly more , including support for 8K resolution by increasing the maximum bandwidth of 18 Gbit / s on 48 Gbit / s, the automatic low-latency mode, eARC (the lossless audio via the audio return Channel instead of only lossy Dolby Digital), adaptive image te, fast media changes and dynamic metadata.

At the moment, hardly any products support all functions of HDMI 2.1, and certainly none of the increased bandwidth, but many are still compatible with HDMI 2.1 Applied. This is permitted if the product has at least one HDMI 2.1 function.

Some newer AV receivers and TVs support eARC, others support automatic low-latency mode and an adaptive update rate. But no device supports all three of these features (as of October 2018), or dynamic metadata, fast switching between media or a higher bandwidth. Businesses can later add features through firmware updates (like Yamaha does with the eARC), but are somewhat unsafe.

The first chipsets with all HDMI 2.1 features, including the extra bandwidth, should be in the first half of the year 2019 be available. In the second half of the year 2019 they should then also be used in devices. You just need to take a closer look at each device that claims HDMI 2.1 compatibility to see which features actually exist.

Other AV receivers in the test

Pioneer VSX – 933 : In terms of sound, the Pioneer was almost not from the Denon AVR-S 740 H to distinguish, but the setup was less easy. The physical layout can make access to some cables more difficult compared to other receivers and there is unfortunately no support for AirPlay 2.

Sony STR-DN 1080 : With the on-screen user interface, the Sony is relatively easy to use – many competitors could cut a window here. Unfortunately, the speaker setup was rather disappointing and the bass was “missing” in comparison to the Yamaha and Denon models.

Yamaha RX-V 585 : The Yamaha is exactly between our favorites and our budget recommendation – there are not many reasons to buy the Yamaha as one of these two.

Onkyo TX-RZ 730 : The calibration function of the Onkyo was unfortunately not that way good as with the other upgrades we tested – logically the receiver didn't sound that good either. The “Works with Sonos” feature is a nice idea in theory, but in reality you cannot control the volume of the receiver using the Sonos app. After all, you can turn it on with the app.

Yamaha RX-V 385: The is the entry-level model from Yamaha, with which you can only use Bluetooth. We believe that it is actually worthwhile for the RX-V 485 to pay a little more. This also gives you the opportunity to use other wireless environments and play music directly over Wi-Fi instead of just relying on Bluetooth. Wi-Fi also offers the possibility of simpler firmware updates.

Sony STR-DH 590 : The calibration function was not accurate enough when recognizing our speakers compared to other systems. Unfortunately, the model only offered Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled devices weren't much more expensive.

Sony STR-DH 790 : This was the cheapest receiver in the test that works with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, but it doesn't support network audio streaming – only Bluetooth. More people benefit from more and better streaming options than from Dolby Atmos.

Pioneer VSX-LX 503 : This one too Receiver sounded a click for no apparent reason like the Onkyo TX-NR 585. This was sometimes very distracting and it was annoying when you saw or heard something unexpected. We could not observe these phenomena with other models that did not come from Onkyo / Pioneer (Onkyo bought Pioneer a few years ago).

attachment

The article “The best AV receivers in the test” is the German translation of the article “ The Best AV Receiver “from thewirecutter.com . The test was conducted in the United States and was first published in English on the Wirecutter website. The translation is based on the version from 23. 05. 2019. The CHIP-test Center was not involved in the investigation. We removed products that were not available from Amazon Germany at the time of translation. These included the following receivers: Denon AVR-S 740 H, Denon AVR -S 640 H, Onkyo TX -NO585, Yamaha Aventage RXA 1080, Anthem MRX – 520

The most important questions about AV receivers at a glance

Which AV receiver is the best?

The AV receiver Yamaha RX-V proves itself in the test 685 as the top recommendation. Is the price of around 550 Euro too high, you get the price tip Yamaha RX-V 485 for only round 360 Euro. The most extensive equipment of the AV receivers in the test offers the Denon AVR-X 3500 H for round 675 Euro.

What are the advantages of AV receivers?

The AV receiver is the heart of the home theater system for controlling various audio and video sources. With its numerous interfaces, you can ensure a real surround sound experience or connect various playback devices. Newer models also connect wirelessly.

What are the benefits of AV receivers with HDMI 2.1 and eARC?

HDMI 2.1 supports 8K resolution with its higher bandwidth, but also uses low-latency mode, eARC for lossless audio transmission and dynamic formats. The connection standard is still at the beginning, however, so far AV receivers only offer individual functions – especially eARC.

Which surround systems are possible with AV receivers?

The standard for AV receivers is the proven Dolby Digital 5.1 system, which supports five speakers and a subwoofer. However, more expensive models offer a 7.1 or 7.2 multi-channel system, here you can connect additional back speakers and optionally a second subwoofer.

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