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Friday
Dec012017

Podcast #820: Receiver Buying Guide 2017

This week we get to spend your money on a new receiver for your home theater. Our goal with these guides is not necessarily about getting the latest product. It's about getting a good product at a great price so you may see some of last year’s gear on the list. All these receivers are readily available online or at a big box store. We each pick four receivers in increasing price culminating in one ‘money's no object’ / ‘dare to dream’ receiver for you to consider. Note - These receivers have a ton of features which we won’t be able to discuss in their entirety. So we have included links to the manufacturer's pages for your convenience. Prices stated are street prices from online retailers.

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Receiver Buying Guide 2017

This week we get to spend your money on a new receiver for your home theater. Our goal with these guides is not necessarily about getting the latest product. It's about getting a good product at a great price so you may see some of last year’s gear on the list. All these receivers are readily available online or at a big box store. We each pick four receivers in increasing price culminating in one ‘money's no object’ / ‘dare to dream’ receiver for you to consider. Note - These receivers have a ton of features which we won’t be able to discuss in their entirety. So we have included links to the manufacturer's pages for your convenience. Prices stated are street prices from online retailers.


Ara’s Picks

My goal for this year is that every receiver on my list will serve you well, now and into the foreseeable future. Nothing is future proof but these should last you at least five to ten years.


Denon AVRS730H 7.2 Channel 165W AV Receiver with Built-in HEOS wireless technology $350

I didn’t have a Denon on my list last year so I wanted to make sure I did this year. When you take a look at this receiver it's easy to see how this unit made the list. Of course it supports 4K HDR (Dolby Vision), but it also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The list of features is quite impressive: HEOS wireless multi-room music streaming, Built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay Capability, Audyssey Room Correction and the Denon 2016 AVR Remote app for easy setup. All of this for a measly $350. Unbelieveable if you ask me!


Yamaha AVENTAGE RX-A770 7.2 100W AVReceiver $650

You knew my list was going to have at least one Yamaha on it. The one I chose this year is one that only a few years ago would have made my ultimate receiver choice. It supports 7.2 channels with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 5.1.2 configurations. It will pass through 4K video with HDR and Dolby Vision. The RX-A770 is designed with the audiophile in mind from component selection to chassis characteristics. Almost all receivers are large rectangular boxes and this is no different but it just looks sleeker for some reason. For just three hundred dollars more than my entry receiver you step up to a machine with some pretty good pedigree.


Onkyo TX-RZ1100 9.2 Channel 140W Network A/V Receiver $1,599

Onkyo is always a great bang for the buck product. You typically get one level higher in features for the price point. In years past there have been some issues with reliability mostly due to heat related failures. Most of these issues have been dealt with but it's always a good thing to make sure your components are in a well ventilated area. At $1,599 this is on the higher end of my list but from a feature point of view it's almost as good my top pick for this year. It supports 5.2.4 with built in amplifiers and can do 7.2.4 with use of two preouts. Of course it supports 4K and HDR, THX Certified, has audiophile grade components including a premium-quality AK4458 digital-to-analog converter from Asahi Kasei, and has Fire Connect Multi room wireless audio. Bottom line is that this is a high end receiver at a “reasonable” price.


Pioneer Elite SC-LX901 11.2 Channel 140W Class D3 Network AV Receiver $2,499

I have owned three Pioneer Elite receivers over the years and have loved every one of them. But I have noticed that Pioneer kind of cheapened the line a bit by introducing some lower priced Elite models a few years ago. This unit is not one of the cheapened units by any stretch. And if you want to setup an Atmos or DTS:X setup in your home, this receiver has you covered without the need for an additional amplifier. 4K and HDR are supported and Apple’s Airplay and Google’s Chromecast are built in. The LX901 employs Pioneer’s MCACC Pro Auto Room Tuning to get you as close to what the mixer wanted you to hear while their full band phase control eliminates lag which can interfere with how your ears hear surround effects making for an incredible home theater experience.


Braden’s Picks

My take is a little different. I’m going to recommend you buy something that doesn’t break the bank that does everything you need it to do for the next 12-24 months or so. Technology in this area just seems to be moving so fast. Right when we thought we had two HDR formats to contend with, a third pops up. Who knows what new audio, video, control, etc. technology will be big a year or two from now? I sure don’t.

If you really want to get more future-proof, buy an inexpensive(ish) processor (or receiver to use as a processor) and really, really good amps.  From a technology perspective, like good speakers, the amps will last next to forever. You just swap the processor out every few years as technology advances. Unfortunately it’s difficult to find an inexpensive/entry receiver with analog pre-amp outputs, they tend to only be on the higher end units. So my list has a really inexpensive option so you can swap it out in a year or two, and a couple with pre-amp outputs that you could swap out if you had to, but it would be a bit more painful.


Denon AVR-S730H 7.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver $349

I’m a Denon fan, there’s no denying it. My Denon pick for a receiver that does not include pre-amp outputs is the same as Ara’s, the S730H. MSRP is $479, Denon is running a sale that pushes the price down to $349 if you buy direct from them, which is the same street price you’ll find if you buy from a major eTail site. The features that Denon packed into this $349 receiver are impressive. It has built-in HEOS wireless technology, Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Audyssey MultEQ, Dolby Vision compatible, HDR, and you can control it with Amazon Alexa voice commands.  You also get full 4K Ultra HD, HDCP 2.2, HDR, BT.2020, Wide Color Gamut and 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling. It is even ready for Dolby Vision and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) via future firmware update. Not too shabby for the price. MSRP: $479



Marantz SR5012 7.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD Network AV Surround Receiver $899

Marantz receivers might be the best looking receivers on the market. So if you’re planning to hide it in a cabinet, this may not be the right choice for you. But it’s more than just looks, it’s beautiful on the inside too. MSRP is $999, street price is $899, so right in the middle of your standard receiver price range. It has analog preouts, but only for 7 channels. You get 4K/60 Hz full-rate pass-through, 4:4:4 color resolution, HDR, BT.2020 , Dolby Vision and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) pass-through. It has 8 HDMI inputs with full HDCP 2.2 support, will do SD/HD to HD/4K Upscaling, supports Dolby Atmos (up to 5.1.2) and DTS:X, has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HEOS wireless multi-room audio technology, AirPlay, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, and a litany of others. For your listening enjoyment you get Audyssey MultEQ XT, Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ. And like some of its Denon cousins, you can control it all with Amazon Alexa voice commands. MSRP: $999


Denon AVR-X4400H Premium 9.2 channel AV Surround Receiver $1399

My pick for the Denon receiver that does have pre-amp outputs is the X4400H. The MSRP is $1599, right now Denon has a $200 instant savings bringing it down to $1399, the same as Amazon. There are less expensive Denon models with pre-amp outputs, like the AVR-X3400H or the AVR-X3300W (both have an MSRP of $999), but they only have 7 channels of preout, the X4400H steps that up to 11 channels. The funny thing is that the feature list for this unit is nearly identical to the 730H. It does all the same things, it just does them better. The additional features that you don’t get with the 730 are things like the 9 channel amp allows for setting up a 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 3D experience out of box. Or you can setup a 7.1.4 speaker configuration by adding an external stereo amplifier thanks to that 11.2 channel processing capability. And some time soon, via a future firmware update, it will support Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) for 3D audio playback through TV apps. MSRP: $1599


Pioneer SC-LX701 9.2-ch Class D3 Network AV Receiver $1249

The little brother of Ara’s LX-901 pick, at $1600 MSRP it certainly isn’t cheap nor disposable. It has internal amplification for 9 channels but includes analog preamp outputs for 11.2 channel audio. If you add your own amps, or even just your own stereo amp, it can be an 11.2 channel processor. And to top it off, you get nearly all the features that come in the more expensive units - all the features you really need at least. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Ultra HD (4K/60p/4:4:4) upscaling/pass-through with HDCP 2.2 and HDR/BT.2020/Dolby Vision. There are internet radio and various network streaming services, and also has AirPlay and Google Cast built-in. It does it all, and then some. MSRP: $1600



 

 

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