A/V Receivers 2010 Holiday Gift Guide 
Home Theater Feature Articles Audio Related Articles
Written by Dick Ward   
Monday, 22 November 2010

The holidays are a great time to get your friends and family gifts that they really want.  The giving season also grants you the opportunity to provide your loved ones with something they need – even if they didn't know they needed it.  Whether you're upgrading your own home theater or helping out someone on your list, we've got the receivers for you.

Entry Level


Just because you're spending less than $500 doesn't mean you can't get a solid receiver from a great brand.  For those getting their first receiver or those that want a secondary setup, an entry level A/V receiver is more than enough.

Harman Kardon AVR1600Harman/Kardon AVR1600

Harman isn't especially well known for entry level gear, but the AVR1600 is a solid receiver with a retail price of just $499.  It's designed to not only provide high-quality sound, but to simplify some of the more complex parts of home theater setup.

Harman's AVR1600 is a 7.1 channel receiver that decodes the latest Blu-ray audio formats and even enhances the sound of your MP3s.  It packs EzSet/EQ which automatically adjusts the receiver to match the acoustics of your room.  The 1600 is also boasts that Harman/Kardon minimalist design, giving it the same look as the company's high-end receivers.

Yamaha neoHDYamaha neoHD YMC-500

The neoHD is a decidedly different receiver and not just because of the very unusual aesthetics.  It's a line created by Yamaha for folks that aren't entirely comfortable with receivers.  They feature automated setup, an incredibly simple interface for control and a remote with less buttons than the average TV remote.

The 5.1 channel YMC-500 is the less expensive of these two beginner's receivers and just got a price drop to $299 making it that much more attractive.  It's still fairly feature packed, including decoding of DTS Digital Surround and Dolby TrueHD as well as the Compressed Music Enhancer to breathe life back into your MP3s.

Marantz NR1501Marantz NR1501

If you're looking for something to power your main viewing room, the NR1501 probably isn't for you.  It packs 50 watts of power per channel which is a bit weak for massive floor standing speakers.  In a bedroom though, or an office, it works incredibly well.

Part of the appeal of the 1501 is that it stands just four inches high, making it the slimmest receiver currently offered by Marantz.  It's got plenty of inputs, including five HDMI and two component. The 1501 also boasts an auto-calibration feature, something that's become much more common in receivers in recent years.

Onkyo SR608Onkyo TX-SR608

For plenty of features at a low price, the SR608 from Onkyo is a great way to go.  It's at the top of Onkyo's SR line, but offers many of the features found in higher end NR receivers.  Unlike the rest of the SR line, for example, the 608 sports Faroudja DCDi Cinema upscaling and THX Select2Plus certification.

The SR608 includes Audyssey Dynamic EQ which makes sure you still get great sound at low volumes and Dynamic Volume which eliminates huge jumps in sound levels.  It's also a 7.2 channel receiver, which means you can add a second subwoofer into the mix, which can make a huge difference in your listening experience.

 

Mid-Range

Things start getting really fun once you hit the mid-range.  Video and audio capabilities increase and more features get added.  You get to go beyond the essentials and into the fun stuff.
 
Pioneer 1120Pioneer VSX-1120

The 7.1 channel Pioneer VSX-1120 is a slick receiver that should meet the needs of any bourgeoning home theater enthusiast.  It's a well equipped receiver that's nearly identical to the Elite VSX-32.  The only real difference is that the 1120 lacks 12 volt triggers.

The 1120 handles the usual audio formats and adds Dolby Pro Logic IIz for those that want a height channel too.  Pioneer's receiver is THX Select2Plus certified, which means it's been thoroughly tested for quality at 10-12 foot viewing distances.  It packs Marvell upscaling and processing from PureCinema.  It's also 3D capable and boasts a total of six HDMI 1.4 inputs.

Denon AVR-1911Denon AVR-1911

Denon's AVR-1911 is a fairly low priced receiver with plenty going for it.  It's the same as the AVR-791 in the essential specs, but it brings a few extra features to the table that make it well worth spending a few extra bucks on.  For starters, the 1911 introduces HD radio for your high-quality audio needs.  You'll also find Zone 2 pre-outs which allow you to enjoy 7.1 channel audio in your main room and stereo in a second one.

The AVR-1922 is a 7.1 channel receiver that boasts seven discrete power amp circuits, each rated at 90 watts.  It comes with Audyssey MultEQ which uses an included microphone to automatically adjust sound based on your room.  It's also 3D capable thanks to the four included HDMI 1.4 inputs.

Onkyo NR808Onkyo TX-NR808

Onkyo's NR808 receiver is a few steps up from the 608 in terms of both capabilities and features.  The $400 difference in price between the two – the NR808 carries a $1,099 MSRP – gets you access to online music streaming services like Pandora, audio streaming from PC and more.

The 808 boasts 7.2 channels and a total of seven HDMI inputs.  It sports the same Audyssey audio features but adds MultEQ for auto calibration.  It also steps things up in the power department, offering 135 watts per channel.  The 808 also includes a third zone for your multi-room audio needs.

SR6004Marantz SR6004

Marantz makes the list again with the impressive SR6004.  It's a 7.1 channel receiver that puts out 110 watts per channel.  It can handle just about any surround format you can throw at it, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Pro Logic IIz for height.  It has Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume and packs a pair of HDMI outputs to suit your individual needs.

As our own Todd Whitesel says in his review of the receiver, "The SR 6004 is a fine performer across the board."   He adds that the audio quality "dulls the line of sonic differences between an all-in-one receiver and stereo separates."

 

High-End

If you're planning on dropping a good amount of cash on a receiver this holiday season, these are the ones to go with.  They're the top of the line, and offer quality that you just won't find in the lower price brackets.

Pioneer 37Pioneer Elite SC-37

When you think of high end A/V receivers, the Pioneer Elite line always springs to mind.  The SC-37 doesn't disappoint, and brings out some of the best that Pioneer has to offer.  It packs networking features in with advanced iPhone connectivity and RS-232 support.

The SC-37 uses an ICEpower Class D amplifier that's housed in a separate component chassis and is capable of putting out 140 watts per channel.  It boasts 32-bit Burr-Brown DACS, Marvell Qdeo video processing and compatibility with 3D sources.  You'll find six HDMI inputs and two outputs, along with plenty of legacy ins and outs as well.

Audio Control AVR1AudioControl Concert AVR-1

Though it's definitely a receiver made for audiophiles, the AVR-1 from AudioControl is still a fairly user-friendly receiver.  It's also absolutely gorgeous.  It's got a minimalist design, and will look amazing in your A/V rack.

The AVR-1 uses ultra cool running Class H amplification that pumps out 120 watts per channel.  It can scale and process video from all sources, upconverting everything you put in up to 1080p.  It offers three Zone outputs, Dolby Volume, Pixelworks video processing and a setup system to automatically calibrate the receiver to match your room.  As receivers go, it's downright impressive.

Yamaha Aventage RX-A3000Yamaha Aventage RX-A3000

Yamaha's newest offering to the home theater world is the Aventage line, and it looks to be quite notable.  The company boasts a complete redesign from the ground up, and performance to match. At the top of that line is the RX-A3000.

Along with the normal assortment of features you'd expect in a 7.2 channel receiver, the Aventage A3000 boasts HQV video processing, new noise reduction and resolution enhancement functions, low jitter PLL circuitry and a total of four separate audio zones.  Even the structure of the receiver has been redesigned, with Yamaha adding ant-vibration assurances including a fifth foot.






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