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The best AV receivers in the test
Sound and picture as in the cinema – only at home
After testing 16 AV receivers this year, we’re confident that the Yamaha RX-V685 is the best model for those looking to upgrade their home theater system. Of course, this should be compatible with the latest standards 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 compatible with current HDR standards, as well as built-in Bluetooth, AirPlay, and also supports the mainstream music streaming services. The test was done in America. Products that are available in Germany but not in America may, therefore, be missing. You read the German translation.
Our top recommendation for an AV receiver: Yamaha RX-V68
The home theater receiver offers superb sound quality, creating a wider soundstage and clearer mid and high-frequency detail than most competitors. If you can not or do not want to lay cables in the room, he 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 when you need the extra channels. Instead, he can also create an active second zone for stereo speakers.
The five HDMI 2.0 inputs are fine enough for most systems, and its two HDMI outputs are ideal if you use both a TV and a projector. Yamaha’s built-in calibration function analyzes your speakers and room acoustics; various audio parameters are then adjusted automatically. An optional app facilitates the already simple setup. The RX-V685 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
Our budget recommendation for an AV receiver: Yamaha RX-V485
If you’re looking for a simple 5-channel home theater receiver, it offers a few more features than most other low-cost AV receivers – for just a few extra bucks. It offers many of the features of our favorite, including the options of using wireless surround speakers and Wi-Fi to stream music directly from Spotify or other online sources. On the other hand, the RX-V485 has fewer HDMI inputs, the calibration function is not as sophisticated as our favorites, the phono input is missing and the receiver supports neither Dolby Atmos nor a second active audio zone.
Our upgrade recommendation for an AV receiver: Denon AVR-X3500H
If you have a rather large setup and you want more than five HDMI inputs and/or want to run multiple subwoofers that need to be individually calibrated in the calibration function, then this is the solution to your problems , The receiver uses Audyssey XT32, the most advanced calibration we’ve tested this year (and the system with the best overall audio quality). With more HDMI inputs, this receiver can serve larger setups, and it also has pre-outs if you want to add external amplifiers (and thus more speakers).
The best calibration function in the test and eight HDMI ports – for the price offers the Denon already something.
from 675 Euro
I’ve been writing reviews of AV devices for various publications for more than a decade, and have dealt with countless receivers, processors, preamplifiers, and amplifiers during this time. This year, I read more than 15 hours into AV receiver matter before ordering 16 different models for testing. I’ve spent over 100 hours adjusting them all, listening to a bit more closely in the test and then comparing the models directly.
Who needs an AV receiver?
A home theater receiver is for someone who wants more than just a TV with a soundbar. An AV receiver allows you to create a true surround sound experience and connect to other AV sources – just switch between them. If you have an older AV receiver that does not have 4K / HDR video support (or has no HDMI ports at all), now is a good time to upgrade. All new models tested support HDMI 2.0 and 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 switch the AV receiver between 4K sources, you can definitely consider upgrading.
Wireless audio streaming is still on the newer receivers has become much easier. Our favorite is compatible with AirPlay, Bluetooth, Pandora, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Sirius XM, and more, plus the ability 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 rather than wirelessly streaming, upgrading makes the process much easier.
Many new models support Dolby Atmos and DTS: X soundtracks (the overheads). Adding effects to make it sound even more intense), but as more audio is required for the audio technologies, this should not be a major reason for an upgrade. Dolby Atmos gives you the power to use Atmos-enabled front speakers or Atmos modules to operate the surround channels without laying cables. This is not ideal, but it’s still very good and unfortunately something that could not be used without Atmos support.
If you already own an HDMI receiver and do not plan to use 4K sources, or want to stream audio sources wirelessly, you can postpone the purchase of a new receiver for the time being. In most cases, new receivers do not necessarily sound better than what you already have at home; they just offer more features and security.
In order not to have to test all the receivers on the market, we had to put some basic conditions to the devices – what we think each receiver must be able to do. The receiver must support at least 5.1 audio; 7.1 or more channels would be desirable, but not mandatory. The receiver should also have at least five HDMI 2.0 inputs so that it can handle today’s 4K HDR signals and is reasonably future proof.
Music streaming should also be wireless, both over Wi-Fi and over Bluetooth, as most people listen to music that way today – even people like me with extensive physical media collections. A receiver must have a calibration function that starts automatically, for example, to correctly integrate a subwoofer into the loudspeaker constellation or to detect and correct various acoustic problems.
That’s how we tested
We have 16 different receivers in a 5. 1- or 5.1.2 setup tested to see first-hand how the devices perform in terms of features, usability, sound quality, or more. For the normal 5.1 setup, we used a speaker setup from Q Acoustics, our then test winner for, who sounds great enough for us and thought we’d make connecting to a standard receiver simple enough.
When we used 5.1.2 channels to play Atmos soundtracks, I used the KEF Ci200RR Ceiling speakers I installed in my home theater for the Top channels.
In the end, I have blind A / B tests between Receivers are performed on an Audio By Van Alstine ABX test box to find out which sound best, with and without the calibration function enabled.
Extensive review: Yamaha RX-V685
If you’re about to set up a home theater system with full surround sound, this is the right AV receiver for you. The receiver offers superb sound quality and high-precision metering, supports streaming audio from a variety of sources, and has five HDMI inputs that are compatible with all major HDR standards. It also supports wireless surround speakers, for easy setup, there is an app. In the future, the receiver should also work with AirPlay 2 and eARC.
Nothing else is as important as sound in an AV receiver; The Yamaha clearly performed best in terms of sound quality in its price range. Compared to the competition, it offered far more details in the midrange and treble with good bass control at the same time. The AV receiver allows for a wider soundstage than other receivers, making the music sound more open and not so “caught” between my front speakers.
Minor defects, but no deal-breaker
If you do not want to use the free one, the setup of the RX-V685 is not as easy as with the Denon models. The only information you get when first switching on the receiver, is to set up the network function; after that, you are at first helpless – that there is an app for everything else including the rest of the configuration, you will not learn. Special note or the whole configuration briefing on the screen of the receiver would be very nice – only one app to provide is rather meager.
The YPAO measurement is not as clean in the subwoofer channel as it could be. It has only five EQ bands and most of them are above the 80 Hz limit that is usually recommended for a subwoofer.
Unfortunately, the RX-V685 still lacks support for automatic low-latency Mode, which automatically switches your TV to the game mode when playing a video game. At the moment, the only TVs that support this feature are the Samsung 2018 models and only the PS4 Pro and Xbox One – but that’s not a big deal, though more features are likely to come in the future. In addition, you can still manually enable the game mode of the TV when needed.
An HDMI front input would also be useful if you want to connect a PC, a digital camera or a game system with rather rare use to the receiver.
Detailed review: Yamaha RX-V485
Unfortunately, this is missing some of the features of our favorite, but it is still a good 5.1-channel AV receiver. You only have four HDMI inputs instead of five, and the YPAO measurement does not work as well as the version of our top recommendation, so the sound quality suffers a bit – although it’s still very good. You can use integrated Wi-Fi and access AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and MusicCast. In addition, you still have the option to use wireless surround sound systems.
Yamaha RX-V485: Solid performance with a few fewer features and control options.
All four HDMI 2.0 inputs are compatible with all popular HDR formats, but unfortunately, there is only a single HDMI output instead of the dual outputs, which is largely okay for most people. You can not access Dolby Atmos, DTS: X or a second active audio zone, but not everyone needs these features. The RX-V485 uses the same setup app as the RX-V685 but offers almost as little help on the screen when first turned on.
For less money, there are also fewer ports: four 2.0 HDMI output and only one input port.
Of course, there are AV receivers that are even cheaper than the RX-V485, but they rely almost exclusively on Bluetooth to stream audio. So we think it’s worth spending $ 50 to $ 100 more to use the RX-V485’s built-in Wi-Fi and the ability to create wireless surround sound.
What is HDMI 2.1 anyway?
HDMI 2.1 is the latest version of HDMI and was announced in early 2017. The connector remains the same, including support for 8K resolution by increasing the maximum bandwidth from 18 Gbps to 48 Gbps, the automatic low-latency mode, eARC (the lossless audio through the audio return channel instead of using only lossy Dolby Digital), adaptive frame rate, fast media switching, and dynamic metadata.
Currently, there are few products that support all the features of HDMI 2.1, and certainly not the increased bandwidth, yet many are considered HDMI 2.1 – advertised compatible. This is permissible if the product has at least one HDMI 2.1 function.
Some newer AV receivers and televisions support eARC, others support automatic low-latency mode and an adaptive refresh rate. But no device supports all three of these features (as of October 2018), or dynamic metadata, fast switching between media, or higher bandwidth. Businesses can add features later through firmware updates (as Yamaha does with the eARC) but is more uncertain.
The first chipsets with all the HDMI 2.1 features, including extra bandwidth, should be in the First Half of 2019 will be available. In the second half of 2019, they should then be used in equipment. Just now you need to take a closer look at any device that claims HDMI 2.1 compatibility to check which features actually exist.
Other AV receivers in the test
In terms of sound, the Pioneer was almost indistinguishable from the Denon AVR-S740H, but the setup was not that easy. The physical layout may make access to some cables more difficult than other receivers, and unfortunately, there is no support for AirPlay 2.
With the on-screen interface, the Sony is relatively easy to use – Many competitors could cut a slice here. Unfortunately, the speaker setup was rather disappointing and the bass was “lacking” compared to the Yamaha and Denon models.
The Yamaha is just between our favorite and our budget recommendation – so there are not many reasons to buy the Yamaha as one of these two.
Unfortunately, the Onkyo’s calibration function was not as good as the other upgrades we tested – logically the receiver did not sound that good either. The Works with Sonos feature is, in theory, a nice idea but in reality, you can not control the volume of the receiver via Sonos app. After all, you can turn it on with the app.
This is the entry-level model of Yamaha, with which you can only use Bluetooth. We think it’s worth paying a little extra for the RX-V485. It also gives you the ability to use other wireless environments and play music directly over Wi-Fi instead of just relying on Bluetooth. Wi-Fi also offers the option of easier firmware updates.
The metering function was not accurate enough to detect our speakers compared to other systems. The model offered only Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled were not much more expensive.
This was the cheapest receiver in the test that works with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, but it does not support network audio streaming – just Bluetooth. More people are benefiting from more and better streaming options than Dolby Atmos.
Also on this receiver, a click sounded for no apparent reason like the Onkyo TX-NR585. This was sometimes very distracting and it disturbed when you saw or heard something unexpected. Other models that did not come from Onkyo / Pioneer (Onkyo bought Pioneer a few years ago) did not see these phenomena.