Best Buy AV Receivers
It's been an eventful year for the humble AV receiver, with not one but three new immersive audio formats being launched.Dolby's object-based Atmos format was released towards the end of 2014, along with Auro-3D's competing channel-based format; whilst DTS:X, which is also object-based, was finally announced in April of this year. If that wasn't enough there are also big changes happening in the video world and since that's what the V in AV stands for, the receiver manufacturers need to address those as well. The majority of the receivers on this list not only support one or all of these new audio formats but also allow for the passing of Ultra HD 4K content with HDCP2.2 copy protection. If that wasn't enough the modern receiver also needs to include built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, content streaming and automated room equalisation. So in order of price, here are five receivers that deliver value, features and sheer audio performance.Yamaha RX-A1040 - £549
The Yamaha RX-A1040 AV receiver is a 7.2-channel surround sound amplifier and, as an AVENTAGE product, it is designed to offer what the company call the highest levels of audio performance. The A1040 is packed with features including content streaming, internet radio stations, Spotify and more, as well as Ultra HD 4K HDMI 2.0 pass through and upscaling. As with all Yamaha AV receivers it also has a full suite of Cinema DSP soundscapes, with some designed on actual venues. There is also a new control app for smart devices as well as WiFi and networking features. The only thing missing is support for the new immersive audio formats. The Yamaha RX-A1040 is an excellent performer with both movies and music. It also has a host of well specified features that add value to the package.
It’s built like a tank and while the design is not that original, the finish is excellent and the addition of a decent remote and superb control app make it intuitive to use. It provides a musical two-channel performance and with movies it punches well above its market level. The only possible downside is that it doesn’t have Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or Auro-3D support but many will argue that isn’t actually an issue at all, not while there is a shortage of content and speaker solutions anyway. The plus point is that the Yamaha RX-A1040 is approaching the end of its shelf life with a new model already having replaced it. So if you're not really interested in immersive audio, the A1040 can be picked up for £549, which means you can get a real bargain with this highly recommended AV receiver.
Denon AVR-X3200 - £649
The AVR-X3200W is the latest mid-range AV receiver from Denon and includes plenty of new features, along with an impressive degree of future-proofing. There are seven channels of amplification at 180W per a channel, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos, Audyssey MultEQ XT, networking features, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. New for this year are HDMI 2.0a inputs and outputs with support for HDCP 2.2, along with DTS:X decoding that will be added via a free firmware update next year. Despite all these features the X3200W only retails for around £649, making it a very competitive proposition within its peer group. There's no question that the AVR-X3200W is another great receiver from Denon, that combines an attractive design and a decent level of build quality with great features, an impressive performance and a competitive price. Thanks to Denon's sensible policy of simplifying the front panel, rear connections and remote control, installation was easy and the addition of a cardboard stand for the setup microphone and stickers to identify the different speakers cables are both nice touches. The menu system is also well designed and intuitive to use, whilst the setup procedure and Audyssey room equalisation are very effective.
The addition of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP2.2 on the 8 inputs and 2 outputs gives the X3200W a good level of future-proofing, as does the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding. The remote control is simple but effective, with only the lack of a backlight worth mentioning, whilst the remote app is very good and will also be upgraded soon. There's built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with AM and FM tuners and Internet radio, not to mention DLNA, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. The file support is also impressive allowing you to stream high resolution audio to your X3200 and take full advantage of the receiver's excellent audio performance. Denon have delivered the goods where it matters, with a clean and detailed sound that still managed to retain Denon's trademark warmth. The receiver has plenty of power allowing it to drive a fairly large system at quite loud volumes without losing any sense of cohesion. When listening to music the X3200 produce an open front soundstage and retained this whilst adding lively surrounds and great steering with surround content. The Denon AVR-X3200W is a great performer and at just £649 it's the ideal choice if you're looking for a mid-range receiver with a degree of future-proofing.Marantz SR7010 - £1,399
The SR7010 is the latest flagship AV receiver from Marantz which takes all the great features from last year's award-winning SR7009 and adds DTS:X support and plenty of future-proofing. The receiver itself includes nine channels of built-in amplification and support for Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D and DTS:X. The first of those formats is already included and DTS:X and Auro-3D will be added via a firmware update early next year. In terms of big changes from last year, the SR7010 now uses HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 on all its inputs and outputs. This is important because it means that you can pass Ultra HD 4K content with HDR metadata, giving the Marantz an excellent degree of future-proofing. In addition the SR7010 comes packed with other features such as built-in Bluetooth and WiFi, AirPlay, Spotify, ISF certification, support for DSD (2.8 MHz) and FLAC (24-bit/192kHz), dual subwoofers and Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room equalisation. That's an impressive set of features for a receiver that only costs £1,399 and there's no doubt that once again Marantz have produced another AVR that delivers fantastic value, with a set of features and a level of performance far in excess of its price tag.
The SR7010 is nicely designed with an attractive finish and although the build quality isn't quite as good as some of the competition, it's still well made. There are more connections at the rear than you'll ever need and crucially the 8 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs are HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2. compliant. The remote control is well designed and effective, whilst the remote app gets the job done. The menu system is excellent and thanks to the inclusion of an effective wizard and Audyssey MultEQ XT32, setup is easy. The Marantz has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with AirPlay, Spotify, DLNA and Internet Radio. There's also an AM tuner, an FM tuner, ISF controls and a highly effective media player. The audio components have also had an upgrade and, along he performance with multi-channel audio was superb, bringing film soundtracks to life and immersing the listener. The front sound stage is wide, dialogue is clear and central, effects are seamlessly panned around the room and bass is deep and well integrated. The result is a hugely enjoyable experience made all the better by the receiver's lovely musicality with two-channel audio. Ultimately the Marantz SR7010 is a class act that does it all and it does it well.Denon AVR-X7200WA - £2,199
The AVR-X7200W was actually released last year but it remains Denon's flagship this year and the updated X7200WA is probably the best AV receiver you can currently buy. The X7200 delivers 210W of amplification into 9-channels, with the option for up to 11 channels with additional amplification. There's support for Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D and, thanks to a firmware update coming in January, DTS:X. The X7200 also has DDSC-HD32 with 32-bit DACs and AL32 processing, along with 7.1-channel inputs and a programmable remote control with an LCD screen and backlight. There's also a well designed menu, simple setup procedures and an effective remote app. The HDMI inputs are all HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 support, making the Denon completely future-proof but naturally all these features don't come cheap and it will set you back £2,199.
However the X7200WA does more than enough to justify its price tag, with an attractive design and excellent build quality. When it comes to movie surround soundtracks the X7200 is a stellar performer and with Dolby Atmos the results could often be jaw-dropping. The performance with Auro-3D was equally as impressive, as was DTS:X when we beta tested it. The X7200 also managed to deliver a highly impressive performance with music and the mono-block design certainly paid dividends. So overall the AVR-X7200 is an excellent AV receiver that was more than deserving of its Highly Recommended award. In terms of Ultra HD 4K support it looks as though the X7200 also has that covered, especially with the inclusion of HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. The AVR-X7200WA has it all and it looks as though Denon plan on keeping their latest flagship as state-of-the-art as possible for as long as possible.Arcam AVR750 - £3,999
The AVR750 is not only the most expensive option on this list but it's also the exception to the rule. Arcam's current flagship AV receiver eschews all these new-fangled immersive audio formats to take an unashamedly old-school approach to receiver design. Arcam have stripped away anything unnecessary to concentrate on the best possible audio performance with both movies and music. The mantra would appear to be 'keep it simple and do it well' but, with a recommended retail price of £3,999, this kind of quality doesn't come cheap. However if you're looking for superb sound quality and you have sufficient budget, then the Arcam AVR750 should definitely be on your short list. The receiver's performance with 7.1 or 5.1 movie soundtracks was simply stunning and the use of Class G amplification clearly paid dividends.
If that wasn't enough, the AVR750 was among the most impressive receivers we have ever heard with two-channel audio, making it the best of both worlds. Don't expect flashy looks, slick interfaces and tons of features because you won't get them. The AVR750 is all about minimalism, simplicity and performance; although the design remains attractive in an understated way and the build quality is excellent. There are plenty of connections at the rear but the emphasis is obviously on HDMI with support for ARC, 3D and Ultra HD 4K; along with video processing up to 4K. The provided remote is effective but the remote app currently only supports the iPad. However, as long as you don't want decoding for all the new immersive audio formats, the Arcam AVR750 is an impressive if somewhat expensive high-end AV receiver.
So there you have it, five AV receivers that not only deliver a fantastic performance right now but also include plenty of format support and future-proofing features to keep them relevant for years to come. So what are you waiting for, there’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in quality audio.
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