Which budget receiver has the best sound and the best digital signal processing options?

Hi, a total newbie in HT systems here. I'm going to buy and setup my first ever surround sound system (most likely 5.1, but I might try a minimal Atmos configuration later), and I can't find much info on receiver features specifically relating to sound fidelity. As for video features, all I want is 4K 60 Hz support, preferably with HDR, but even that is optional because I'm going to use my TV for content playback and plug its HDMI audio return output into the AV receiver (will that work as expected?).
What I'm truly interested in is the user-configurable DSP capabilities (e. g. digital EQ) and automatic room correction, as well as decent enough amplifiers (in terms of fidelity, not power - my room is not large). I'm also very interested in playing stereo material in 5.1 mode, good support for that is a must.

What receivers would you recommend for me?
 
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Rambles

Distinguished Member
Entry level decent configurable room correction would be Audyssey, with the app which is available with Denon and Marantz AVR's. Better is Dirac which is available with Nad and Arcam AVR's, probably the Nad T758v3 is the entry level for a Dirac AVR:

 

Joe Fernand

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
ARC relies on CEC so can work very well but also be a pain with some combinations of kit - it can also be limited in what formats it will support from onboard streaming services and external devices connected to your TV.

If you were purchasing the TV and AVR New and wanted to use the TV as a 'Source' I would look for products which support eARC rather than ARC.

You may find it more realistic to use an external streamer connected via HDMI to your proposed AVR for streaming services.

System - do not try and over stretch your budget to gain extra features or channels and keep in mind that the room, room layout and speaker to room interaction will determine what you hear.

Room correction - you have to dig deep to understand what is actually on offer with many AVR as the marketing folk tend to over promise on what many devices actually support.

'user-configurable DSP capabilities' - pretty limited scope unless you spend decent money, see note from Rambles above.

Joe
 
Thanks for the great answer, Joe!
I was afraid ARC may not allow for enough bandwidth to transmit original quality surround audio, and now after reading up on eARC I know that to be the case.

I will most likely have to buy a new TV for this room, but sadly, any TV that would be noticeably better than my cheap(ish) Philips 6754 also costs a lot more (e. g. OLED, Samsung QLED), way above what a person with my salary should spend on their TV. Guess I'll have to stream everything from the PC, which I will connect anyway, but that's not always convenient to always have to boot it up.

Since this is my first HT system and the first experience with surround sound, I want to start small (not to mention I only have so much money to spend), but I don't want it to be too small - I want to get the best experience within the budget so that I won't be disappointed with the result.

Better is Dirac which is available with Nad and Arcam AVR's, probably the Nad T758v3 is the entry level for a Dirac AVR:
Thanks! Looks like Dirac is sadly way out of my budget, perhaps I should look into Audyssey, that's more realistic.
 
A quick question: does Dolby Atmos height virtualization work for upmixing 2.0 and 5.1 content, or only for sound tracks that were originally in the Atmos format and contained the height information?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
A quick question: does Dolby Atmos height virtualization work for upmixing 2.0 and 5.1 content, or only for sound tracks that were originally in the Atmos format and contained the height information?
It's a DSP mode that will upgrade all content to make use of connected speakers. It will not be as good as having a 5.1.2 where Dolby Surround or DTS Neutral will do the job by using speakers in the Atmos domain. You will not be able to access the metadata contained in an actual Atmos soundtrack as the receiver will not have the correctly fitted and configured speakers.

Sorry, this is a copy and paste:
No Atmos speaker set-up or soundbar, no Atmos experience? Not quite. In realising that not everyone can afford dedicated Atmos speakers/soundbars - and no doubt in an effort to expand the reach of the technology - Dolby has created processing designed to create a ‘virtual’ Atmos experience from regular, non-Atmos-supporting hardware.


Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, for example, aims to simulate the overhead sound experience of Atmos through speakers at listener-level - i.e. not overhead. Like DTS Virtual:X, it’s designed to create an immersive, 360-degree soundfield from a 5.1, 7.1 or even stereo speaker configuration.


The technology works by applying height cue filters to overhead audio components in a mix before it is dished out to speakers in front of the listener. Dolby says these filters ‘simulate the natural spectral cues imparted by the human ear to sounds arriving from overhead… special care has been taken to equalise the associated filters so that the timbre of the audio remains natural anywhere in the listening environment’.

A number of output configurations are supported. For example, using two to seven listener-level channels to create the sensation of either two or four overhead speakers.
 

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