A home theater receiver is said to be the brain of a home theater system or basically any multi-speaker setup. With the help of an AV receiver (aka home theater receiver), you can connect all your speakers, woofers, CD players, media devices, TV’s, laptops, phones, etc. and share or stream data from one device to the other.
Home theater receivers come with built-in amplifiers as well as technologies such as Dolby Surround Sound and DTS-Audio to give you an amazing 3D surround audio experience that proves to be immensely useful while watching movies or playing games on your console. You can even stream shows and movies from the internet, or download and listen to your favorite music.
Below, we have listed some of the top home theater receivers under $500. Choose on the basis of budget, factor in both your current as well as future needs, and take note of the pros as well as cons of each of these receivers.
Sony STR-DN840 AV Receiver
Delivering pristine surround sound audio thanks to its powerful amplifier that pumps out 150W per channel, you will be able to enjoy truly premium grade 7.2 channel audio from the comfort of your bedroom. Or in fact, any room of your house. The built-in WIFI, Bluetooth, and Airplay allow you to seamlessly connect speakers in multiple rooms, and link them through a central commanding unit, the Sony STR-DN840. You can stream movies, shows, music videos, etc. through Pandora, Music Unlimited, Slacker, and vTuner. There are ample HDMI ports for input, along with tons of ports for your older devices as well as 3.5mm audio devices.
Pro: 7.2 channel, high current amp, WIFI, Airplay, Bluetooth, Pandora, Slacker, Sirius XM, Internet Radio, custom high current capacitors and big EI transformer
Con: Limited presets, complicated control scheme
This particular home theater receiver boasts a special type of amplifier design that is known as WRAT, or Wide Range Amplifier Technology. Whether that is just a marketing gimmick or an actual advantage is up to you to decide, since you are the end user and you will know if it sounds better than your older amplifier, or if the audio on your speaker sounds better than it used to. What we CAN tell you however, is the fact that it pumps out 80 W per channel (across 7.2 channels), is capable of delivering a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz (that is pretty impressive), with o.1% THD. And it comes with a 384 kHz/32-bit premium grade DAC that is capable of delivering distortion free, pristine, and powerful audio across all frequency spectrums and volume levels.
Harman Kardon HK 3770
Pro: Dual 120W high current, ultra-wide bandwidth amplifier, phono input, FM/AM radio, DLNA for home network, Internet Radio, USB, Bluetooth, Airplay, WIFI
Con: Build quality feels a little cheap, and power output may not be ample for driving certain high impedance speakers
What does a high current, ultra-bandwidth amplifier mean? We are about to explain it to you, since you’re getting one of those inside the Harman Kardon HK 3770. Harman is known to manufacture premium, studio-grade sound solutions, and even their lower end offerings pack a hell of a punch. This particular home theater receiver for example, delivers tons of bass and automatically increases the soundstage of even the most rudimentary speakers. If you think about it, this amazing audio fidelity is actually because of the unique amplifier and DAC combo. The ultra-bandwidth part means that the amplifier is capable of processing a wider range of audio signal frequencies, and the high current aspect means that it delivers tons of power to the speakers, so all of your audio sounds extra powerful and the bass feels really punchy.
Pioneer Elite SX-N30
This product comes with built-in WIFI, Bluetooth, Airplay, and is compatible with ControlApp for iOS and Android OS. The AM/FM tuner comes with 40 station presets for you to choose from, and the preset station naming lets you add up to 10 characters per station name. DLNA 1.5 certified, this home theater receiver provides pristine 3D surround audio across all 7.2 channels, and generates crystal clear dialogue for movies, shows, etc. The bass is amazing, thanks to a high current amplifier inside the body.
Pro: 7.2 channel with 75 W per channel, 3D and 4K UHD (3840 X 2160) pass-through at 60 Hz, HDR, 4:4:4 Pure Color, Bluetooth, WIFI, Airplay, HDCP 2.2 support, Audssey
Con: Slight bug in the headphone jack that causes random audio cutoffs
This 7.2 channel home theater receiver delivers 80W of power per audio channel, and that should be more than enough for small-medium sized rooms. The THD is just 0.08%, meaning that there is virtually zero signal distortion or warping during the amplification process. The Bluetooth, WIFI, AND Airplay offer plenty of wireless streaming and connectivity for you to play with. With Sirius XM, Pandora, Internet Radio, FM/AM, v TUNER, etc. you can stream and share online music all you want. It can even be made DTS-X ready via a firmware update, and supports Dolby Atmos up to 5.1.2 so you’ll be getting true 3D surround sound along with your 4K videos and movies.
Pro: 100 W RM power, CVLC, 40 AM/FM presets, Zone 2 support, compatibility with Yamaha iPhone docks, Subwoofer out, pre-main coupler
Con: Some settings are accessible only via the remote, and the iPod port is compatible only with Yamaha docks
One of the most impressive things about this home theater receiver is the built-in amplifier with 100W RMS power output. The CVLC stands for continuously variable loudness control, and this is basically a feature that enhances stereo listening at lower volumes. The independent 2 zone operation mode allows the receiver to simultaneously connect and control with speakers in 2 different parts of the house, and the user in the second room can also access and control the settings on the Yamaha R-S700BL. Dual extruded aluminum heatsinks keep the amplifier circuitry cool, ensuring consistent premium quality surround sound across all 7.2 channels.
Pro: 7.2 channel platform with 2.2 channel pre-out, 50W power amp, 8 HDMI 2.0 inputs, 4k 60 Hz full-rate pass through, HDCP 2.2
Con: Doesn’t work properly with DirecTV receivers, may have mild delays while trying to find a wireless network
The Marantz name is synonymous with excellent audio and premium wireless speakers. They have done it again with the super slim, yet ultra-powerful NR1606. This is an incredibly compact 7.2 channel home theater receiver that will easily fit in underneath the TV or on top of even the most crowded desks. There are 8 HDMI inputs, along with a single HDMI output. The amplifier put out 50W of power across a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz, with a THD of just 0.08%. WIFI, Bluetooth, and Airplay are built-in so that you can set up entirely wireless speaker configurations inside your bedroom, living room, etc. You can even handle speakers in independent groups, thanks to the multi-zone speaker setup that allows people in different rooms to connect and share media, as well as listen to their favorite tracks on their respective speakers. There is support for 4K content on 60 Hz, as well as HDCP 2.2 and Dolby Surround, DTS-X, etc.