Table of Contents
- What’s the Purpose of an AV Receiver?
- Best High-End AV Receivers – Comparison Table
- What to Look for When Buying an AV Receiver?
- 5 Best High-End AV Receivers in 2021
- 1. Best 7.2 High-End AV Receiver Under $1,000 – Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104
- 2. Best 7.2 High-End AV Receiver Under $1,500 – Yamaha Aventage RX-A880
- 3. Best 9.2 High-End Receiver Under $2,000 – Denon AVR-X4700H
- 4. Best 11.2 High-End AV Receiver – Marantz AV Receiver SR8012
- 5. Best 13.2/15.2 High-End AV Receiver – Denon AVR-X8500H
Having a set of high-end home theater speakers calls for a high-end AV receiver. If you are looking for one, this is the right place to start your search. Our article about 5 best high-end AV receivers in 2021 is here to help you find the perfect receiver for your setup. We will discuss the most important characteristics to look for in a high-end AV receiver, analyze all kinds of extra features high-end receivers have, and present to you our selection of the best high-end AV receivers in 2021.
What’s the Purpose of an AV Receiver?
AV receiver is the hub of your home theater or surround sound system. It receives audio and video signals from all your source devices (cable boxes, gaming consoles, DVD players, Blu-ray players, Roku stick, etc.), and then sends the video signal to your TV or projector and audio signal to your speakers. It also serves as an amplifier for the speakers – it amplifies the audio signal and provides enough power to drive the speakers. Having a capable AV receiver with enough inputs to connect your sources, outputs to connect the speakers, and power to drive your speaker system is essential for your movie watching or gaming experience.
AV receivers can also have a number of additional features and functions aside from the basic ones described above. High-end AV receivers, for example, feature Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Some also have Airplay and Google Chromecast support. Some receivers even have additional speaker outputs that allow you to connect speakers located in different rooms in your house. This feature is usually called multi-zone and allows you to send an independent audio signal from a different audio source to those other speakers while using the home theater system at the same time.
Best High-End AV Receivers – Comparison Table
|High-End AV Receivers||Rating||Price||Review|
|Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104||4.7||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Yamaha Aventage RX-A880||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Denon AVR-X4700H||4.4||Check Amazon|
|Marantz AV Receiver SR8012||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Denon AVR-X8500H||4.5||Check Amazon|
What to Look for When Buying an AV Receiver?
Buying a receiver may seem a little bit confusing or even intimidating, but it’s not that difficult once you get to know them and once you decide what you need. You can always go for the most capable one with a huge number of inputs, outputs, and with high power output, but if you want to save some money, you have to think about everything you want to connect to your receiver and look for the receiver that can support all those connections.
So, the first thing to look for is the number of inputs and outputs. Consider all the video and audio sources you want to connect and find the receiver with enough HDMI, optical, coaxial, and analog audio inputs. If the receiver has HDMI ARC output and your TV has ARC input, you can connect some of the sources to your TV and use the ARC connection to send audio to the receiver. Also, make sure that your HDMI inputs are at least HDMI 2.0, that they support 4K pass-through, HDCP 2.2, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision.
Then, look for the right number of speaker outputs. Do you want a basic 5.1 speaker system or something bigger (7.2, 9.2)? Do you want to connect height speakers (5.1.2, 7.2.4, 9.2.4)? If you are starting with a basic 5.1 system but are planning to upgrade it in the future, make sure that your AV receiver is future-proof. Aside from the number of speakers, you should think about the required power output. Large high-end speakers usually require higher amplification. Check your speakers’ specs and look for the power ratings.
Depending on other features you find useful, look for the AV receiver that supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Airplay, Chromecast, multi-zone, etc.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve tested more than 20 different high-end AV receivers, compared their features and performances, analyzed the results, and finally put together the following selection of 5 best high-end AV receivers in 2021.
We did our best to make a comprehensive list that includes all kinds of receivers. Some are designed for smaller speaker systems (up to 7.2) and have less additional features while others are made for huge speaker systems (up to 13.2) and have all the latest technologies built inside. One thing they all have in common is flawless, reliable performance. These are our top picks.
5 Best High-End AV Receivers in 2021
1. Best 7.2 High-End AV Receiver Under $1,000 – Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104
Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104 is a highly versatile 7.2 AV receiver. The max supported speaker layout is 5.2.2. The receiver supports 4K pass-through, it’s HDCP 2.2 compliant, and it supports HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. It supports all the available surround sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Neural:X. It also has a bunch of additional features – wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, AirPlay2 support, etc. It’s our top recommendation when it comes to 7.2 receivers under $1,200.
Things we like
Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104 comes with a mic for MCACC auto-calibration, remote (with batteries), FM and AM antennas, power cable, and user manual.
After the wiring, you can use the included microphone to calibrate the sound and adjust the output to your room size and speaker layout.
For basic settings, you can use the buttons and dials on the front panel. For all the advanced controls, you have to use the included remote. You can also install the Pioneer Remote app and use it to control the playback, image, play with EQ settings, etc.
On the front, you have a few inputs and outputs – headphone output, mic input, AUX input, and a USB port. All the other inputs and outputs are located on the back. The receiver houses 6 HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs (one of them is HDMI ARC). All the HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0 and they all support ultra-HD pass-through (4K/60Hz/24bit), HDCP 2.2, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision standards. On the back, you will also find one coaxial and one optical audio input, 4 analog RCA inputs, one phono RCA input, a USB port, and AM/FM antenna inputs.
The receiver has 7 sets of 5-way binding posts for connecting speakers and two subwoofer pre-outputs. The advertised power output 170W per channel (but with 1 channel driven and with 10% THD). In reality, you can expect approx. 80W per channel (0.08% THD, 2 channels driven, 8Ω speakers).
Pioneer Elite VSX-LX104 supports all the available surround sound audio formats and it can even up-mix surround sound tracks to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. There’s a large list of different surround sound modes for all kinds of audio and video contents – classical, unplugged, show, drama, sports, action, etc. It even has a dialog enhancement mode.
The receiver has a bunch of additional features, too. It has one pair of speaker outputs with a dedicated DAC that you can use to connect speakers located in some other room (multi-zone feature). VSX-LX104 also features wireless connectivity – both wi-fi (dual-range) and Bluetooth 4.2. It is compatible with SONOS speakers and it supports Apple AirPlay2.
Things we don’t like
The claimed power output is not exactly true – you won’t get 170W per channel, only 80W/channel (into 8Ω, with .08 THD when two channels are driven).
Chromecast is not supported, only Apple AirPlay2 and SONOS.
2. Best 7.2 High-End AV Receiver Under $1,500 – Yamaha Aventage RX-A880
RX-A880 is another amazing 7.2 AV receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support and with numerous additional features and connectivity options including wi-fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Airplay 2, and Music Cast.
Things we like
RX-A880 comes with a remote, mic (for YPAO sound optimization), AM and FM antennas, power cable, user manual, and a warranty card.
The installation is smooth and hassle-free. After you’re done wiring, you can use the YPAO mic to calibrate the sound and adjust it to your room.
To control the receiver and audio/video playback, you can use the buttons on the receiver (basic settings), the included remote, or the apps (Yamaha AV controller or Yamaha Music Cast). The initial setup takes some time but it’s fairly simple and you just have to follow the on-screen instructions.
RX-A880 is a very versatile receiver with numerous (physical and digital) inputs and outputs. It features two HDMI outputs (one of them is HDMI ARC) and 7 HDMI inputs. All the HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.0, they all support HDCP 2.3, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and BT.2020. All HDMI ports support 4K pass-through (4K/60/4:4:4).
Aside from the HDMI inputs/outputs, the receiver also has two optical audio inputs, two coaxial inputs, phono input, three RCA audio inputs, one AUX input, composite video input, component video input, and AM/FM antenna inputs. Furthermore, it features an Ethernet port, RS-232 port, 12V trigger, and IR remote input/output.
When it comes to speaker outputs, you have 7 pairs of 5-way binding posts for connecting home theater speakers and an additional pair for the Zone 2 (for the speakers in another room). The receiver has two subwoofer pre-outputs as well as 9 speaker pre-outs for other home theater and Zone 2 speakers. The advertised power output is 100W into two 8Ω loads (with 0.06% THD).
The receiver supports all the available Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound formats including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Aside from physical connections, RX-A880 also supports wireless connectivity. It features Bluetooth 4.2 (with SBC and AAC support), it has an Ethernet port, and it supports wi-fi connectivity (dual range – 2.4 and 5GHz). Furthermore, RX-A880 features Airplay 2 support and is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Finally, RX-A880 supports Yamaha’s proprietary Music Cast Surround – you can buy two MusicCast 20 speakers separately, connect them wirelessly to the receiver, and use them as surround channels. That way, you can get a semi-wireless home theater system.
Things we don’t like
The apps need some polishing. Both apps are perfectly usable but there are some things that can only be set on the receiver (initial settings) or with the remote.
The user interface is simple and pretty straightforward but it’s a little bit outdated.
3. Best 9.2 High-End Receiver Under $2,000 – Denon AVR-X4700H
Denon AVR-X4700H is one of the latest Denon’s AVRs. It’s built for gaming but it’s also perfect for movies. It’s incredibly versatile, it supports 8K (only one HDMI input is 8K capable), 4K/120Hz, and 3D pass-through. It also supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and all the latest video standards. Finally, like most high-end AV receivers, it supports Bluetooth connectivity, wi-fi connectivity, and Apple Airplay 2. It’s also compatible with HEOS multi-room wireless speakers.
Things we like
Denon AVR-X4700H comes with a remote, Denon’s proprietary calibration system with mic (Audyssey MultEQ XT32), power cable, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi antennas, manual, and a warranty card.
Even though the rear panel is quite crowded and may look confusing, the installation is simple and pretty fast. You will be guided through the initial setup by the Denon’s Setup Assistant and you will have to use the Audyssey calibration system to get the best sound output.
To control the unit after the initial setup, you can use the buttons on the unit, or the included remote, or the Denon AVR Remote App.
The receiver has an incredible number of connections. There are 3 HDMI outputs (one of them is HDMI eARC), 8 HDMI inputs (7 on the back + 1 on the front). All the HDMI ports support 4K pass-through (4K/120Hz) and there’s one HDMI input with 8K/60Hz pass-through. All these ports support HDCP 2.3, and all the latest standards (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision, BT.2020). The receiver also features IMAX Enhanced and AURO 3D.
Except for HDMI inputs, AVR-X4700H houses a number of other video/audio inputs – 3 composite video inputs, 2 composite outputs, two component inputs, one component out, 2 optical audio inputs, 2 coaxial inputs, 5 RCA audio inputs, and one phono input. On the back, you will also find FM and AM antenna inputs, Ethernet port, 12V trigger outputs, and IR in/out ports.
When it comes to speaker outputs, there are 11 pairs of 5-way binding posts. Only 9 channels are powered so if you want to power all 11 channels at the same time, you will need an additional stereo amp. If you opt for a 5.1 or 5.2 system, you can use 4 assignable channels to make two additional zones. When using 5.1.2 or 5.2.2, you will have two channels for one additional zone (two speakers located in another room). All speaker outputs support 4-16Ω speakers and the advertised output is 125W into two 8Ω loads (0.08% THD).
The receiver houses two subwoofer outputs as well as speaker pre-outputs for all the channels (including Zone 2 and Zone 3).
The receiver supports all the popular surround sound formats (DD and DTS) including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Thanks to some special features like Quick Frame Transport, Variable Refresh Rate, and Auto Low-Latency, Denon AVR-X4700H is perfect for gaming.
Aside from physical connections, the receiver features all kinds of additional features. It features Bluetooth 4.2 and wi-fi connectivity (dual band). It also supports Apple Airplay 2 and is compatible with Denon HEOS wireless speakers which gives you more flexibility if you want to make a multiroom speaker system.
Finally, AVR-X4700H works with all the most popular voice assistants including Alexa, Google, Josh AI, and Siri.
Things we don’t like
Denon AVR app needs some serious polishing and additional features. It’s functional but it has many glitches.
4. Best 11.2 High-End AV Receiver – Marantz AV Receiver SR8012
The next receiver on our list of 5 best high-end AV receivers in 2021 comes from Marantz. SR8012 is the flagship 11.2 AV receiver from this highly reputable manufacturer. It’s not cheap but it’s extremely capable and versatile. With 8 HDMI inputs, 3 HDMI outputs, 4K/60Hz pass-through, numerous additional features, and high output (205W per channel), Marantz is the perfect choice under $3,000. Even if you are not going to make full a 5.2.4 or 7.2.4 system, or if you don’t need separate zones, SR8012 is our top recommendation under $3,000.
Things we like
Marantz SR8012 comes with a great-looking remote, AM/FM antennas, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 sound calibration tool, power cable, detachable wi-fi/Bluetooth antennas, user manual, and a 3-year limited warranty.
Since Denon and Marantz are now part of the same company (Sound United), the initial setup process is pretty much the same for the receivers made by both manufacturers. Just like the previously reviewed X-4700H receiver, you will have to follow a simple on-screen setup guide and use the Audyssey calibration to adjust the sound to your room conditions.
To adjust the settings and control the playback, you can use the buttons on the unit, the included remote, or the Marantz AVR Remote App.
Marantz SR8012 is quite crowded with inputs/outputs, especially the rear panel. On the front, you have a headphone output, mic input, USB port for music playback, and one HDMI input.
On the back, there’s 7 HDMI 2.0 inputs and 3 HDMI outputs (one of them is HDMI eARC). All the HDMI ports support 4K/60Hz pass-through, they are all compliant with HDCP 2.2, and they all feature support for HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision, and BT.2020 standards. Furthermore, all HDMI ports support 3D video pass-through.
HDMI ports are just a small fragment of all the inputs and outputs you can find on SR8012. This receiver also has two coaxial audio inputs, two optical inputs, 3 component video inputs, one component output, composite video inputs and outputs, 6 analog RCA audio inputs, and one phono input. Finally, SR8012 houses one Ethernet port, AM and FM antenna inputs, 12V DC trigger in/out, and an IR flasher inputs.
As far as speaker outputs are concerned, there are 11 powered sets of 5-way binding posts (11 channels). These outputs allow you to make a full 7.1.4 or 7.2.4 surround sound system, or to make a basic 5.1 or 5.2 system and leave 6 channels free for three independent zones (3 separate speaker pairs located in different rooms). The receiver houses two subwoofer pre-amp outputs as well as pre-outputs for all the other channels.
The advertised output in the product description is 205W per channel (probably into 4Ω load). What you will find in the specs and what you can expect is 140W per channels into 8Ω load (2 channels driven, 0.05% THD).
SR8012 supports all the Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound audio formats, including DTS:X (and DTS Virtual:X) and Dolby Atmos. The receiver also supports IMAX Enhanced and Auro-3D.
Marantz SR8012 has a very similar set of additional features like the previously reviewed Denon AVR-X4700H. SR8012 features Bluetooth (V3.0) and wi-fi connectivity (dual range). It also supports Apple Airplay 2 and is compatible with HEOS wireless speakers. The receiver works with all the voice assistant – Alexa, Google Assistant, Josh AI, and Siri.
Things we don’t like
HDMI ports don’t support 8K pass-through. Also, the Bluetooth version is a bit outdated and delivers only mediocre performance and reliability.
The Marantz AVR Remote app does all the basic stuff but doesn’t offer perfectly reliable performance.
5. Best 13.2/15.2 High-End AV Receiver – Denon AVR-X8500H
Looking for the most versatile and very powerful high-end amp? Denon AVR-X8500H could be the perfect solution. With 15 speaker outputs (13 powered at a time), 150W per channel power output (into 8Ω), 8 HDMI inputs with 4K pass-through, and all the latest standards supported, AVR-X8500H is going to bring your movie watching experience to a whole new level. It’s one of the most capable high-end AV receivers on the market and it’s our top choice under $4,000.
Things we like
The unit comes with a remote, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 calibration tool, AM/FM antennas, detachable Bluetooth/wi-fi antennas, power cable, user manual, and a 3-year limited warranty.
Like the previously reviewed AVR-X4700H, AVR-X8500H comes with a very user-friendly on-screen Setup Assistant, which will guide you through the initial setup. To get the best results, you should use the included Audyssey calibration tool. It truly does a great job.
After the initial setup, you can use the control panel on the front of the unit to adjust the settings or control the playback. Or you can use the included remote and Denon AVR remote app.
On the front panel, you have basic controls and a few inputs/outputs – one HDMI 2.0 input, one USB port, headphone output, and mic input (for calibration).
The rear panel is quite crowded. You have 7 HDMI input ports and 3 HDMI output ports (one of which is HDMI eARC port). All the ports are HDMI 2.0, they are all HDCP 2.2 compliant, and they all support the latest standards including HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, and BT.2020.
Aside from HDMI inputs/outputs, X8500H houses 3 component video inputs, one component output, 4 composite video inputs, one composite monitor out, 6 analog RCA audio inputs, one phono input, 2 optical inputs, and 2 coaxial audio inputs. Furthermore, there is one Ethernet port, one USB power-out port, and AM/FM antenna connectors.
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When it comes to speaker outputs, you have 15 pairs of 5-way binding posts (15 channels), 13 of which are powered, and there are two subwoofer pre-outputs. This allows you to make a huge 9.1.4 or 9.2.4 home theater system. Or you can make a smaller speaker layout and leave two pairs of outputs for the Zone 2 and Zone 3 speakers. The power output is rated at 150W per channel into 8Ω (2ch driven, 20Hz-20kHz, 0.05% THD) or 190W per channel into 6Ω (2ch driven, 1kHz, 0.7% THD).
If you need more flexibility, you will be happy to know that you have 15 speaker preamp outputs.
The receiver supports all Dolby and DTS surround sound formats. That includes DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. Auro-3D is also supported. The max supported resolution is 4K/60Hz/4:4:4.
Just like all the previous receivers, X8500H features Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity (dual range). Furthermore, it supports Apple Airplay 2 and is compatible with HEOS wireless speakers and Alexa.
Things we don’t like
The Bluetooth version is outdated and delivers mediocre range and performance.
At this price point, we have expected 8K pass-through but, unfortunately, X8500H supports only 4K/60Hz.
This is the end of our list of 5 best high-end AV receivers in 2021. Hopefully, our selection helped you find at least one that you like. If you want to find out more about AV receivers and home theater systems, go through our FAQ section. In case you need a piece of advice or want to tell us about your experience with AV receivers, feel free to comment.
Q: What is the best high-end AV receiver in 2021?
A: There can’t be only one answer to this question. We all have different speakers and want to build different home theater systems. Depending on our needs, we will need a receiver with a different number of inputs and outputs and different power outputs. We can only recommend you to scroll up, go through our list of 5 best high-end AV receivers in 2021, and find something that meets your requirements.
Q: What brand of AV receivers is the best?
A: We can’t single out only one brand but we can recommend some of the most reputable brands on the market. Our top suggestions are Marantz, Yamaha, NAD Electronics, Denon, Pioneer, Arcam, and of course Sony. All these audio brands make great high-end AV receivers.
Q: Do I need a receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support?
A: Do you have or planning on installing height speakers at some point? If the answer is yes, then you need an AV receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.
Q: How many speakers do I need for Dolby Atmos?
A: The smallest speaker system for Dolby Atmos is 5.1.2 (front left, right, center, 2 surround channels, 1 subwoofer, 2 height channels). If your AV receiver has more speaker outputs, you can always upgrade this system to 7.1.2 or 7.2.4 or 9.2.4.
Q: Is 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound better?
A: The general rule when it comes to surround sound systems is – more speakers is always better. So, 7.1 is better than 5.1 surround sound. It offers better and more immersive listening experience. However, in some situations, 5.1 could be a better option. For example, if you have a relatively small room, installing two additional speakers at the back (surround rear left and right) is a bit unnecessary.
Q: Should I go wireless or should I stick to wired home theater systems?
A: That mostly depends on your needs and preferences. If you don’t want to deal with wiring or if you are renting an apartment, a wireless surround sound system is probably a better solution. However, the truth is that you can get a much better sound quality and home theater experience if you opt for a wired home theater system with a dedicated AV receiver.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.