HT Receivers Compared

Simple Question:  Are any really better than the others - Marantz, Yamaha, Arcam, NAD, Rotel, et al in sound quality?  They all seem to get 5 star (or close) Performance reviews in Sound and Vision.  The local high fi shop even said they're all about the same.  What do you guys think?  I almost tend to believe them.  I bought into the hype a time ago in buying a Anthem receiver that ended up being supremely overrated IMHO.


What are you using the AVR for? Important to know. For Home Theatre they should be similar. Which is what sales reps will be thinking about when try and compare them. For two channel music there will be differences, but none of the AVR's will provide anywhere near the music quality of true two channel separates or integrated amps that are designed for two channel only. AVR's are optimized for HT and NOT music. The money is spent on HT. They claim to be a one box solution but end up being mediocre at best at the rest. At their price point with all they "can" do, there are significant cost related trade offs that comes with packing so many features into one box.

Anthem AVRs are very good in my experience.   Not going to rival dedicated 2 ch gear but they do sound really good. 

Are any really better than the others - Marantz, Yamaha, Arcam, NAD, Rotel, et al in sound quality?

Yes, they are different than others. When you look at a receiver you group them together in price ranges. Next you look at features such as how many channels, the power rating, what type of room correction, are they networked, etc.

After that it boils down to preference. Marantz and Denon are both made by Masimo, but they sound different. Yamaha has a feature called Auro- 3D but Anthem doesn’t. Onkyo offers Dirac room correction but Anthem has ARC. I got a GREAT deal on a 9 channel Onkyo receiver because it didn’t have something called IMAX Enhanced and the model replacing it did. That feature wasn’t important so I bought it at around a 70% discount brand new. So I can only tell you my favorites, but "best" is what is best for you. My top 3 favorites are Marantz, Onkyo and Sony. They all have nice reviews on youtube.

EISA recently presented their annual awards and they test gear, check out:

Before I moved into three discrete high-end (2 / 3 / 2 ) channel YBA power amps and a discrete all-digital 7.1 AV preamp/ processor in my HT, I had at AVR history of options based on my evaluations fuelled by two separate drivers:

-(1) AVR Audio performance. With gauging HDMI video performance, it was the quality build and the video performance capabilities of the TV flat panel itself that mattered most, and not the AVR itself .

-(2) AVR Unit reliability (arguably the most important factor )



(1) ARCAM and CAMBRIDGE very top AVR models,

- The audio performance step-up was the top contenders sorted out from the pretenders in my experience.



- ARCAM had a welcome 5 year warranty. This was a huge factor IMO, because pro techs will no longer take on AVR repairs that are out of warranty. AVR repairs are now reduced to sourcing entire internal failed board replacements .

- The OEMs now provide replacement parts only for their published warranty periods. Thus with the largest portion offering only a paltry one year warranty period, parts are quickly unavailable to techs and parts are bloody expensive if they can even find them . They now pass on any Frankenstein-sourcing approach too as an unrewarding exercise.

- Regardless, the all in cost repair cost for parts and labour exceeds the unit FMV which creates a hard pass on proceeding .

- That is why I went to all-discrete HT components, with the power amps easily repairable if required , and the AV preamp processor being the eventual planned disposable unit as CODECs and upgraded video resolution formats change.

Choose wisely.. It is with VERY rare exceptions -if any - that dealers will take an AVR as a trade-in. Generally , it’s a hard “NFW”.

if yiu cannot fix them, and dealers won’t take trade-ins, and audio forum ad sales successes are very dodgy at best…. The AVR is an embryonic boat anchor in the making for many fans, 


The software and hardware included to aid in setup can definitely make a difference, you might want to make a short list based on that, then search for any ’sound differences’.

Physical features also make a difference, and processing features: you need to do some research on things we tend to skip over because of lack of experience, i.e. seems like you would never use ......

Front L/R Preamp Outputs, for a current or future separate ’better’ preamp/amp pair/combo with HT Pass Thru (simply an input/pass thru) allows the AVR to control the volume with the other speakers, transmit the processing choices you/it makes, then the Preamp passes the Front L and Front R to your better amp.

And, I always try to remember: resale? i.e. includes features you might not care about but will increase the amount of people who would consider buying it.

I had the Cambridge Audio CXR200 and replaced it with an Anthem MXR 520 in order to implement a home theatre bypass setup.

Both were good for what they did, but if you are thinking they will work as the centrepiece of a high quality two channel system, you are delusional.

i just auditioned a bunch of avrs to replace my ancient (but good-sounding) pioneer elite. my thoughts at large:

1. i didn't hear a ton of difference between mid-priced ($1k) yamaha, denon, onkyo and sony ( i didn't try marantz)--they all had a ton of bells and whistles and that sort of brightish tone that sounds detailed but a bit processed when compared to my two channel gear.

2. i was not impressed by the build quality of the above (yamaha being a bit better than the others)--plasticy, lightweight and somewhat shoddy

3. my buddy's arcam avr5 was  better built and sounded better than the mass market stuff--fuller, warmer, less digital sounding and seemed to have a more robust power supply, but i've had bad luck with arcam reliability. i have also heard nad, which seems a cut above, but have the same reliability concerns.

4. i ended up with a used anthem mrx 720, which doesn't have the latest codecs and gizmos but good power and a nice, analogish tonality.

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“… I had the Cambridge Audio CXR200 and replaced it with an Anthem MXR 520 in order to implement a home theatre bypass setup.

Both were good for what they did, but if you are thinking they will work as the centrepiece of a high quality two channel system, you are delusional…”

MY TAKE: = +1000 …. BIG TIME! Point, set, and match in tennis jargon

That is precisely why my 7.1 HT system is just a “C” system sequestered in the basement HT arena used strictly for selected multichannel BluRay movies and multichannel BluRay music concerts .Let’s not forget that these 5.1+ and up multichannel performances are artificially mastered and manufactured sound tracks in a designated channel point source recording and point source only manufactured soundstage .

Contrast that to the Holy Grail in 2-channel audio wherein it’s a recorded and mastered performance in an endeavour to get a “live performance” experience to whatever degree possible. High end 2-channel creates an ethereal 3-dimensional sound stage wherein the speakers “disappear” in a holographic soundstage stretching L to R , and also Front  to Back,

My HT setup cannot compete with my 2-channel “A” critical listening high-end system

It also falls short of my “B” TV & audio 2.1 system audio performance, that is used 90% of the time for both TV and casual background audio performance.

Agree with others that if sound quality, and 2-channel in particular, is a priority you don’t want any AVR (unless you can connect up a good integrated amp thru preamp outs on the AVR).  That said, I compared several AVRs and Marantz is warmer and fuller sounding but lacks detail up in the treble region.  I much preferred the Yamaha sound wise to Denon, Onkyo, Marantz, and Arcam as it most resembled the sound of my much pricier separate stereo amp and preamp.  And along with Anthem, Yammy is the most reliable, which is not a small consideration. I don’t recommend Rotel, Cambridge, or NAD as their reliability is subpar, and who wants to deal with that?  Hope this helps a little. 

I do think they do sound different to some degree depending on your entire system I just recently tried to upgrade my HT Receiver(second system).  I have a 2011 Pioneer Elite A/B I thought could be easily improved.  Bought Marantz, Integra, Anthem 100-120W more recent models and resold them all.  My crazy Pioneer receiver in analog direct mode sounded much more realistic, warmer and better bass at low volume than any of them.  I confirmed it sounds pretty darn good and I enjoy it as something different than my main set up. 🤯 I did not expect that at all and I have now given up on my  search. I chalk it up to system synergy???

Anthem isn't terrible but the room correction is pretty mediocre in performance.

Some Marantz use the high end Audyssey MultEQ which lets you hand  tune the response.  For me that's a much better situation.

Go with the higher end Yamaha Aventage. It is tailored more for an advanced user, but, will let you create any sound signature you want. I use Aventage separates in my multichannel music rig, in combination with some other amps and it runs circles around my cost no object stereo rig.

I have exclusively used Denon since the 80’s super affordable if purchased used. Around the late 90’s i started using my Denons are pre/pro’s and opting not to use the onboard amps. Once Outlaw audio started making those 200watt monos i was sold. This story has come full circle, now i use a stack of 7 outlaw m200’s and the assignable denon receiver amps for Atmos duty.

i install professionally and to be honest i can hear the bigger amps capabilities but as to sounding different or one better than the other, i never heard that. Denon is a simple unit that is my swissarmy knife for sure.

as to Audyssey, i have done my own setting up style as to SPL levels and used Audyssey and i like mine and theirs. Mine is solid, great dynamics…..but at low levels not so much.Audyssey at lower levels 75db MV Audyssey is a ckear winner



I would disagree that 2 channel is the Holy Grail is a Holy Grail meant to reproduce live performance.  It depends upon the genre and the particular recording.  Popular music in particular is highly processed and artificial, a creature of whatever the mixing engineer is cooking up.  Different parts may be recorded on different days and different continents.  A multichannel mix is not inherently more artificial than a standard 2 channel mix.  My preferred genre, Classical, isn’t immune from assorted gimmickry either, but.  MC recordings that primarily just add some resonance and a small amount of reverb can actually enhance classical recordings.

  I have 5.1 systems in addition to my 2 channel.  Both currently feature Anthem 520 AVRs.  One is in the living room and the other is in the basement.  These areas are separated by one floor but have the identical layout.  The living room has in walls for surrounds and small bookshelves and center channel.  This is because my wife controls this space.  The basement below has tower speakers and better surrounds and center channel .  Both areas have a rectangular shoebox configuration and it is interesting to note that when paired with proper ancillaries the AVR can provide excellent sound, even in 2 channel

.  I bought a Technics 1500 Direct Drive turntable last year and because I didn’t have room for it in the 2 channel I placed it in the basement system (with Cambridge Audio mm phono preamp).  This was going to be temporary until I made room in the 2 channel but I like it so much where it is that I’m leaving it there.  The room acoustics are probably a major contributor here but the point is that the Anthem can sound pretty good in 2 channel 

It's hard to compare 2-channel to multi-channel - different purposes IMO.