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.