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.


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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