A broad variety of technological goods blesses and curses us with a question of choice at the same moment. This problem aggravates with vivid complimentary reviews to each model that highlight only minor flaws that aren’t helpful in terms of making a final choice. Thus, I’ve come up with the idea to create a list to assist you in finding your best AV receiver under 500. This price allows you to purchase a sturdy model that is able to fulfill your demands.
Receivers in this price range are modern and sophisticated; they include many contemporary technologies but not all, of course. This price range, as seen from my personal testing, comprises affordable models with essential features, such as the Denon AVRX1500 with the high-quality picture and sounding, or the Pioneer SC-LX501 that has the famous MCACC automatic speaker and room calibration system.
I’ve included practical advantages and disadvantages of each model, which I’ve discovered during my testing. In addition, I’ve decided that it would be useful to compare old and new versions of the device that has an upgraded version. However, if you’re looking for some specific features, browse only through detailed receiver reviews and pro and cons, because models of previous years already comprise all essential features. So, don’t chase for the freshest models, they aren’t necessarily better for sure. Moreover, they’re at least $100 more expensive.
My list of top AV receivers under 500 includes six most popular brands such as Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, Yamaha, and Sony that have already carved their names in the history of electronic products development. Besides, I’ve found the most popular models of these brands and scrutinized them.
The Yamaha RX-V683BL is the best AV receiver under 500 that allows connecting seven speakers and two subs. It comes with its branded YPAO auto-calibration system. It’s better to pick high-quality components of the home theater system to provide minor corrections after the initial setup. Note that YPAO used to define speakers as “small” or “large”. In the first case, YPAO calibration is appropriate. In the second one, one should use manual settings and adjustments because the user can't know for sure whether a sub takes a load on lows or not.
This AVR has clear and well-categorized On Screen menu to connect DSP modes to input sources correctly. It’s also possible to use buttons for this purpose. The AVR features several modes, including 7-channel stereo and Surround Decoder to support Neural: X or Neo:6 Cinema formats with a single press of a button. If transmitting unprocessed audio is required, one can use Straight mode.
The unit has five HDMI ports. Three of them can pass through 4k video signal and the whole range of HDR standards. It can be hooked up to a TV via ARC HDMI connection, but if a TV lacks RCA, it’s possible to use optical cable. ARC connection can glitch (TV sound mutes occasionally or the AVR can’t understand power commands) during while making settings the first time, but it all fades away as far as the system works.
Its built-in Zone 2 makes it possible to listen to another content and use another source in two rooms simultaneously. The AVR also has stable Bluetooth capabilities for wireless connections. Besides, one can use the Android app to make adjustments.
The AVR is developed for being a component of the home theater, but it works out not so good when dealing with audio. The zip at highs (that is rather typical for Yamaha’s receivers) is audible and, since the speakers have already hooked up, the surround sound sometimes disappears while Atmos still expands the front space. However, this phenomenon depends on the speakers’ features. That’s why an acoustics test of the location is recommended before buying speakers.
The unit is also remarkable for its flawless works with such sources as DirecTV STB, HTPC, PS4, and even old PS3 when AVR delivers clear, detailed, and deep sound. It can perform for a long time without overheating. However, to ensure the AVR’s coolness, it’s possible to get a special AV component cooling fan.
This device can become the best receiver under 500 due to its ability to create a 7.2-channel system. Besides, it has a good output power of 135W per channel (enough to feed two separate sets of speakers.) and harmonic distortion ratio of 1%. Such characteristics allow its Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoders to develop three-dimensional sound even within 5.2.2-channel configuration. However, it’s better to add some more speakers to ensure the best sound. One can also use a pair of additional channels for stereo in Zone 2 or with a view to connect front speakers.
The AVR has a solid design with the dedicated source buttons on its front panel. It comes with six HDMI ports on its rear panel that features pass-through of the latest 4K standards, HDR10, and Dolby Vision.
It’s possible to manage all the unit’s multiroom and network functions via remote control and user-friendly Full-HD on-screen menu. However, for this purpose, one can download the branded Onkyo Remote app for mobile devices. Or use Onkyo Controller app to change the volume, input, and even turn the unit on and off from the other room (on the same Wi-Fi network).
This model is fitted with AccuEQ system for auto-calibration. It performs hassle-free and there’s no need to use Quick Menu additionally in order to adjust the volume.
This home theater receiver features the Dynamic Audio Amplification tech and authentic Vector Linear Shape Circuitry scheme to eliminate noises that usually appear while digital-analog transformation. That’s why the unit sounds transparent, coherent, and clear. The tones become richer and the trebles more saturated. Its dynamics are variable that makes the unit good for both watching movies and listening to music, including content that comes from the network services. When listening to CDs with Dolby TrueHD tracks, the dramatically increased breadth of sound can be heard.
The sound is still great when listening to the Internet radio or via Bluetooth, but the unit realizes its full potential when reproducing Hi-Res records from a network server. Besides, the Onkyo TX-NR575 features gapless reproduction to enjoy a holistic vision of musical material.
Note that the home theater system drops the back channels or the height channels to send power to the game room, but when you turn the Zone 2 power off, the back channels or height come back on. If it’s matter, it’s possible to activate Zone 2 out through RCA channels out to a second sound system without losing back channels. The pass-through works in mini player mode.
The unit still lacks CEC, that’s why it’s necessary to switch off the PS4, for example, every time the receiver is turned on to watch TV, even if the receiver starts with cable/sat input on.
It’s not the best home theater receiver under 500 but a good entry-level model for a basic setup. It’s developed to arrange either 5.2 or 7.2-channel system. One can enable this function on the TV to get it to work.
The unit supports Dolby Atmos to create surround sound environment. It offers 145W per channel. Its total harmonic distortion is low – just 0.9%. Its seven channels (five of them are for speakers and two are for subs) are well-organized on the rear panel. Thus, it makes it possible to bi-amp the pair of front stereo speakers or to use two ceiling speakers to provide rear surround for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The unit allows HDR pass-through for all devices, including Xbox One X and other consoles. For this purpose, it’s necessary to make the right setting on the receiver and to use a minimum of HDMI 2.0 cables. However, note that it cannot be hooked up to the outdated Xbox 360 or a Nintendo Wii at all.
Connection with a turntable is also possible, but a phono preamp is required since this receiver does not have it on board. If connecting a sub, it’s better to pick self-powered models with both level control and a frequency range control.
In order to save the receiver’s performance, it’s necessary to use at least 6-ohms speakers. 8-ohms units are also suitable, but the AVR isn’t compatible with 4-ohms ones. The AVR comes with four HDMI inputs that support 4K standards and just one HDMI output to hook up one device only – whether its’ a TV or a projector. In addition, a 6.5mm headphone hole is located on the left of the front panel. The toggling between four HDMI inputs works great.
To make the latest formats work, use the newest HDMI 4K HDCP 2.2 cables. Bear in mind that this model lacks banana plug-compatible speaker connectors for every speaker connection, just the front speakers. This AVR comes without component inputs that make it impossible to use old Xbox 360 or a Nintendo Wii.
The receiver has no network connectivity (either Wi-Fi or Ethernet), but it features a built-in Bluetooth adapter that makes DSD and 192/24 audio files sound especially amazing. Moreover, it can work with the AAC codec in order to stream content wirelessly from Apple devices (most of them support that format). Its eARC feature allows producing Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS:X or multi-channel LPCM content that cannot be transmitted via ARC.
The receiver provides clear and powerful sound, but, to achieve the best results, it’s better to choose Stereo, Direct or Pure Direct mode rather than All Channel Stereo. Besides, to create a fantastic sound field, it might need to raise the ceiling speakers’ volume. When all settings are done, the AVR produces rich sound to add warmth to musical material and provides flawless bass management.
This receiver has a straightforward design that is common for the receivers within this price range. It’s still a bit bulky but noticeably shorter than other models. A power button and a headphone jack are on the left of the front panel. In the center of it, there are the controls to adjust the radio settings, toggle between inputs, programming, etc. An aux port and a USB port are also there. The volume dial is on the right.
In general, it’s great that this AVR’s design provides direct shortcuts to the most frequently used inputs without spinning dial back and forward. The receiver is partly made of plastic and has brushed metal below.
This receiver comes with Cinema DSP 3D software to deliver the acoustics of numerous concert halls and to mimic height and surround speakers in a 5.1 system.
The unit is able to deliver 80W of output power per channel and extremely low THD – 0.09%. The unit is compatible with the Yamaha’s MusicCast speakers for surround sound. The AVR is designed to build a 2.1 or a 5.1-channel system. The receiver supports 4K HDR, Dolby Audio, and Dolby Vision to ensure high-quality picture. You can add one or two subs, but they can be just turned on or off. No separate subwoofer level settings are developed.
This model has many chances to become the best AV receiver under $500 because it produces loud and rich sounds without significant distortion even at high volumes. The upper frequencies might seem a bit limited, but they couldn’t be better taking into account the AVR’s price. Note that this model comes with standard Yamaha DACs that cannot provide absolute clarity (the high-end models are fitted with more advanced ESS Sabre DACs).
The unit has four HDMI inputs and one HDMI output on its rear panel. This means that in the case of buying a new gaming console, it will be necessary to spend money on extra HDMI switch.
It also comes with the video inputs, and even a video output to connect older devices that don’t support HDMI. The device features wireless connectivity when allowing streaming content via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple’s AirPlay.
The AVR allows arranging 3-channel system in Zone 1 and 2-channel setup in Zone 2. This provides the same content for different rooms and the opportunity to regulate volume separately.
When thinking of the best audio receiver under 500, bear in mind the Onkyo TX-NR787 that is able to deliver 100W of power to each of 9 channels. Such parameters are quite enough for the home theater system subject to efficient speakers in a medium-sized room
While hooking speakers up to the AVR, one should monitor the correct polarity. The back panel features terminals for both stripped wire and banana plug connections that take a minute to plug/unplug the receiver. This model has user-friendly onscreen GUI that makes navigation a breeze, but it is difficult to read textual information sometimes.
The AVR comes with the AccuEQ Advance calibration system. It allows using upward-firing height speakers and making them producing clear sound because it can compensate for the distance that speakers need to deliver an audio signal to a receiver. The auto-calibration via AccuEQ Advance helps boost the high frequencies and thin out the lower mids.
This unit has AirPlay and Chromecast and they work well when streaming music from mobile devices. In addition, Chromecast supports video streaming. In general, the Onkyo TX-NR787’s performance has no serious blemishes. The sound is clear and detailed, rich and powerful. Its highs are too bright sometimes but only high-end models are able to make them perfect.
This unit is designed to set up to 7.2-channel systems. Besides, when smirching to the Dolby Surround mode, it’s possible to listen to all movies on 7.1.2 configuration (all 9 channels) but not only Atmos encoded movies. The AVR allows arranging Zone 2 and one can set 7.1-channel system in Zone 1 and 2.1-channel acoustics in Zone 2 sync that will play via AirPlay in sync. It can pass through 3D from 3D Blu-ray player to a 3D compatible TV.
For those who, similar to me, are keen on all gadgets being connected and working together – a receiver with Google Home is right up your street. I’ve noticed that the DCAC EX calibration has been improved, so now it analyses the exact speaker package configuration and after that makes musical test tones.
The initial Audyssey speaker level setup works great; the Wi-Fi firmware update goes perfectly. However, Alexa has flaws; mainly, it doesn’t work no matter how I’ve tried. I’m concerned only about the HDMI CEC that works on the shutdown but not on the startup. The NR1608 is a proper AV entertainer with an attractive form factor. It can impress with action movies and has an inherent stereophony that also offers nice High-Res audio. 5.1.2 Atmos is more effective in smaller listening areas.
The new slim version, Marantz NR1609, has less than half the height of traditional AV receivers. Also, it works better with Alexa.
I assume that the main benefit of this receiver is that it connects very quickly and easily to both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the Chromecast functions without lags. Also, I use the Onkyo Controller App on my smartphone to keep an eye on it. Many aspects (such as zone controls) are quicker and easier to perform through the app. I also adore the Apple AirPlay for playing music directly from my iPhone, which saves time. However, I should point out that I’ve had a few problems getting the Bluetooth music from Alexa, but it somehow corrected itself after a while. I also use a Harmony remote and it works perfectly.
A new Onkyo TX-RZ830 model has a plethora of music streaming options, such as built-in Google Chromecast, which differs it from the previous models. I control playback via voice through my Google Assistant, get to Amazon Music via the Onkyo Music Control App; the likes of Tidal, TuneIn, Deezer, and Spotify are accessible from the Onkyo Controller that provides local and DLNA streaming. Moreover, there are two hi-res, multi-room streaming platforms: DTS Play-Fi and Onkyo’s own FlareConnect that give access to networked files and various music streaming services.
I can name it the best home theater receiver under 500 judging by its performance with my LG Oled 55" TV via ARC HDMI. I’m used to connecting a TV and a projector in one room and play different content on a second zone screen thanks to three HDMI outputs. The sound is crisp and clear as you expect to have in more pricey models. Besides, it doesn’t have any voice latency or lagging issues.
The setup process is really quick; the M-CR611 model has the frontal panel display that helps with this, and with navigating around the various inputs and browsing music libraries. A remote control is included, but I don’t use it, so I can’t say anything specific about it.
The most important – the sound is clear and well-defined. No part of the frequency range feels too prominent or overlooked.
The unit is designed to set up to 7.2-channel surround sound. It surprisingly boasts 8 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs followed by ARC support. All the HDMI ports are able to accept HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR. Besides, the AVR cam upscale video quality up to 4K. It works without glitches with a connected Apple 4K TV and 4K UHD Blu-ray players, as well as with older video sources.
This model is remarkable for its ability to stream content from all the most popular streaming services. One can use the HEOS app to pick a platform and regulate its basic functions. The unit comes with Bluetooth to play audio from mobile devices.
It has Audyssey MultEQ auto-calibration to optimize sound performance and supports such advanced formats as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to create immersive sound space. Its built-in microphone for the speaker setup allows achieving audiophile perfection. The AVR has dual-band Wi-Fi to support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels. Dolby Atmos features the newest object-based coding to distribute sound correctly anywhere in the 3D space.
The AVR is able to produce great sound within simple 5.1-channel set-up in Zone 1 an a pair of speakers in Zone 2 even without Atmos speakers. The sound stays clear and detailed when connecting either Playstation (3 and 4) or a Blu-ray player. It delivers 90W of power to each channel that is good to set the acoustic system in a medium room.