January 25, 2020
Review by Bryan Fitzmartin

For the previous list, a lineup of great home theater receivers was presented that produce and deliver superior surround sound quality. Those surround sound units had amazing features such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as room calibration and 4K high-definition pass-through. There were great recommendations for anyone considering a home theater upgrade, or for those just starting out with surround sound. However, while those receivers were fine units, they tended to be on the “low end” of the spectrum both in terms of features, and in terms of pricing. This list is different – while it showcases great home theater receivers, it features those in the upper “mid-range” level as well as those in the “high-end” of the spectrum. For this list, we did not include units simply because they were expensive alone, in fact it’s the opposite. We’ve showcased home theater receivers whose features alone put them in “high end” range of surround sound receivers, but in fact it’s the case that many of them are quite competitively priced, in fact some units made this list specifically because they were both “featured packed” and in fact included so many high quality elements that there was no choice but to classify them as being in the “upper range” (no matter what their price was), but also offered a competitive price. So if someone is looking for an absolutely amazing home theater receiver that’s also a bargain – this list is specifically for them. That being said, let’s get right to the list:

Pioneer VSX-LX104:

This high-end receiver seems to have it all, it absolutely includes both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. What’s also very important, is that this unit “augments” those technologies with Atmos “upmixing” and DTS Neural:X “upmixing” -- this allows 3D sound to be generated from sources that don’t support it. These technologies allow you to enjoy Atmos and DTS:X effects with your current library (even if that content is older). What really sets this model apart and makes it heavily relevant and a really great buy is its support for IMAX Enhanced, some receivers have this, and some don’t – this makes it a model to be reckoned with, and sets it apart. No one should have any problem supporting any of the latest home theater content with this surround sound receiver. It offers 7.2 channel audio so it absolutely has what are called “height” speakers (in surround sound parlance) available for use. It also features Dolby Vision, BT.2020, and HDCP 2.2. This receiver is highly recommended since it features all the latest home theater technologies, leaving nothing out at an extremely good price point. This receiver is definitely worth a look.

Denon AVR-X3600H:

This model takes all the features of our last receiver and takes it straight to the very next level by adding one extra important element. Before we get into specifically what that is, we can absolutely say that cutting-edge technologies like Dolby Atmos (including Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization), DTS:X (including DTS Virtual:X), and IMAX Enhanced are all absolutely included and built-in to this home theater unit. It’s also good to point out that the last one on that list (IMAX Enhanced) is important for having a home theater receiver that can absolutely deliver all the latest content without any limitations – receivers without that included simply don’t necessarily measure up as well. In any case, this unit delivers the latest in 3D sound, it’s very clear, and has everything it needs to do it. So what makes it better than the last model in the review? Simple – this model supports 9.2 channel surround sound. The fact that this receiver allows for more speakers specifically allows a user to have two different sets of “height” speakers in their home theater configuration to take full advantage of 3D sound. That’s the advantage of having 9.2 channel audio. With the “upscaling” technology of this surround sound model, there’s no content this receiver can’t handle for a true home theater experience. There’s no question that in terms of both features, and getting everything out of your home theater that you possibly can, this unit ranks very highly.


Onkyo TX-NR797:

This receiver absolutely made our lineup of the best and most feature packed “high-end” home theater receivers. It was a must that this list include surround sound systems that include everything one could want in a home entertainment setup. This one, from Onkyo, offers all the features of the previous two (like Atmos and DTS:X, and most importantly IMAX Enhanced), but at a slightly lower price, and that’s what makes it worthy of consideration and worth a look for anyone on the market for home theater equipment. The slightly lower price of this surround sound receiver puts it ahead of the other units because it offers so much, just like they do. If one wants all the latest technologies with 9.2 channel surround sound to deliver them – consider this home theater unit.

Yamaha RX-A780:

This surround sound receiver features 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, and BT.2020. Of course it also offers Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and while this receiver does not in fact feature 9.2 channel audio the way some units on this list do, it’s 7.2 channels makes sure this receiver has enough power to enjoy all the 3D sound that all its features offer. One downside of this unit, is it in fact does not feature IMAX Enhanced, a feature that any high-end receiver needs going forward to be its most relevant for all content and deliver the best home theater experience. If a surround sound receiver does not include that piece of “tech” it may be at a disadvantage compared to other home theater receivers in the long term as more and more content is released under the banner of IMAX Enhanced. Nevertheless, there’s a reason this model made our list, because it’s very much feature-packed, clearly still a “high-end” model, and at a good price – it is certainly worth a look.


Marantz NR1710:

This surround sound receiver is “feature-packed” and “feature-rich,” but also different in one aspect that totally sets it apart from every other product on this list, and that aspect is completely unique to Marantz – it’s size and shape. This unit is considered a “slim” receiver, and one can see that immediately by looking at the image of it below; it’s far smaller than other home theater receivers by far and without question, and by design. It’s impressive that the folks over at Marantz managed to pack everything into such a small unit, but they included almost everything this product needs to be extremely effective. This receiver delivers 7.2 channels of audio, which is not as impressive as 9.2 channels, but that’s still everything it needs to pack a punch. This receiver, in terms of the technology it delivers, has almost everything most of the other units on our list do (Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, DTS:X, DTS Neural:X), however it does in fact lack IMAX Enhanced. Still, this high-end option may be the best one for someone looking specifically for a home theater receiver who has less space for their surround sound devices and definitely needs equipment that is physically smaller than normal – this receiver absolutely meets that challenge while still being “high-end.” Take one look at the picture below and it’s easy to see why.


Sony STR-DN1080:

There are only a few companies in the world that make home theater receivers. For someone new to home theater, they may raise an eyebrow at that. Someone who is on the market for surround sound equipment for the first time may be surprised that there are only a few companies that make home theater receivers – Pioneer, Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, Marantz, those are the companies that make them. Plus one more company not included in the previous list – Sony. We absolutely wanted to make sure that there was an entry into the market from Sony that could be considered a “high end” option included on this list. Our entry from Sony – is the STR-DN1080. First off, one thing that it’s important to point out is that as the Sony home theater receivers were analyzed, at the time of this writing, it was found that they appear to have no home theater products that feature IMAX enhanced, and that’s somewhat of a disappointment. This doesn’t mean Sony makes bad receivers, it just puts all Sony surround sound products at a disadvantage compared to the other manufacturers. Still, this receiver, the Sony STR-DN1080, is “feature rich” in terms of its Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and its 7.2 channel audio. So it’s possible this may be an option that meets the needs of your next home theater project.

Pioneer VSX-LX303:

This receiver wins a very particular award. As far as we’re concerned, this is the best “value” receiver when it comes to a product that specifically delivers 9.2 surround sound – a unit such as that can offer two sets of “height” speakers to get the most out of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and 3D sound in general. This receiver includes both of the previous formats. Also like many of the other receivers on our list, this offering also includes Atmos Surround Upmixing and DTS Neural:X Upmixing. It’s absolutely the case that 9.2 channel audio offers more speakers than other surround sound receivers that do not feature it, so it can deliver the very best in 3D sound for any home theater unit. Again, that sets this unit apart is that it is the best “value” option for a 9.2 channel receiver. It may sound strange to some readers to talk about a “bargain” option for high-end surround sound products – but there’s no rule any high end surround sound receivers cannot also be offered at a great price.

So there you have it, a list of our best picks for best “high-end” home theater surround sound receivers. Some receivers on this list are better than others, some offer slightly more options that may make them a more relevant buy in the long term, some deliver superior speaker setups like 9.2 channel surround sound that let users have better access to their superior quality, and some are just units that offer tons of features at very, very competitive prices for their “weight class.” All of these receivers on our list have something or another that make them a possible excellent buy, but it depends on the person, the situation, and the exact pricepoint an individual is looking for in their next home theater project. So while all these units are great without question, when selecting one for a purchase, consider each one carefully, and find the one that’s absolutely the best choice for you. Happy home theater shopping.

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January 17, 2020

Review by Bryan Fitzmartin (From a list of Home Theater Receivers from "Bass Head Speakers"):

This article is a list of its top 10 surround sound receivers presented by bassheadspeakers.com, and we thank them for it. It’s absolutely true that a good surround sound receiver is the back-bone of any home theater setup, and essential to think about as the most important thing on your shopping list for audio devices that will produce the best top-quality sound. There were a lot of interesting choices on their roundup for best home theater receiver, and it seemed like their should be a review of their picks, so one has been posted here. Their choices included something for every different type of home theater user, especially budget users, a lot of their picks stand on the “lower end” of the home theater audio pricing spectrum, so this list may work well for those types of users. One criticism of the list that the folks over at bassheadspeakers.com created, was it did not include too many high end products. It is rightly the case, that many home theater enthusiasts may feel its important to pay a little bit more to make sure they have the highest quality receiver they need for their new home theater, this list does not include a good deal of those types of models. So for future posts I’ll review more of them so users can get a better sense of those choices.

Onkyo TX-RZ820:

The first offering is from Onkyo. According to the article, what makes this selection so solid is how it deals with audio formats (or more precisely, how many it is rated for). This receiver is THX certified, and also comes with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, making it a very solid offering that can deal with most modern audio formats. But that being said, pretty much all receivers nowadays (except for very low-level budget or “bargain level” models) support these “modern” formats. So, what really makes this model standout is another feature, something called “noiseless audio processing,” which removes noise from an audio signal in question, making it higher quality during playback (especially at high volumes), which can be important for home theaters. In the end, it can be said that this model does have some great features, and it’s a solid selection, but nothing that makes it particularly stand out above the pack. It’s definitely worthy of consideration, but it’s not the best pick.

Pioneer VSX-532:

This selection is listed as a “best value” pick, so it’s obviously more inexpensive than the other items listed in the article. One immediately visible draw-back to this model, is that it only supports a 5.1 surround configuration, not a 7.1 channel setup or higher. However, this model also comes with the standard “Pioneer” lineup of features, and interestingly enough, the article mentions how impressive the reviewers found its sound quality, something essential in any surround sound receiver. The Pioneer VSX-532 includes Ultra-HD pass-through, Dolby True HD, and DTS-HD Master Audio. It also includes MCACC (or Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration and Control) auto-room calibration. In regards to this pick, the folks over at bassheadspeakers.com thought very highly of this model when they tested it, and that’s high praise for such a budget model, so it may be worth a look, and it certainly is available at a low price.

Onkyo TX-NR575:

The reviewers in the article from “basshead” emphasize the tremendous sound quality of the Onkyo TX-NR575, and again, just like it was pointed out in the last review – that’s fair enough, sound quality is one of the most (perhaps the most altogether) important qualities when choosing a surround sound receiver, that’s what everyone is looking for in the first place, so there’s nothing wrong with the folks pointing out in their review how great this selection sounds. The Onkyo TX-NR575 features noise-free signal processing, it also offers 4K HDR and BT.2020 video pass-through, and offers a built-in AK4458 digital-to-analog converter which can produce high quality sound. This is also a decently priced selection so worth a look for sure.


Sony STRDH550:

This selection is interesting, the article lists the Sony STRDH550 as the best “5.2 channel” receiver in their review. One might argue (many people may say this in fact), that 5.2 channel receiver selections are “old-hat” and not worthy of consideration -- not so, or at least say the people over at bassheadspeakers.com. They claim the sound quality that this model outputs is really amazing and truly cinematic. So again, for those not looking to spend a fortune this model may be worthy of a look. The Sony STRDH550 features 4K high-definition pass-through and HD digital cinema sound, so you’ll have no problem delivering and 4K, Blu-ray, or Blu-ray 3D content through this receiver. If you’re looking for something low priced with high sound quality, the Sony STRDH550 may be for you, the people over at bassheadspeakers.com certainly spoke highly of it.


Denon AVR-S540BT:

The Denon AVR-S540BT serves up some solid “base-line” features at a good price-point. Some of the highlights of what this receiver offers are BT.2020, 4K ultra-HD pass-through, Dolby Vision compatibility, built-in Bluetooth, and a front USB port. Those last two features on the list allow for playback from smartphones and other devices using file formats such as mp3, WMA, FLAC, and MP4. This receiver is a “5.1” offering, that’s all the power it has under the hood, so it may not be suitable for more high-end users who want the power of a 7.1 channel receiver (or possibly higher). But this device serves as a solid “mid-range” home theater receiver for all those interested. Consider the Denon AVR-S540BT for your next home theater project.

Sony STR-DH790:

The Sony STR-DH790 is another high-quality “mid-range” offering for all those interested. It has a good deal (but certainly not all) of what a home theater enthusiast could want including 7.2 channel audio, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 4K HDR Dolby Vision compatibility, S-Force Pro, and built-in Bluetooth. Those features really are the necessities to make a receiver a relevant and high-powered offering, anything less and those receivers may produce good sound quality, and may satisfy the needs of some (no doubt), but really do fall into more of a “budget” offering rather than a mid-range selection. This home theater receiver packs all the features it needs to be a decent choice and good home theater selection. That’s what makes it so worthy of consideration.


Yamaha RX-V383BL:

The Yamaha RX-V383BL is very much a “budget” offering and it is listed as such. However, it does have some features that make it relevant as a modern receiver including 4K ultra-HD video, HDCP 2.2, and Bluetooth for wirelessly streaming music content. It also features BT.2020 compatibility and high dynamic range (HDR), so even though this particular home theater selection is designed for people on a budget (and the price very much reflects that), it still is able to pump out sound that will make your home theater sound modern and relevant. Another feature this receiver comes with is YPAO which stands for “Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer.” The name is certainly a mouthful for sure, but the idea is similar to Pioneer’s MCACC Pro functionality, they’re basically just different forms of the same idea -- room calibration. This receiver does pack enough features to remain relevant.


Pioneer VSX-832:

This home theater receiver is a unit that has some teeth -- it has both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X under the hood, which is a great start and a necessity for any modern receiver that wants to pack a punch and be “feature rich, Pioneer has both of those technologies included in this home theater unit. Like our last model, the Yamaha RX-V383BL, the Pioneer VSX-832 boasts room calibration. However, unlike the previous Yamaha unit which uses that company’s own in-house solution known as “YPAO,” Pioneer's solution for room calibration is called MCACC (which stands for Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration and Control) which is what is used in this receiver to optimize the sound performance and allow for 3D effects. Another great thing about this selection is it includes Chromecast, DTS Play-Fi, and Fire Connect which allow for great streaming. This home theater unit actually gets very high marks when it comes to streaming technologies available built-in. One downside of this unit, derives directly from one of its advantages. It is highly rated as a Dolby Atmos receiver (as well as also featuring DTS:X, a similar technology), but it only has 5.1 channel audio available. This puts it at a disadvantage when compared with home theater receivers that feature 7.1 channel (or higher) audio configurations. So while this model is worth a look, it would also be important for a potential buyer to look at other models that had Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as 7.1 channels (or higher) as possible considerations for a home theater project. However, the previous consideration may be offset when looking at the price. This model really does offer an impressive price-point, and if someone was on a budget or trying to save money, it may make sense to go with this selection. This is a unit that is low price, but is very much “feature-packed.”


Marantz SR5012:

This model is considered a “high-end” receiver. When it comes to home theater receivers, the Marantz SR5012 is certainly the most expensive option that is covered here, coming in with a 700 dollar price tag – but is it worth the cost? That’s the question that this review will attempt to answer. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, HDR, BT.2020, Dolby Vision – they’re are all included in this high end model. It also offers 7.2 channel audio to enjoy all those features. What actually sets this offering apart from other high-end offerings is its HEOS wireless multi-room technology. This allows the home theater unit to become part of a larger multi-room setup with different audio playback devices in each room that can all be controlled wirelessly using the HEOS app to stream different songs to each room, or the same song to every room. It’s very much a large part of a “smart” multi-room home theater setup. It seems like this home theater receiver has everything it needs to be relevant. However, if one wants to purchase a receiver at this price-point one might think about looking for a 9.2 channel model. Even if a user doesn’t use all of the 9.2 speaker inputs in their home theater right away, a 9.2 unit would only be about 200 dollars more, so it may be worth the extra expense if you’re looking for a high-end receiver, other than that there’s nothing bad really to say about this model.


So there you have it. We’ve covered the entire bassheadspeakers.com roundup of home theater receiver options. And by the way, this is just one version of a list of great receiver options – there are plenty more that could have been added to the list, and I would argue, should have been added to the list. That means there are plenty more reviews to be had as well, and we’ll continue to review home theater units here. The next line up of posts will focus on more “high-end” options since there are many users who would want to spend a bit more money on a home theater setup, and may want to do that to make sure they purchase a receiver packed with much more of the latest technologies to make sure their receiver “stands the test of time” a bit more, and can handle all the latest releases. For example, none of the units here included the IMAX codec, something many, many more “high-end” and even “mid-range” units are perfectly capable of handling. There will be some reviews of those units posed here very soon. Stay tuned.


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