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Best AV receivers: The most complete Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and multiroom AV receivers you can buy

Steve May Stuart Andrews
12 Oct 2021
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Create the ultimate home cinema with our pick of the best AV receivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound in your living room

Smart speakers and soundbars can pull off amazing feats of surround-sound trickery, but the best AV receivers are capable of so much more. For truly immersive home cinema, a top-notch AV receiver partnered with a bundle of speakers can make you feel like you’re right in the centre of the action, with sounds soaring around your living room.

An AV receiver (AVR) is the foundation of any great home cinema system. It processes the surround-sound data, powers the speakers, and acts as a switching hub for all your AV sources: Blu-ray players, set-top-boxes, media streamers and games consoles.

So which AVR is best for you? Read on and our buying guide will show you what you need to look out for and help you decide how much to spend. And if you’re specifically wondering about whether you should make the jump to an 8K AVR, head on down to our section on the 8K HDMI bug fiasco.

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Best AV receiver: At a glance


How to choose the best AV receiver for you

How much should I spend on an AV receiver?

Cheaper models will have fewer surround channels and less powerful amplifiers, so will generally be suited to smaller rooms that don’t have the space for large numbers of speakers, and which don’t need vast reserves of amplifier power to reach acceptable volumes.

As you spend more, AV receivers will come equipped with more powerful amplifiers and have the ability to connect more speakers to take full advantage of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks.

Do I need Dolby Atmos and DTS:X?

The latest Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround-sound standards create a fully three-dimensional soundscape that allows sounds to move over and around you. Even some music is now being mixed or remastered to take advantage of this capability. If your AV receiver supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and you have height channels connected, you’ll hear the difference right away – it’s a big step up from standard 5.1 surround sound.

Dolby Atmos is the more widely supported of the two standards, and you’ll find it everywhere from blockbuster 4K Blu-ray movies to the latest hit shows from Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus. By comparison, DTS:X is limited to 4K Blu-ray discs at the moment.

How many channels do I need?

Entry-level Dolby Atmos AV receivers typically have seven channels of amplification: five for standard left/centre/right and two rear speakers for surround sound, plus two for front height duties. This is known as a 5.1.2 layout (the .1 is the dedicated subwoofer channel). Higher-end AV receivers may offer nine or even 11 channels of amplification, increasing the number of height and rear options (so 5.1.4 or 7.1.4).

Increasingly, only entry-level AVRs come without Atmos support – and they can still deliver incredible 5.1 surround sound. But we reckon Atmos is worth the step upwards even if you can’t house a full 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 setup in your lounge. There are an increasing number of compact Atmos speakers on the market, so an Atmos setup doesn’t need to completely dominate your living room – unless you want it to.

How important is power? How many watts per channel do I need?

For smaller rooms, it’s not worth worrying too much about how many watts per channel an AV receiver can produce, but bigger rooms will need serious wattage to reach wall-shaking volumes. For that, you’ll need to be looking at larger, pricier AV receivers that can cleanly pump out lots of power to all the speakers you have connected.

We quote the manufacturer’s claimed power figures under every review, but our advice is to take them with a pinch of salt: the numbers are hardly ever comparable, thanks to manufacturers using different measuring methodologies. For instance, some brands quote the maximum power output while driving only one speaker, which is hardly a representative measurement for a surround-sound system. Whatever you do, make sure you read the small print.

READ NEXT: The best TVs for next-gen gaming

How many HDMI inputs and outputs do I need?

Entry-level models will most likely have four inputs, while higher-end models will have at least double that. More is always better. Don’t forget to check the number of HDMI outputs an AV receiver has, too. If a receiver has two, you can connect both a TV and a projector simultaneously.

It’s also worth remembering that all AV receivers support ARC (Audio Return Channel) or the newer eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) standard. A single HDMI cable connected to the ARC-enabled HDMI sockets on your TV and AV receiver can carry audio and video back and forth as required. So, if you have several sources connected directly to the HDMI inputs on your TV, the audio will play through your AV receiver (provided your TV also supports an ARC connection).

What other features should I look out for?

HDMI eARC is an enhanced version of the older ARC standard and ups the ante by supporting lossless audio passthrough, which allows it to carry all the latest audio formats, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It also offers a more robust synchronisation between audio and video signals – the older ARC standard caused irritating lip-sync issues for many users.

If you want to take advantage of a TV’s high frame rate abilities for gaming (or any future video content), then 4K HFR (High Frame Rate) support is essential.

The HDMI 2.1 standard also supports a range of technologies that are useful for next-generation game consoles. Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) prevents the screen-tearing effects sometimes seen when games can’t match the refresh rate of the screen, and Quick Frame Transport (QFT) helps to reduce latency. Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM) isn’t quite so fundamental, but it’s a welcome time-saver – it automatically activates your TV’s dedicated gaming mode when it detects a signal from a compatible console.

Pricier AV receivers will also feature progressively more advanced room correction or room EQ technologies, such as those from Audyssey or Dirac. These use a microphone to listen to test signals in your room and process the results to balance the different channels and optimise the sound quality to suit your home. These can have a dramatic effect on sound quality.

For mid- to high-end setups, you may want to look at AV receivers that provide pre-out connections, as these allow you to route the different surround channels to an external power amplifier – or connect directly to active speakers. This will allow you to relieve the load on your AV receiver, allowing it to drive fewer speakers more cleanly; and it may make it possible to add extra height or surround channels to AV receivers that have a limited number of internal amplifiers.

READ NEXT: The best 4K HDR TVs out right now

The best AV receivers to buy in 2021

1. Sony STR-DH790: The best entry-level AVR

Price: £299 | Buy now from Amazon

The SRT-DH790 feels like a cut-down STR-DN1080 in more ways than one; sitting just over an inch lower than its bigger brother, it will be an easier fit into many AV setups. Otherwise, the crucial differences include a lower power output (145W to 165W), fewer HDMI inputs and outputs (4 and 1 instead of 6 and 2) and the use of spring clip terminals for the centre, surround and rear/height speakers instead of the more versatile banana plug sockets. There’s also no built-in networking support. In short, you get the kind of cutbacks you might expect for an entry-level amp.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 5.1.2; Power output: 7 x 145W; HDMIs: 4-in 1-out; Dimensions: 430 x 297 x 133mm (WDH); Weight: 7.4kg


2. Denon AVR-X2700H: The best mid-range Atmos receiver

Price: £679 | Buy now from Electric Shop

With support for 8K screens and video sources, 4K at 120fps and variable refresh rate, the Denon AVR-X2700H is ready for anything the future might throw at it, including the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles or 8K streaming services. Only one of the ports is HDMI 2.1 certified, but the others still support VRR, ALLM and QFT, while the HDMI outputs support eARC. With Dolby Atmos (including Atmos Height Virtualization), DTS:X (with DTS Virtual:X) and all four major HDR formats also covered, there’s very little that this AVR won’t play with.

Just as importantly, it makes all this seem easy, thanks to Denon’s superb auto-calibration process, which configures your speakers and sets the levels for you, and a very straightforward interface you can use on your TV.

Feed it some good material, and you’ll be amazed at the sound produced. Switch from 4K Blu-rays like Blade Runner 2049 and Avengers: Endgame to Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker on Disney+, and there’s a real authority to output, and fantastic, precise steering of sound effects, putting you right in the centre of the action. You won’t get a better experience of Hamilton on Disney+ without sitting in the theatre. The virtual speaker effects are convincing enough that you don’t desperately need Atmos speakers, though the output is even more convincing with at least one set plugged in.

Music sounds great as well, though it’s worth switching through the different sound modes to find what works best in your room. Throw in built-in Wi-Fi music streaming and multiroom features, controlled through Denon’s HEOS app, and you have a fantastic AVR that will support your home cinema for years to come.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 5.1.2; Power output: 7 x 150W; HDMIs: 6-in 2-out; Dimensions: 433 x 330 x 167mm (WDH); Weight: 9.5kg

Buy now from Electric Shop


3. Marantz NR-1711: The best slimline AV receiver

Price: £749 | Buy now from Electric Shop

The Marantz NR-1711 shares many of the same advantages of the Denon AVR-X2700H, only packed into a much more compact chassis standing just over 10cm high. One of the HDMI inputs supports 8K at 60Hz or 4K at 120Hz, along with VRR, ALLM and QFT. Meanwhile, the HDMI out supports all that along with eARC. Throw in HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision and you’ve got an amp that should have all your AV needs covered for the next decade.

The advantage with this one is that it’s a very easy AVR to work with – slim enough to fit into most setups and very easy to set up. While it’s at its best with a full 5.1.2 Atmos setup, it works brilliantly with a more basic 5.1 setup, thanks to some exceptionally good height virtualisation, and the Audyssey auto-configuration process works as well here as it does on the AVR-X2700H.

In terms of performance, the NR-1711 is rated to deliver up to 90 watts, but that figure is measured with only one speaker connected. That drops down to 70 watts with two speakers, and you can expect significantly less power once all seven channels are hooked up. Be in no doubt, though, there’s plenty of power for smaller living rooms. Across 4K Blu-ray movies, Xbox One X games and Atmos streaming content, the sound is incredibly absorbing, detail-rich and energetic. But the NR-1711 is also a superb AVR for music, handling high-resolution material from streaming services with vibrancy and warmth, making for some fantastic listening.

Like the AVR-X2700H, it has built-in Wi-Fi networking and support for Denon’s HEOS ecosystem for streaming and multiroom control. It’s the kind of amp that would be perfect at powering a compact speaker system, but don’t rule it out if you’ve got a larger living room – it’s the king of the slimline AVRs.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 5.1.2; Power output: 90W into 1 channel; 70W in stereo; HDMIs: 6-in, 1-out; Dimensions: 440 x 378 x 105mm (WDH); Weight: 8.3kg

Buy now from Electric Shop


4. Marantz SR6015: The best receiver for nuanced sound

Price: £1299 | Buy now from Electric Shop

The SR6015 is cookie-cutter Marantz – in a good way. With its characteristic porthole display (slightly too small to be read from distance) and distinctive curved fascia, the look is classy and timeless. Beneath the lid, components have been chosen more for nuance than muscle, with the brand’s Hyper Dynamic Amplification Module (HDAM) circuitry ensuring this AVR retains its distinctive Marantz musicality. With effortless control and spatial awareness, there’s no doubting its Hi-Fi chops.

A nine-channel design, it can be configured for 7.1.2 or 5.1.4, and with Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and Virtual DTS: X you don’t have to crowd your room with physical speakers if you don’t want to. The inclusion of IMAX Enhanced certification is a nice touch; the SR6015 can automatically alter bass management, dropping deeper when it recognises IMAX flagged content. There’s also support for Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as AirPlay 2. Meanwhile, Room EQ is handled by Audyssey Multi EQ XT32.

There are seven HDMI inputs on the rear, with three outputs. One of the inputs is HDMI 2.1, but remember to buy the latest production run (with a serial number ending 70001 up) to ensure full functionality. An additional HDMI input is provided behind a flap on the front cover. The HDMI board is Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG compatible, and as is the way with this level of kit, low-resolution sources can be upscaled to UHD.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 7.1.2 or 5.1.4; Power output: 9 x 100W; HDMIs: 8-in, 3-out; Dimensions: 440 x 388 x 161mm (WDH); Weight: 12.8kg

Buy now from Electric Shop


5. Denon AVC-X4700H: The best receiver for high-impact audio

Price: £1,549 | Buy now from Denon

A fantastically dynamic performer, the Denon AVR-X4700 offers a huge sonic attack. It deploys its 125 watt per channel reserves with clinical precision – but there’s subtle nuance and musicality here too. With nine channels of amplification, you have the option of a 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 Atmos setup, which you can upgrade further with a stereo amp if you felt the need, as the model can actually process 11.2 channels.

HDMI provision is good, although of the eight inputs only one is designated 8K/4K 120fps-compatible. There are three outputs on the AVR-X4700, all with eARC support, and it offers support for Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG, plus eARC and a phono input for vinyl enthusiasts. To optimise performance in your room there’s also advanced Audyssey calibration in the shape of MultEQ XT32.

All the key audio formats are on board: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS Virtual:X, Auro-3D and Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. The latter is useful if you’re unable to implement physical height speakers, or Dolby-enabled up-firers. The X4700H also has the IMAX Enhanced certification, although, with a paucity of compatible software, this has limited appeal.

Additional treats include Apple AirPlay 2, Roon Tested certification and Heos multiroom support built in. The icing on the cake is Bluetooth connectivity, which covers transmission to headphones, useful for late-night personal listening.

While first-generation AVR-X4700H models suffered from the 8K HDMI bug (more on that later), all models produced since May 2021 use a revised chipset. However, you’ll need to check the series number to ensure you’re getting a bug-free version. New model serial numbers end from 70001 upwards. Note that the UK/EU version of the X4700H feature here is an AVC, that’s to say it’s an amplifier without an FM tuner. The USA version is a standard AVR, with FM radio. Apart from that, they’re pretty much identical.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 7.1.2 or 5.1.4; Power output: 9 x 125W; HDMIs: 8-in, 3-out; Dimensions: 434 x 379 x 167 mm (WDH); Weight: 13.7kg

Buy now from Denon


6. Yamaha RX-A6A: The best 8K 120fps-ready receiver

Price: £2,299 | Buy now from AV Online

The most eagerly anticipated Yamaha AVR in years, the RX-A6A is effectively the entry point for a new trio of Aventage-class receivers (although you could hardly call it budget). The A6A has the most ambitious HDMI provision of any 2021 model in its price range, with all seven of its HDMI inputs claiming to be 8K/4K 120fps-ready, pending a firmware update – and there’s an assurance from Yamaha that none are unduly affected by the HDMI 2.1 bug.

A nine-channel model, it can be configured as either 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 for Dolby Atmos, depending on what speakers you have to hand. If you’ve yet to invest in Dolby Atmos height speakers, Height Virtualization can create a faux canopy of sound. The HDMI spec is also Dolby Vision and HDR10+ compatible, with support for Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), quick frame transport (QFT) and quick media switching (QMS).

Yamaha has been a pioneer when it comes to DSP audio processing over the years, offering presets that mimic the acoustic properties of real venues, as well as genre-style sound mixes. Here we get Surround AI, a new approach that dynamically optimises individual sound elements, including dialogue, background music and sound effects in real time based on content.

Room calibration comes via Yamaha’s multi-talented Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO), and multiroom setup can be accessed through the brand’s MusicCast network. You can even use MusicCast 20 or 50 wireless speakers in a multichannel layout.

Home theatre receivers rarely embrace cosmetic niceties, but this model looks more fashionable than most, thanks to a simplified fascia design, centred volume knob, rotary jog dial, high-res LCD display and touch-sensitive buttons. As an added bonus, the A6A’s design incorporates a revamped version of Yamaha’s signature fifth foot, which is actually an anti-resonance wedge designed to disperse chassis vibration.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 5.1.4; Power output: 9 x 110W; HDMIs: 7-in, 3-out; Dimensions: 435 x 192 x 442 mm (WDH); Weight: 20.3kg

Buy now from AV Online


7. Arcam AVR10: The best high-performance AV Receiver

Price: £2,499 | Buy now from Richer Sounds

If you judge your AV kit by the weight, then expect to be impressed by the Arcam AVR10; this hulking receiver weighs in at a whopping 16.5kg. Still, you’re getting the spec to match, with a high-end Class A/B power amplifier, a 60W 7.1 channel output plus support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It even offers IMAX Enhanced, IMAX’s variant of DTS:X with deeper bass and more dynamic range. What’s more, this amp can decode more channels than it outputs, taking you up to 7.1.4 with additional power amplifiers if you’d like to add more height or surround speakers.

With incredible levels of customisation, the AVR10 is heaven for audio tweakers, with options to adjust for different speaker sizes, different distances and different EQ preferences, along with Dirac Live automated room calibration and correction to attune the sound to your specific space. You can also connect the receiver to your Wi-Fi network and use its built-in Chromecast receiver or stream music from your phone using Arcam’s dedicated app. The only downside of all this sophistication is that this is a complex device to set up and control, with little of the handholding found on the Marantz and Denon amps we’ve tested. Even with a web-based UI instead of fearsome-looking menus, getting everything perfect takes some work.

Still, it’s worth it because the sound is spectacularly good. Movie soundtracks have weight and an incredible dynamic range, delivering everything from the hardest-hitting action sound effects to the most subtle details. The opening space battle from Star Wars: The Last Jedi is so immersive that when the cannons start firing, you have to restrain the urge to duck. The Arcam is a dab hand with music too, particularly warm, rich and detail-heavy high-res tracks. It’s a shame that the HDMI connections are stuck at 2.0b, so no 8K/60, 4K/120 or VRR here, but with the right speakers the AVR10 can take your audio to another level – if you’re willing to pay that hefty price.

Key specs – Dolby Atmos: Yes, 5.1.2; Power output: 7 x 60W; HDMIs: 7-in, 2-out; Dimensions: 433 x 425 x 171mm (WDH); Weight: 16.5kg

Buy now from Richer Sounds


The 8K HDMI bug fiasco

AV receivers tend to enjoy a long, dusty lifetime of use. Once bought and configured, it rarely seems worth the bother of upgrading – until a new AV standard comes along, that is. It takes a catalyst like Dolby Atmos, which offers a more immersive listening experience for movie fans than regular 5.1 surround, to goad buyers into action.

Today, the arrival of next-gen games consoles with 4K 120fps capability, alongside the more distant promise of 8K resolution video, has enthusiasts once more looking to upgrade, specifically to an HDMI 2.1 AVR with compatible passthrough.

Unfortunately, the roll-out of HDMI 2.1-capable AV receivers has been fraught with problems. Shortly after they appeared, a compatibility issue surfaced that meant some new 8K/4K source devices (notably Xbox Series X consoles) did not always successfully pass the video signal through to the display.

AVR manufacturers Denon, Marantz and Yamaha had to scramble to come up with a solution for early adopters who brought afflicted first-generation receivers. The answer wasn’t a firmware update, but an additional piece of kit.

Denon offers the SPK618, an HDMI adapter box, supplied free of charge to owners of the affected Denon and Marantz kits. It’s positioned between the games console and AV receiver, correcting HDMI data so that it will display correctly.

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There is a more simple workaround. Owners can always connect their console directly to a 4K/120fps compatible TV and then route audio back to the AVR using eARC. Or they could forgo high frame rates altogether and run their console at 4K/60fps resolution.

Of course, if you didn’t buy an early iteration of these 8K-capable receivers, you might not need a breakout box at all. Denon and Marantz have updated their production runs of relevant receivers with an entirely new, bug-free, HDMI board. Yamaha has moved quickly to usher in new problem-free models.

If you own an 8K-capable AV receiver from Denon or Marantz, you can even increase the number of 4K 120fps and 8K devices connected by adding an HDMI 2.1 switcher. The brands have launched two (identical) models, the AVS-3 and VS3003, each featuring three HDMI inputs and one output.

HDMI CEC-compatible, these boxes connect to the (usually) single 8K input on your AVR, effectively adding two more options (which should please gamers with both an Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5). Available from October, they sell for £179.

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