Tis the Season for Receivers: Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo, and Pioneer
In an effort not to be outdone by their peers, many Consumer Electronics companies try to announce their new products at the same time everyone else does. This makes it very easy for us the consumer to know what we want to buy. We don’t have to wait for that last straggler to tell us what’s coming before we plunk down our hard-earned cash. Right now it’s AV receiver season. If you’re in the market for a new receiver for your home theater, have we got a show for you.
The Television used to be the center of the home theater or family room entertainment system. But for a few years now, the A/V receiver has taken a much more central role. It is primarily responsible for getting the audio from all your devices (Cable or Satellite tuner, Blu-ray player, Streaming box, Game System, …) and blasting it out in awesomely loud, surround sound to all the speakers you can hook up to it. Just this function alone of course makes the receiver indispensable in any home theater. As we’ve often said, HDTV without surround sound is only half of the experience.
But over the last 7 or 8 years, receivers have moved firmly into the video device category as well. In addition to being the audio hub, the receiver can also serve as the hub for all the video signals from all your devices, so you only need to run one cable to your TV or Projector. Quite a convenience. But beyond simply switching video for you, many receivers include some fairly heavy-duty video processors in them to assist with video format conversion such as upscaling SD to HD. For some, video features in a receiver can be just as important as the audio functionality.
The recent smartphone and tablet revolution hasn’t skipped the home theater market either. Some receivers allow Internet streaming of audio content directly to the receiver, without the need for an external streaming box or computer. Some offer Bluetooth playback so you can play from a portable device without wires. Some offer dedicated wires to connect to or USB ports to plug into. Many even include a smartphone app you can use to control the unit without the need for a traditional IR remote.
Yamaha USA has announced five new models for their 2013 RX-V lineup. Prices start at $300 for the RX-V375, $450 for the RX-V475, $550 for the RX-V575 and $650 for the RX-V675. All of those should be available for sale this month. The top of the line RX-V775WA should be available in April for $850.
All models, even the $300 unit, use upgraded discrete amplification, Burr Brown digital-to-analog converters (DACs), which should improve sound quality and are compatible with 3D and ultra high definition (UHD) TVs. All models except for the entry level RX-V375 have a front-panel MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) input for HD video content from a portable device, support AirPlay and have built-in streaming support. The RX-V375 has a USB port instead.
Yamaha has also given the top three members of the lineup US$550 RX-V575, US$650 RX-V675 and US$855 RX-V775WA more powerful 7-channel amplifiers. The other two are 5.1 receivers. Among the three 7.1 models, the RX-V675 and RX-V775WA support ultra high definition upscaling. The middle three units (RX-V475, RX-V575, RX-V675) are WiFi upgradeable, while the RX-V775WA includes the Wi-Fi adapter in the box. All of the network enabled units can be controlled by a remote app for iOS or Android devices.
Denon USA has announced three new models for their 2013 E-series lineup. Prices start at $250 for the entry 5.1 AVR-E200, $400 for the 5.1 AVR-E300, and $600 for the 7.1 AVR-E400. Like everyone else, Denon has added support for 4K/UHD, MHL, AirPlay and smartphones. All of the new E-series AV receivers from Denon should be available already for purchase at authorized retailers.
The AVR-E250 is as basic as receivers come these days, and probably not something you’d want in your home theater. It may work fine in a secondary room, but for the home theater you probably want to look into the AVR-E300, which adds an extra HDMI input (total of 5), networking support, Airplay, a set-up assistant and Audessey speaker calibration. If you want 7.1, the AVR-E400 gets you the extra two channels, along with another HDMI input, video upconversion capability and a powered second zone option.
Onkyo’s newly announced new mid-priced receivers should be coming to authorized dealers in April, and if you’d like speakers with that, a 7.1-channel Home Theater in a Box system following in May. The TX-NR525 will sell for $500, the TX-NR626 for $600, and the TX-NR727 will top out the line at $900. All three have networking capabilities with direct access to streaming providers like Spotify, Last.fm and TuneIn Radio. Not to be outdone by the competition, they of course have a smartphone app, 4K pass-thru, and Audyssey speaker calibration.
The TX-NR525 is a 5.2 channel receiver with more than just the basics. But if you really want all the bells and whistles, the TX-NR626 and TX-NR727 are where it’s at. Both are 7.2 channel capable and feature Qdeo 4K upscaling for great video performance, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity for your phone. Using Wi-Fi or a wired connection, you can stream lossless audio an iPhone or Android device, or use DLNA to stream FLAC, Apple Lossless, Dolby TrueHD, LPCM, and DSD from another device on your network, like a laptop, personal computer, media server or network attached storage device.
Pioneer has announced four new AV receivers for 2013 in their standard or value line – essentially the receivers that don’t carry the “Elite” badge. Still great receivers, but also quite a bit easier on the pocketbook. Prices start at $280 for the VSX-523-k, $430 for the VSX-823-k, $530 for the VSX-1023-k, and $630 for the grandaddy of the lineup, the VSX-1123-k. All four offer discrete amplifier design, with the 523 and 823 providing 5 channels and the 1023 and 1123 stepping it up to 7 channels.
All four models allow iOS playback, including album art and metadata on your TV if you have one connected, using the USB cable that comes with your iOS device (not included). They will also charge the iOS device when it is connected. All models except for the entry level VSX-523-k include support for Mobile High Definition Link (MHL) so you can watch HD video content, with 7.1 surround, from a portable device, all while charging the device at the same time.
The VSX-823-k, VSX-1023-k and VSX-1123-k enable apps for both Android and iOS that allow you to control and configure the receiver more easily than the front panel or using the remote to navigate menus. The apps will also wirelessly stream music from the device through the receiver, including support for playlists. All but the entry VSX-523-k support DLNA and offer built-in Pandora and vTuner access. Either using USB or the network, the devices can playback a ton of audio formats, including DSD on the VSX-1123-k.
All four models support 3D and UHD passthru, with the VSX-1123-k stepping up to support upscaling using the Marvell Qdeo processor.
If you’re looking for value and a receiver that’s bursting with any and every feature imaginable, it looks like all the manufacturers have something for around $600 that will fit the bill. Which one to pick is entirely up to you. In the “bang for your buck” category, it really looks like a toss up between the Yamaha RX-V575 for $650, the Denon AVR-E400 for $600, the Onkyo TX-NR626 for $600, and the Pioneer VSX-1123-k for $630. Let your ears decide.
Posted by The HT Guys, March 22, 2013 12:07 AM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.