“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

2010 Entry Level A/V Receiver Comparison Guide

by November 25, 2010
Any color you want as long as its black

Any color you want as long as it's black

While we tend to think that the sweet spot in receivers is the $500 price point (hence the reason we started with that comparison article), the fact is, some people are just looking for something. Anything. Maybe it's for them and they are on a serious budget. Maybe it's for their parents or their kids or some other secondary use. The key is that it has to be cheap. While a few years ago, the entry level receivers had little more than stereo inputs and Dolby ProLogic, these days you can get 3D capable HDMI inputs, discrete amps, and onscreen displays. We've again hit all the major players (except for Harman Kardon, their "budget" surround receiver was in the $500 comparison) with Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer, Sherwood, and Sony in the mix. Prices range from a low of $229 to a high of $399. We focused on the absolute cheapest offering from each manufacturer. If you like what you see from any of them, we encourage you to look at the next level up. For usually anywhere from $50 to $100 more, you'll be getting quite a few more features.

 

Denon

Marantz

Yamaha

Onkyo

Pioneer

Sherwood

Sony

Model#

AVR-391

NR1501

RX-V367

TX-SR308

VSX-520-K

RD-6513

STR-DH510

MSRP

$249

$399

$249.95

$299

$229

$249.95

$229.99

Power

75W x 5

50W x 7

100W x 5

65W x 5

80W x 5

110W x 5

90W x 5

Measurement

20Hz to 20kHz

20Hz to 20kHz

1kHz

20Hz to 20kHz

20Hz to 20kHz

40~20kHz, 6 Ohms

20Hz to 20kHz

Discrete amps

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes?

?

?

HDMI Ver

1.4a

1.3

1.4

1.4a

1.4

1.3

1.4

3D Support

Yes

N/A

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

Yes

ARC

No

N/A

No

Yes

No

N/A

Yes

HDMI STAND-BY Pass-thru

No

N/A

No

No

No

N/A

Yes

Dolby PLIIz

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

Auto Setup/Room EQ

No

MRAC

No

No

No

Both

No

HDMI I/O

4/1

4/1

4/1

3/1

3/1

2/1

3/1

Component Video I/O

0/0

3/1

2/1

2/1

2/1

3/1

2/1

S-Video I/O

1/0 (dock only)

0/0

0/0

0/0

0/0

2/1

0/0

Composite I/O

3/1

3/1

4/1

4/1

4/1

2/1

4/1

Digital Audio (coaxial/optical)

1/1

1/2

2/2

1/2

1/2

2/1

1/2

Pre-ins

No

No

No

No

No

5.1

No

Preouts

Sub, Surround Back

Sub

Sub

Sub

Sub, Surround Back/Height

Sub

Sub

Video Up Conversion

None

All to HDMI

None

None

None

None

None

On Screen Display

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

iPod Interface

3.5mm on front

3.5mm on front

3.5mm on front

3.5mm on front

3.5mm on front

3.5mm on front

None

Dimensions

(WxHxD)

17.1" x 6.7" x 15"

17-3/8" x 4-3/16" x 14-1/2"

17-1/8" x 6" x 12-3/8"

17 1/8" x 5 15/16" x 12 15/16"

16.55" x 6.23" x 13.71"

17 3/9" x 5" x 13"

17 x 6-1/4 x 12-3/4

Weight

20.3lbs

19lbs

16.5lbs

16.7lbs

19.6lbs

19.6lbs

16.4lbs

Warranty

 

 

 

2 Years

1 Year

 

 

To start with, you can kiss features like native iPod support, networking, and multizone goodbye with the entry level offerings. Those features just aren't going to make the cut. To hit their target MSRP, manufactures have to make some really hard decisions. While we thought this would lead to fairly vanilla and uniform offerings, manufacturers have still found ways to differentiate themselves. We were surprised to see most of them sporting HDMI 1.4 with 3D support. Some even supported Audio Return Channel (ARC) with a couple having pre-outs for surround back channels for later expansion to a full 7.1 system. Of course, you're not going to find more than five amps in most of these receivers as users at this price point often aren't looking for a 7.1 system. Now, without further ado, here are the entry level receivers from lowest cost to highest.

Pioneer VSX-520-K

PioneerIt's not often that you undercut your competition by a dollar at this price point, but the Pioneer VSX-520-K manages to do just that. At $229, it is $0.99 less than the Sony offering. While Pioneer's more expensive offerings include Works with iPhone certification, like nearly all the entry level offerings, you'll be forced to use the front 3.5mm jack for your MP3 player. The VSX-520-K has three HDMI 1.4 inputs supporting 3D and one output. Even though it is the cheapest on the list, it is the only that supports Dolby ProLogic IIz height channels through pre-outs. Those pre-outs can also be used to add surround back channels. There are two component video inputs, four composite video, and a single output for both. Video conversion is not available so you'll need to connect each video source separately. The VSX-520-K specs 80 watts per channel into five channels measured 20Hz to 20kHz with discrete amplification. At 19.6 lbs, it ties for second heaviest. Overall, the VSX-520-K is a very solid offering especially if you are looking to add an amp later on for surround back or height channels.

Sony STR-DH510

SonyThe Sony STR-DH510 is a 90 watt per channel (measured 20Hz to 20kHz), $230 receiver that has the most complete HDMI 1.4 spec out of any in this comparison. While most only go as far as 3D support, the STR-DH510 includes not only Audio Return Channel (ARC) but also HDMI Stand-by Pass-Thru. The latter allows you to pass audio and video up to your display without powering on the receiver. While die-hard Audioholics might find this a bit perplexing, what it means is that you can use your display speakers instead of your main speaker setup. For night-time viewing, this can be a very handy feature. Like the Pioneer, it sports three HDMI, two component video, and four composite video inputs and one output a piece. It also has one coaxial and two optical digital audio inputs. It is the only receiver in this comparison that doesn't have a 3.5mm jack on the front (or anywhere for that matter) for iPod/MP3 player integration. You'll need to get some sort of iPod to RCA cord if you want to enjoy your compressed audio. At 16.4lbs, it is the lightest in the group though it practically ties with Yamaha and Onkyo (just .3 lbs separate these three) for this dubious honor.

Denon AVR-391

denonDenon takes a cue from Pioneer here and undercuts the Sherwood and Yamaha by $0.99. At $249 even, the Denon AVR-391 has a robust 75 watts per channel discrete amplifier section measured 20Hz to 20kHz. Like many of the others, it sports HDMI 1.4 inputs that support 3D pass through and is the cheapest to reach the four HDMI input level. Here, however, things get a little weird. Denon, rather than get dinged for not having video upconversion, decided to completely eliminate most of the other inputs. If you don't have HDMI, you'll be relegated to using one of the three composite video inputs. That's right, no component video inputs at all. There is an s-video input but it is only for use with one of their optional docks. Plus, it only has a single coaxial and optical digital input (the lowest of the comparison). On the upside, there are pre-outs for surround back channels for upgrading, with the addition of an amp, to a full 7.1 system. No support for any of the height channel solutions, however, which we consider to be a missed opportunity on their part. There is a front mounted 3.5mm jack for iPod/MP3 players and the Denon is easily the heaviest at 20.3 lbs.

Sherwood RD-6513

SherwoodWhile the Sherwood RD-6513 isn't the most advanced receiver in this comparison, don't immediately discount it. The RD-6513 again uses the odd measurement of 40Hz-20kHz into a 6 ohm load giving them 110 watts per channel. This definitely inflates their stats for the uninitiated but even the neophyte will notice the lack of 3D support. For $250, you get a paltry two HDMI 1.3 inputs. It also sports three component, two s-video, and two composite video inputs and one output of each type. Again, analogue to digital video conversion is out so you'll need a cable for each video type. If you've been holding on to that VCR and want to use the slightly better s-video connection, the RD-6513 is your only option in this comparison. But let's talk about the strong points of the receiver. First, it includes a 3.5mm jack on the front for iPods/MP3 players. It also ties the Pioneer for the second heaviest at 19.6 lbs. It is the only receiver in the comparison to have 5.1 analogue inputs for integration with legacy gear. That, alone, is worth the cost of 3D for some. It also is one of the two that has automatic speaker setup and room correction included. For an entry level receiver, this is a huge boon especially when you're the cheapest one sporting it. 

Yamaha RX-V367

YamahaTied with the Sherwood in price at $250 is the Yamaha RX-V367. This receiver claims 100 watts by five channels but uses the less rigorous 1kHz measurement. It is, technically, the second lightest in the comparison at 16.4 lbs but is only .1 lbs ahead of the Sony. Like many others, the Yamaha sports HDMI 1.4 inputs and is the second to reach the high point of four inputs (Denon did it $0.99 ago). It also has two component and four composite video inputs and a single output for each type. The Yamaha is the only receiver in the comparison that includes two optical and two coaxial digital audio inputs. Other than that, there is little to talk about with this receiver. It has a 3.5mm jack on the front for iPod/MP3 integration, no on screen display, and it doesn't have pre-outs for surround back or height channels. 

Onkyo TX-SR308

OnkyoThe Onkyo TX-SR308 makes a $50 jump from the rest of the crowd to the one penny under $300 price point. For that, you get a 65 watt per channel amp measured 20Hz to 20kHz. The TX-SR308 is one of the lightest at 16.7 lbs, however so you know their amps aren't discrete like the Denon's. But for that extra money, you get a lot of features. Of course it has HDMI 1.4 inputs (three) that support not only 3D pass through but also ARC. There are two component and four composite video inputs and a single output of each type. Like every other receiver in this comparison so far, it doesn't have video upconversion so you'll have to connect a cable for each video type you use. The Onkyo, also like many others, has a 3.5mm jack on the front for MP3/iPods. The main claim to fame past the ARC support is that the Onkyo is one of the only (and it is the cheapest) with an onscreen display. This means that you won't be relegated to trying to navigate menus on the little front display. 

Marantz NR1501

MarantzWe were hesitant to include the Marantz NR1501 in the comparison since it is, by far, the most expensive. At just a buck shy of $400, it is $100 more expensive than the nearest competition. When we saw the feature set, however, we decided to include it because it didn't exactly blow the others out of the water. Like the Denon, the Marantz sports discrete amps pushing 50 watts per channel (x7) measured 20Hz to 20kHz. While it was over a pound less than the Denon at 19 lbs, you have to remember that the Marantz sports a slimline design so it is quite a bit smaller (over an inch shorter at least) than the rest. So, where does your money go with the Marantz NR1501? Well, it isn't into HDMI 1.4 connections. The Marantz is still sporting HDMI 1.3 connections so you'll have to work around it if you want 3D. It does have one of the higher number of HDMI inputs at four, a comparison best three component video, and three composite video inputs with a single output of each type. This is the first, and only, receiver in the comparison that has analogue video upconversion to HDMI so you'll only have to run a single cable to your HDTV. It is also the only 7.1 receiver though you can't use the surround back channels for height speakers, Zone 2, or bi-amplification - a missed opportunity in our opinion. Again, there is a 3.5mm jack on the front and the Marantz is the only (aside from the Sherwood which, coincidentally, also sports HDMI 1.3) receiver to have a room correction/auto setup system (the MRAC). There is also an onscreen display, like the Onkyo, which makes setting up the receiver a lot easier. The sad part about the NR1501 was that it was originally priced at $599 but Marantz has dropped the price to $399. At $599, it was a joke. At $399... well, we'll let you decide.

Conclusion

It's easy to assume that an entry level receiver offering would be the basics and nothing else. Could manufacturers have cut even more corners so they could be the cheapest? Maybe. But the cheapest isn't always what people are looking for. What manufacturers are hoping is that you'll fall in love with one feature and buy the receiver that has it. If you're looking for Dolby ProLogic IIz support or if price is the most important thing, you'll need to pick up the Pioneer. If you want 5.1 analogue inputs or s-video, you've got no choice but the Sherwood. If you want HDMI Standby Pass-Thru, you better get the Sony. If you're looking for an onscreen display at the cheapest price, it's Onkyo all the way. If everything you have is HDMI and you're thinking you might want to add an amp later for a 7.1 system, pick up the Denon. The Marantz is the way to go if you want a really robust amp section, want 7.1 natively, don't care about 3D, and want room correction and an onscreen display. Oh, and if you don't mind paying an extra $100+ over the rest of the competition. The Yamaha is the only one that really doesn't have anything to make it stand out other than the most digital audio inputs. Even hardcore Audioholics have a hard time getting excited about that.

 

About the author:
author portrait

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

View full profile

Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!

3db posts on November 26, 2010 07:14
Afterreading this article, one is way better off buying last year's model a few lines up then to choose from any of these entry level receivers.
Post Reply