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2011 $600 A/V Receiver Comparison Guide

by July 13, 2011
This is what is new for $600

This is what is new for $600

From time to time, we like to do a comparison article for the new receivers that have been released. This year we decided to start with the $600 price point. Why? Well, because most of the manufacturers had new receivers at this price point. Plus, why not? We had to start somewhere! One thing we've added to the chart this year is the "Other" row. This will be used to highlight things that are touted on the manufacturer's websites. They may not be (and often aren't) unique to the receiver, but it shows you what they think is important to consumers.

There are a few universals at this price point. You'll find that all the receivers have discrete amps, and all manufacturers rate their amps with the more robust 20Hz to 20kHz measurement. All of the included products support 3D and Dolby ProLogic IIz, upconvert all their video to HDMI for a single cable connection, have a front mounted USB port, and sport an on-screen GUI overlayed over HDMI. Each receiver also supports a second zone of audio with either pre-outs or assignable back amps. They all support at least a 7.1 but none have any analogue inputs for supporting legacy gear. We'll now be taking a look at these new receivers one by one from least to most expensive.

Denon Marantz Yamaha Onkyo Pioneer Harman Kardon
Model# AVR-2112CI NR1602 RX-V671 TX-NR609 VSX-50 AVR 2650
MSRP $649.99 $649.99 $599.95 $599 $600 $799
Power 90 x 7 50 x 7 90 x 7 100 x 7 90 x 7 95 x 7
Measurement 20 Hz - 20 kHz 20 Hz - 20 kHz 20 Hz - 20 kHz 20 Hz - 20 kHz 20 Hz - 20 kHz 20 Hz - 20 kHz
HDMI Ver 1.4a 1.4a 1.4a 1.4a 1.4a 1.4a
3D Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ARC Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
HDMI STAND-BY Pass-thru Yes No Yes No Yes No
HDMI OSD Overlay Yes (icon-based) Yes (icon-based) Yes Yes Yes Yes
THX Certification No No No Yes (Select2+) No No
Dolby PLIIz/Audyssey DSX PLIIz only PLIIz only Yamaha CinemaDSP 3D
Both PLIIz only PLIIz only
Auto Setup/Room EQ Audyssey MultEQ XT Audyssey MultEQ YPAO Audyssey 2EQ Advanced MCACC EQSet/EQ
HDMI I/O 6/1 4/1 6/1 6/1 4/1 5/1
Component Video I/O 1/0 2/1 2/1 2/1 2/1 2/1
Composite I/O 3/1 3/1 5/1 5/1 5/1 2/1
Digital Audio (coaxial/optical) 1/1 2/1 2/2 2/2 1/2 2/2
Preouts 0.1 2.1 0.1 0.2 2.1 0.1
Video Upconversion To HDMI To HDMI To HDMI To HDMI To HDMI To HDMI
Video Upscaling No No Yes (1080p, includes HDMI sources) Yes (QDEO to 4K) Yes (Anchor Bay to 1080p, includes calibration) No
DLNA Certified 1.5 1.5 1.5 Yes 1.5 No
Windows 7 Yes No Yes Yes No No
Apple AirPlay Yes Yes No No Yes No
Made for iPod Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
App Apple only Apple only Apple
(Android in Sept 11)
Apple only Apple/Android No
Networking Internet Radio, Flickr, Pandora, Rhapsody, Naptster, PC Setup and Control Internet Radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Naptster Pandora, Rhapsody, SIRIUS Internet Radio, Napster, vTuner Internet Radio , PC control   vTuner, Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM iRadio, Slacker, Mediafly, Napster iRadio    vTuner, IP control (for CI) Internet Radio
Extra Speaker Connections 0 0 1 Pair (spring) 1 Pair (spring) 1 Pair (5-way) 0
USB 1 (front) 1 (front) 1 (front) 1 (front) 1 (front) 1 (front)
iPod Interface USB, optional dock USB, optional dock USB, optional dock USB, optional dock USB with supplied cable Optional dock only
Other Auto Lipsync, FLAC HD Decoding 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels and an isolated audio circuit board CINEMA DSP 3D, SCENE buttons, Compressed Music Enhancer, Eco-Friendly Design None Air Jam App, AVNavigator, Certified for Control 4, Crestron, AMX, RTI, Universal Remote, and Savant Logic 7 processing
17.1 x 6.7 x 15 17-3/8" x 4-3/16" x 14-1/2" 17-1/8'' x 6-3/8'' x 14-1/4" 17 1/8" x 6 13/16" x 12 15/16" 17.13 x 6.61 x 14.27 17-5/16" x 6-1/2" x 17-1/8"
Weight 22.5 19.8 23.1 24.7 21.82 24.4
Warranty 3 years 3 years 2 years 2 years 2 years 2 years

Onkyo TX-NR609

TX-NR609At the bottom of the heap (from a price perspective) is Onkyo's offering. For this comparison, the TX-NR609 has a very competitive list of features, starting with the only one in the group to offer THX Select2+ certification. It has the highest rated power (100x7) and supports both 3D and Audio Return Channel. The TX-NR609 is the only receiver in the comparison to support the new Audyssey DSX decoding for height and width channels (it supports Dolby PLIIz as well). It ties with the Denon and the Yamaha for the most HDMI inputs (six, with one front-mounted), two component video, and five composite video inputs. It is the only receiver in the comparison to support dual subwoofers.

While Apple AirPlay is not supported, just about every other streaming service is. There is DNLA certification (1.5 wasn't listed, though it is probably included), Windows 7, and a host of streaming services pre-configured (vTuner, Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM iRadio, Slacker, Mediafly, Napster iRadio). The TX-NR609 is one of three receivers that has extra speaker terminals (along with the Yamaha and Pioneer) so that you can switch configurations without pulling out your receiver and switching cables. The Onkyo is also the heaviest in the group at 24.7 lbs.

Onkyo's downside is that they are still using the Audyssey 2EQ room correction system which is getting quite long in the tooth. To counteract this, they have Marvell QDEO processing on board which not only scales your video to 1080p, but (at least in theory) to the newer 4k resolution (not that you can find a TV or source to display that yet). Onkyo was the only manufacturer that didn't have anything extra to tout on their website. Probably because they had everything already shoved into the receiver.

Yamaha RX-V671

RX-V671At $0.95 more than the Onkyo, these two receivers (and the next one) are essentially the same price. The Yamaha has a similar starting point with 90 watts per channel and 3D and ARC support along with a GUI overlay. There is no Audyssey DSX support (as to be expected with a Yamaha YPAO product) but they have the same number of inputs (six HDMI, two component video, five composite video). They even have the same number of digital audio inputs (two each optical and coaxial - tying for best in the comparison). They have a video scaler on board (to 1080p), but the chipset is proprietary so we don't know the performance. The RX-V671 has plenty of networking options (Pandora, Rhapsody, SIRIUS Internet Radio, Napster, vTuner Internet Radio , PC control) and an app available for your iDevice for control. Yamaha, too, has an additional pair of binding posts for more flexible speaker configurations.

Yamaha uses their own proprietary YPAO room setup and configuration on their receivers and the RX-V671 is no different. The RX-V671 is 'Made for iPod' certified. It will accept a direct iPod connection through the front USB port (Yamaha, along with just about everyone else, makes a dock for added functionality). The RX-V671 weighs in at a middle of the road 23.1 lbs (though it is only 1.6 lbs less than the comparison leader). It is DLNA 1.5 and Windows 7 certified.

Yamaha had a few "features" to tout on their website. They've been pushing their SCENE buttons for a while. These are, essentially, macro buttons that are preconfigured. Power users and those that live with Luddites might get use out of them. Their new CINEMA DSP 3D is another in a long line of DSPs from Yamaha (they do love them over there). This one is designed to do the things that the width, height, etc. speakers are supposed to do. They listed their compressed music enhancer (we have one of those too, it's call FLAC) and an eco-friendly design. These are really a mixed bag of features looking to carpet bomb the public. Shop at Whole Foods? We're eco-friendly. Saved all your music to MP3 before you knew better? We'll fix that for you. Got a wife/father-in-law/kids that can't figure out remotes? SCENE buttons will fix you right up. And if you want those extra speakers, but can't convince the better half, we've got just the DSP for you.

Pioneer VSX-50

VSX-50The Pioneer VSX-50 costs a mere five cents more than the Yamaha (one dollar more than the Onkyo). It is rated for the same power as the Yamaha (90 watts per channel) and sports 3D, ARC, HDMI GUI, and Dolby PLIIz. Like Yamaha, Pioneer uses their own room correction system (this one has the newer Advanced MCACC). The Pioneer was the only receiver to sport 5-way binding posts for their extra speakers (the two above used the less desirable spring-type). Pioneer is also the only receiver that is certified for all iDevices (including the iPad) and even includes its own cable (which supports video). While other receivers upconvert to 1080p (or 4K in Onkyo's case), the Pioneer will also provide calibration options though its Anchor Bay chipset (the only one in the comparison). While just about every one of the other receivers has a control app available through iTunes, Pioneer is the only one that specified that they have an Android app as well.

Pioneer has long been a supporter of Apple, so it wasn't surprising that not only was Apple AirPlay supported, but also Windows 7 certification was omitted. It is DLNA 1.5 certified, however. It ties the Marantz for the least number of HDMI inputs (four), though it does have the same number of the rest of the video inputs as the leaders (two component and five composite). It has one coaxial and two optical digital audio inputs. The Pioneer is the second lightest in the comparison at 21.82 lbs (nearly 3 lbs less than the Onkyo). What is a bit baffling about the VSX-50 is the lack of networking options. While you can stream content from your DLNA or Apple device, the only streaming service supported is Internet Radio. 

Pioneer's newest thing to tout is their Air Jam App. This allows iDevice users to sync up over Bluetooth and create a group playlist that is streamed directly to the receiver. If you like a song that you don't own, you can mark it for later purchase on iTunes. Pioneer's AVNavigator is essentially a PC-assisted walk-through of receiver setup for the uninitiated - a cool feature that you'll probably only use one. The only other touted feature was that the VSX-50 has been tested by Control 4, AMX, Crestron, RTI, Universal Remote, and Savant. Again, this is a mixed bag with Air Jam and AVNavigator targeting the causal consumer, and the rest the custom installer.

Marantz NR1602

NR1602The Marantz NR1602 and the Denon offering are the same price, but we'll cover the Marantz first (so we don't have to say over and over, "Unlike the Denon, the Marantz offering doesn't have..."). At a $649.99 MSRP, the NR1602 is $50 more than the Onkyo. It is rated at 50 watts (the lowest in the comparison by nearly half), has 3D and ARC support, a GUI, and supports Dolby PLIIz. The Marantz ties with the Pioneer for the least number of HDMI inputs (four), though it has an excuse - it is sporting a slimline design. This gives the NR1602 over two inches off the height of any of the other offerings. It is also lighter than the rest at 19.8 lbs, though, considering the design, perhaps that is to be forgiven. The Marantz still manages two component video inputs, but only three composite. It is the only receiver in the comparison that has pre-outs that can be assigned. All the rest have them only for Zone 2. It has two coaxial and one optical digital audio inputs and is Apple AirPlay and DLNA 1.5 certified. 

At this point, we have to start pointing out what is missing. There are no additional speaker terminals for multiple configuration. There is no video scaling. Windows 7 is not supported and, oddly, there was no mention of any 'Made for iPod' support (even though you can plug your iDevice into the front USB port). There are a modest number of streaming services supported (Internet Radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Naptster). While better than the Onkyo offering, the Audyssey MultEQ is still a bit old. 

Marantz really only touted two things on their website (other than the features listed). Basically they explained that they have 192kHz/24-bit DACs for all channels and an isolated audio circuit board. Well just about everyone uses similar DACs, but the message is clear - Marantz cares about audio quality. While it doesn't have the breadth of the other manufacturer's messages, it is a very interesting point. Perhaps they think that pointing out how much they care about audio, consumers will think that others don't care as much (it certainly seems like Yamaha doesn't think you care that much with their focus on compressed music).

Denon AVR-2112CI

AVR-2112CIThe AVR-2112CI is the same price as the Marantz ($650) but it is a full-sized receiver. It (along with just about every other product) claims 90 watts per channel. It was the only receiver that specified that, not only did it support 3D and ARC (Audio Return Chanel), but also HDMI Stand-by Pass-thru. While it may be that other receivers may have these features, only the Denon listed it on their website. Of course, there was a GUI, Dolby PLIIz, and DLNA 1.5 and Window 7 certification. Apple AirPlay is supported, as well as a host of streaming services (Internet Radio, Flickr, Pandora, Rhapsody, Naptster, PC Setup and Control). The AVR-2112CI is 'Made for iPod' certified, though you'll need an optional dock to get all the features.

The AVR-2112CI has six HDMI inputs (one front-mounted), but only one component video (worst in the comparison) and three composite video (tied with the slimline Marantz for the second worst). It has the least number of digital audio inputs (one each optical and coaxial) and no video upscaling or extra speaker terminals. It weighs in a 22.5 lbs (only above the Marantz and Pioneer) but shares the longest warranty with the Marantz (3 years - everyone else has only 2). The Denon AVR-2112CI has the best version of Audyssey in the comparison (MultEQ XT) and has a Apple App for control.

Denon decided to tout their Auto Lipsync function (something that most receivers have in some way) that could sway consumers that have run into this issue. They also pointed out native FLAC HD support - something that would interest only power users. While the other manufacturers seem be trying to send a message, we're not sure what Denon is doing. It really seems like, "Oh yeah, and we can..." with features that might interest some, but probably not enough to make you want to buy their receiver.

Harman Kardon AVR 2650

AVR 2650HK loves to price their receivers differently from everyone else. This usually means I stick in the one with the closest price point. Often, that means that the HK is less than the rest and, therefore, has a built-in excuse. This time I decided to give them the advantage. At $799, the HK AVR 2650 is $150 more than the next receiver and $200 more than the Onkyo. With this much of an advantage, you'd expect a much better feature set.

Be prepared to be disappointed.

One thing about the HK crowd is they love to say that HK rates their amps conservatively. Well, the AVR 2650 has a conservative 95 watts per channel (though on some parts of their website they say 85). It does support 3D and ARC, Dolby PLIIz, and it has an HDMI GUI overlay. Like the Pioneer and Yamaha, HK uses a proprietary room correction system called EQSet/EQ. It has one less HDMI input than the comparison leaders at five along with two component video inputs.

While the AVR 2650 is networked and can stream Internet Radio, it is not DLNA, Windows 7, or Apple AirPlay compatible. There is no 'Made for iPod' certification and it is the only receiver that doesn't have an app for control. While it ties the Onkyo for the most digital audio inputs (two each coaxial and optical), it has the least number of composite video (only two). There are no additional speaker terminals for easy configuration switching and, in fact, it is the only receiver that won't accept an iDevice through the front-mounted USB port (you need to buy their dock). At 24.4 lbs, it is the second heaviest in the comparison (after the Onkyo).

Harman Kardon didn't have a lot to tout with the AVR 2650 other than their Logic 7 processing (a proprietary surround sound DSP they've had for years) and, presumably, their name. If you are a fan of HK, you'll like this receiver. If you're a fan of getting bang for your buck, you'll look elsewhere.


You'd have to be blinded by fan-boy-ism not to see that the Onkyo is the best bang for your buck in this comparison. Onkyo has long made a name for themselves for getting you features at the lowest price point possible. While we've often found that the D&M Holding offerings (Denon & Marantz) will keep up with Onkyo by offering a more targeted feature set, that's not the case this year. The only thing we wish is that Onkyo would drop that useless 4k processing for a better Audyssey room correction and maybe individual video input calibration. That would make them the hands-down winner. As it is, they are the nine-fingers-down winner with that last finger pointing at the guy that bought the HK and laughing.


About the author:
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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.

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