Various models from Denon, Pioneer, Yamaha and Onkyo float to the top of various lists when reviewers identify the best home theater systems, but the Sony STR-DN1030 (*Est. $500) lands at the very apex, thanks to its expansive 7.2-channel sound and deep feature set. The receiver boasts robust sound, analog-to-digital video upscaling and support for AirPlay, DLNA and Internet radio stations. It also includes built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, two relative rarities among receivers in its price class.
There is one major downside, however: Critics and especially users find the interface to be clunky. That can make set up and everyday use a little more difficult than some competing home theater receivers. Still, if you can look past that -- and most do -- there's no other receiver near its price that delivers as much the Sony STR-DN1030.
The 3D-capable Onkyo TX-NR515 (*Est. $500) sports all the high-definition audio decoders you need, Marvell Qdeo-powered 4K and 1080p processing and scaling, more HDMI connections than you can shake a stick at and robust Internet radio and DLNA support. While the receiver packs wired Ethernet, adding Wi-Fi requires the purchase of a $30 accessory. More troubling, several users report issues with the main HDMI output repeatedly dropping the video feed.
The 7.1-channel Denon AVR-1913 (*Est. $580) sports impressive build quality, sound, interface and feature set, but its relatively high price and lack of Wi-Fi hurt its overall standing. Experts say it's one of the best all-around AVR packages, however, though users say it runs hot.
All of the receivers above boast support for seven surround-sound audio channels, plus a subwoofer. The Yamaha RX-V473 (*Est. $400), on the other hand, is a 5.1 channel receiver (five surround channels plus a subwoofer output). If you don't need 7-channel support, it's a pretty good sounding option, reports say. Don't forget, outside of a small number of Blu-ray Discs, there's very little native 7-channel audio out there, though the extra channels of sound can be "recreated" by some Dolby, DTS and other digital audio codecs (formats) supported by this and other receivers.
There are, however, some other downsides. Experts say the receiver's interface and control are too cluttered. Spotty DLNA and iOS playback support and the lack of built-in Wi-Fi are two other issues that have drawn attention. On the other hand, AirPlay support, 4K resolution pass-through, a bevy of sound processing modes and a helpful iOS control app are all nice touches.