Home theater receivers are at the heart of any home theater setup, processing and directing the electronic signals flowing between your speakers, TV and DVD or Blu-ray player.
In the past, features such as Internet connectivity, earth-shaking volume, automatic speaker setup and decoders for the lossless audio formats used on Blu-ray Discs could only be found in high-end receivers. Now, those features can be found in many mainstream home theater receivers. While budget and basic home theater receivers are somewhat less capable, they do offer more functions than ever before.
Mainstream receivers generally sound excellent, especially for movies, though the pickiest of audiophiles might want to consider more expensive receivers for enjoying finely nuanced music. For those watching the bottom line, basic and budget receivers sound nearly as good, though most won't pack in as many features.
It's possible to spend more than $5,000 -- in fact, lots more -- for a home theater receiver. However, for the majority of consumers that's overkill. Instead, reviews say you can spend considerably less and still wind up with a home theater that will impress all but the fussiest listeners. That's why the focus of this report is on mainstream receivers priced at $600 and less, with analysis pooled from professional and user reviews.