The 4 Best Under-$400 Home Theater Receivers

Great audio for less

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The best home theater receivers are no light matter to consider adding to your home cinema experience, especially when combined with the latest 4K TVs. The hub of the home theater system, receivers are capable of producing dimension, clarity of sound, and best of all, power. When combined with a 5.1 or a 7.2 channel home theater setup, it’s a significant difference in quality. It’s especially noticeable when contrasted with soundbars or the built-in sound systems available in TVs today, whose quality has steadily degraded as TVs have gotten thinner and thinner. Read on to see the best home theater receivers to get for under $400.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Yamaha RX-V385 at Amazon
If you are planning to purchase a basic home theater receiver with useful features, power, and performance, the RX-V383 offers a worthy option.
Best 5.2 Channel:
Onkyo TX-SR393 at Best Buy
Easily the best 5.2 channel AV receiver for the price.
Best 7.2 Channel:
Sony STR-DH790 at Amazon
A highly capable 7.2 channel receiver that’s perfect for home theater newbies.
An affordable, entry-level amplifier that’s great for home theater or music lovers.

Best Overall: Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel A/V Receiver

Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver with Bluetooth
What We Like
  • Excellent sound for an entry level receiver

  • Bluetooth enabled

What We Don't Like
  • No Wi-Fi connectivity

  • Not suited for larger rooms

The Yamaha RX-V385 offers a lot for its suggested price tag, such as a powerful 5.1-channel amplifier (70 wpc), Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding for Blu-ray Discs. Also, built-in Bluetooth allows direct streaming from compatible devices, such as smartphones, as well the ability for the receiver to send audio to Bluetooth-enabled speakers or headphones.

The SCENE function allows preset or customized listening and viewing modes. One feature I especially like is the Silent Cinema headphone surround output.

For ease of speaker setup, the RX-V385 includes Yamaha's YPAO system. Using an included microphone, the receiver generates test tones that it can analyze to get the best sound from your speakers in a given room.

Also included are four HDMI inputs and outputs that, in addition to 1080p, 4K, and 3D video signals, are also pass-through compatible with HDR (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log Gamma) and Wide Color Gamut. However, the RX-V385 does not provide additional video processing or upscaling.

Also, although Bluetooth is provided, as mentioned earlier, the RX-V385 does not include built-in internet streaming capability. However, the front-mounted USB port allows the playback of downloaded music files from stored flash drives.

If you are planning to purchase a basic home theater receiver with useful features, power, and performance, the RX-V385 offers a worthy option.

Wattage: 145W | Inputs: Stereo RCA (3), HDMI (4), Coaxial (1), Optical (1) | Outputs: Stereo RCA (1), Speaker Wire (5), HDMI (1) | Dimensions: 12.4" x 17.13" x 6.34"

Best 5.2 Channel: Onkyo TX-SR393 Home Theater Receiver

Onkyo TX-SR373 5.2 Channel A/V Receiver with Bluetooth
What We Like
  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • Supports 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS:X

What We Don't Like
  • No wireless internet support

Easily the best 5.2 channel AV receiver for the price, Onkyo’s loaded machine is an entry-level receiver offering a variety of features and setup options that’ll ensure you’ve got the perfect home theater setup for your needs. Configurable up to 3.1.2 channels, Onkyo ensures you can take advantage of the latest in immersive surround sound technology, whether it’s Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or native object-audio playback. 

James considered it a surprising standout since it's Onkyo’s least expensive AV receiver from its 2019 lineup, the TX-SR393 includes four HDMI inputs and one HDMI (ARC) output. The speaker hookups accept banana plugs, which makes connecting them much simpler, and thanks to Onkyo’s proprietary AccuEQ calibration technology, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll have the best acoustics for the room you’re in, no matter the size. 

The Onkyo TX-SR393 is easy to use and adjust as needed, thanks to its user-friendly GUI and remote control. It supports 1080P to 4K upscaling, 4K HDR video at 60 frames/second, and HDR video passthrough. A future firmware update will bring the receiver into HDCP 2.3-compatibility, too. 

Bluetooth connectivity, but notably no Wi-Fi connectivity, is a nice slice-of-life feature, allowing you to cast music and stream directly from devices to the TX-SR393. Overall, the main criticism of this receiver is that it simply can’t perform at the same level as mid to high-end AV receivers, which offer more finesse and natural sound. Hardly a criticism, given the great value this budget system provides.

Wattage: 155W | Inputs: Stereo RCA (5), HDMI (4), Coaxial (1), Optical (1) | Outputs: Stereo RCA (2), Speaker Wire (3), HDMI (1) | Dimensions: 12.9" x 17.1" x 6.3"

"It doesn’t have some of the connected features that many home receivers have, but if you’re not interested in these features, the TX-SR373 is a great choice."James Huenink, Product Tester

Onkyo TX-SR373

Lifewire / James Huenink 

Best 7.2 Channel: Sony STR-DH790 7.2 Channel Receiver

Sony STR-DH790 7.2-ch Surround Sound
What We Like
  • Supports 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound

  • Easy-to-use auto calibration

What We Don't Like
  • Not rated for 4-ohm loudspeakers

  • Can’t fine tune second zone

The Sony STR-DH790 offers excellent value for the price. Able to support either a 5.1, 5.2 or a 7.2 channel home theater system setup and rated at 145 watts power-per-channel, it’s got plenty of options and power for most needs. Even better is its support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. For any 5.1 or 5.2 channel users out there, it also offers room to grow if you’re considering adding additional speakers at a later date for even more immersive sound quality. 

The STR-DH790 comes equipped with four HDMI inputs which all support HDR and 4K video at 60 frames/second as well as one HDMI (eARC) output. Including 3D video pass-through technology, Our reviewer, Jeremy, found that it worked seamlessly with his home theater setup. Bluetooth connectivity, and a variety of Sound Effect options to optimize listening, the STR-DH790 offers competitive features for the price. 

Like many entry-level AV receivers, the STR-DH790 doesn’t include Wi-Fi connectivity. While the spring-clip connections are a bit annoying and the setup wizard leaves a little to be desired, the Sony auto-calibration makes finalizing your home theater system a breeze. Do be aware—it doesn’t support wireless speaker connections. Still, with a low harmonic distortion of .9%, this system offers clean, strong sound, great bass, and excellent features at a good price.

Wattage: 145W | Inputs: Stereo RCA (5), HDMI (4), Coaxial (1), Optical (1) | Outputs: Stereo RCA (2), Speaker Wire (5), HDMI (1) | Dimensions: 11.75" x 17" x 5.25"

The Sony STR-DH790 is a highly capable 7.2 channel receiver that’s perfect for home theater newbies and anyone looking to put together a decent setup on the cheap.” — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Sony STR-DH790 7.2 Channel Receiver

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Design: Cambridge Audio AXA35

Cambridge Audio AXA35
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Phono-stage built-in for turntable attachments

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth connectivity, coaxial or optical inputs

  • Remote control can be finicky

The Cambridge Audio AXA35 is an affordable, entry-level amplifier that’s great for home theater or music lovers. It provides input for up to five sources, although it’s lacking some key features we’ve grown used to seeing as standards, such as Bluetooth connectivity and coaxial or optical inputs. Its design is otherwise intuitive and attractive, from the silver finish, beveled heat vents to reduce sharp edges, and its almost floating nature thanks to its low-profile supports. Combined with a convenient remote and good power at 35 watts of power-per-channel, the AXA35 integrated amplifier is a great fit for small to medium-sized rooms. 

In addition to its sleek design, it includes a USB B port for powering smartphones, tablets, and other media devices. Unfortunately, it’s not capable of playing music directly from external sources connected to this port.

Once it’s all hooked up, it’s easy to see why those seemingly standard features were actually dropped: to support clean, crisp, and surprisingly strong sound quality. Cambridge Audio’s selective focus on the AXA35’s components and minimalist features has paid off, making it easily the best-designed budget amplifier today. It’s excellent quality for the price.

Wattage: 35W | Inputs: Stereo RCA (5), 3.5mm Headphone Jack (1) | Outputs: Stereo RCA (2), 3.5mm Headphone Jack (1) | Dimensions: 13.2" x 16.9" x 3.3"

Final Verdict

Hands down, the best overall home theater receiver under $400 is the Yamaha RX-V385BL 4K AV receiver (view at Best Buy). With a number of ease of life features, a smooth setup process, user-friendly controls for customizable listening options. It’s a great machine for people looking to get their toes wet without investing an arm and a leg in their home-theater setup.

Our other choice is the Sony STR-DH790 (view at Amazon). While it’s a little more expensive than the V385BL, its ability to support 5.1, 5.2, and 7.2 configurations, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, make it a great AV receiver for the price. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Emily Isaacs is a Chicago-based technology writer who's been teaming-up with Lifewire since 2019. Her areas of expertise include video games, consumer technology, and gadgets. She also uses the top pick on this list daily.

Jeremy Laukkonen is a former auto shop owner who was always drawn towards the tech side of cars (and virtually everything else) and gave up life under the hood to become a tech journalist. He specializes in home entertainment, Android devices, and consumer tech, and loves making complex subjects legible for even the most novice reader.

James Huenink has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, covering camera, portable speakers, and home entertainment.

FAQs

How can you add Bluetooth to a stereo receiver?
Some budget receivers don't come with native Bluetooth connectivity, but luckily, adding it is fairly simple. It just involves purchasing a wireless Bluetooth adapter, like the Harmon Kardon BTA-10 over at Amazon. Plug it into your receiver and you'll instantly be able to stream audio to it from any Bluetooth-enabled device.

How do you connect a subwoofer to a stereo receiver?
As our handy guide explains, it's easy to connect a subwoofer to your new receiver by way of RCA or LFE cables, or via the speaker output if your subwoofer features spring clips.

What's the best way to clean a stereo receiver?
Like a lot of audio equipment, receivers can be sensitive to harsh chemicals and can get damaged when cleaned improperly. The best way to tidy up your receiver is using a can of compressed air to dispel dust on the surface and in the cavities, especially useful if you open up the chassis. It's also advisable to occasionally remove the knobs, faceplate, or switches, and clean any point of contact with contact cleaner, which is specially designed for cleaning electronics.

Onkyo TX-SR373
Lifewire / James Huenink

What to Look For in a Home Theater Receiver Under $400

Connectivity

Before you buy a receiver, look at how many devices you want to connect and the methods you’ll use to connect them. Make sure that the receiver has enough HDMI, RCA, optical, and other inputs to accommodate all of your equipment. If you want any wireless connections, look for a receiver that includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or both.

Sony STR-DH790 7.2 Channel Receiver

Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Audio Formats

Most inexpensive home theater receivers support older codecs like Dolby TrueHD and DTS:HD. If you want the best surround sound experience possible, look for a receiver that supports the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X codecs. You'll also want to look at what home theater setups they support. Some will only work for 5.1 or 5.2 or 7.2 systems. Be sure to take a look at our overview of the 2.0, 2.1, 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 channel systems.

Room Correction

In this price range, built-in room correction software is one of the biggest difference makers in terms of audio quality. It takes a little extra work to use this feature, but you’ll really notice the difference if you choose a receiver that has great room correction. Our guide for how to set up a home theater system can help you evaluate your options for better digital room correction.

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