Best Home Theater Receivers - Priced at $399.00 or Less

Home theater receivers provide a great way to centralize the connections and functions of your home theater system. The great thing is that is even moderately priced home theater receivers now provide features and quality that just a couple of years ago would have commanded sky high prices. Below is a list of my favorite budget home theater receivers ($399 or Less).

For additional Home Theater Receiver suggestions, also check out my listings of Home Theater Receivers - $400 to $1,299 and Home Theater Receivers - $1,300 and Up.

Also, check out my Guide to Home Theater Receivers for everything you need to know before purchasing one.

NOTE: For more details on what any stated power ratings that may be included in this article mean with respect to real-world conditions, refer to my article: Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.

1
Best Overall: The Yamaha RX-V481

Yamaha RX-V481 Home Theater Receiver
Yamaha RX-V481 Home Theater Receiver. Images provided by Yamaha Electronics Corporation

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The Yamaha RX-V481 is an example of how much a home theater receiver can offer for a very reasonable price. Although its suggested list price is $449.95, it can be easily be found in the $399 price range as of September 2016.

This receiver has a powerful 5.1 channel amplifier (80WPC- measured with 2 channels driven), and Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, as well as Air Surround Xtreme-based Virtual Cinema Front audio processing for those that would rather place all their speakers in the front of the room.

Another practical audio feature is Silent Cinema. This option allows users to plug in any set of traditional headphones or earphones and listen to movies or music in surround sound without disturbing others.

The RX-V481 can also wirelessly access iTunes and additional music streaming from an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad via Apple Airplay. However, in addition to Apple AirPlay, vTuner internet radio, as well as media files stored on USB flash drives and compatible PCs connected to a home network can be accessed. The RX-V479 can connect to your home network/internet via Ethernet or Wifi.

Of course, more traditional features have not been neglected. These include Yamaha's SCENE function, which allows preset or customized listening and viewing modes, as well as Yamaha's Silent Cinema headphone surround output.

Also included is HDMI Audio Return Channel, as well as 3D, 4K, BT.2020, and HDR pass-through. For ease of setup, the RX-V481 even includes its YPAO automatic speaker setup system.

If you are planning to purchase a modestly priced home theater receiver with useful features, power, and performance, the RX-V481 may be just the ticket.
 

2
Best Speaker Setup System: The Pioneer VSX-831

Pioneer Electronics VSX-831 Home Theater Receiver
Pioneer Electronics VSX-831 Home Theater Receiver. Images provided by Pioneer Electronics

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The Pioneer VSX-831 provides a built-in 5.2 Channel configuration (80 wpc - measured with 2 channels driven) with Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio decoding as well as additional surround sound processing. The VSX-831 also provides the MCACC speaker calibration system which makes speaker placement and level setup very easy.

For connectivity, the VSX-831 has 6 HDMI inputs that support 3D and HDR pass-through, 4K pass-through, and 1080p to 4K upscaling.

Direct streaming from compatible devices is possible via Bluetooth. Apple Airplay and Google Cast via firmware update, as well as access to content stored on USB flash drives.

Additional bonuses include Ethernet/LAN and built-in Wifi, which allows access to Internet Radio (vTuner, Pandora) well as DLNA-certified devices (media servers, PCs) on your home network.

3
Solid Basics: The Yamaha RX-V381

Yamaha RX-V381 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Yamaha RX-V381 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Images provided by Yamaha Electronics Coporation

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The Yamaha RX-V381 offers a lot for its $299.95 price tag, such as a powerful 5.1 channel amplifier (70 wpc measured with 2ch driven from 20Hz-20kHz at 8 ohms .09% THD), 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.

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

Also included is HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 compatibility, which includes 3D, HDR, and BT.2020 Wide Color Gamut support along with both 1080p and 4K pass through switching (no upscaling) via 4 HDMI inputs. The RX-V381 even offers the YPAO speaker setup system.

If you are planning to purchase a basic home theater receiver with useful features, power, and performance, the RX-V381 may be just the ticket.

4
Best Bang For The Buck: The Onkyo TX-SR353

Onkyo TX-SR353 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Onkyo TX-SR353 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Image provided by Onkyo USA

The Onkyo TX-SR353 packs in a lot for not a lot of money. Starting with core functions, the TX-SR353 provides a 5.1 channel configuration that delivers 80 Watts-per-Channel, combined with, Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, as well as Audio Return Channel, 3D, HDR, 1080p, and 4K pass-through (no additional video processing or upscaling) via 4 HDMI inputs and one output.

Other bonuses include built-in Bluetooth, which allows direct streaming from compatible smartphones and tablet, as well as front mounted USB port for convenient access to music files stored on flash drives, and to make setup easier, Onkyo also includes its AccuEQ speaker calibration system.

For a suggested price of $399 as of September 2016, the Onkyo TX-SR353 offers the core basics you need for a modest home theater system. If you are on a limited budget or are looking for a receiver to serve as the hub for a second room system, the TX-SR353 may be just right for you.

If fact, for novices, the Onkyo TX353 provides a rear connection panel that not only provides the connections, but images of the types of devices that you can plug into each connection,  as well an illustrated speaker layout diagram - If you are purchasing your first home theater reciever, the rear channel connection illustration feature is definitely something to consider..

5
Clean Sound: The Denon AVR-S510BT

Denon AVR-S510BT Home Theater Receiver
Denon AVR-S510BT Home Theater Receiver. Photo of Denon AVR-S510BT Provided By D&M Holdings

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If you are looking for a home theater receiver that emphasizes the basics, check out the 5.2 channel Denon AVR-S510BT, which has a stated power output of 75 watts-per-channel with with a very low distortion level.

Some of the audio and video features include are, Audio Return Channel, 4K, and 3D pass through. However, in keeping with basic nature of this receiver, no 1080p or 4K video upscaling is provided.

On the hand, the AVR-S510BT's HDMI connections have been upgraded to comply with HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 specifications. This means that support is provided for 60fps 4K input signals.

Also, the AVR-S510BT provides a Direct USB connection for accessing music from iPod/iPhone/iPad, or USB flash drives, as well as built-in Bluetooth, which allows direct music streaming from compatible portable devices, which includes many smartphones and tablets.

The AVR-S510BT can be controlled using the included remote via a free app for compatible iOS or Android phones/tablets.

6
The Bare Basics: Sony STR-DH550

Sony-STRDH550a.jpg
Sony STR-HD550 Home Theater Receiver. Image Provided by Sony Electronics, Inc

If you are looking for an entry-level home theater receiver, check out the Sony STR-DH550. This receiver features up to a 5.2 channel configuration, Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio/Multi-channel PCM decoding, as well as additional audio processing. The 4 HDMI  inputs are both 3D and 4K pass-through compatible (One HDMI input is also MHL-compatible), and HDMI output is Audio Return Channel-enabled. The STR-DH550 even offers a pass-through mode that allows access to HDMI connected devices even if the receiver is off. One added bonus is they include a front mounted USB port for accessing content on flash drives or iPhone, iPod, or iPad.

The STR-DH550 is definitely not high-end but has practical features (including Sony's Digtial Cinema Auto Calibration speaker setup system), that make it great for a modest home theater system.

7
Least Expensive: The Pioneer VSX-531

Pioneer VSX-531 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Pioneer VSX-531 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Image provided by Pioneer Electronics

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Pioneer's VSX-531 does not include access to internet radio or other internet or network streaming content, and it doesn't have Pioneer's MCACC automatic speaker setup system, but if you are looking for a no-frills home theater receiver that sounds sound, and costs less than $300, then the VSX-531 might be enough.

The VSX-531 provides up to a 5.1 channel speaker configuration, with a stated power output of 80 wpc (measured using 20 Hz to 20 kHz test tones, 2 channels driven, at 8 Ohms, with 0.8% THD - in non-technical terms, enough power for a small or medium size room) and provides Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, as well as additional sound processing modes.

There are also 4 3D and 4K pass-through HDMI connections, with HDCP 2.2 copy protection. However, at this price, you won't get video upscaling.

Audio-only connections include 1 digital optical, 1 digital coaxial, and dedicated set of analog stereo inputs. A Subwoofer preamp output is also provided for connection to a powered subwoofer.

One added connection provided is a USB port for connection of flash drives or other compatible USB devices.

Another surprise is the inclusion of built-in Bluetooth which enables direct streaming from compatible smartphones and tablets.

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