The 2 Best Under-$400 Home Theater Receivers

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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."
Least Expensive:
Sony STR-DH550 at Amazon
"If you are looking for an entry-level home theater receiver, check out the Sony STR-DH550."

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

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.

Least Expensive: Sony STR-DH550

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 four 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 that they include a front-mounted USB port for accessing content on flash drives or an iPhone, iPod, or iPad.

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

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.

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.

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.