The 7 Best Stereo Receivers of 2021

Get the best sound out of your audio system with these stereo receivers

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The Rundown
"For about $150 at the time of this writing, you get a 100W stereo receiver with just enough bells & whistles to feel premium."
Runner-Up, Best Overall:
Yamaha R-N303BL at Amazon
"The addition of Wi-Fi functionality and expandable app and voice control make this the Yamaha receiver fit for the modern age."
Best for Amazon Echo Users:
Amazon Echo Link Amp at Amazon
"Amazon’s Echo Link line of products aims to give you a bridge between your traditional audio-video equipment and Alexa."
"Sony’s STRDH190 is about as barebones as you can get for a true stereo receiver and amplifier."
Best Control and Connectivity:
Marantz NR1200 at Amazon
"There are optical ins and outs to use this unit as a fully controllable receiver for your whole entertainment system."
"Thanks to balanced audio handling and a sleek look, you’re paying for a living room focal point as well as a stereo receiver."

The best stereo receivers are the hub of your home entertainment setup and the core sound device you need for any home theater configuration. They're a necessity for any surround sound speaker setup, and also the best path for integrating smart home functionality into your entertainment system. Anyone assembling a home theater or looking to add next level sound and immersion to their existing setup needs a great receiver to anchor the entire project.

Best Overall: Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Decent power output

  • Bluetooth and eco modes

  • Reasonably priced

What We Don't Like
  • A bit bulky

  • No subwoofer or surround support

Yamaha provides consumers with a really nice middle-ground for stereo receivers—with enough power to drive your speaker setup and enough features to give you options—and the RS202BL earns our top spot here because it does this all really well. The best thing about the 202BL is undoubtedly its price. For about $150 at the time of this writing (it’s on sale and usually goes for $180), you get a 100W stereo receiver with just enough bells & whistles to feel premium without any of the flashiness that can drive the price of your receiver way up. To be clear, this unit is a true stereo receiver, not offering anything in the way of surround sound outputs or HDMI pass-through. It is an amp that will power up to two pairs of passive speakers at 8 ohms for up to 100W of handling. This makes it perfect for a record player setup as well as a basic TV entertainment setup. There are 4 RCA-level inputs and 1 RCA output to extend your system to a separate receiver if you need more channels. There’s a radio receiver on-board to allow for 40 stations of AM/FM tuning. Plus, Yamaha has included two interesting wilde-card features: Bluetooth connectivity for easily connecting to your wireless-enabled devices and an eco-mode that aims to save power when you are playing media for longer hours. Finally, the look of the unit, while not exactly compact, manages to tread a fine line between substantial and sleek. In short, the thing will look pretty classy in your setup.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Yamaha R-N303BL Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-N303 Network Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Tons of connected features

  • Digital input available

  • Plenty of power

What We Don't Like
  • A bit pricey

  • No surround support

  • Limited inputs and no HDMI

The Yamaha R-N303BL offers a lot of the same features as the lower-end RS line of receivers, but folds in some extra functionality that might be worth the noticeably higher price tag. The dual stereo speaker outputs will drive 100W of power at 8 ohms, just like the lower end model. And all the line-level analog RCA inputs are here (though there is the addition of a phono input for a vinyl-friendly system). What’s different here is the presence of digital optical input from your TV, meaning it will assimilate more easily into a modern entertainment setup. 

Other key additions are Wi-Fi and smart functionality. While you can connect your phone to the speaker using Bluetooth, you’ll find a lot more value using Yamaha’s MusicCast app, which allows Alexa voice control and Apple AirPlay. This makes the stereo speaker a lot more versatile for streaming, and considering it supports FLAC and lossless audio, it’s great for those who have a Wi-Fi-playable, high-definition audio library. You’ll pay about $300 for the unit when you can find it, and that is actually a solid deal considering the quality of offering here. We’d have liked to see surround support for that price, but the digital and Internet-based options are a nice feature here.

Best for Amazon Echo Users: Amazon Echo Link Amp

Amazon Echo Link Amp
What We Like
  • Alexa-enabled control

  • Sleek, no-nonsense design

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly limited power output

  • A little pricey

Amazon’s Echo Link line of products aims to give you a bridge between your traditional audio-video equipment and Amazon’s tried-and-true Alexa voice control. This essentially turns your stereo system into a smart stereo receiver. There is a version of the Echo Link that does not feature an amp, which is a great option if you already have a stereo receiver that you love, but just want to bring smart functionality and voice controls to your setup. The Echo Link Amp here is a true standalone receiver, allowing you to power your passive speakers and drive a full AV system. The I/O is pretty standard, giving you RCA, coaxial, and digital optical ins and outs. This means that you can easily feed your media into the receiver, and pass it through to another device if you choose. There’s an ethernet port here too for connecting to the Internet—an important step for bringing in the Echo functionality. Finally there are two speaker outputs (an L and an R) for driving 60W of power to your passive bookshelf or stereo speakers, as well as a subwoofer out for including a sub in your system. 

Flip it around, and the design is pretty no-nonsense. There’s one giant volume knob on the front to allow you to control the drive quickly if needed, but all of the other functionality is controlled via the smart functions. Once you connect the device to the Internet, you’ll then use your smartphone and Alexa app to set up the device—after which, the Echo Link basically acts like any other other product on your network. That means you can control the amp with your voice or the Alexa app, and you can even set up the system for whole-home audio—telling your system to play one thing in the bedroom, and another thing in your living room entertainment setup. The name of the game here is simplicity. And though $300 is a little steep for the power handling, it might be worth it if you have a truly Alexa-based home.

Best Budget: Sony STRDH190 Stereo Receiver

Sony STRDH190 Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Solid input selection

  • Good power output

What We Don't Like
  • No subwoofer support

  • Bulky, heavy design

Sony’s STRDH190 is about as barebones as you can get for a true stereo receiver and amplifier. With the requisite giant knobs on the front and the LED, text-based display, you aren’t getting anything that looks particularly futuristic. The 100W of RMS handling is also very basic, powering most speaker setups with enough volume to enjoy TV shows and music alike. While there are four audio inputs via RCA, there’s an additional RCA phono-specific input for connecting a record player. This, paired with the stereo outputs make this an ideal choice for record lovers. 

But, if you do want some modern functionality, there’s Bluetooth connectivity available for playing music from your phone, tablet, or computer. The Bluetooth protocol isn’t the main focus here, so don’t expect modern codecs like aptX or anything. Instead, you’re getting a middle-of-the-road receiver that will power your speaker setup, all for under $150. Your trade-offs come in the lack of subwoofer and surround-sound support, and the fact that it’s about 15 pounds and pretty bulky. If you want something sleeker, louder, or more versatile you’ll have to look elsewhere on the list. But from a features-to-price standpoint, this is a good option.

Best Control and Connectivity: Marantz NR1200

Marantz NR1200
What We Like
  • Smart, HEOS functionality

  • Tons of I/Os including HDMI and optical

  • Great slim design and plenty of power

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly expensive

  • Possibly overkill for basic setups

Marantz is an audio brand that always provides really solid performance, but in recent years they have tried to bring that classic AV handling into the modern market with the Denon smart-connected HEOS app. The NR1200 stereo receiver comes with HEOS capabilities built-in, meaning as long as you have other HEOS-enabled Marantz speakers, you can set up a whole-home audio system similar to Sonos and the like. This app also allows you to connect to all the requisite streaming services and it even unlocks voice control through Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. All of this makes it a truly intuitive, modern-feeling unit.

But it isn’t just the modern features at play that make this receiver worth a look. The 75W of power handling for each channel means there’s a measured amount of power you can push to your passive speaker setup. And because there are subwoofer and zone outputs, this will work as a surround-sound system as well as just a stereo setup. There are optical ins and outs for digital audio support and HDMI inputs to use this unit as a fully controllable receiver for your whole entertainment system. And of course, if you want to use it as a traditional stereo amp, it’ll do that well, too. The setup will run you upwards of $600, so it isn’t exactly affordable, but the versatility might make it a good bet if your specific AV needs allow you to take advantage of the all the options here.

Best Low Profile: Cambridge Audio AXA35

Cambridge Audio AXA35
What We Like
  • Beautiful, sleek design

  • Excellent, balanced audio handling

  • Great for turntable use

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly under-powered

  • Limited inputs and outputs

  • A bit pricey

Cambridge Audio has earned quite the rep for their consumer audio offering. That’s because, rather than loading up their speakers and receivers with flashy extras, they stay laser-focused on high-quality audio and impeccable design. The AXA35 isn’t the most powerful receiver out there, and it certainly doesn’t offer the I/O spread of more expensive units. But what it does offer is 35W-per-channel of truly balanced sound, a moving magnet phono input that is extra friendly for record players, and some tonr-shapping controls that will really provide an impressive audio response. In short, it’s everything you’ll need to let your stereo speakers shine. 

Of course, the reason we’re giving it the nod here is because it sits at an ultra-thin 3.3 inches tall, and at just over 10 pounds, it’s one of the sleekest units out there that still offers sizable power. Its silver-gray design and stark white display also give it a much more futuristic look than the tired, plain black used in most receiver systems. At first glance, the $350+ price point might seem steep for only a few inputs and only 35W per channel of sound, but because of how well Cambridge Audio has handled that sound and because this thing looks so good, it’s worth the price for those who need something sleek and pro.

Final Verdict

Our best Overall pick (Yamaha’s RS202BL) is a no-frills receiver from Yamaha that is routinely available for well under $200 and will provide 100W of clean, substantial power to your basic stereo setup. Bluetooth functionality is nice, but beyond that, there really aren’t a lot of bells and whistles. If you need the extra connectivity, go for our Runner-Up, Best Overall pick, the Yamaha R-N303BL, which brings Wi-Fi functionality (through the MusicCast app), Alexa, and AirPlay support, as well as a digital optical input for expanded TV and entertainment connectivity.

About Our Trusted Experts:

Jason Schneider has a degree in music technology and communications from Northeastern University. He has been writing for tech websites for nearly 10 years and brings even more years’ of consumer electronics expertise to the table.

FAQ

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 I 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.

What to Look for in a Stereo Receiver

Price - Stereo receivers can cost you a pretty penny, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent one. While higher-end offerings will hover in the $2,000 range, if you’re on a tighter budget you can expect to spend around $500.

Connectivity - For most setups these days, you’ll want built-in Wi-Fi. Bonus points if it includes both a 2.4GHz and a 5GHz band, plus Bluetooth connectivity — this will make it easy to stream music from your favorite services like Spotify or Apple Music. Make sure there are also ample HDMI inputs.

Sound quality - Most brands will tout superior sound quality, but stereo receivers actually don’t differ as much in this respect. This might sound counterintuitive given that your receiver is the hub of your home audio setup, but you’re likely better off investing in high-quality speakers.

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