The 5 Best Budget-Friendly Stereo Receivers of 2021

Great sound at a wallet-friendly price point

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The Rundown
"The Sony STR-DH190 may offer a rather baseline set of features and connectivity options, but it does a great job at every one of them."
"Delivering a superior audio experience that sounds like a much more expensive device."
"Boasting an advanced circuitry design, 40-station FM-AM preset tuning, 100-watts-per-channel output, and Bluetooth capability."
Best Connectivity:
Yamaha R-N303BL at Abt.com
"Plug the cables into any audio sources (including speakers) and you’re off to the races with two channels of 100 W output."
"Available for less than $100, this four-channel stereo receiver tops out at 300W of output, which is a fair bit less than some of the other stereos on this list."

The best budget-friendly stereo speakers shouldn't require you to sacrifice audio quality to fall within your price range. As any audio aficionado can attest, it’s easy to spend a whole bunch of money in search of epic sound quality. But nowadays, you can get a strong brand-name stereo receiver from the likes of Sony or Yamaha for $300 or less, delivering great quality playback with Bluetooth connectivity and other perks. They're a great option for anyone who wants great home theater sound but isn't a hardcore audiophile looking to spend thousands on their setup.

If you need a little help figuring out what all of those ports and connections on the back of your receiver are for (and which are best), don’t miss our guide: Home Theater Receiver Connections Explained. Otherwise, read on to see the best budget-friendly stereo receivers.

Best Overall: Sony STRDH190 Stereo Receiver

Sony STRDH190 Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Excellent value

  • Great performance

  • Clean design

What We Don't Like
  • Flimsy speaker terminals

  • Limited connectivity

If you have relatively straightforward needs when it comes to a stereo receiver and don’t want to spend a bundle, it’s hard to do much better than Sony’s STRDH190 Stereo Receiver. It lacks frills such as HDMI inputs and outputs, Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, or any voice assistant integration—but it nails the basics and does so at a stellar price while looking great.

As our reviewer noted, the ultra-minimal design somehow makes it look more expensive than it actually is, while the 100W per channel stereo sound is excellent—we had no complaints. There are some creature comforts here that serious users may miss, and the more technical A/V aficionados may want to look elsewhere (and spend more). But for the average buyer who wants to snag a stellar stereo system for $150 or less, the Sony STRDH190 is a steal.

"One handy feature that the receiver has is the ability to turn on from a paired Bluetooth device, like your phone, even if the receiver is in standby mode." — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Sony STRDH590 5.2 Multi-Channel 4K Receiver

What We Like
  • 5.2 multi-channel surround

  • 4K HDR passthrough

  • Bluetooth audio playback

What We Don't Like
  • Can’t connect speakers via Bluetooth

The Sony STRDH590 5.2 Multi-Channel 4K Receiver delivers stellar sound and loads of additional features and is ideal for a home theater setup. It has 5.2 multi-channel surround sound with a booming 145W per channel in output, along with Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio that’s better than the price tag suggests.

Meanwhile, 4K and HDR (high dynamic range) passthrough compatibility means your TV will be able to depict the vibrant images that come through the receiver with no degradation. It also offers built-in Bluetooth wireless compatibility for playing music from your phone or other wireless devices, plus there’s FM radio support with up to 30 station presets. The minimal black box design should fit in well with any home entertainment system.

Most Popular: Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Excellent stereo sound

  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • Lots of helpful features

What We Don't Like
  • Runs warm

Yamaha’s R-S202BL is a great all-around option with advanced circuitry design, FM/AM preset tuning for up to 40 stations, 100-watt output per channel, and Bluetooth compatibility to wirelessly stream music from a smartphone, tablet, or other device. You can connect this receiver to two separate sets of speakers, if desired, and easily switch between the outputs thanks to the helpful speaker selector that lets you pick from either or both at the same time.

Coming in at 17-⅛ x 5-½ inches and a pretty light 14.8 pounds, Yamaha’s affordable receiver has a sleek design and conserves energy by automatically kicking into standby mode, in which it uses up just 0.5 W of power.

Best Connectivity: Yamaha R-N303BL Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-N303 Network Stereo Receiver
What We Like
  • Wi-Fi support

  • Alexa voice controls

  • MusicCast app is handy

What We Don't Like
  • Limited inputs

Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t on the top of the list for many affordable stereo receivers, but it’s one thing that helps set the Yamaha R-N303BL Stereo Receiver apart from the pack. Link it to your Wi-Fi network and you’ll gain access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, which can let you select songs with voice controls and access music from Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, and SiriusXM. Additionally, a MusicCast app can connect to both those services and your computer’s audio library, and lets you play music in up to nine additional rooms. 

Elsewhere, this 17.12 x 5.5 x 13.4-inch stereo receiver has a traditional black box design like most of its contemporaries and provides two channels of 100W output apiece. Limited inputs might put a hamper on surround sound playback, however, but the optical input makes TV hook-ups a breeze.

Best Budget: Pyle PT390BTU Bluetooth Amplifier System

What We Like
  • Bluetooth compatibility

  • Very affordable

  • USB + SD support

What We Don't Like
  • 300W max output

  • Not attractive design

If cost is your biggest driver in choosing a stereo receiver and you can deal without high-end output or sophisticated design, then the Pyle PT390BTU Bluetooth Amplifier System might be a solid pick. Available for less than $100, this four-channel stereo receiver tops out at 300W of output, which is a fair bit less than some of the other stereos on this list.

Likewise, while many receivers opt for a minimal, boxy design, this Pyle receiver looks more akin to a super-sized, standalone car stereo, complete with a bright, glowing screen. Still, it’s a versatile device with Bluetooth wireless connectivity for your smartphone or tablet, along with support for SD cards and USB sticks. Pyle’s PT390BTU could do well as an entry-level pick.

Final Verdict

Sony’s affordable and stylish STRDH190 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver (view on Amazon) is our pick for the best budget-friendly receiver, although you’ll get more bells and whistles if you’re willing to spend closer to $300. Sony’s own STR-DH790 (view on Amazon) is a strong pick if you’re looking for Dolby Atmos support bundled in, as well.

About our Trusted Experts:

Patrick Hyde has been writing professionally for more than four years, and his work has been featured in publications such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Reactual, and Rawkus.


Andrew Hayward
is a freelance writer and editor who has covered games, technology, and more across 100+ publications since 2006.

Jeremy Laukkonen has been reviewing products for Lifewire since 2019. He's previously been published in a variety of trade publications and he particularly enjoyed using the Sony STR-DH790 for its high-quality audio.

Jonno Hill has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. Previously, he's been published in PCMag and AskMen, where he's covered a variety of topics including everything from video equipment to home theater setups, and men's fashion. He praised the Sony STRDH190 for its solid audio quality and lack of unessecary frills.

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 Budget-Friendly Stereo Receiver

Connectivity - How are you going to get your music into the stereo receiver? These days, many people opt for Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for convenient access to streaming services, although some receivers have Wi-Fi support to cut out the middleman. Otherwise, HDMI inputs are a key consideration for home theater setups.

Sound Quality - Why even buy a stereo receiver if you’re going to settle for so-so sound? While it’s important to find a stereo that delivers stellar sound (no matter your budget), note that you’ll probably see more quality variance in your speaker selection—so splurge there if you can.

Design - Most stereo receivers are hulking black boxes, but even then, there are differences. Some are ultra-minimal while others are busier-looking, and then some go in other directions—like slim units ideal for rack setups, for example. Consider the space you have.

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