The 7 Best Budget-Friendly Stereo Receivers to Buy in 2018

Stereo receivers can be high-quality and affordable at under $300 each

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Today’s stereo receivers deliver more connectivity options at lower price points than ever before. But choosing the right receiver means navigating specifications and numbers ratings that can be confusing to everyone but hardcore audiophiles. There are many things to consider when purchasing new equipment, such as sound, available inputs and outputs, power, compatibility, calibration, and interface. While one can easily spend over US$1,000 on a receiver, there's plenty of fabulously-affordable options to be found if you're looking to put together a budget system. To help, we've compiled a list of the seven best stereo receivers/amplifiers you can find for around $300 (or less).

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Yamaha RX-V383BL

Hot off the press, this new release takes our top spot for budget-friendly stereo receivers in part due to its clear and clean sound and listener-friendly design. It boasts 5.1-channel powerful surround sound, high dynamic range (HDR) and BT .2020 compatibility.

And if you like bass, you’ll love the Rich Bass Reproduction feature that increases the receiver’s bass output.

The design itself is fairly boxy and traditional with a standard array of buttons and dials for volume, input and pre-settings. And refreshingly, the remote is simply laid out and intuitive, too. Your connectivity options include four HDMI inputs and one output, and as an upgrade from the previous model, the 383 will upscale video to near 4K. While it doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, it does have Bluetooth to simplify streaming.

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

There’s no question about it: When it comes to stereos, 4K sound is the new gold standard. Sony’s STRDH590 receiver with 4K sound meets that standard and comes with an impressive feature set. The 5.2 multi-channel surround sound with 145W per channel provides heart-pumping audio, with olby TrueHD and DTS HD delivering a superior audio experience that sounds like a much more expensive device. The HDR (high dynamic range) compatibility, one of the highlights of this stereo, can support any television’s built-in HDR video. Supporting the latest HDR standards including HDR10, the receiver has a “cool” sound that’s neither too harsh nor too warm.

Built-in Bluetooth allows you to directly connect to compatible devices for audio streaming. With available apps on Android and iOS, you can even turn on the receiver directly from your phone or tablet. Additionally, FM radio adds 30 station presets for a well-rounded choice of audio listening. All these features are packaged in a minimal black box that lets audio playback, rather than design, do the talking.

Best Value: Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver

Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Yamaha R-S202BL boasts an advanced circuitry design, 40-Station FM/AM preset tuning, 100-watt-per-channel output and Bluetooth compatibility, so you can stream music from your smartphone or other connected device. The receiver enables you to connect to separate sets of speakers and you can easily switch between two outputs, thanks to the handy speaker selector, which lets you tune into one speaker system (A or B) or both (A+B).

The 17-1/8 x 5-½-inch device weighs a light 14.8 pounds, and not only does it have a sleek, minimalist design, but its power management function ensures you use less energy by automatically switching to standby mode, when it consumes just 0.5 W.

Reviewers on Amazon agree that it’s a great value. They applaud the good output power and sound, but complain that the remote can be stubborn and you must point it directly at the TV.

Runner-Up, Best Value: Onkyo TX-8020

The Onkyo TX-8020 is a tremendous value. It’s a honest HiFi stereo receiver with a highly intuitive knob layout and an easy-to-navigate remote. But performance is likely what you care about most for a value system, and the 8020 delivers some of the best possible performance in its price range. Onkyo's WRAT delivers 50+50 W of power, which is sufficient to fill a small or mid-sized room with reasonable volume levels. It also boasts discrete output stage circuitry and a high current, low-impedance drive to deliver on demanding loads. The receiver yields clean, distortionless sound with a sweet and natural mid-range. For connections, it has five analog audio inputs and one output, including phono input for connecting a turntable. One reviewer on Amazon goes as far as to say, “It probably has the best sound per dollar of any receiver out there today.” Now that’s what we call value.

 

Best Sound Quality: Denon AVR-S510BT 5.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver

Denon AVR-S510BT 5.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver
Denon AVR-S510BT 5.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver. Courtesy of Amazon

There’s no two ways about it – you get a lot of sound quality for your buck with the Denon AVR-S510BT. This 5.2 channel AV receiver features 70 W per channel, surround sound, two-channel performance for exceptional stereo music, wireless streaming from mobile devices, auto setup, room EQ, and four "Quick Select Plus" buttons that allow users instant access to favorite input sources.

You’ll get 4K Ultra HD at 60 Hz full rate pass-through, with the three designated HDMI inputs and HDCP 2.2 support. There are five HDMI inputs in total. There are two analog inputs, three digital inputs, and two sub-woofer outputs. There’s also a USB port on the front of the unit. There’s no Ethernet port or built-in WiFi, but the Denon AVR-S510BT does include Bluetooth with memory for up to eight devices.

Many of the controls of the Denon AVR-S510BT receiver are also available via an app for iOS and Android. You’ll get Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD master audio, ensuring a high quality sound (there’s even built-in calibration to give optimal performance in any environment).

The Denon AVR-S510BT offers excellent detail across the entire range, so you can bet that the listening experience is an exhilarating one. In the midst of an explosion, you can hear glass shattering with crystal clarity, and fire sounds like it is ablaze in the room. And the audio is well-balanced so that instruments or effects never drown out voices.

Check out our guide to the best two-channel stereo receivers you can buy today. 

Best Entry-Level: Pioneer VSX-531 5.1 Channel AV Receiver with Dolby True HD

Pioneer VSX-531 5.1-Channel AV Receiver
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you’re looking for a simple system, the Pioneer VSX-531 is a fantastic place to start. It’s very affordable and offers a solid foundation for anyone new to creating sound systems or home theaters. This is a 5.1 channel receiver packs 140 W per channel, crystal clear audio reproduction, Ultra HD, Pass-through with HDCP 2.2, Dolby True HD, DTS-HD master audio and Bluetooth wireless technology with aptX support for "CD-like audio quality" (with compatible Bluetooth devices). The aptX element also minimizes syncing issues and latency.

The Pioneer VSX-531 will let you connect plenty of devices, including Blu-ray disc players, cable boxes, and gaming consoles. Four HDMI inputs support 4K Ultra HD, and there’s a USB input on the front panel. The included phase Control technology eliminates lag and improves multi-channel sound without additional calibration, ensuring sound is clear and consistent.

The Advanced Sound Retriever allows for two-channel listening to enhanced compressed audio by reconstructing minor details that can be lost in the compression process.

If you’re buying your first receiver and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Pioneer VSX-531 is an excellent choice. While it may not offer the best-possible sound quality, you'll enjoy a rich array of features (some that you might find on models costing over $100 more), good power, and seamless Bluetooth connectivity.

Best Connectivity: Harman Kardon Audiophile Home Theater Receiver (AVR 1610S)

Harman Kardon Audiophile Home Theater Receiver (AVR 1610S)
Harman Kardon Audiophile Home Theater Receiver (AVR 1610S). Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Harmon Kardon Audiophile Performance Home Theater Receiver offers five, 85-watt-per-channel amplifiers for high performance digital power. Music enthusiasts will appreciate the variety of connectivity options and great sound. There’s integrated Bluetooth technology, EzSet/EQ III calibration, and compatibility with vTuner Internet radio. Users can stream music directly from their computer or mobile devices via Spotify, and there’s also an AM-FM tuner with 30 presets.

There are five 3D-ready HDMI 2.0 inputs, including one that’s MHL compatible – so support for 4K video is possible. There are two analog AV inputs, two analog stereo inputs, one coaxial and one optical digital input, an Ethernet port, pre-amp output, output for five speakers, and a front-mounted USB port.

Harman TrueStream Bluetooth technology allows music to be streamed from any device wirelessly. Spotify Connect allows you to stream music from Spotify Premium via smartphone, tablet, or computer/laptop. And EzSet/EQ calibration automatically fine-tunes the sound for your environment.

The Harmon Kardon Audiophile Performance Home Theater Receiver is DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certified to ensure optimal compatibility with other network-enabled equipment. It's lightweight, efficient, and eco-friendly, thanks to Harman Kardon’s GreenEdge amplifier technology, which uses less energy while generating less heat.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best stereo receivers on the market today.