The 7 Best Budget-Friendly Stereo Receivers of 2020

Stereo receivers can be high-quality and affordable at the same time

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The Rundown
"Boasting an advanced circuitry design, 40-station FM-AM preset tuning, 100-watts-per-channel output, and Bluetooth capability."
Best Overall:
Yamaha RX-V383BL at eBay
"Taking our top spot due to its clear and clean sound and listener-friendly design."
"Delivering a superior audio experience that sounds like a much more expensive device."
"Delivering some of the best possible performance in its price range."
Best Sound Quality:
Denon AVR-S510BT at eBay
"Featuring 70W per channel, surround sound, and two-channel performance for exceptional stereo music."
Best Entry-Level:
Pioneer VSX-531 at eBay
"Affordable and offering a solid foundation for anyone new to creating sound systems or home theaters."
Best Connectivity:
Yamaha R-N303BL at Amazon
"Plug the cables into any audio sources (including speakers) and you’re off to the races with two channels of 100 W output."

Most Popular: Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver

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.

Overall, the Yamaha R-S202BL is a great value with good output power and sound.

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: Onkyo TX-8220

The Onkyo TX-8220 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. And for connections, it has five analog audio inputs and one output, including phono input for connecting a turntable.

 

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

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 Wi-Fi, 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.

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

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, good power, and seamless Bluetooth connectivity.

Best Connectivity: Yamaha R-N303BL Stereo Receiver

When it comes to most affordable stereo receivers, Wi-Fi is often an afterthought. That’s not the case with the Yamaha R-N303BL, however, and that’s great news for your wallet. There’s nothing fancy about the design, but that’s okay; it’s a traditional black box that blends right in when tucked away in any entertainment center.

Setting up the 17.12 x 5.5 x 13.4-inch receiver is fairly easy. Plug the cables into any audio sources (including speakers) and you’re off to the races with two channels of 100 W output. Note that surround sound might be a challenge because of the limited inputs, but an optical input does make it easy to plug directly into a television.

When linked to a Wi-Fi network, the Yamaha R-N303BL offers support for Amazon Alexa. Select whatever song you want to play with voice control and Alexa can sync with Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, or SiriusXM. Separately, the MusicCast app connects to all the same streaming music services as well as stored music on your computer and allows you to play audio in up to nine additional rooms.

What to Look for in a Budget-Friendly Stereo Receiver

Connectivity - If you’re a music buff, you’ll want built-in Wi-Fi for easy streaming from Spotify or Apple Music — bonus points if that Wi-Fi is dual-banded. While it’s a feature that’s hard to come by in a budget system, Bluetooth connectivity is another welcome feature. Beyond that, make sure there are also ample HDMI inputs, as that’s the most common connection these days.

Sound quality - Most brands brag about the sound quality of their receivers, but realistically, it doesn’t matter so much. That might come as a surprise considering it is the hub of your home audio setup, but you’re likely better off splurging on high-quality speakers.

Design - Stereo receivers aren’t always the most sightly devices. They can be big and clunky, acting as an eyesore in your living room. However, there are some sleek and good-looking options out there that will even enhance the aesthetic of your room. You can also find compact models that won’t take up too much room if you’re tight on space.