A receiver can seem like an extra you can’t afford when you’re setting up a home entertainment system on a budget. The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune for a high-quality A/V receiver.
Based on our research, the Onkyo TX-SR494 is the best A/V receiver under $500 overall (>>> Find the current price on Amazon). There are plenty of great options out there, though, and we’ll compare the top rated options in this review.
Best AV Receiver Under $500 – Top picks for 2022:
|Denon AVR-S660H||Onkyo TX-NR6050||Yamaha RX-VA4||Pioneer VSX-354||Onkyo TX-SR494||Denon AVR-S540BT|
|Video||8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz||8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz||4K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz, 8K/60Hz||4K/60Hz||4K/60Hz||4K/60Hz|
|Amplifier||5.2 Channel (75W per channel)||7.2 Channel (90W per channel)||5.2 Channel (80W per channel)||5.2 Channel (80W per channel)||7.2 Channel (160W per channel)||5.2 Channel (70W per channe)|
|Sound||Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Surround, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS Neo:6||7.2 Channel Dolby Atmos||Dolby Atmos and DTS: X||5.1.2 Channel Dolby Atmos.||5.2.2 Channel Dolby Atmos||Dolby TrueHD|
|Price||Find on Amazon|
|Find on Amazon||Find on Amazon|
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Number of Channels
A 5.2-channel receiver is perfect for a basic surround sound system, and the ideal size for most living rooms and home theater spaces. However, a larger 7.2-channel system gives you more flexibility to add overhead speakers for 3D sound, as well as powering more speakers to fill larger spaces with the same immersive sound.
The speakers you pair with your receiver aren’t the only factor in how music and movies sound. How the receiver processes the audio signal is a factor, too. All of these receivers amplify and balance sound to maximize the detail and clarity of music and dialogue.
Three models go a step further by calibrating that sound to your space, a feature you’ll find on the Denon AVR-S660H, Yamaha RX-VA4, and Onkyo TX-SR494. The Yamaha also adds Cinema DSP 3D enhancement that mimics the acoustics of music venues and other environments, giving it the best overall sound quality on the list.
Best sound: Yamaha RX-VA4
Home Theater Performance
Both the sound and video need to be on point for a home theater. All of these receivers support at least a 4K resolution, as well as the modern color and contrast enhancement technology used by the latest TVs, projectors, and content sources. The Onkyo TX-SR494 also supports 4K upscaling for full HD content, while the Pioneer VSX-354 has Super Resolution upscaling for even more detail than Ultra HD. The Denon AVR-S660H, Onkyo TX-NR6050, and Yamaha RX-VA4 go a step further with support for 8K content.
On the sound side, most of these receivers will give you some kind of 3D sound options. The Onkyo TX-NR6050 has the widest support for 3D sound formats, including the option of Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization. Along with this, it has the lag-reduction technology gamers look for in a receiver, making it the best all-around option for a home theater.
Best home theater performance: Onkyo TX-NR6050
Not every receiver in this price range will be suitable for use in a smart home theater or home automation system. The Onkyo TX-NR6050 and Yamaha RX-VA4 work with the major voice control systems and have built-in music streaming capability. The Denon AVR-S660H has the best smart features, however, with built-in support for four popular voice control systems.
Best smart features: Denon AVR-S660H
Smart home owners on a budget will want to check out the Denon AVR-S660H. It has full wireless connectivity through either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, as well as support for HEOS multi-room music, letting you control your whole home’s entertainment in one place. Along with this, it’s compatible with voice control services like Josh.ai, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant for hands-free control and automation.
The Denon AVR-S660H also adapts well to a range of home entertainment setups and needs. Technology like ALLM, VRR, and QFT prevent added lag, making it a great choice for gaming. There are also three HDMI inputs with 4K/120Hz pass-through (8K/60Hz) to keep movies and TV shows looking their best. The guided Setup Assistant makes it easy to get started, while the built-in microphone gives it automatic sound adjustment through Audyssey MultEQ.
With 75 watts per channel, the Denon AVR-S660H supports high-resolution audio playback at the ideal volume and frequency balance for small to medium home theater spaces. It also supports audio technology like DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD, so you know you’ll hear movie sounds the way they were intended.
- Clear, hi-fi sound from all sources
- Video resolutions up to 8K
- Supports voice control through multiple services
- Responsive for gaming
- Step-by-step setup assistant
- Automatic EQ adjustment
- No virtual 3D sound support
- 8K pass-through not available on all HDMI ports
A 7.2-channel receiver at this price is a steal, and that’s especially true considering the robust hands-free features of the Onkyo TX-NR6050. This starts with direct streaming through services like TuneIn, Pandora, or Spotify. It’s also compatible with a range of hands-free control options, including Apple AirPlay, Google, and Alexa.
The sound of the Onkyo TX-NR6050 is equally impressive for the price. With 90 watts per channel, it does full justice to 7.2-channel surround sound systems. It can also create a 3D soundscape without the need for overhead speakers thanks to its support for Dolby Atmos height virtualization and DTS:X processing.
The Onkyo TX-NR6050 can handle the other aspects of your home entertainment system, too. You’ll enjoy uncompressed video signals up to 8K resolutions at 60Hz (4K/120Hz), with support for Dolby Vision, HLG, and HDR10. For gamers, the mix of VRR, ALLM, and QFT ensure no added lag or frame tearing that will interrupt your play.
- 8K video resolution with HLG and HDR10 compatibility
- 3D sound through Dolby or DTS
- Built-in music streaming
- Works with most popular voice control systems
- Great choice for gamers
- Compatible with Sonos speakers
- Sound EQ and calibration isn’t very robust or intuitive
- Too bulky for some entertainment centers
The Yamaha RX-VA4 features much of the same technology you’ll find on more expensive models in the line. This includes their proprietary YPAO Sound Customization, which uses the included microphone to optimize the sound to your space. That makes it a great choice for A/V novices, saving you the need to manually calibrate the system. It also comes with a detailed setup guide and has convenient features like programmable SCENE buttons and front-facing USB and headphone ports. All told, it’s arguably the most user-friendly receiver under $500.
The Yamaha RX-V4A has the connectivity most people need in home theater setups. This includes four eARC HDMI inputs as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in. Pairing it with the MusicCast app also lets you control it using Siri, Alexa, or Google voice control, through you will need a separate enabled device to add this functionality.
As to the sound and video quality, the Yamaha RX-V4A impresses. Streamed music sounds better thanks to its compressed music enhancer, while Cinema DSP 3D processing adds realistic acoustic touches to mimic concert halls and other music venues. For videos, it supports pass-through of 4K and HDR10 signals, which will be upgraded to 8K and HDR10+ in a scheduled firmware update. Click here for our more detailed review of the RX-VA4.
- Upgradable to 8K support
- Automatic sound adjustment through YPAO
- Fast and easy setup
- Built-in streaming from most popular services
- MusicCast multi-room music
- Works with voice control devices
- Programmable SCENE buttons for quick source switching
- No phono input for turntables
- Not a great choice for gamers out of the box
Pioneer is known for their affordable A/V equipment, and the VSX-354 is a great example. It’s a powerful 5.2-channel receiver, capable of filling a typical living room space with realistic 3D sound. It supports both Dolby and DTS:X 3D sound formats, with a Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System that automatically adjusts the output to the environment.
The Pioneer VSX-354 is also very easy to use. Its Personal Preset feature lets you save up to three sound profiles and switch between them with either the remote or front panel buttons. Another helpful feature for home theaters is Dialogue Enhancement, which lets you quickly adjust just the mid-range through the remote. If you want to do more in-depth tweaking, there’s a full 9-band EQ and other options in the settings.
The Pioneer VSX-354 can process video signals up to 4K, and supports pass-through for Dolby Vision, HLG, HDR10, and BT.2020 (Wide Color Gamut). While it doesn’t support 8K resolution, it does offer Super Resolution upscaling to take 4K content past the usual Ultra HD detail.
- Super Resolution upscaling for 4K content
- Supports multiple 3D sound formats
- Personalized sound profiles
- Intuitive controls and settings
- Automatic sound calibration
- No support for 8K
- No Wi-Fi connectivity or voice control
Here’s another great option from Onkyo, the TX-SR494. Its 7.2-channel capability makes it an excellent choice for larger spaces, and also supports 5.2.2-channel configurations for use in DTS:X or Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound environments. Whichever setup you’re using, the AccuEQ calibration adjusts the output to the acoustics of the space.
The Onkyo TX-SR494 supports pass-through of most modern visual technology, including BT.2020, Dolby Vision, and HDR10. All of its HDMI terminals have 4K/60Hz pass-through to match the needs of most current TVs and projectors, as well as 4K upscaling for 1080p content.
The main downside of the Onkyo TX-SR494 is that it lacks much of the wireless capability you’ll find on other receivers. It does support audio streaming through Bluetooth and Zone B audio for multi-room music. However, there are no hands-free control options and it can’t be linked to established voice control or smart home systems.
- Wide support for 3D sound
- Automatic sound calibration with AccuEQ
- One-touch Vocal Enhancer
- Very affordable for a 2-channel receiver
- Multi-room music control
- No 8K support
- No hands-free control options
Even among affordable receivers, the Denon AVR-S540BT stands out as a value. Each of its 5 speaker channels uses a discrete amplifier, with low-impedance drive capability that makes it compatible with most speakers. Whatever equipment you plan to use with your receiver, the AVR-S540BT will help you harness its full potential. Check its comparison vs. Denon AVR-S650H.
The Denon AVR-S540BT’s video signal support is similar to other options on the list, including HDR10, Dolby Vision, and 3D content. All of its HDMI inputs have a 4K/60Hz pass-through, with three supporting HDCP 2.2 for viewing protected content. It’s also easy to switch between content sources, and the front control panel isn’t the only place to do it. You can sync the receiver to most smart TV remotes, or turn your phone into a remote with the Denon Remote app. Changing audio settings is a fast process, too, thanks to the four programmable Quick Select buttons.
The main thing lacking on the Denon AVR-S540BT is wireless capability. It supports Bluetooth but has no built-in Wi-Fi, nor does it have any built-in music streaming or voice control options. While this limits its use in smart home entertainment setups, it’s otherwise very easy to install and operate, and a great way to boost your home theater experience on a tight budget. For our more in-depth Denon AVR-S540BT review, click here.
- Great sound quality and output
- 4K/60Hz pass-through on all HDMI inputs
- Quick Select buttons store audio settings
- Guided setup assistant
- Can be controlled with phone app or smart TV remote
- Can’t be used for multi-room music control
- No streaming or voice control features
The Bottom Line: The Best AV Receiver Under $500
While the Onkyo TX-SR494 is the best overall performer on the list, each of the receivers we’ve highlighted here has its strengths (>>> Find it on Bhphotovideo). Whatever you need from an A/V receiver, one of them is sure to fit the bill.