***Update - December 2013 - This was written back in the spring. I'll update/revise and post soon. Promise!***
Starting with the highest priced receiver and working our way down...
RCAM AVR600 - $6299.99 - Available at K&W Audio
This thing is amazing, and it better be at $6300. Hometheater.com and whathifi.com gave it top scores for sound quality, but it falls short in the value and features departments (it's coming up to being 4 years old!) Can't see myself ever purchasing this thing (I think I'd rather have a hot tub or something.)
Because of it's high price tag and so-so tech, I'll give this receiver a 6/10.
ONKYO TXNR5010 - $3499.99 - Available at Visions for $3198
Another beast of a receiver. THX Ultra2 Certified, plus all sorts of other acronyms and cool logos on the front! Audyssey MultEQ XT32 processing is a big plus, as is the 9 channels of amplification (if you like lots of speakers!). Pretty versatile, but missing my favourite feature found in many other receivers, AirPlay.
A Great, but not quite spectacular receiver for the dollar. 7/10.
ROTEL RSX1562 - $2999.99 - Available at Sounds of Music
I like Rotel. A lot. I've had a couple Rotel receivers over the years, and they have been excellent performers in the Sound Quality department. The features department, a little light. I'm typically ok with that, but there are a few things that are "must-haves" in my opinion nowadays. Room correction software and AirPlay are two of the "must-haves" in a surround receiver and at $3000... lacking a couple "must-haves" is a "must-not".
Sorry Rotel. It's not you, it's me. I'm just looking for something different if you're going to cost me this much. 7/10.
ONKYO TXNR3010 - $2699.99 - Available at Visions for $2398
Very similar to the TXNR5010, Onkyo's Flagship. Actually, almost identical in features other than the toroidal transformers and the DAC. Granted, those are a pretty big deal... but $800 big deal? I think I'd rather get this 3010 and run an external amp for the front LCR speakers. A great receiver. Still no AirPlay (darn you Onkyo!).
ood job Onkyo... you're the first receiver to break the 7/10 mark. 8/10!!
Arcam AVR400 - $2599.99 - Available at K&W Audio
Arcam is a very refined brand that definitely focuses on sound quality. The AVR400 does not disappoint for those who are looking for the best sound. It's got enough "ka-rumph" if you're speakers aren't too demanding, but it might not be enough to justify the $2600 price tag if you're looking for a lot of "ka-rumph". Because this is a 2+ year old model, it might not have the features (aaaaauuuuughhhh.... AIRPLAY!!) that newer receivers have.
Arcam... I think it's time for a refresh. Some new models might bring you up over a 7/10.
Sony STRDA5800ES - $2499.99 - Available from Sony
Oh, Sony. I loved you in the 90's. LOVED you!! I miss you! Call me! I have had 3 different ES receivers in the past and thought they were fantastic. I had the pleasure to tinker with the 5800ES a few months ago and was absolutely delighted with this receiver. Feature-wise, this puppy has it all, 9 channels of amplification, Netflix and Hulu built right in, an ethernet switch, and enough inputs to make Johnny Number Five jealous! Control4 too! (stay tuned for a future article on home automation systems!) At $2500, this receiver is a steal (especially if you're going the home automation route).
reat Job, Sony! Too bad so many people ignore you because you're terrible at marketing!!! 9/10!
PIONEER ELITE - SC68/67/65 - Available at Sounds of Music and Base Electronics.
PIONEER SC1527K - Available at Future Shop.
Dear Pioneer, Please stop making so many different models. I know you quit making TV's, but that doesn't mean you get to make extra models in receivers just to make up for that. hanks!! But seriously, folks, I like what they are doing with receivers lately. I admit, I used to HATE pioneer receivers... they were so ugly! Today, I also have to admit... I have one in my home theatre. Excellent audio and video processing. I like the MCACC calibration/eq. The sound quality is exquisite! These receivers use Pioneer's "Class D3" technology, which is a very efficient use of the power you give it. I personally have the SC1526K, last year's version of the SC1527K. Totally happy with it. It's what made me finally retire my 8 year old Sony ES. The SC1527K is roughly the same as the SC-65, just is a Future shop exclusive and happens to have a pretty amazing price at $1499. Oh... they ALL HAVE AIRPLAY!!!
SC68/67 are fantastic receivers for those of you who know what 192 kHz is - 8/10
SC65 is a tough sell to those of you knowing what the SC1527K is - 6/10
C1527K is a highly recommended receiver, especially when you find it on sale. 9/10
ONKYO TXNR1010 - $2099.99 - Available at Visions for $1898
After looking at the Pioneer SC1527K at $1499, this is kinda like looking at an ex-girlfriend after upgrading to another, better looking and less annoying-voiced lass. For $400 less, you're better off with the Pioneer SC1527K. Not that this is a bad receiver, just not worth the $ after looking at the competition. orry Onkyo TXNR1010, but I'd rather take the Pioneer out to the movies.
Onkyo, I tried... I really did... but 7/10.
MARANTZ SR7007 - $1999.99 - Available at Future Shop, K&W Audio, SML Entertainment, Audio Concepts, General Audio, Showcase, Symphonic Systems (geez, you get around!)
I guess there's a reason so many dealers carry Marantz. It's good stuff! Denon's bigger brother, Marantz can take care of the bullys and still get to the piano recital in time (meaning it can kick your ass and then play you a sonnet!) Pretty much every feature (AirPlay!!!) that you'd need, with the exception of Audyssey MultEQ 32XT (Marantz uses Audyssey's MultEQ XT). The HDAM topology, which sets the 7007 apart from it's siblings, offers better sound quality due to using discrete components versus a "all-in-one" op-amp. What does that mean? I don't know! But better sound quality results!
At $2000, the Marantz is priced right. Refined sound, great build quality and a proven istory of great products makes me want to have this receiver. 8/10.
OK, the next 3 products aren't considered by most as being "high-end" because they don't have "high-end" price tags. Don't be fooled though, they are "high-end" performers, but without the extra bells and whistles.
Cambridge Audio 551R - $1299.99 - Available at Visions and The Audio Room
Cambridge Audio. Sound ritzy? The british tend to know what they are doing when it comes to audio. They seem to give a crap when it comes to this stuff. The 551R gives a crap... a big one too. Great sound quality, but light on features. This receiver gets to hang out in the "high-end" group due to its amazing sound quality. Doesn't have room correction or any networking features. Sounds Grrrreat!
$1300 for an "audiophile" level amp? I'm in! 8/10!
Emotiva UMC200/UPA700 Combo - $1049.98 USD plus shipping - Available direct from Emotiva
Emotiva. Google it. Really. Great Stuff, on the cheap!
An easy 9/10.
Sherbourn SR8100 - $799.99 USD plus shipping - Available direct from Sherbourn
Emotiva (Jade Industries) bought them. New business model. Sell to consumers for cheap. Delightful sound quality, but not for those looking for the longest list of "features", but looking for the best build and sound quality. Isn't that what audio is all about? I hope so. This receiver is pretty much the 2 Emotiva products above crammed into one chassis.
Love it! 10/10
What would I buy if I was buying right now? I could narrow it down to these 3...
-If I wanted automation and a whole lotta features? Sony STRDA5800ES at $2499.
-If I wanted lots of features and great sound at a reasonable price? Pioneer SC1527K at $1499.
-If I want awesome sound quality without networking features and stuff? No brainer. Sherbourn SR8100 at $799 USD (plus shipping).
Feel free to share your thoughts!