These days, your average £500 AV receiver is packed with almost as many features as a top-of-the-range cutting-edge smart TV. From the latest video support to hi-res music and multi-room streaming abilities, the once-humble amplifier has evolved into something that more resembles a multitasking multimedia hub for your home.
When it comes to the headline features – 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos and hi-res music support, multiple HDMI inputs, plus various music streaming options – these three amps from Denon, Sony and Yamaha have it covered. All three AV receivers have HDMI inputs that are HDCP 2.2 compliant, supporting full playback of 4K/60fps and HDR (High Dynamic Range) content.
They also support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks – and yes, that includes the Sony, at long last – so if you want to expand your home cinema set-up, you’re covered for multi-dimensional sound.
Bear in mind that the Atmos configuration is restricted to a 5.1.2 speaker arrangement on all three amps, and that only a handful of 4K and Blu-ray discs support the two surround formats for now.
One thing to watch out for is the number of HDMI inputs, which varies among the amps. Denon offers a generous eight, Sony offers six, and Yamaha just four. You may find that you won’t actually need more than four to connect all your sources, but it’s always nice to have extra options.
The numbers once again vary when it comes to other digital and legacy connections: Denon leads the way with a few more optical and analogue video connections, which makes it a pretty good deal for £500. But the other two are hardly lacking in connectivity – there are plenty of sockets on the Sony and Yamaha for you to plug your kit into.
Music streaming is high on the priority list, with the amps capable of playing hi-res 24-bit/192khz music files in all popular formats, as well as double DSD. They all feature built in support for Airplay, Bluetooth and Spotify Connect – it all works seamlessly once paired with your smart device.
With DLNA on board all three receivers, it’s easy to stream music from just about any NAS device, laptop or smartphone, providing they’re all on the same network. You can connect the amps to the internet via wi-fi or through the ethernet socket (our preferred method for greater stability).
The USB port on the front of each AV receiver will play files (including double DSD) off a hard drive or stick. It’ll charge your smartphone, too.
The Yamaha RXV583 additionally offers built-in support for Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer, while Sony adds Chromecast to its list. That may seem as if Denon AVRX2400H isn’t up to speed on its streaming smarts, but it offers Tidal and Deezer support through its multi-room-specific HEOS app.
Of course, each manufacturer has its own multi-room technology implemented into their AV receiver. If you do have the compatible connected products, you’ll definitely want to download the accompanying ios/android control app to stream music around your home.
AV receivers aren’t the first in line when it comes to cosmetic upgrades, but arguably they don’t need to be. We want our AV receivers to be built like a brick, work smoothly and last for a few good years.
The three AV amps here tick all those boxes. They’re sturdy black boxes, the buttons and dials all work responsively, and the displays are clear to read.
There are, naturally, differences in layout (Denon and Sony offer two control dials for input changing and volume while Yamaha has just one, for volume, for instance), but there’s nothing glaringly out of place when it comes to each amp’s design.
The remotes are similar in that they’re straightforward handsets, although Denon gets extra points for offering a backlit design,
“Music streaming is high on the priority list, with all three amps capable of playing hi-res 24-bit/192khz music files in all popular formats, as well as double DSD”