Shootout: Three Mid-Price A/V Receivers

For most people, flagship A/V receivers costing $4,000 to $6,000 are just too much: too much size, weight, complexity, and, for sure, money. But the cheapest models are too limited in connections and, more often than not, too flimsy. The result? Many enthusiasts find the receiver that's j-u-u-s-t right in that $1,000-$1,500 range: one with lots of power, all the most important features, and, usually, some premium looks, fit, and finish.

The three mid-price A/V receivers assembled here list at $1,300 to $1,400 and street for less. Each promises more than 100 watts to seven channels, the latest 7.1 surround-sound processing, and automatic speaker calibration and equalization. And all three also proffer a pair of switchable HDMI digital inputs (and an HDMI output) for making pristine digital video connections to HDMI or DVI-equipped sources such as a high-def digital cable box. Additionally, they all accept XM Satellite Radio's Connect & Play option, a $50 antenna/tuner add-on that ices the cake with fully integrated XM-ability.

Setting up any A/V receiver is far from simple these days, even with an auto-setup routine, but none in this group presented any real problems. The same can't be said for my Comcast high-def cable box, a Motorola model whose HDMI output wouldn't play nice with any of the three units.

The box correctly recognized each of the receivers as an HDMI "repeater" that sits between it and the TV, transparently passing along the video signal. But Motorola's current software "does not support HDMI repeater," an onscreen message reminded me. So, for test purposes I settled for analog component-video from the cable box to the receiver and a digital HDMI connection from my Panasonic upscaling DVD player, whose HDMI signals the receivers switched perfectly.

What We Think
Denon AVR-3806 Integra DTR-7.6 Yamaha RX-V2600
A superb performer with impressive power, but its awkward remote was a handicap. Fine performance from a pleasingly simple design, though it lacked the high-power grunt of its competition. An outstanding all-around receiver with top-drawer surround modes and the best video flexibility in this lot.