Selecting the optimal slim AV receiver proves to be a challenging task. The complexity multiplies exponentially if the various ports, features, and buttons leave one perplexed. Wow, you just Googled ‘best slim AV receivers,’ aiming to make a quick purchase in under 5 minutes, but ended up opening Pandora’s box. Add here the fact that slim receivers and larger ones are full of dissimilarities — this is when you get a cocktail of a headache and anxiety. But hold on, things are going to get better soon.
This time, the search request took you to the proper page for a change. Here, I am looking at the most interesting compact home theater receivers available on the market, and I do it in style without nasty and naggy ads embroidered here and there.
Slim AV receivers comparison table
|Marantz Cinema 70s best overall
|50W/8 Ohm, 70W/6 Ohm
|Sony STR-DH790 budget
|Marantz NR1510 also great
|50W/8 Ohm, 60W/6 Ohm
|Sony STR-DH190 stereo
How to choose a slim AV receiver
AV receiver vs. stereo receiver
Let’s start with the very basics. Home theater receivers prioritize surround sound, while stereo receivers focus on two channels, excelling in music quality.
This makes AVRs pricier as they support diverse video inputs for a complete home theater setup. Also, stereo receivers do not have advanced features such as wireless multi-channel audio, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.
Here is a little catch: the sole fact that the AV receivers are more advanced doesn’t make them the supreme solution. While home theater receivers can handle two-channel stereo mode, they are still not the coolest pic for music. So, I included something special in this review.
I still recommend getting stereo receivers for their exceptional audio quality, making them the ideal choice for immersive music listening. In turn, watching movies and playing story-oriented video games is fantastic with the surround sound from AV receivers.
Power is always a cornerstone. I know people who always look first at the power and make the decision based on this parameter. Should I explain why such an approach is a terrible idea? This is especially true for the narrow AV receivers, who boast less power than their full-size counterparts.
So, why bother with some thin AV receiver? You see, while compact receivers may boast slightly lower power ratings than their larger counterparts, it’s crucial to recognize that their efficiency lies in optimizing space without compromising audio quality. Thus, you can put them into a cramped environment of some wardrobe and arrange a beautiful and neat-looking home entertainment setup. That’s priceless.
Connectivity options (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI ports, etc.)
Alright, you decided to get a small 5.1 receiver. What next? Now, you need to estimate the devices you will connect to the receiver to understand the ports you need. Check the number of HDMIs, as this is the most popular connector. Also, pay attention to more rare connectors, such as phono input, if you connect your vinyl player to it to enjoy the vibes fully.
Now, onto the wireless scene. Bluetooth is your trusty companion – no cords, just pure musical bliss with your phone and tablet. But hold up, Wi-Fi takes things up a notch. It’s your VIP pass to Streaming Central, connecting you with services, network gadgets, and multiroom audio setups. Remember, having Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is always amazing, as it gives so much flexibility.
Having a room for an upgrade is an awesome thing, but judging from my experience. You see, sometimes, it is much better to get a new unit in several years to get your hands on the latest technologies instead of paying a double price for the ports, technologies, and features you won’t use.
Pay attention to the possible heating of the low-profile receiver
Let’s take the matter straight: low-profile AV receivers offer less power, save costs on electricity bills, and generate less heat. Yet, they still do, and cooling your AV receiver is vital because it can help to extend its lifespan, prevent overheating, and improve its performance. Slim AVRs are often set in tight cabinets, which can trap heat and cause them to overheat, and this may result in emergency shutdowns, up to frying the internal circuits and components.
My Golden Rule is simple — I always pay attention to the placement of my receivers. I know that they generate heat, and I ensure that they have a large enough space to get rid of it.
Best slim AV receiver reviews
Marantz Cinema 70s – best overall
If you are an avid reader of my articles, you already know that I always start my reviews with the most fantastic products. So, let’s not waste any moment. The Marantz Cinema 70s is the best slim receiver you can get on the market. Now, let me justify this statement.
Firstly, this is a very well-tuned AVR unit. Yes, it doesn’t offer much power — giving only 50 watts of power per 2 channels, but it provides a pretty good sound, which is one of its significant advantages. Another advantage is the 8K Ultra HD video capabilities. The Cinema 70s delivers a stunning visual experience, upscaling from 1080p/4K to 8K. Whether it’s a movie night or a gaming extravaganza, the receiver performs well.
So, what do you expect from a slim receiver? I have something juicy for you here — Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, ARC, and eARC come in base. Add here the seamless connections to your TV or monitor. Also, let’s not forget about the streaming with HEOS built-in and a plethora of services, including AirPlay 2, Spotify, TIDAL, and more. Yep, you get a pretty packed unit with features — no worse than the bigger models, right?
I was so very rocking and eager to put this slim babe to the test. In my gaming marathon, the Cinema 70s revealed its prowess. The surround sound capabilities made every gunshot and footstep easily readable, allowing me to know precisely the direction and, in some cases, the distance of my opponents in competitive gaming.
In turn, our family movie nights became cinematic adventures. With this slim chassis, I arranged a small entertainment system in our bedroom for my wife and me to enjoy the movies together. The quality native content, the visual upscaling, and the rich audio turned our living room into a private theater. The visuals and the surround sound quality left us very satisfied with the quality and emotions.
As the sun rose over the horizon, it was time for some energizing tunes. The Cinema 70s seamlessly transitioned from gaming and movie explosions to the delicate notes of a piano. The bass thumped, and the highs soared. I can’t say I felt like I was in the concert hall because it lacked power, but we enjoyed the symphony.
The Marantz Cinema 70s isn’t just an AV receiver; it’s a gateway to a multisensory journey. It is a true entertainment centerpiece with unmatched audio, visual brilliance, and versatile connectivity.
- Channels: 7.2.
- Power output: 50W/8 Ohm, 70W/6 Ohm.
- HDMI inputs/outputs: 6/1.
- Video functions: 8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz, upscaling to 8K.
- Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes.
- Streaming services: AirPlay 2, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon Music HD, Amazon Music, TIDAL, Deezer, iHeart Radio, Napster, SoundCloud, Mood Mix.
- Suppots: HDMI eARC, HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Dynamic HDR, Dolby Vision.
- Surround sound: DTS HD Master, DTS:X, DTS Neural:X, DTS Virtual:X, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, Dolby Atmos Music, Dolby Surround, Multichannel Stereo.
- A comprehensive set of features that is almost as good as its full-size counterparts.
- Incredible sound quality and performance.
- Doesn’t require excessive attention to cooling.
- Fits only a smaller room due to the 50 watts of power.
Sony STR-DH790 – budget
Yep, getting the best small AV receiver available on the market isn’t always the wisest choice. Sometimes, the networking capabilities of the receiver are not that important to users. This is when the Sony STR-DH790 is a budget-friendly AV receiver that packs an essential set of basic features, making it a solid choice on a budget.
Firstly, a 7.2 channel configuration with a power output that approximately matches the Marantz Cinema 70s. Here, you can also find support for advanced audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which ensures immersive soundscapes. At the same time, the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualizer and S-Force PRO Front Surround contribute to a more three-dimensional audio experience. Including High-Resolution Audio support up to 192kHz/24-bit further allows for top-notch sound quality.
So, continuing the somewhat boring part, the STR-DH790 doesn’t disappoint. It boasts 4 HDMI inputs and supports 4K 60p 4:4:4, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. The HDMI ARC support also simplifies connectivity with compatible devices, enhancing the overall user experience. As you can see, you get a pretty capable receiver at this price.
Lastly, this model is equipped with Bluetooth v4.2. The STR-DH790 offers easy wireless connectivity for streaming music from a laptop, tablet, or phone. Sadly, the receiver lacks Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. However, it still offers optical and coaxial digital audio inputs and multiple analog audio inputs and outputs.
Yeah, Sony is not the ultimate receiver brand like Marantz, Yamaha, or Denon, but they are still competent. The STR-DH790 during my tests reminded me of Yamaha’s budget models — offering similarly cold and pretty clear sound. And this is while costing significantly less than the counterparts.
For movies, I delved into a cinematic journey from the spine-tingling suspense of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to the visually stunning landscapes of James Cameron’s Avatar. The STR-DH790 faithfully delivered each nuance of the soundtrack. The explosive action sequences of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk resonated with thunderous clarity, while the subtle whispers in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation were rendered with delicate precision. This audio journey allowed me to appreciate the receiver’s ability to capture the essence of storytelling in its purest form.
Transitioning to gaming, the STR-DH790 showcased its versatility by immersing me in the rich sonic landscapes of various virtual worlds. The haunting melodies of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild echoed with an ethereal quality. At the same time, the dynamic sound effects in Call of Duty: Warzone heightened the adrenaline-pumping gaming experience.
What can I say to wrap my experience up? The Sony STR-DH790 is not the ultimate solution. It’s not perfect, nor is it the coolest compact stereo receiver. Yet, it demonstrated a harmonious blend of power, precision, and versatility during my tests, and it does it at a pretty modest price.
- Channels: 7.2.
- Power output: 90W/6 Ohm.
- HDMI inputs/outputs: 4/1.
- Video functions: 4K/60Hz pass-through.
- Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no.
- Streaming services: no.
- Suppots: HDMI ARC, HDMI eARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.2, HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision.
- Surround sound: DTS HD Master, DTS:X, DSD, Dolby Dual Mono, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD.
- 7.2 channels with decent power.
- Full-scale support of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
- Spring-clip speaker terminals look and feel cheap.
- No Wi-Fi and AM Tuner.
Marantz NR1510 – also great
You know, every time someone asks me to help them pick an awesome AV receiver, Marantz is one of the first brands that comes to my mind. That’s how I found the NR1510. I’ve had my eye on this model for a pretty long time, but once my friend and I started searching for a fantastic slimline AV receiver. Eventually, it was only a matter of time before I offered to test the NR1510. So, here are the results of the testing.
First of all, this is a 5.2-channel receiver, offering a modest 50 watts of power. It doesn’t sound that impressive, right? But what if I say that you don’t need even half of that power in a small room unless you drive your speakers to the maximum of their capability?
Yet, the Marantz NR1510 offers more, being equipped with advanced audio technologies, including DTS HD Master, DTS:X, and Dolby TrueHD. Additionally, including Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume further enhances audio quality. While slim and relatively energy-saving, the receiver offers practically everything to pump the room with a pleasant and immersive sound.
The receiver offers only 4K 60Hz resolution and HDCP 2.3. It fits perfectly for gaming, but in movies, I missed the clarity of the 8K video. On the bright side, the receiver offers HDR, HLG, and Dolby Vision support to ensure vibrant and lifelike visuals, making every viewing experience captivating.
Versatility is a vital feature of the NR1510. With multiple HDMI inputs (5+1) and outputs (1), along with USB audio support and phono input for vinyl enthusiasts, this receiver caters to various entertainment sources — the inclusion of HEOS multiroom integration, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and streaming services like Spotify and TIDAL. The main point is that this receiver isn’t a limited factor for your 5-channel home entertainment system.
In our testing, we immersed ourselves in a cinematic journey with blockbuster movies like Inception and Blade Runner 2049. The NR1510 effortlessly reproduced the intricate soundscapes. Transitioning to gaming, titles like Cyberpunk 2077 showcased the receiver’s ability to handle dynamic audio, creating a truly engaging gaming environment. The receiver also works well in music. Still, I have a separate contestant who delivers way more today. On the darker side, if you plan to use the analog inputs, they glitch occasionally without an apparent reason.
The Marantz NR1510 impresses not only with its technical prowess but also with its ability to elevate your home entertainment experience. Whether you’re a cinephile, gamer, or music lover, this receiver delivers a powerful and refined performance.
- Channels: 5.2.
- Power output: 50W/8 Ohm, 60W/6 Ohm.
- HDMI inputs/outputs: 6/1.
- Video functions: 4K/60Hz.
- Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/yes.
- Streaming services: AirPlay 2, Pandora, Spotify, Napster, SiriusXM, TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music.
- Suppots: HDMI eARC, Dolby Vision, HDR 10.
- Surround sound: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Surround, Multichannel Stereo.
- Offers a rich set of features.
- Supports modern connectivity options.
- Works great with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
- No 8K native or upscaling support.
- Minor glitch with analog inputs.
Sony STR-DH190 – stereo
The Sony STR-DH190 stereo receiver is a powerhouse designed for people seeking a superior listening experience. It combines power and versatility to deliver an exceptional audio experience. This receiver boasts an impressive 100 watts at 8 ohms, ensuring a robust and precise sound quality. It is designed with vinyl enthusiasts in mind and sound-matched to PS-HX500 and PS-LX310BT turntables, featuring a dedicated phono input for seamless turntable connection.
The STR-DH190 comes with Bluetooth functionality, allowing effortless pairing with mobile devices and offering flexibility in audio sources. The A and B speaker function enhances versatility in speaker placement. Additionally, with 4 analog audio inputs and a single output, the STR-DH190 provides comprehensive connectivity.
When testing, I focused on its music capabilities. Since this is a stereo receiver, there is no point in testing it in movies and gaming. The result is very predictable — it will sound much better than that 2.1 system from eBay. Yet, the absence of surround sound capabilities makes it less suitable for my typical scenarios, but for music enthusiasts, the STR-DH190 shines bright.
Connecting a quality turntable, I immersed myself in the rich warmth of vinyl. The dedicated phono input ensured a faithful reproduction of the analog sound, bringing out the subtleties and nuances that make vinyl a unique listening experience.
This model demonstrated prowess throughout my testing, minimizing distortion and delivering crisp, detailed audio. Regardless of how tough I tried to be and what music genre I fed it, I didn’t find a single flaw in the sound performance.
While the STR-DH190 lacks the bells and whistles of surround sound, it is a commendable choice for those prioritizing a high-fidelity stereo experience. If you’re passionate about music and appreciate the authenticity of vinyl, this Sony stereo receiver is a compelling option that combines classic audio principles with modern connectivity.
- Channels: 2.0.
- Power output: 90W/8 Ohm.
- HDMI inputs/outputs: 0/0.
- Video functions: has not.
- Bluetooth/Wi-Fi: yes/no.
- Streaming services: has not.
- Solid power output.
- Excellent performance during tests, providing clear and detailed sound.
- Ample connectivity for such a specialized device.
- No HDMI outputs.
- Doesn’t work with 4 Ohm speakers.