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Audiophiles will often stop at nothing to get the best sound possible.
This doesn’t just apply to music but all forms of media they consume – TV shows, movies, YouTube videos and more.
There’s no denying that a compact 5.1 receiver can fill your media room with rich sound. In a way, they allow you to bring the thrill of the movies to your own home too, and they can be great for listening to music.
But with so many options out there, how do you choose? In this guide, we’ll look at some of the best small 5.1 receivers available.
Sony STRDH590 5.2 Multi-Channel 4k HDR AV Receiver With Bluetooth
The Sony STRDH50 AV receiver comes with advanced Digital Cinema Auto Calibration system (D.C.A.C.) calibration, which optimizes the audio for any room.
Further it comes with 5-Force PRO virtual front surround with a two-speaker setup, 4k HDR pass through with HDCP 2.2 support, Bluetooth Standby for streaming music from your phone, FM radio tuner, 1/4” headphone jack, four stereo RCA audio inputs, two digital audio outputs (optical and coaxial), calibration microphone, FM antenna, remote control and batteries.
Although you can certainly use more than two speakers, this unit allows you to create a virtual surround experience if that’s all you’ve got.
Setting up the receiver is easy, and it also comes programmed with four languages should need it (German, English, French and Italian).
Some say this is the best receiver you can buy for the money. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi though, and that might put off some.
Less enthusiastic buyers say there are some issues with the menu as well as a lack of controls.
Still, the Sony is worth a look.
Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver With Bluetooth
The Yamaha RX-V385 receiver offers 5.1-channel surround sound, Bluetooth, HDMI 2.1 with HDCP 2.2 (4-in-1-out), 4K Ultra HD support, HDR10, Dolby vision, hybrid log-gamma and BT.2020, YPAO auto-calibration technology and Yamaha CINEMA DSP for HD audio (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, etc.).
The YPAO auto-calibration offers realistic sounding cinema sound effects, which is something movie lovers will enjoy.
Picture quality is good, with 4K video at 60 frames per second. It comes loaded with HDR support, too.
It is also compatible with Compressed Music Enhancer from Yamaha, which allows you to tweak your sound to your heart’s content.
This unit is good bang for buck. It does not, however, come with Wi-Fi or AirPlay connectivity.
Many customers love this receiver, but some have noted issues with the Bluetooth as well as complicated setup.
Either way, here’s another Yamaha worth a look.
Yamaha R-S202BL Stereo Receiver
The Yamaha R-S202BL features advanced circuity design, Bluetooth connectivity for your favorite music streaming services, 40 station FM/AM preset tuning, brushed aluminum finish, speaker selector for two systems and a frequency response of 10 Hz – 100 kHz (0 plus/minus 0.5 dB/0 plus/minus 3.0 dB).
If you have more than one set of speakers, you’ll love the speaker selector function.
With the Bluetooth connectivity, you can pair your smartphone with the device to listen to your music on your favorite streaming platforms.
The R-S202BL also comes with a handy remote so you can adjust your settings from anywhere in the room.
The headphone jack is nice to have but of course if you plan to use it, you’ll need to be in proximity to your receiver. Or, you'll need a long cable.
If you like to listen to your music on vinyl, you’ll want to look for other options as this unit does not support turntables.
You’ll find plenty of satisfied customers if you check the reviews for the Yamaha. Some say the Bluetooth could be better though.
Also note that Yamaha has plenty of other great products, so you may want to see what else they have before deciding on this unit (we’ve covered a couple more in this guide).
Pioneer VSX-532 Surround Sound A/V Receiver – Black
The Pioneer VSX-532 receiver comes with Ultra HD pass-through with HDCP 2.2 (4K/60p/4:4:4) and HDR 10 high dynamic range signal pass-through support.
It also features 5.1 Channel support of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound, 150 W/Ch. (6 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 10%, 1 Ch Driven), 80W/Ch. (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20kHz, THD 0.88%, 2 Ch Driven FTC), built-in Bluetooth and Mcacc Auto room tuning and synchronized sound with phase control.
The video pass-through options are certainly worthwhile, and it can handle 4K and HDR video without issue. It’s not of the highest quality though.
The auto tuner can help you get set up quickly with your specific speakers and configuration.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, it also has USB, in case you have older devices you want to use with it.
It alo has the capability to decompress various audio files, which can lead to an improved audio experience.
The Pioneer has many happy customers though some say it’s better for listening to audio than watching movies.
Marantz NR1508 AV Audio & Video Component Receiver
The Marantz NR1508 has been Dolby Trued, comes with DTS HD Master Audio, 5Ch discrete audio amplifier, 50 Watt per channel, Odyssey mute auto speaker setup and room calibration.
It also features built-in HEOS wireless multi-room audio technology with the free HEOS app, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, six HDMI inputs and one output, 4k full-rate pass-through, 4:4:4 pure color sub-sampling, HDR, Dolby vision compatibility and HDCP2.2 support and front panel USB input.
If you’d like to connect multiple TV screens or computer monitors, you’ll be happy about the six HDMI inputs.
Devices can be connected via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which can certainly be a plus for some. The Wi-Fi, however, could be better.
Their app works both on Apple and Android devices and it allows you to control the receiver remotely. It can pick up over 1,000 radio stations too.
The included microphone can be used to configure the sound in your media room.
The Marantz is another great option to consider, especially because of its various connectivity options.
Yamaha RX-V485BL 5.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD Av Receiver With MusicCast
Here’s one more Yamaha unit worth a mention.
The RX-V485BL 5.1-channel AV receiver comes with Wi-Fi, airplay 2, Spotify connect, Bluetooth and MusicCast.
It’s capable of connecting to Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Sirius internet radio, TIDAL, Deezer, Napster, Qobuz and more.
It offers 4K Ultra HD with HDR10, Dolby vision, hybrid log-gamma and BT. 2020, HDMI (4-in/1-out) with HDCP 2.3 and eARC, voice control using Alexa, MusicCast multi-room and surround-capable.
With plenty of connectivity options and built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and AirPlay, the RX-V485BL is one of the most versatile compact receivers available.
For those who like to use voice commands, you’ll be glad to know the RX-V485BL is compatible with Alexa too.
The YPAO sound optimization helps to provide a powerful sound, and the free MusicCast controller application allows you to control the receiver with your smartphone.
Apparently, the Yamaha doesn’t have treble and bass adjustment functionality. But all things considered, the Yamaha is quite good.
Onkyo HT-S3800 5.1 Channel Home Theater Package
The Onkyo HT-S3800 home theater package comes with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, 105 W/Ch. (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 1.0% THD, 1 Channel Driven) with discrete output stage circuitry and five-channel analog amplifiers, HDMI 4 in/1 out (HDCP 2.2/HDR) for 4k/60 Hz, 3D, Audio Return Channel, Deep Color, Xavi. Color, Lip sync, AC 120V – 60 Hz 190W, 192 kHz/24-bit DAC for all channels and six-piece surround speaker system.
Although not the most affordable unit on this list, the HT-S3800 comes with a six-piece surround system in addition to the receiver, which can set you up for killer sound in your living room.
Mind you, the speakers aren’t of the best quality. They’ll do in a pinch.
The 4k HD is a bit fuzzy and it doesn’t support HDR.
It does come with Bluetooth, however, so you can easily pair your devices.
The labeled connection system on the back might be its best feature, as you can tell exactly how to configure your receiver. Adjusting channel levels could be a lot easier though.
Some customers say it offers good bang for buck while others have experienced a host of different problems, whether it was the subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity or otherwise.
But it’s good enough for small rooms and it’s an affordable all-in-one package. The Onkyo might be just what you’re looking for.
For those looking for something different, Onkyo offers a variety of reliable receivers, so you may want to check their entire product line if you’re curious.
What Should I Look For In A Small 5.1 Receiver?
A great TV is an important part of your home theater. But it’s not all that matters.
This is where 5.1 receivers come in. If you have a high-quality compact receiver, it can make all the difference. It can drastically improve your movie-watching or music listening time.
The problem, as I’ve already mentioned, is that there are just too many to choose from. The good news, of course, is that we’ve featured some of the best in this guide.
With that in mind, there are some important criteria to consider. We’ve narrowed it down to the following:
5.2. Surround Sound Compatibility
5.1. surround sound isn't as popular as it once was. As you may find yourself wanting to upgrade in future, it's a good idea to get a 5.2 receiver.
The good news is that many are also compatible with a 5.1. channel system, so will still be compatible with your current setup.
You’re not going to know how your unit is going to sound until you set it up. And, sound, for better or for worse, tends to be subjective. No wonder there are so many products out there.
So, you must consider how you’re planning to use the receiver.
Will you be watching movies? Listening to music? Other?
Where will you be setting up your media room? In a dedicated space or room? In a basement? In an open-concept home?
It’s easy to forget how much sound is affected by the room.
I can’t offer too many specifics in terms of advice, but I do have some general recommendations:
If you like watching movies, then you may prefer more bass.
Of course, some of the subtler nuances can get lost when you have too much bass. So, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time listening to music, you’ll probably want a unit with better balance.
The ability to configure frequencies can be a huge help. Note that not all compact receivers have built in EQ.
Some receivers will automatically configure your sound for your room, which is a nifty function.
Again, with sound preferences being as personal as they are, there’s only so much guidance we can offer here.
The key point is to choose based on what you want to do with your receiver.
Plenty Of Connectivity Options
Wireless seems to be the way of the future. Even so, I think it’s preferable to have a receiver that offers both wired and wireless connections as you may have a mix of newer and older gear.
When it comes to things like Bluetooth, it’s kind of a no-brainer. The ability to pair your device with your receiver makes it easy for you to access the media you want to watch or listen to quickly and easily.
Wi-Fi connection can also be great, assuming your router is in the same room as the rest of your setup. Note that some receivers don’t do Wi-Fi well.
But in some cases, you may also want to connect via USB or other. So, it’s always best to grab a unit with more options rather than fewer.
But since you’ll be the one using it, you know better than anyone else what you need.
Pass-Through Is Important If You’re Going To Use It For A Home Cinema Setup
Ensure your receiver has HD if not 4k and Ultra HD.
Most people tend not to bother with HDR, but it does offer rich color.
Also ensure the unit you’re thinking about buying has enough HD ports for how you’re planning to use it.
Why Do I Need A Receiver?
You don't. But if you want to set up a home theater, you'll probably want one.
A receiver will decode the DVD’s surround sound formats, drive your speakers and allow you to switch between your various audio and video components.
If you want to enjoy movie soundtracks as they were meant to be heard, then you’ll want to put some money towards a solid A/V receiver.
They come with five or more channels of audio amplification, which can be used to power two front speakers, two rear and one center speaker.
It’s important to understand that stereo receivers can only power two speakers, thus the distinction. Stereo receivers can be great for listening to music, mind you.
Some audiophiles even prefer stereo receivers over 5.1 receiver for music, but 5.1 receivers sometimes come with features you simply can’t get with a stereo receiver.
If you’re planning to watch lots of movies and want to simulate the moviegoing experience, you’re almost certainly going to want a 5.1 receiver.
In addition, you can connect all your audio and video equipment directly to your receiver, using it as a command center of sorts.
What Is Surround Sound?
It’s fair to say surround sound is the reason A/V receivers exist.
People want to enjoy the moviegoing experience right from the comfort of their own home, and surround sound can offer a more authentic viewing experience.
Even the cheapest receivers at least come with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding.
DVDs are encoded with 5.1 channels of Dolby Digital audio. A receiver decodes the audio and sends the signal to your speakers.
This allow you to enjoy a movie’s soundtrack in all its detail, richness, depth and more.
Where stereo is effectively a two-speaker setup, surround sound usually takes advantage of five or more speakers, with or without a subwoofer.
Speaker placement is important when using surround sound, as you want certain sounds coming from specific directions.
Surround sound systems are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and today there are more options than ever.
What Are The Best Compact Receiver Brands?
Most would agree that the companies mentioned here are among the best makers for compact receivers:
Full-sized receivers might be a different matter, but as far as smaller ones are concerned, you probably won’t find better.
And, I think it’s fair to say there are no “perfect” products either. It just depends on what you need and what you like.
Top Small 5.1 and 5.2 Receivers, Final Thoughts
Shopping for a receiver can be a lot of fun. Just don’t get frustrated wading through the various options available.
Think about how you’ll be using the unit. What will its primary function be? What features will you require?
As it has often been said, “use the right tool for the job”. Don’t expect a unit designed for movies to be great for music or vice versa.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and here’s wishing you a great listening experience!