What to Look For in a Stereo Receiver in 2023
One of the first things you’ll need to consider when shopping for a stereo receiver is the wattage. Assuming you’ve already got a set of speakers, you need to make sure your receiver is capable of driving them properly, or you might end up blowing the speakers out. If you’re shopping for both speakers and a receiver at the same time, keep this in mind when choosing each.
Next up is how you’ll be connecting everything. This doesn’t just mean matching the type of cable and connectors between your receiver and speakers. You also have to keep in mind what playback devices you’ll be connecting and how you’ll be using them.
One area that is especially important to consider is whether you’re hooking up a turntable. These typically have lower output than most other devices like CD players or Blu-ray players, and they often need either a receiver with a phono input or a preamp to bring up the volume.
Wireless connectivity is another significant point to consider. This includes Bluetooth, which is handy if you want to listen to music from your phone. It’s not just Bluetooth, though, as some receivers support either Wi-Fi or Ethernet, letting you stream directly from Spotify and others.
Some stereo receivers also support multiroom or whole-home audio. Most often in stereo receivers, this will be in the form of A and B speaker outputs, which let you connect two sets of speakers to a single receiver. Some higher-end models also feature wireless multiroom audio.
Something else that may be important to you is the overall profile of the receiver. If you’re placing the receiver on an open desktop or shelf, this won’t matter. That said, if you’re placing the receiver in a home theater cabinet or similar enclosure, you may want to opt for a low-profile model for a better fit.
Finally, not everyone needs a receiver in the traditional sense, which means that it has a radio built-in. A few of our picks are technically integrated amplifiers, as they don’t feature a radio.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I connect my TV to a stereo receiver?
Many TVs offer both analog RCA and digital audio outputs. Running a stereo RCA cable from your TV’s red and white outputs to the same inputs on your stereo is the simplest way to connect.
How do I connect my amplifier to a stereo receiver?
Plugging an amplifier into a stereo receiver could potentially damage it. If you’re plugging in a preamp, this can go into an RCA line input. As a receiver is an amplifier, plugging another amplifier into it isn’t necessary.
Can I put something on top of my stereo receiver?
You shouldn’t place anything on top of your receiver, as this can cause the receiver to overheat and could damage it. The heat buildup could also damage whatever you place on top of the receiver.
Do I need a stereo receiver for my home theater system?
No. It’s more likely that you need a 5.1-channel or higher receiver for your home theater system. That said, if you’re already using a soundbar or home theater in a box, you don’t need to add a stereo receiver.
Best Stereo Receiver Overall: Sony STR-DH190
- ✓ Phono input for connecting a turntable
- ✓ Bluetooth support
- ✓ Output for subwoofer or attaching a recorder
- ✓ Sound-matched to Sony’s PS-HX500 and PS-LX310BT turntables
- ✓ A/B speakers for wired multiroom connections
- ✗ No wired digital inputs
- ✗ No dedicated subwoofer output
If you’re looking for a stereo receiver, you’re likely looking for something with plenty of connectivity options and flexibility but don’t want to spend too much. The Sony STR-DH190 fills that role perfectly, with support for all sorts of playback and 100 watts of solid, powerful sound. It’s not cheap, but it’s also far more affordable than many receivers.
The STR-DH190 features four inputs, one of which is a phono input, letting you plug in your turntable if you own one. There is also a line output, which you can use for a subwoofer with a suitable crossover. You can also use this for hooking up a digital audio recorder or even a cassette deck.
It doesn’t stop at wired connections. The STR-DH190 also features support for Bluetooth, letting you play music wirelessly from your phone or tablet. Even better, the receiver supports Bluetooth Standby, which automatically powers on the receiver when you start streaming music.
The STR-DH190 also supports separate A and B speaker outputs. This means if you want to hook up a second set of speakers in a separate room for wired multiroom audio, you don’t need another receiver.
At around five inches tall and 17 inches wide, this isn’t the slimmest receiver by a long shot, nor is it the lightest at around 15 pounds. That said, it shouldn’t have trouble fitting in most entertainment centers.
Best Stereo Receiver Overall
The Sony STR-DH190 isn’t perfect, but it’s got all the features you’ll need for listening to music on a great set of speakers, including Bluetooth and a phono input for plugging in your turntable.
Best Budget Stereo Receiver: Pyle Pro PT270AIU
- ✓ Brilliant display shows more than many receivers
- ✓ Microphone inputs make karaoke nights possible
- ✓ Dedicated subwoofer out
- ✓ SD and USB ports for playing files from removable media
- ✗ Only one stereo RCA input
- ✗ Built-in iPod dock won’t be useful for many people
You wouldn’t necessarily think that the Pyle Pro PT270AIU is a budget receiver, mainly thanks to the brilliant display on the front. While this is a more affordable receiver, Pyle has a solid reputation, and the 300 watts of max power show the company means business with the PT270AIU.
The PT270AIU features a single RCA connection for hooking up CD players or similar devices, not the three often mentioned. This isn’t a phono input either, so if you plan to plug in a turntable, you’ll need a model with a built-in preamp or a preamp of your own.
That single RCA jack isn’t the only way to play music on this receiver. The front panel features a USB port and an SD card slot. Plugging in a USB drive or SD card full of MP3 files lets you play them directly from the receiver using the included remote.
While the Pyle Pro PT270AIU may be limited regarding inputs, it’s less so regarding outputs. Not only does the receiver feature A and B speakers for either switching or simultaneous playback, but it also features a subwoofer out to add a powered subwoofer to your system.
The receiver also features a pair of 1/4-inch microphone inputs on the front. This isn’t a common feature, but if you’re looking for a stereo receiver you can use for karaoke, here you go.
Best Budget Stereo Receiver
Pyle Pro PT270AIU
The Pyle Pro PT270AIU offers a surprising amount of power and a larger feature set than you’d imagine given the price. Add in fun features like microphone inputs for karaoke and you’ve got a great budget receiver.
Best Bluetooth Receiver: Yamaha R-S202BL
- ✓ Bluetooth 4.1 delivers SBC and AAC audio
- ✓ A/B wired multiroom outputs
- ✓ Line out for subwoofer or other connectivity
- ✓ Classy, minimalist look
- ✗ No advanced codecs like LDAC or aptX HD
- ✗ No wired digital inputs
By their very definition, stereo receivers seem increasingly retro these days. If you’re looking for a receiver that feels more modern and has modern features but comes from a company with a history in the audio world, the Yamaha R-S202BL is a perfect choice.
The R-S202BL features Bluetooth 4.1, which isn’t the newest version, but still works fine for audio purposes. The receiver features the usual SBC and AAC codecs, and while it would have been nice to see more advanced codecs, these don’t often make it into stereo receivers.
Outside of Bluetooth, the R-S202BL focuses on keeping things simple and analog. You get four stereo RCA inputs, but none is a phono input. You also get a stereo output, which you can use for connecting a recording device or hooking up a powered subwoofer.
The front panel is relatively simple, letting you switch between the various wired inputs and Bluetooth. You can also switch between A and B speaker sets or turn them both on. Finally, the front panel also features a 1/4-inch headphone jack for quiet listening.
The look of the R-S202BL is simple and classy, and while it only comes in black, it should look good nearly anywhere.
Best Bluetooth Receiver
While it offers up Bluetooth 4.1, the Yamaha R-S202BL otherwise keeps things simple and mostly analog. This makes for an easy to use, simple to hook up receiver that offers the sound quality Yamaha is known for.
Best Vintage Stereo Receiver: Dayton Audio HTA100BT
- ✓ Multiple analog and digital wired audio connections
- ✓ Tubes and VU meters make for a great look
- ✓ Bluetooth and USB support
- ✓ Dedicated subwoofer output
- ✗ Only uses a tube preamp section
- ✗ No built-in radio
Vintage can mean many things to people, and for this category, we’re taking all of that into consideration. Not only does the Dayton Audio HTA100BT have a vintage look with its VU meters and simple controls, but it uses vacuum tubes, just like the stereo receivers of old.
Technically, this is a hybrid amplifier, meaning that it uses tubes for the preamp section and then a solid state class AB section for the power. This lets it power up to 50 watts per channel without all the heat you’d get from the power tubes in a full-tube amplifier.
While the HTA100BT may seem vintage, it isn’t stuck in the past. In addition to a pair of stereo RCA inputs on the back, one of which is a phono input, you also get digital audio over optical and coaxial connections. There’s also a subwoofer output for a powered subwoofer.
In addition to the wired connections, you get Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity. There is also a USB port on the back of the HTA100BT that lets you plug in a drive loaded with audio files. This receiver isn’t limited to MP3 but also supports formats like WMA, WAV, and APE.
Despite everything this receiver can do, the front panel keeps it fairly simple. You get a volume knob and two-band EQ, plus basic playback controls and a single button to cycle through inputs.
Best Vintage Stereo Receiver
Dayton Audio HTA100BT
With its prominent VU meters and tubes, the Dayton Audio HTA100BT has the look of an old piece of audio equipment. Don’t let that fool you, as this has all the connectivity you need, whether analog or digital.
Best Stereo Receiver for Vinyls: Onkyo TX-8220
- ✓ Moving magnet phono stage for your turntable
- ✓ Bluetooth connectivity remembers up to eight devices
- ✓ Includes both a line out and a dedicated subwoofer out
- ✓ Both optical and coaxial digital inputs
- ✗ Bluetooth volume can be low compared to wired connections
- ✗ On the bigger side
The Onkyo name has been around for years, and while the ownership may have changed hands along the way, it still means you can expect great quality. The Onkyo TX-8220 combines old and new, matching backward compatibility with modern features and aesthetics.
The TX-8220 features a total of five stereo RCA inputs, one of which is a moving magnet phono stage. These are joined by a pair of digital inputs, one optical and one coaxial. The receiver also features a line out and a separate subwoofer out.
You can also connect to the TX-8220 via Bluetooth to play music from your other devices. The receiver remembers up to eight devices, so once you’ve paired once, it’s easy to start playing back on the TX-8220 whenever you feel like it.
Like most of the receivers on this list, the TX-8220 features support for A and B speakers, switching between pairs or playing both at once. Even if you’re only listening to one set, the massive EI transformer and other carefully chosen components lend a hefty weight to the sound.
The front panel of the TX-8220 is very clean, with four prominent pairs of buttons below the main strip to control bass, treble, balance, and the input you’re playing back. Add the power button, volume control, and the 1/4-inch headphone jack, and you still have a nice-looking, uncluttered receiver.
Best Stereo Receiver for Vinyls
With Bluetooth, a ton of both analog and digital wired connections, and a moving magnet phono stage, the Onkyo TX-8220 has all the connectivity you could possibly need, plus it sounds great.
Best Low Profile Stereo Receiver: Cambridge Audio AXA35
- ✓ Great looking low-profile design
- ✓ Moving magnet phono stage
- ✓ Front panel auxiliary jack is great for portable players
- ✓ USB port lets you connect a Bluetooth receiver
- ✗ No digital audio inputs
- ✗ USB port doesn’t allow flash drives
Finding a receiver to fit a cramped space is always tricky, but it’s especially tough if you’re looking for something aesthetically pleasing that also sounds great. The Cambridge Audio AXA35 sees the well-known English brand expanding its offerings a bit, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a low-profile model.
Of course, this is technically an integrated amplifier, not a receiver, as it has no built-in radio. It’s also a little less powerful than some other receivers we’re looking at, with just 35 watts per channel, but that is more than enough for most music listening. You may have to increase the volume slightly more than you’re used to.
The AXA35 features four analog stereo RCA inputs, one of which is a moving magnet phono stage. You also get a 1/4-inch headphone jack and a 3.5mm auxiliary input on the front of the receiver. This is especially handy for plugging in an MP3 player.
You won’t find Bluetooth on the AXA35, but it does offer options for digital audio. A USB port on the back doesn’t function the way you’d expect—you can’t plug in a USB drive loaded with MP3s, for example. Instead, you can use this port to plug in a USB Bluetooth receiver.
The front panel is almost too barebones, as you’ll need to dive into menus to adjust the balance or tone controls. That said, if you prefer a minimalist look, the AXA35 should be a nice fit.
Best Low Profile Stereo Receiver
Cambridge Audio AXA35
While it’s technically an integrated amplifier, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 will fit places other receivers won’t. The wattage may be on the low side, but the AXA35 still offers plenty of audio power.
Best Stereo Amplifier Overall
Best Budget Stereo Amplifier
Fosi Audio BT20A
Best High-End Stereo Amplifier
Best Bluetooth Stereo Amplifier
Best Stereo Amplifier for Vinyls