Best Small 5.1 Receivers in 2018 – Create a Rich Soundscape

A good yet compact 5.1 receiver allows you to fill your cinema room with sound. They allow for the standard left, right, and center channels, as well as two more channels for left and right surround sound.

The best receivers can route all of the signals they receive, ensuring the resulting sound is of the highest quality.

There are many choices out there, so you need to sift through a lot of information to find the right receiver.

Top 6 Small 5.1 Receivers - Comfort in Sound

After checking out small 5.1 receivers from some of the world’s leading brands, I’ve whittled my selection down to six that offer great sound.

My favorite thing about this receiver is that you can connect two sets of speakers. There’s a handy selection option that allows you to pick between the sets, so you have full control over your sound.

It also comes equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, so you can connect your phone and play your music from Spotify or similar apps. You also have a selection of 40 pre-programmed radio stations if you prefer.

The minimalistic design has a brushed aluminum coating, so it looks the part and is quite sturdy too. You also receive a remote, which allows you to mess with all of the settings from a distance.

I also like the headphone jack, which offers much better sound than your phone or MP3 player. Of course, using it means sitting next to the receiver, as it’s not exactly portable.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t support turntables, so you vinyl fanatics may have to look elsewhere. The Bluetooth connection can also get a bit spotty if you move your device too far out of range.

  • Can connect and switch between two sets of speakers
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    Connects to all Bluetooth devices
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    Has 40 pre-programmed radio stations
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    Comes with a remote
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    Has a headphone jack
  • No support for turntables
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    Bluetooth has a habit of fading if you move your device too far away

This may be an excellent choice for home cinema systems because of the range of video pass-through that it offers. The receiver can handle 4K images easily, in addition to High Dynamic Range (HDR) video.

It also has an auto-tuner for your speaker system. This adjusts the receiver for different speaker sizes and configurations to ensure you get an equalized sound.

It has Bluetooth connectivity, plus a USB port on the front if you want to connect an older device. I’m also a big fan of its ability to decompress MP3s and other sound files, ensuring you get the fullest representation of your tunes.

Unfortunately, the pass-through isn’t of the highest quality, so expect some loss of sharpness when watching 4K video. You’ll also have to change the settings manually whenever you want to switch between video setups.

  • Allows you to pass-through 4K and HDR video
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    Capable of decompressing MP3 files
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    Has a USB port
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    The auto-tuner adjusts the sound output depending on your home setup
  • Doesn’t have the best pass-through capabilities on the market
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    Requires manual changing whenever switching between video formats

Like the Pioneer, this receiver offers support for 4K and Ultra-HD video. It also has the HDR compatibility, alongside BT .2020 support so you get a wider range of colors.

It comes with Bluetooth capabilities, so streaming from your devices won’t be a problem. I also like the YPAO system, which calibrates the sound output based on your room’s acoustic capabilities.

However, it’s the SCENE button system that really stands out for me. This adjusts the receiver further based on whether you’re using a CD, DVD, television, or radio.

I will note that the receiver places an emphasis on bass. While it equalizes quite well besides, having such a heavy bass sound may deter you if you play a lot more complex and subtle music.

It also doesn’t come with the most detailed instructions, which means you may struggle to get some more complex setups working. The receiver seems to have a particular problem with some brands of 4K smart TVs.

  • Excellent video output capabilities
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    The YPAO system adapts the sound output to your room
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    SCENE buttons adjust the receiver based on what you’re playing
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    Excellent for bass-heavy tracks
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    Has BT .2020 support
  • The bass has a habit of drowning out the mid-range
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    Poor instructions

The Onkyo stands out because it offers you both a receiver and a six-piece surround sound speaker setup in the same package. The speakers aren’t the highest quality, but they do the job for small or starter setups.

The receiver offers HD video output up to 4K, though it’s a touch on the fuzzy side. It also doesn’t support HDR, so it falls into the lower end of the scale as a home cinema system.

It also has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hook your devices up in no time.

I’m a big fan of the labeled connection system on the back of the receiver. This tells you exactly what each switch and port does, so you shouldn’t run into any problems getting your devices set up.

Unfortunately, you’ll run into some problems when adjusting channel levels. While you can do it, you also have to exit out of any applications you’re running to make the changes.

  • Supports video up to 4K
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    Comes with a set of six speakers
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    The labels on the back offer instruction for each port
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    Has Bluetooth connectivity
  • Doesn’t support HDR
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    Can’t adjust channel levels without exiting your application
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    The receiver itself generates a little bit of noise

Yamaha returns with another receiver that offers pass-through support for 4K and Ultra HD video. It also has the same YPAO system that you get with the RX-V383BL.

What I really like about this is the focus on sustainability. The ECO mode allows you to reduce power consumption by 20%, which also saves you money on your electricity bill.

The on-screen display (OSD), offers a range of languages, including English, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. It’s also heavy on the bass, so you’ll really feel those deep sounds.

However, the receiver doesn’t come with Bluetooth compatibility, instead only having a single USB port at the front. You can purchase an adapter, but that’s an added expense.

It also comes with a remote, but it feels a bit cheap. The tiny buttons can actually make it difficult to adjust the receiver’s settings.

  • Offers pass-through for Ultra HD and 4K video
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    ECO mode saves power consumption
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    OSD comes in an array of languages
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    YPAO system adjusts sound based on the setup and room
  • Doesn’t have inbuilt Bluetooth compatibility
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    Remote looks and feels cheap
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    Tiny remote buttons

A versatile receiver, this offers HD pass-through. It can manage 4K video, plus it has six HD ports so you can connect multiple TVs and computers.

It’s the array of connectivity options that really make it stand out for me. In addition to inbuilt Bluetooth, it also allows you to connect devices via Wi-Fi.

Instead of a remote, Marantz offers a mobile app that works on both Android and Apple devices. The app lets you control the receiver’s settings remotely, plus you can tune the receiver to pick up over a thousand radio stations.

The receiver comes with a microphone, which you’ll use alongside the configuration tools to achieve the best possible sound for your room.

It’s not perfect though, as the poorly-translated instructions can make setting up a pain. The Wi-Fi connection also gets a bit sketchy, even if your connection strength doesn’t change.

  • Has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities
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    Offers pass-through for 4K video
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    Comes with a microphone for easier configuration
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    Marantz app is more versatile than the average remote control
  • Poor instructions
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    Wi-Fi is a bit hit-and-miss

Important Things in a Small 5.1 Receiver

Video Pass-Through

Most receivers offer video pass-through because many people use them for home cinema systems. You’re looking for a minimum of HD, though the future conscious will also look towards 4K and Ultra HD connectivity. HDR is less important, though technophiles who love rich colors may want to look out for it.

Another point to mention here is the number of HD ports the receiver has. Most of your devices use HD now, so you’re looking for at least four ports. Remember, the fewer ports you have, the more time you’ll spend messing about with the receiver connections.

Connectivity

Beyond the wired HD devices and the speakers, most 5.1 receivers offer other connectivity options. The majority on my list come with inbuilt Bluetooth connectivity, though you’ll need to buy an adapter if yours doesn’t. Without it, you’ll have to connect devices manually via a USB port.

Some receivers also offer Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows for easier streaming from your devices. You’re looking for something that maintains a decent connection despite changing Wi-Fi strengths. Ideally, you’ll also have the receiver in the same room as your modem.

Sound

When it comes to sound, you have to think about what you’re going to play most through the receiver. Movie buffs may prefer heavy bass to emphasize action-heavy scenes. However, poor balancing may lead to the bass drowning out more subtle sounds.

This is especially an issue for people who prefer layered music, such as classical compositions. Too much bass strips away the mid-range at times. You may want to look for a system that automatically configures the sound set-up to your room.


Final Word

A good 5.1 receiver allows for HD video pass-through and adds a rich texture to your sound system. However, be aware that they limit your speaker setup. Some do come with multiple channels to allow you to switch things up though.

The receivers on my list all offer high-quality sound, with only one having no video options. It comes down to personal preference. If you’re buying for the future, look for a receiver with 4K and Ultra HD pass-through.

However, those more interested in sound will need to pay attention to bass levels. A system that auto-configures to your room also helps.

Use my list as a starting point and consider your own needs.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner
     

    A guitar player, lyricist, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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