Best AV Home Theater Receivers Under $500

What’s the best receiver you can buy for around $500?  That’s a question that one of my relatives posed to me this past week when his poor Onkyo 7.1 channel home theater receiver died.  Budgets are tight and with Christmas time coming up something around a $500 budget would have to do the trick.

Personally, I’m not a fan of buying new products at full retail price.  I’d much rather buy a dealer demo of a product that’s a year or two or more old and know that I’m getting a better product at a good value.  That’s how I felt with my relative—they wouldn’t be happy with something in the $500 range retail and really needed the better audio quality that comes with receivers in the $800 to $1,200 or more price range.  But how do you get such a value?
I steered him to one of my favorite sites: Accessories4Less.  They are an authorized dealer for Marantz, Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, KEF, Focal, and more—yes all those mid-range to high end brands.  You can get the products anywhere from 20% to 70% or more off.  There’s one caveat: you’re either going to get refurbished equipment or equipment that has been recently discontinued.  You’ll still get full manufacturer warranty and the knowledge you can return the product if it’s defective.  If you’ve never checked out, then you owe it to yourself to check them out.  
So back to the story, if I had $500 to spend on a new receiver here’s what I’d recommend (disclaimer here, like anything I write about, I don’t get any kick backs or compensation for mentioning any products or sites.  I’m just sharing with you what I do):
The Sherwood R-972 is a steal at 72% off.
  1. Sherwood R-972.  Price: $499.  Discount: 72% off retail. This unit is brand new with full three year warranty.  This is an $1,799.99 receiver that is available at 72% discount.  That’s right—$1,300 off the list price.  The real claim to fame for this receiver is the inclusion of the Trinnov room correction software.  The Trinnov room correction system sells for $13,000 separately and has been included for the first time in a consumer product in the the Sherwood.  You’re not going to get all the latest and greatest bells and whistles with this receiver.  There’s no 4k scaling, no integrated Pandora, no AirPlay, etc.  However, if you want a n HDMI 1.4-compliant receiver that has a focus on audio-quality then I can’t think of a better bargain than this unit.  Check out the Sherwood here.
  2. Marantz SR 6007. Price $599.  Discount 50% off retail.  This is a refurbished unit by Marantz and represents their last generation’s high end receiver muscle.  This 9.1 channel receiver listed for $1,299 and has all the standard stuff you’d expect: HDMI 1.4, 4K upscaling of video content, Audyssey MultiEQ XT, AirPlay, remote control app, and more.  I know this is $100 more than what I said, but if you need dual HDMI out, RS-232 control, six HDMI inputs, and three powered audio zones then this is the unit for you. Check out the Marantz here.
  3. Marantz 5007 $499.  Discount 41% off retail.  This is a refurbished unit by Marantz and is the step down from the SR6007 only in terms of dual HDMI outputs, 2 instead of 3 zones, 5 instead of 6 HDMI inputs, and 7.1 channels instead of 9.1 channels. To me, this is the sweet spot unit.  If you don’t want to go with the Sherwood, then this is probably the best bang for the buck unit for overall audio and video quality and doesn’t have the extra features in the 6007 that most people won’t ever use.  Check out the Marantz here.
  4. Onkyo TX-NR717 $449.99.  Discount 55% off retail.  This is a refurbished unit and stock is low.  If you want the lowest price and $500 is a stretch then grab this unit right away.  This features the HDMI passthrough so even if the unit isn’t on, you can watch TV and watch a bluray. If you use this feature, then this is the unit to go for.  It doesn’t feature Apple AirPlay but integrates with an AppleTV if you have one.  Check out the Onkyo here.
  5. Onkyo TX-NR727 $499.99.  Discount 44%.  You’ll save $400 on this no holds barred bells and whistles AV receiver.  If you want the receiver that is the swiss army knife then this is the one to consider.  I’m not sure it has the overall audio quality of the Sherwood or Marantz units, but wow does it claim to do just about everything.  Check out the Onkyo here.
  6. Denon AVR-2312CI $399.  Discount 53%.  There’s only one left.  If price is an issue, grab it.  This is a $849 receiver for only $399.  The Denon units don’t have all the features of the Onkyo units but are incredibly solid quality all around.  If you want the unit that will give you great quality.  But this unit has every single feature anyone could ask for: Audyssey MultiEQ XT, Airplay, 7 HDMI inputs, and HDMI 1.4a support,  Pandora, Flickr, and online streaming service support—not to mention that it has two subwoofer outputs.  I like this unit’s overall value a lot.  Click here to check out the Denon
  7. Denon AVR-3311CI $499.  Discount 58%.  There’s only one left of this refurbished Denon as well.  Like the AVR-2312CT it won’t scale to 4k but it comes loaded with every feature you’d need and packed with the typical Denon quality. This comes with 130wpc so if you need more juice to your speakers, then grab this model.  Click here to check out the Denon.
This is pretty much what I wrote out to my relative and figured I’d share it out to everyone too.  buying receivers—especially when it comes to Christmas and the holidays is always tough.  You can get a good deal if you know where to look.
Remember, receivers change technology faster than just about any other audio and video component. To spend thousands of dollars on something that will change rapidly just doesn’t make sense to me.  Once you start going over the $1,200-$1,700 price range, there’s a real diminishing returns in what you get.  That’s why I’ve always been a proponent of buying a refurb unit or a unit that is one or two years old and saving 50%-70%.

So if you’re looking to upgrade your receiver I recommend three potential courses of action:

  1. Checkout what’s on the Accessories4less site.  
  2. Visit your local hifi dealer and see what they may have as demonstration units that they are willing to sell.  Normally demo units sell for 20%-50% off and you get the benefit of trying out the gear before you buy it.
  3. Checkout auction sites like eBay or or the Positive Feedback Exchange.

Good luck and have fun with your search.