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  1. #1
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Most User-friendly $500 receiver

    Hey guys,

    The 'Ol Man wants a new toy to replace his archaic Denon avr and I'm looking for suggestions. His faves are Denon and Yammie but will buy whatever I tell him to. Here's the key, I need this to be as user friendly as possible (he's 72), especially the remote. Other key features I'm looking for as I'll be the poor schmuck hooking it up:
    1) Auto Room EQ
    2) Video upconversion
    3) Decent bass management
    4) Reliability
    5) Good remote, preferably without 10 gazillion little buttons on it (I could be dreaming on this one)
    6) All of the latest decoding (his current Denon is DPL only)

    That's about it. It will be driving a 5.1 CSW ht which is easy to drive. I'm familiar with Denon's which would make set-up easier on yours truly but let's face it, their remotes suck and I think you still have to buy that freakin' microphone to use auto eq.

    One last thing, can you also give recommendations on where to buy them? I'd like to avoid BB, CC, GG, etc. if will save him some bucks.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    From your list, the biggest differences will be in the user interface/remote, and whether or not they have the auto calibration. In general, most of the entry level receivers introduced in the last year will have all the requisite format decoding (including DTS 96/24 and DPLIIx), some form of video upconversion, and standard bass management (one difference would be whether they have variable crossover frequencies, but that feature's also frequently included as well).

    For user-friendliness, the h/k and Onkyo models I've typically found better than Denon and Yamaha in how logically their remotes and menus are laid out. I have not gone through the user setup with Denon and Yamaha's auto calibration models, so they might have improved things more recently. But, pretty much any home theater receiver out there nowadays will have look complicated to someone not used to that (my dad's 71, and he still can't figure out how to program a VCR). At least your dad has used a DPL receiver, so the step up might not be too bad.

    If you're looking for a discounted price, Yamaha recently updated their entry level receiver series (the RX-V450, 550, 650, and 750), so you might find some closeout prices. The 650 and 750 have the full feature set that you're looking for, but you should try out the remote and the setup to see if they're easy enough to use (Yamaha's remotes have been hit or miss, mostly miss).

    However, I'm not sure you'll find great discounts because the new versions only add XM satellite radio tuners and expand the video upconversion. The least expensive auto calibrating Yamaha receiver is the RX-V650 (aka HTR-5760 at BB, Sears, and mail order), which lists for $550. The least expensive auto calibrating Denon is the AVR-2105. (The lower end Denons do include a mic for the calibration, but don't do the parametric equalizing)

    In general, the best discounts on most receivers will come through unauthorized vendors, which means that whatever they sell will not come with a factory warranty. The authorized retailers tend to charge similar prices, and it's mostly a matter of when they put stuff on closeout and how steeply they discount closeout items. GG is great with their closeout deals, so they might be a good place to start (and at least look at the remotes for the models you're considering). In Modesto, Custom TV is also pretty good about updating their prices according to how long a receiver has been on the market.

    Sony's also been pretty good with their remotes and user menus, but they've had a spotty reliability record. Pioneer's the other manufacturer that features the auto calibration on their entry level models, but I'm not familiar enough with them to tell you anything about how user friendly they might be.

  3. #3
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I dunno Topspeed, hitting most of those is going to be tough, but my votes for user friendly go to Harman Kardon and Sony (believe it or not). Of course I won't recommend a Sony.
    However, Yamaha is pretty easy to learn, and since your father already has a Denon I'm inclined to tell him to look at either the HTR-5760 or newer 5860,(same as the RX-V650) from J&R (authorized $399 or less with cheap shipping), the Denon AVR-785 (same as the 1905 I believe - no auto room Eq, though, I don't think) at $499 with free shipping, and possibly the H/K AVR-335 at $470 (ditto on the lack of auto-room setup).

    I've been recommending the 5760 or RX-V650 ($350-$400) for a year now ever since my old neighbour got one and we did a head to head against my RX-V1400. Less toys, but the best value in receivers right now IMO. But it's not like the others pale in comparison, pretty tight race right now.

    The auto-setup and the slightly more user-friendly manual are pros for the Yammie, your father's familiarity with Denon is an obvious consideration though.

    The remotes and buttons on these are actually not that bad.

    You can get a cheaper price than J&R, but consider shipping, authorized factory warranty, and customer service, and I find them tough to beat (but I'm not married to them, hopefully someone can do better for you).

    Best of luck.

  4. #4
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies and model numbers guys. I'll only buy from an authorized dealer. I've gone down the refurbished/non-authorized road before and it's just not worth the worry and headaches.

    Any opinions on Onkyo or Pioneer? How reliable are they? Yammie's are purported to have the best reliability, but then again Denon's are supposed to have myriad problems and mine runs like swiss clock.

  5. #5
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I really like the top Pioneer model, VSX-1015TKX -plenty of power,THX certification if that matters (usually means all the bells and whistles) and the price is right to boot...I think J&R sells this for $400-$450...it is by far the most powerful receiver listed in this thread so far...Pioneer seems to have a hit and miss reliability record, but problems usually remain at the entry point level from what I've seen and heard, you can bet the flagship receiver received more attention - Geoffcin probably is better to comment on the Pioneer, but if memory serves it uses many of the same components as the Elite models...I really think for these A/V receivers the reliability differences are negligible. We haven't been hearing many concerns about any models these days, and bad news spreads like the plague on these forums. If you're really worried, you could always spring for an, ahem, extended warranty...

    Sticking with J&R, they're clearing out the Onkyo SR702B model right now for $550 - this is Onkyo's lowest THX model...the smallest of the big-boys so to speak...this is the better value in their line IMO, but might be a bit out of reach...the 602B is more than enough receiver for most people though and at $350 is a good buy.
    The Pioneer I believe has Auto-setup, I don't think the Onkyo does.

    FYI, I just went through all this with a co-worker, which is why I'm familiar with the J&R pricing scheme...they're pretty good to deal with and one of the few authorized sites you'll find on-line. This should give you a good ballpark on prices, and like I said, I'm sure you can do a bit better somewhere else, or at least talk your local retailer into matching once you narrow down your choices.

    I don't see a bad receiver on this list, the Pioneer is probably offering the most for the least assuming the quality is on par with the others. I wasn't a big fan of the sound quality, but it was by no means bad, just a bit too warm for my preferences...I found it similar to H/K in tonality.

    I think it's fair to say the power differences are nominal across the board unless you're driving very difficult speakers, so it's a matter of assessing value elsewhere. My Dad isn't one for all the bells and whistles, but I think he'd get a kick out of Auto-calibration, and it sure makes things a bit easier.

  6. #6
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    I have the hk 235. Compared to the yammie and onkyo, hk has a nice clear readable display. I can read it pretty well from about 13 feet away at my listening position. I'm not sure whether that would be factor for you, but with many closely matched receivers sometimes it can come down to small features. (But, on the other hand, the 235 remote has small buttons. )

  7. #7
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    I have the Yamaha 5760. It was my first HT receiver and it is quite user friendly. The remote is actually very easy to use. The hardest thing for me was hooking it up because I've never done it before. I've seen it as cheap as $299 at Fry's and about $350-$375 at other local stores. I'm thinking about picking another one up for my second system.

    Good luck!

  8. #8
    IRG
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    Nad

    Well it is a little out of your price range, but the NAD T-743 is a very nice unit, and what I have liked most about it, is how easy and strightforward it is to use. And sounds great too, the #1 reason why I got it. But like your father, I wanted something that my wife could use easily, and even my kids when the time comes.

    I still think though, that most manufacturers are missing the boat though, when it comes to functionality. For most of us on this board, these receivers aren't difficult to use, but for most people, I would say they are complex. If what you are used to is a basic radio, or a simple 2 channel receiver, moving to a HT receiver with literally hundreds if not thousands of user options available, it can seem a little daunting. People still joke that the VCR was hard to program, so what would make the average receiver seem like - something from NASA is my guess.

    I'm not sure though, there is any way around it yet. Make it too simple, and the AV aficionado won't buy it. Not enough options. Make it complex, and the average buyer will go to BB and buy a HTIB. Or nothing at all.

    The NAD does a pretty good job in keeping it simple. No, it doesn't have all of the latest decoding options, but I haven't missed any of them. Give me a competent Dolby Digital, DTS and Dobly Pro-Logic II decoders, and I am set for HT. Give me a competent 2 channel stereo for regular cd listening, and throw in DPL 2 for music and movies, and that is all I need, and I bet this is fine for 95% of the audience out there. Some will want more, but how often do we see people who own Yamaha, Pioneer, Denon etc who will say they have all of these DSPs, but don't use them.

    And the automatic set up option. At first, I though I had to have this. But once I got the NAD home, and a SPL meter, the setup couldn't have been easier. But for the 71 year old (like my dad) who has not done this before, I dunno, I think this would be a barrier. So here the automatic option is a good idea. But if you can do this for your dad, then it isn't an issue. Otherwise, I think this is a good feature to have.

    And a good manual written is english is a nice thing to have. Some manuals can be so complicated and poorly written. I remember the dreaded Bose lifestyle system I bought when I was in grad school (no comments here!) one good thing was ease of use, and a good, well written large diagram that showed how things should be hooked up. Everyone receiver should have something like this. Too bad the Bose sounded like crap, but hey, maybe you can't have everything.

    Finally the remote. Sure, you can buy accessory remotes, but who wants to after spending $500 or more on a receiver? The Onkyo I had before had an ok remote, but I never ended up programming it fully. This time with the NAD, I did so, and read the manual completely. It didn't take long at all, and I really like this remote. It feels nice in my hand, and is simple to use. Again, maybe too simple for some, but the buttons are not small, it works well, works all of my other gear, and I use the macros to turn on and off everything in my system.

    All in all, the NAD is an all around terrific performer, and almost a bargain at its price. For me, I wanted a 5.1 (no need or desire for more channels) with good sound, and ease of use, and that is exactly what I wanted. And for the serious audiophile, I can always add separate power amps, and a 5.1 input for sacd, (coming soon) and 2 subs (I only use one).

    A long as it lasts as long as my Onkyo, I will be happy.

  9. #9
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    You Can Get An Excellent Used $1200 Denon 3000 Series for Under $500

    If you're willing to buy a used Denon in the 3000 Series that retailed for $1200 for about $450 including shipping or a similar high end used receiver, in excellent condition, you can find a good deal on Ebay both as a Buy it now item and also as an auction item. I'd only buy if the seller has excellent feedback.

    If you prefer a $500 retail receiver to say a $500 used receiver that retailed for $1500, each to their own.

  10. #10
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    Thanks for the replies and model numbers guys. I'll only buy from an authorized dealer. I've gone down the refurbished/non-authorized road before and it's just not worth the worry and headaches.

    Any opinions on Onkyo or Pioneer? How reliable are they? Yammie's are purported to have the best reliability, but then again Denon's are supposed to have myriad problems and mine runs like swiss clock.
    I keep hearing of people hearing of denons problems. Where are they? I just dont read on any of the forums that denon owners are having any more or less then any other brand. See what Dakmart.com has.
    Look & Listen

  11. #11
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    You Gots to Take Chances As They Say In The Hood

    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    I keep hearing of people hearing of denons problems. Where are they? I just dont read on any of the forums that denon owners are having any more or less then any other brand. See what Dakmart.com has.
    No guts, no glory. I'd rather get a great receiver worth $1500 for $500 if there's a 10% possiblity of possible meltdown than a guaranteed $500 receiver. You'll never get out of the Hood if you don't take chances. What would Leon Spinks do?

  12. #12
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Look for his teeth?
    Look & Listen

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    Look for his teeth?

  14. #14
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Thanks again for the suggestions guys.

    Bolter:
    Hmmm, HK? I kinda forgot about them, I'll check it out.

    IRG:
    The NAD is out of the price range so we'll take a pass on that one.

    Hershon:
    Used and refurbished aren't really a consideration for me in this day and age of disposable receivers. I've tried that before with middling results and it's not worth the worry for me. Besides, the audible difference between a 80wpc and 110wpc receiver is basically inaudible.

    Shok:
    I don't know where this stuff about Denon's reliability comes from either. It sounds like an urban legend propagated by the fact that they outsource many of their parts now (you know how audiophiles are ). My experience with Denon over the past 20 years has been nothing but positive.

  15. #15
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Pioneers VSX-815

    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    Thanks for the replies and model numbers guys. I'll only buy from an authorized dealer. I've gone down the refurbished/non-authorized road before and it's just not worth the worry and headaches.

    Any opinions on Onkyo or Pioneer? How reliable are they? Yammie's are purported to have the best reliability, but then again Denon's are supposed to have myriad problems and mine runs like swiss clock.
    Is the lowest priced receiver with auto-eq @ $350 suggested retail. It's also THX rated for whatever that's worth.
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  16. #16
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed
    Shok:
    I don't know where this stuff about Denon's reliability comes from either. It sounds like an urban legend propagated by the fact that they outsource many of their parts now (you know how audiophiles are ). My experience with Denon over the past 20 years has been nothing but positive.
    Pretty much everybody outsources a significant part of the core components. Denon's never had a phase where their receivers had a huge upshot in reliability problems (Sony's had several spectacular flareups, h/k had big time reliability problems a few years ago, and both Onkyo and Marantz have had past problems with specific models). But, the manufacturing on a lot of their receivers did get bounced around to different locations after the company changed ownership, then got merged with Marantz. That might be where the reliability stories originated. A few months ago, Denon announced that they would consolidate most of their manufacturing operations into a new fabricating subsidiary over in China.

    Although I haven't heard of big problems with their receivers, Denon has had major reliability problems with some of their DVD players. And the irony is that the models that they outsourced actually had the less serious problems.

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