State of the Surround Sound Receiver

It was only a few years ago that it was necessary to spend $500 or more to buy a really decent surround receiver. Today we can purchase receivers with HDMI switching with USB inputs and built-in web apps like Pandora and other music services for far less. There are many good examples, my favorites being Sony and Yamaha. There are other good brands, like Denon and Onkyo. I do, however, have issues with Onkyo and their reliability. I have seen too many of their HDMI equipped receivers which will not work.
They simply lose the ability to make the connection as they are intended to do between the HDMI source, cable, sat, Blu-Ray, apple box etc. and the HDMI equipped TV/ Monitor. If you Google your Model # plus ‘Onkyo HDMI problems’, you will see what I am talking about.
I have witnessed customers’ units just out of warranty (units they purchased elsewhere) which have this problem. You confirm on a search that many people have the same problem, call Onkyo customer service and they plead ignorance to the problem and will not cover the units which are just over a year old.
I have seen problems with Sony receivers in years past and they would cover units which have a known manufacturing problem. These phenomena of manufacturers not admitting any problems with their gear goes back many decades. When I worked retail, we would see a string of problems with a certain unit, call up the manufacturer and ask them about it. And the answer would always be the same; “We have never heard of that”. Customer service reps of these manufacturers are very careful with what they will tell you and, almost always, will not tell you what they know. If you own a 1-5 year old unit which has problems with switching HDMI or shutting off, or any problem, you can Google it and find out you are not alone. It is best to replace this unit with a super reliable brand.
I often recommend to my customers who call on the phone to order a unit from Amazon or other online vendor. If you are a techno type of client, you can install it yourself and for as little as $250 have a really great unit which sounds great and is reliable. My current favorite is the Yamaha 373 model. It has excellent switching with 4 inputs of HDMI. It is a 5.1 which is all you need even if your house has 2 sets of surround speakers. You can wire them either in parallel or in series to the left and right surround outputs and be totally happy. Do not concern yourself with specs or watts per channel- 50 watts/ chl. is enough.
I have been involved with Zone 2, Zone 3 receivers for years. I must say they have not been friendly to figure out the correct menu settings to make them work as a 5.1 unit with built in amps to run Zone 2. I cannot tell you the number of times I have read manuals for great lengths of time at clients’ homes trying to get all of this to work. This is especially bad on the older of these types of receivers and not all are hard to figure out. Yamaha, Onkyo and Denon are the big 3 of these types of receivers. Each one of these brands has built this type of receiver for at least 10 years and have changed models every year and most every year they alter the way this works. This leaves even us experts scratching our heads.
Sony tried this back in the early days of multiple zone configurations and then quit. I always prefer (if room permits in cabinet) to use a simple stereo receiver to run additional speakers in the house. Never connect patio or other speakers to a 5.1 only receiver, they will not work right, you will not have a volume control and the sound will be muffled due to center channel processing.

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