5 Best Small Compact Audio Receivers

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An audio receiver forms a very vital part of your home audio set up. It balances the audio signal gathered from various sources such as iPod, or TV and distributes it to the speakers.

To serious audiophiles, every audio receiver differs from the next. So, when attempting to take our music listening experience to the next level, there is no substituting best quality for standard quality audio receivers.

However, today’s audio receivers deliver more options and functionality at price points lower than ever before. This, even though done for all the right reasons, has only made things harder for us. Now the number of specifications and features found in the wide variety of audio receivers has only made things more confusing for us.

What was once a walk in the park has become a walk in the dark. It is for this reason that this review is set apart from the others.

Instead of just throwing product features and specifications in your face, we take a different approach in directing you to the best small compact audio receiver.

We first solve the common problems and answer questions that precede the purchase decision, making sure you completely understand the product and why you really need it.


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Our Pick: Onkyo CS-265 (B) CD Hi-Fi Mini AV System with Bluetooth

This is our best bet if you are looking for a compact receiver.

For its compact size (8.5” by 10.25” by 4”), the Onkyo CS-265(B) has a very impressive sound. Its bookshelf speakers are powered by a digital amp, delivering high quality, clear, and well-balanced sound. This makes it the best if you are one to listen to the “hidden details” in a song.

The Onkyo does not have an inbuilt subwoofer so you should not expect hard, pounding bass. It is however fitted with a “super bass” button if you like thumping.

It can be connected to computers and mobile phones via Bluetooth from over forty feet away. Friends can easily share their music via the reliable and solid Bluetooth connection.

It also has an aux input for connecting it to the TV and an analog audio input. It also features a front-panel, USB port for iPhone, iPad, iPod, and flash drives. The MP3 files are controllable via the remote.

As an added bonus, it comes with a high-quality CD player that plays CD-RW, CD-R, and MP3/WAV- encoded discs. Not many small receivers come with this feature so it is a great feature if you have a disc collection.

PROS:

  • Simple
  • Well priced
  • Good value for its money
  • Perfect sound quality
  •  Increased audio options
  • Very well built for its cost

CONS:

  • No networking features
  • Weak upper mids


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Runner-Up: Yamaha MCR-232BL micro component system

If I had to pick anything else apart from the Onkyo CS-265 (B), I would go for the Yamaha MCR-232BL. This mini receiver is comapible with Apple devices – made possible by its dedicated dock.

This dock works to improve the quality of sound that you get from your connected device. The digital connection that is created transmits signals directly from your device, minimizing noise interference and hence, better quality sound.

Its USB port is on top of the unit, making connecting and disconnecting your devices simple and fast. It comes with a modern remote to simplify control.

The receiver has beautiful, elegant speakers that employ 4-3/8” woofer units. These are supported by three legs to prevent sound distortion by external vibrations. The result is an accurate, high quality, and low distortion sound.

It also has a subwoofer-out and aux-in terminals for additional options.

PROS:

  • High quality sound
  • Beautiful design
  • Compatible with a wide range of devices
  • Perfect size

CONS:

  • Need older iPod for streaming


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Also Great: Yamaha MCR-B020BL

The Yamaha MCR-B020BL mini receiver delivers up to 30 watts of power. It combines two full range speakers, ensuring that you get the most power out to your speaker system. It also has a 2-channel stereo sound enhances the quality of sound that reaches you.

To pair easily and stream music wirelessly from compatible devices, the Yamaha MCR-232BL is equipped with Bluetooth. The additional FM tuner and CD player give you access to further audio content.

Its 1/8” input port and aux-in terminal let you interface other devices such as MP3 players.

To play digitally stored music files and also to charge devices, it comes with the standard USB port. It also features a remote control for added convenience.

Its detachable speakers fit easily into any living space and have an extra resonance for boosted bass.

PROS:

  • Good quality sound
  • Enhanced bass
  • Great balance of price, functionality, and quality
  • Simple to use and operate
  • Detachable speakers are a gem

CONS:

  • Might be too compact to others


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Also Great: Yamaha CRX-332BL Mini Stereo Receiver

The Yamaha CRX-332BL was developed to provide you with smooth, and unforced audio output. This is enhanced by its separate analog and digital low-noise circuitry, giving you superb quality sound.

Just like the MRX-232BL, this mini stereo receiver has a dock dedicated to Apple products and has the digital connection feature. It supports CD-R, CD, and CD-RW discs on top of its FM and AM tuner to offer you with more audio options.

It has a USB port mounted on top, an aux-in and subwoofer-out terminals, all fitted to enhance both your sound quality, as well as the convenience of using it.

It has an elegant and graceful appearance, made possible by its aluminum hairline finish on its knobs and front panel.

PROS:

  • Elegant appearance
  • Good price
  • Simple to operate and use
  • Great FM receptions

CONS:

  • Few input terminals
  • Remote is not entirely intuitive


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Also Great: Yamaha MusicCast (WHA-50)

Yamaha’s WXA-50 is one of the smallest receivers / amplifier that allows you to listen to your favorite internet music from any room in your house.

It packs 70 watts per channel and can be placed horizontally, or vertically depending on your space constraints.

It supports, Bluetooth, DLNA, Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect among others. Like all Yamaha products, this audio receiver uses advanced circuit designs to give you clear, and detailed audio production.

It supports playback of high-res audio files as well as single-device playback up to 5.6 MHz. Its most outstanding feature is the high-performance wireless network that it employs.

PROS:

  • Easy to set up and connect
  • Good music performance
  • Multi-room capability

CONS:

  • The MusicCast app has sync issues


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In The End

Modern audio receivers come packed up with features and capabilities unseen in preceding models. As such, you will need to extensively study each product before purchase.

Of the abovementioned top five picks, I would recommend the Onkyo CS-265 (B). At a very convenient price, you get features that you would only find on much more expensive models.

Purchasing it will get you a solid Bluetooth connection, compatibility with a number of devices and a disk drive to maximize your audio options. This is your best option if you want the perfect blend of price and functionality.

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What Is an Audio Receiver?

In its simplest terms, an audio receiver is the consumer electronics component whose primary purpose is to receive, process and distribute signals. The signals may be received from a number of sources such as television, radio and satellite receivers. They are distributed to monitors, video projectors, and televisions.

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Home Theater vs. Stereo Receivers

Depending on what you plan on using your audio receiver for, you will be faced with two choices; home theater and stereo receivers. A couple of features shared between the two may mislead one to think of them as substitutes. This could not be further from the truth. They also have some variations in features.

Home theater receivers are also referred to as AV receivers or surround sound receivers. They form the central control and connection hub for all the needs (both audio and video) of a home theater system.

Stereo receivers, on the other hand, are optimized to be core connection and control center for an audio-only experience.

From the definition, if you are an audiophile, and have ruled out the possibility of ever needing surround sound in the future, the stereo receivers are for you. If you are both an audiophile and a movie buff, then a home theater receiver is what you should go for.

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How to Choose an Audio Receiver

Now that you already know what type of receiver will best suit your needs, you need to know what to focus on when looking through the different options.

Calibration

If you are a pro audiophile, setting up an audio receiver is nothing but a breeze and your sound adjustment skills are impeccable. Amateur audio buffs, on the other hand, should know that setting it up is not as simple as it may sound. There are a little more elements than you could lightly handle.

As a solution to this, some brands come with automatic speaker calibration. The speaker automatically analyzes and adjusts the volume of the connected speakers. They do this by emitting test tones and monitoring using a microphone.

Power

Power is a term that envelopes both volume and capacity to deliver high quality and dynamic sound. The receiver should have sufficient power to match your speaker system. Distorted sound and damaged speakers are some of the results of using an underpowered receiver.

Factors that come into play when deciding on the amount of power you need are; your speaker’s power and sensitivity ratings and size of a room. You should check on this and buy a receiver accordingly.

Compatibility

A receiver that can sync more devices is preferable over one that syncs less.

Connectivity

There are a lot of input and output devices in the modern world. Most receivers come fully equipped and can accommodate virtually any input/output device. However, there might be some old devices from the times of your grandpa that you may want to use. They may have been rendered obsolete and eliminated from modern receivers.

In such a case, it is best if you look for one to suit your specific needs. The number of components you plan on connecting and your speaker configuration should also be considered when checking for connectivity.

Dynamic peaks

If you are one to enjoy dynamic peaks in music and movies, then by all means, go for one with the feature. If enabled, the receiver handles the intense short-term demands of music and movies making them sound increasingly wholesome and exciting. Only high-current receivers can handle this bursts, producing better sound and sound effects.

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Do I Need a New Receiver?

You may mistakenly think that as long as the old receiver is working in perfect condition, you do not need to replace it. With every new receiver, comes a new feature.

You might find the reason why you are getting everything you need out of your old receiver is that you do not know what you are missing out on. Here are some of the reasons why you should out with the old, and in with then new.

The right connections

Modern models come with more ports. The worst nightmare of a classic user is needing an extra input/output port that they do not have.

4K TV compatibility

The HDCP 2.2 support that comes with most modern models is necessary to watch video content that is copy-protected.

High-quality sound

There are a number of features in new receivers that will boost your sound quality. They include; more power, better developed digital-to-analog conversion, different listening modes, automatic speaker calibration, and bi-amping among others.

High-resolution music

The moment you have had a taste of high-resolution music, you will never want to go back. Old models may lack a decoder for high-res music, giving you a less than perfect experience. With the right combination of speakers and receiver, you may receive audio in a quality better than that received from a CD.

Wireless

The old models may lack Bluetooth. This means that you cannot easily play music from your tablet or phone from anywhere in the room.

Networking

Most of the new models come equipped with Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet. They give you easy access to online services that include music streaming.

Some even come equipped with internet radio that gives you access to all the radio stations from around the world.

Up to this point, it is safe to say that you are now certain whether you need an audio receiver or not. On determining that you need one, now comes the purchase decision.

Since you now know what you need from an audio receiver, it is time to go for the brand that looks into all your needs.

The compact AV receivers are all about versatility. It is on the basis of this that we have put together five such receivers below to simplify your purchase decision. Each of them has been selected for their quality, features, and their capacity to reach certain standards.

Image by Yamaha, Modified by Author.

9.5 Total Score
Our Pick: Onkyo CS-265 (B)

For its compact size (8.5” by 10.25” by 4”), the Onkyo CS-265(B) has a very impressive sound. Its bookshelf speakers are powered by a digital amp, delivering high quality, clear, and well-balanced sound. This makes it the best if you are one to listen to the “hidden details” in a song.

Overall
9.5
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