Sometimes we just need something to fuel our jam sessions or to listen to our favorite podcasts, but sometimes it just takes up too much space. This is why I made it my mission to set out and find the best small compact audio receivers currently available. You can see the fruits of my labor below.
If you prefer to get straight to the point, my favorite option of all was none other than the Onkyo CS-265. Not only does it offer a hint of elegance, but it’s a 2-channel setup that’s powerful in comparison. Not to mention, it’s a decent price.
For those who want to dive deeper into the details, just keep reading.
- USB input with MP3 and WMA playback - Bass boost with X-Bass for all your great Beats - Bluetooth streaming for all Apple and Android compatibility - Includes: built-in CD player, AM/FM tuners, remote control and 2-channel configuration - Programmable playback and LCD with dimmer control
What we like: Simple, Well priced, Good value for its money, Perfect sound quality, Increased audio options, Very well built for its cost
Not so much: No networking features, Weak upper mids
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 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 a reliable and solid Bluetooth connection.
It also has an aux input for connecting it to the TV and 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.
What we like: A 5-disc CD player expands its capabilities. Reasonably Priced in Comparison to Competing Receivers. Wide Range of Supported Audio Formats.
Not so much: On occasion, customers might get a defective unit but received replacement.
A big takeaway from this model is that not only is it a CD player, but it also features Bluetooth capability which allows you to connect your Android or Apple device to play audio from it. The CD player itself is a 5-disc setup that supports CD-R, CD-RW, MP3, and WMA audio files which ensures that you can get the most out of your audio experience without having to worry about file compatibility.
It comes with 2 main-channel audio speakers that provide you with good sound quality (when compared with other compact audio receivers). You can also plug in a set of headphones via the headphone jack when a private listening experience is needed.
As far as other audio source options, you can plug in devices via the USB port as well as tune into your favorite radio system via its AM/FM tuner. Don’t worry, the tuner also can provide you with the opportunity to choose from 40 preset channels for those wanting the ultimate variety at their fingertips.
What we like: Good quality sound, Enhanced bass, Great balance of price, functionality, and quality, Simple to use and operate, Detachable speakers are a gem
Not so much: Might be too compact to others
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.
What we like: Brushed stainless-steel design gives it a sense of elegance. Digital optical inputs support TVs and other digital devices. One of the better performers in this category by far.
Not so much: More expensive than other receivers, but it’s truly a premium choice.
Denon may or may not be a company that you’ve heard of, but they’re not the “new kid on the block” by any means. While it did take them a long time (over a decade) to improve upon the Denon D-M31, some might say that it was worth the wait.
Keep in mind that its previous model was also a top contender in the market that was hard to beat, at least by its competitors. This release is no different, and it not only comes with a better level of audio quality, but it’s also more elegant and capable than its predecessor.
One thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is that it’s a high=end setup, so you can expect to pay more for it than some of the others that I’ve reviewed here (being more expensive is the only reason it didn’t make it as our top pick). Overall, it is worth the price and it’s a setup that you can rely on for many years to come.
If you’re looking for one of the best small stereo receivers on the market today and don’t care how much you must spend on it, this is a great option. However, if you’re looking for something on the affordable side of the scale, you might want to look at the other options reviewed here.
What we like: An affordable option that provides decent audio quality. Wireless streaming ensures you can play audio from a wide range of devices. X-BASS enhances the beats coming from its speakers.
Not so much: Not as loud as other options, but it’s a budget mini stereo receiver.
Here we have another compact audio receiver suitable for bookcases and small shelves. For those who love their bass, it comes with X-BASS which enhances the ability when it comes to music designed to embrace the power that beats provide.
As far as the speakers, it’s a pair of 25W 2-channel speakers (50 watts of total power) which ensures you get a high level of audio quality, regardless of what you’ve got the volume turned up to. However, it won’t pack a punch at 110 decibels but you’re also looking on the budget end of the scale.
Just like the other models I’ve reviewed here, it does have wireless streaming capabilities (via Bluetooth). If you don’t want to connect wirelessly, you can also use the USB input. Supported audio includes WMA as well as MP3 giving it the capabilities that you need in a modern age.
What we like: Auto standby saves as much power as possible when not in use. Built-in clock and alarm to help you keep track of time. Smart Bluetooth technology makes it easy to automatically connect.
Not so much: Speakers aren’t the most powerful but still functional for casual listening.
With a price tag that puts it in the range of most compact receivers comes an attempt to win over those needing to listen to their favorite tunes without taking a lot of space. I couldn’t help but notice that it was one of the most compact ones that we’ve reviewed here today.
One thing that makes this system stand out is it does have a clock as well as alarm capabilities (that can be programmed to repeat daily). This is a great feature for bookshelf speakers to have as many models don’t offer this type of capability.
Just like some of the other systems included here, it does have a CD player, AM/FM radio, and the ability to plugin devices directly to its USB ports. On top of that, it has what Pioneer refers to as Smart Bluetooth technology, which remembers devices you’ve connected to automatically connect each time it is within range of your Pioneer mini stereo system.
As far as audio quality, it’s decent but basic at the same time. The speakers are only 15W each (30W total) which is smaller than competing systems at this price range. However, it’s a reliable system made by one of the bigger ones in the industry so dependent on your needs it could do the job.
What we like: Bass isn’t forgotten with its Mega Bass technology. NFC capabilities to simply connecting your phone to it. A very compact solution is suitable for small spaces.
Not so much: 6W speakers are a lot less powerful than the others on here.
Finally, we have Sony’s best attempt at a small compact audio player with Bluetooth capabilities. One of the biggest differentiators is its NFC capabilities that allow you to tap the system with your smartphone to connect it quickly and easily.
For those who have a CD collection, they’ll appreciate the top-load CD player which is basic but functional at the same time. If you want to tune into your favorite station, you can do that too since it has a tuner just like all the other products reviewed on this page.
A big selling point that Sony likes to put out there is that this system uses what they refer to as Mega Bass Technology, which is supposed to give you deeper bass than audio systems that don’t use any type of bass technology. As for the power of the speakers it uses, they’re only 6W which means this is a basic approach in comparison.
What we like: Easy to set up and connect, Good music performance, Multi-room capability
Not so much: The MusicCast app has sync issues
Yamaha’s WXA-50 is one of the smallest receivers/amplifiers 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.
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 picks, I would recommend the Onkyo CS-265. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 few 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 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.
A receiver that can sync more devices is preferable over one that syncs less.
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.
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 burst, producing better sound and sound effects.
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.
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.
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.
The old models may lack Bluetooth. This means that you cannot easily play music from your tablet or phone from anywhere in the room.
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.