Secrets Q & A

Shallow AV Receiver?

Question:
I've been thinking about a home-theater sound system for our living room. We have a 55-inch Toshiba LED-LCD TV wall-mounted in the center of built-in bookcases. However, the shelves are only about 12 inches deep! Do you have any ideas on what receivers I should consider? Also, I'm thinking about using GoldenEar speakers. How do I match receiver power with them?
- Jim Nolan

Answer:
Very few AV receivers are less than 12 inches deep. In fact, I don't know of any, other than perhaps some home-theater-in-a-box systems, which include their own speakers and do not generally produce very good sound quality. And don't forget that the effective depth increases when you connect cables to the back. You can minimize this by using interconnect cables with right-angle connectors and speaker cables with spade lugs or bare-wire termination.

Cambridge Audio used to make a couple of AV receivers with a depth of only 12.2 inches—the Azur 540R and 340R—but these are now discontinued, and the current 551R is 13.3 inches deep. Cambridge makes fine-sounding gear, but the 540R version 3 and 340R had only two HDMI inputs that were passthrough only (no processing), and neither model decoded Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD. (Earlier versions of the 540R didn't have any HDMI at all.)

Yamaha's current entry-level AV receivers, the RX-V371 ($250) and RX-V373 ($300, shown in the middle of the image above), are 12.4 inches deep. The 371 is quite good for the money, especially in terms of sound quality, but it has no onscreen display or auto-calibration features, so setting it up is a bit cumbersome. The newer 373 does provide an onscreen display and Yamaha's auto-calibration feature called YPAO (Yamaha Parametric Acoustic Optimizer), and I assume it sounds very similar to the 371. Both models use spring clips for the center and surround speakers, which are less robust than binding posts, but they take up less depth, which is a good thing in your case. Of these two, I'd definitely get the 373.

The Onkyo TX-SR313 ($299, shown at the bottom of the image above) and HT-RC430 ($300) entry-level receivers are both 12.5 inches deep, and both have an onscreen display but no auto-calibration. Also, both use spring clips for all speaker outputs, which helps in the depth department. I don't know how well these models perform, but Onkyo's midrange and high-end AVRs are very highly regarded.

As for GoldenEar speakers, any of these AVRs will drive them with no problem. The SuperSat models, such as the SuperSat 3 used in the SuperCinema 3 system shown above, have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, which just about any AV receiver can drive easily. Also, the recommended power is 20 to 200 watts, and all the receivers mentioned here are specified to output 60 to 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms. GoldenEar's Triton tower speakers are probably not as appropriate to use with these entry-level AVRs, especially since each speaker costs three to five times as much as the receivers and can handle up to 400 or 500 watts of power.

Perhaps some of our readers know of other shallow-depth AV receivers; please post a comment if you do!