Q: You often recommend the Onkyo TX-8020 as the top pick in an under-$200 receiver. Have you evaluated the new Onkyo TX-8220, which includes Bluetooth?
A: I have not evaluated the TX-8220, and after looking at the specifications, I don't need to. I would not buy one and still will be recommending the TX-8020.
First, some background. Over the past few years, the high-quality-yet-affordable stereo receiver has become an endangered species. Not too long ago, Harman Kardon had a few models that sold for under $500 that were spectacular performers. The receivers had over 100 clean watts per channel and were able to drive almost any speaker, even models with 4-ohm impedance. I recommended the receivers to many readers for use with the Ohm Walsh speakers I highly recommend.
As small became the industry's new buzzword, the beefy amplifiers disappeared. Despite somewhat similar power ratings, the new receivers are not rated for 4-ohm speakers, and there have been reports of the new models overheating and shutting down when driven hard.
Now, let's compare the Onkyo TX-8020 and the TX-8220. The TX-8020 sells for $149 online and has 50 watts per channel. It weighs 16.1 pounds. The Onkyo TX-8220, which includes Bluetooth, sells for $199 online and has 45 watts per channel. It weighs 15 pounds. So, you gain Bluetooth but lose power and get a less-powerful receiver.
The TX-8220 certainly isn't bad, but I don't think it is worth spending more money for less power just to get Bluetooth, especially when there are better — and cheaper — alternatives. The best course of action is to buy the Onkyo TX-8020 for $149 and add a $20 Bluetooth receiver. Not only will you get more power, you'll save $30 and you will own a receiver that is a proven performer.
It's not all bad for Onkyo's new receivers, though. To its credit, Onkyo has several other stereo receivers that incorporate wireless capability, but with bigger, more potent amplifiers. My favorite is the TX-8270. It has 100 watts per channel and can work with 4-ohm speakers, a lot like the Harman Kardon models I mentioned. It sells for $499 (onkyousa.com).
If you want the best, the king of stereo receivers with Bluetooth compatibility is the Outlaw Audio RR2160 (outlawaudio.com). The RR stands for "retro receiver" and refers to both its looks and its performance. Its amplifier gives up nothing to the best stereo receivers of yesteryear, with a beefy power supply and an overall weight of 27 pounds. Listed online at $799, it does not have Bluetooth but does have several digital inputs, a phono input and internet radio. Just add a Bluetooth adapter and you are all set.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.