Week 31, 2018: Old vs. new stereo receivers, Onkyo TX-8020, TX-8220, TX-8270 receivers, Outlaw Audio RR2160 receiver

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 31, 2018

Q. You often recommend the Onkyo TX-8020 as the top pick in an affordable (under $200) receiver. Have you ever evaluated the new Onkyo TX-8220, which includes Bluetooth?

-B.R., San Jose, CA

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 will still be recommending the TX-8020. When I spell everything out for you it will be easy to see why.

Over the past 5 years or so 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. These receivers had over 100 clean watts per channel and were able to drive almost any speaker on the market, even models with 4-ohm impedance. I recommended these receivers to many readers for use with the Ohm Walsh speakers I highly recommend. Having a $500 receiver that performs well with a demanding, power-hungry pair of $5,000 speakers is a wonderful thing, indeed.

These wonderful receivers were discontinued and replaced with models that offered Bluetooth and network capability, but without the beefy amplifiers of years gone by. Despite somewhat similar rated power, they are not rated for 4-ohm speakers and there have been reports of the new models overheating and shutting down when driven hard. The new models weighed significantly less than the powerhouses they replaced, which typically means the amplifier lacks the big power supply necessary to provide effortless performance.

Now, let’s compare the Onkyo TX-8020 and the TX-8220. The TX-8020 currently sells for $149 online and has 50 watts per channel. It weighs 16.1 pounds.

The Onkyo TX-8220 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-hefty receiver. Sound familiar?

The TX-8220 certainly isn’t bad, but I don’t think it is worth spending more to get a less powerful amplifier, even if it has Bluetooth. The best course of action is to buy the Onkyo TX-8020 for $149 and add a $20 Bluetooth receiver so you can stream Bluetooth. Not only will you get more power as you save $30, you will own a receiver that is a proven performer and one of the best budget buys in audio.

It’s not all bad for Onkyo’s new receivers, though. To their credit, Onkyo now 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 and I’d say it is worth it.

If you want the best, the king of stereo receivers with Bluetooth is the Outlaw Audio RR2160. The RR stands for “Retro Receiver” and the RR2160 is retro in both its looks and its performance, as it is able to drive most any speaker on the market. The RR2160’s amplifier gives up nothing to the best stereo receivers of yesteryear, with a beefy power supply and an overall weight of 27 pounds. Think of it. The RR2160 weighs almost as much as two TX-8220s, though the exterior dimensions are fairly similar. That tells you a lot about the quality inside. It does not have Bluetooth, but it does have several digital inputs, a phono input, and Internet radio. Just add a Bluetooth adapter and you are all set.