Q: You recently recommended two soundbar models from GoldenEar Technology and Definitive Technology. I assume they are just speakers and need an amplifier to drive them. Can you recommend a decent and affordable receiver to work with them?

-- T.U., Belle Plaine, Minn.

A: With both surroundbars selling in the $1,000 price range, a receiver selling for around $500 is appropriate, unless your room is very large and you need a lot of power. Here are two great receivers that will work well with either soundbar or a high-quality home theater surround speaker system.

The Marantz NR1402 was a top recommendation last year. Its successor, the $399 NR1403, is the same receiver with a better remote and two additional HDMI inputs, bringing the total to six. The NR1403 impresses me not only for what it does, but for what it does not do.

The NR1403 is a 5.1-channel A/V receiver that is attractively styled and well-constructed on a slimline chassis that is about half the height of receivers with similar specifications. The amplifier is clean and strong and the sound is beyond reproach. Inputs are clearly labeled on the back with names, such as BD, SAT, GAME, etc. Plug your cable into the input, select the same input with the dial on front, and you have sound from your speakers and a picture on your TV. Though this sounds very basic, you may be surprised to find out how awkward it can be to synchronize inputs on many current receivers. The NR1403 makes it easy.

As for what it doesn't do, it doesn't confuse its owner with a ton of obscure settings and features they don't want or need. The NR1403 is a big winner because it focuses on the basics, outstanding sound and easy operation, and does it for only $399. I've used one with a Definitive Technology surround speaker system and a GoldenEar soundbar and found it to be a perfect match for both. Visit us.marantz.com.

The new $525 Pioneer Elite VSX-43 is a fuller-featured, 7.1-channel alternative to the NR1403 for those interested in more functionality beyond good sound and simple operation.

Most receivers have automatic setup and calibration systems that are of no or little benefit when used with a surroundbar. Outside of high-end products the only system of this type that has impressed me is Pioneer's MCACC system. Once your speakers are placed you plug a microphone into the front of the receiver and run the MCACC setup program. It sends out a variety of test tones, measures them and not only sets the speaker balance but optimizes the sound for your speakers and the room acoustics. When using most other receivers, I don't use their auto setup systems. When I use a Pioneer, I do. It's a difference easily noticed by the untrained ear. The MCACC system makes the VSX-43 one of my top choices for use with separate speakers placed throughout the room. As much as I like the Marantz, if I had a traditional surround speaker setup I'd lead toward the VSX-43 because of the MCACC feature.

AirPlay is supported via an Ethernet connection and a Bluetooth module is available for wireless streaming and Zone 2 operation is available, allowing it to power a second set of speakers in a different room. Visit www.pioneerelectronics.com.

Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.