An audio video receiver is an important part of any home theater system. It acts not only as an amplifier, but also as an audio-video switching device. It plays a central role in what you can play and with what quality.
Like many home theater components, AV receivers are not the easiest items to shop for. They have a wide range of specs, and many will not be familiar if you’ve never bought one. If you want to buy an AV receiver, this is what you should pay attention to.
The number of channels on an AV receiver refers to the number of speakers it can power. It’s possible to play audio with just two speakers, but you’ll probably want significantly more. Here are a few options and what they mean:
- 2 channels: left and right speakers.
- 2.1 channels: Left, right and a subwoofer.
- 3.1 channels: Left, right, a center speaker and a subwoofer.
- 5.1 channels: This is the same as 3.1 but with two speakers added behind you. This is the minimum number of speakers needed to enjoy surround sound.
- 7.1 channels: This is the same as 5.1 but with two speakers on either side. This is recommended for larger rooms.
It’s worth noting that if affordable, you’ll need to buy more channels than you expect to use. This allows you to add extra speakers at a later time without replacing your receiver.
2. Sound Codecs
Most AV receivers offer surround sound. This is achieved using codecs, the most popular of which are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. In terms of sound quality, there is little difference between the two. But it’s important to note that Dolby Atmos requires height speakers, while DTS:X does not. Therefore, unless you are using the receiver in a very large room, you should opt for DTS:X, which provides nearly identical audio with fewer speakers.
3. Resolution and HDR
Video resolution has increased dramatically in recent years. 4K is becoming more and more popular and many manufacturers are now launching 8K televisions. If you own a high-resolution television, or if you’re planning to buy one in the future, it’s important to purchase an AV receiver that supports high-resolution video.
You may also want to consider High Dynamic Range support. HDR is why many new televisions now offer such realistic color accuracy. There are three types, namely HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. Many new AV receivers support all three.
4. Inputs and Outputs
Before you buy an AV receiver, it’s important to write down everything you want to connect to it. If you plan to use the receiver for a long time, it is also worth considering additional components that you can purchase in the future.
HDMI inputs are perhaps the most important as they are used by cable boxes, Blu-ray players, etc. But you should also consider additional connections such as a phono input if you want to connect a turntable.
Power is measured in watts. Power is important for sound quality and is not the same as volume. A high wattage amp sounds better, even at low volume. When determining the power you need, it is important to consider your speakers and the room in which they are located. The wattage per channel must be at least as high as the wattage per speaker. For example, 100 watts per channel is sufficient for most home theater systems.
Due to the popularity of streaming services, many AV receivers now have them built in. This is not a strict requirement for buying a receiver. If you want to use a service that isn’t built in, you can send it to the receiver via Bluetooth. But if you want something convenient and ready the day you buy it, built-in streaming is worth seeking out.
7. Room Equalization
Room equalization is an interesting feature that can significantly improve sound quality. Room Equalization is designed to modify audio to better suit the environment. In other words, it takes the shape and size of a room into account and produces matching audio waves. It’s available in most amps over $1,000 and it’s worth looking for if you’re planning on paying that much.
8.Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Most AV receivers can be connected to a home network. This provides access to online streaming services and allows you to stream directly from all your devices. Almost all AV receivers have an Ethernet port for this, but if you want something with fewer cables, look for a receiver with WiFi and Bluetooth.
9. Voice/App Control
Most AV receivers have well-designed remotes that allow you to quickly play whatever you want. If you want something more advanced, many recipients have their own app as well. This will allow you to set up your home audio using your mobile instead. If you’re a fan of voice control, it’s worth noting that some AV receivers are also compatible with Alexa and Google Voice.
10. Multiple rooms
If you have speakers in multiple rooms, you should look for an AV receiver with multi-room. This feature allows you to split the audio signal and stream media in multiple locations, such as a bedroom or dining room. It is important to note that this is usually achieved by using one of your surround sound channels. If you prefer not to do this, you can also purchase receivers with which you can place extra amplifiers throughout the house.
How much should you spend on an AV receiver?
Like most audio equipment, the price of an AV receiver varies widely. You also get what you pay for, with more expensive products that tend to have better sound quality and a much wider choice of features.
While many AV receivers cost upwards of $1,000, you can also spend $250 and get something suitable for most home theaters. Plus, the difference in sound quality won’t be noticeable to most people as long as it’s paired with good speakers.
However, if you want specific features or a high-quality experience, you’ll have to consider a higher price tag.