How to Choose a Home Theater Receiver
Are you looking to buy an A/V Receiver, also known as a Home Theater Receiver? If so, navigating the mass quantity of choices and features out there today can seem daunting. It doesn’t need to be such a tough task to do however. Most receivers available these days will please 95% of people, it’s typically the features and minute spec numbers that separate them. The A/V Receiver is referred to by some as The Heart of your Home Theater. This is mainly due to it being the central piece used to control everything you use to watch TV, Movies, and Music. You don’t have to use it for everything, since your TV has its own speakers, but you will want to once you’ve tried it. With this guide I aim to educate you about the “basics” of the A/V Receiver and what many of the features are and what they mean. This guide won’t cover 100% of all specs of all receivers as that isn’t what most people care about. Instead I’ll be going through features the majority of us want to know about, and what to look for.
To begin with, the A/V Receiver is used to power your speakers, and switch your TV display based on what you are doing, such as watching TV/Movies, listening to Music, or Internet Radio/iPod. It should be able to easily switch between all of your devices while at the same time provide great sound quality. For this to work properly, you need to know about Inputs. Any receiver you buy today should include inputs/connections for all of your devices. These days most devices use HDMI connectors, but many of us still have some older equipment which use the RCA (round with a pin) connectors. I recommend looking for a receiver with HDMI 1.4 or higher compatibility. This will work with newer 3D programming, and is backwards compatible with all lower rated equipment. Most receivers these days will also include the older style RCA inputs as well but it’s a good idea to verify just in case. You should look for a receiver with at least 4 inputs. More is better in this case. Take a look at the devices in your listening/viewing room. You may have any or all of the following; Blu-ray player, DVD player, CD player, Game system, Media player (WDTV, AppleTV, Roku) and iPod. If you happen to have a record player, look for a Phono input. These day they are hard to find included in receivers, so you may need to use the “auxiliary/aux” input and use a separate Phono amp. If you have older equipment that doesn’t include an HDMI port, to get digital sound, they would typically include an optical (Toslink) or coaxial (RCA style) output. Be sure there are enough included AR 10 80 Lower Receiver.
An A/V Receiver with at least 5.1 channels is suggested. Even if you don’t need that many channels I still recommend it as there will be additional features such as using the extra channels to power a second set of speakers in another room. You also may upgrade in the future adding the additional speakers. The 5.1 channels include front left, center and right speakers, rear left and right speakers, and finally the subwoofer (the.1). There are 7.1, 7.2 and 9.1, 9.2 channel systems available, but most people don’t have the room for that may speakers. If you do, the more you have, the more immersive the listening experience becomes. The extra channels will include additional rear channels, and/or front mid speakers. I’ve used a 5.1 channel system and love it.
For your speakers you spent so much on, you need some good clean power. So what does this mean exactly you may be asking… Shouldn’t it be “the more the better”? The answer is a big NO! The quality of the amplifier is the most important attribute, when compared with its power rating. A distortion rating of.01% will deliver amazingly crisp and clear sound. This low of a rating is very hard to find, and even a rating of.08% will sound amazing to most of us. So the lower the number the better. Distortion is rated as Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). Now let’s look at the power ratings. These are listed in watts. Watts don’t work the way you would typically think. For example, a 100 watt rating does not provide double the volume of a 50 watt rating. To double the volume at the same level setting, you would have to go from 100 watts to 1,000 watts! Another way to look at it is going from 80 watts to 100 watts gives you just over 1 decibel of additional volume at a certain level setting.
Once you choose the receiver that is right for you (feel free to use the link provided at the bottom of this article for the latest “best bang for the buck” models) you’ll want to set it up properly. This simple process is usually overlooked by most people, yet provides you with a well-balanced and room-based sound that will impress you and your guests. I recommend only choosing a receiver with an on-screen interface. This way you just use your TV to set it up. Sometimes it’s called the graphic user interface (GUI). Just follow the on-screen instructions for set-up. First you will set up your devices and how they are connected. Remember the HDMI and RCA type inputs we discussed earlier? Here is where you will enter that information. Usually they will work with priorities, which means the receiver will search the connection type you choose first, then other types as well in case you’ve changed something over the years. Setting the speaker sound levels is next; here is where today’s latest receivers really shine. Look for one with Audyssey set-up. Audyssey II or more recent is highly recommended. With the built-in software, the GUI will guide you by asking you to place a microphone (should be included, check that it is) at various listening locations where you and your guests will be sitting. Pulsing sounds will be played from each speaker and the level will be adjusted automatically, taking into account your room’s acoustics. You can see why this is so helpful. In the old days, you had to buy an SPL meter to measure the sound output, or do it by ear.
Today’s receivers will typically include some type of network capability. Some include wifi, and some are wifi-ready. If you go with one that is wifi-ready, keep in mind you will need to buy an adapter of some sort in addition to the receiver itself. Or simply connect it with an Ethernet cable. The network connection will give you access to your own music hosted in your own laptop/computer, NAS (network attached storage) or through various included apps such as Pandora, Mog, Tune-In Radio. Some include Apple AirPlay compatibility which if you already use, go for one with it as well. Many people already have this functionality in their Smart TV’s or Roku type set-top box, but having it included in the receiver really makes it simple.