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Aaron Evans
Aaron Evans

Home Av Receiver Buying Guide Free


Bottom line: AV receivers were designed and built primarily for TVs as a way to bring an authentic, cinema-like experience to the home. And given AV receivers do more than stereo receivers, you can always use your AV receiver for TV and music. On the flip side, like we said above, a stereo receiver and TV combination does not deliver surround sound on its own.




home av receiver buying guide



DTS:X is a new surround sound format designed to make home theater audio more immersive, not unlike Dolby Atmos. (Remember the old Mac vs. PC war? Same thing. DTS:X and Dolby Atmos are fighting for market dominance, but Dolby Atmos remains today the preferred choice.) The good news: most new AV receivers can play both formats.


There are many, but our favorites are: Yamaha, Marantz, Denon, Arcam, NAD, and Sony, to name a few. For specific models, our Top Receivers of 2023 guide slices, dices, and compares the best AV receivers of the year.


One interesting part of this new breed of receivers is eARC -- the ability to pass Dolby Atmos and other hi-res formats from a TV to your home theater system. If you have a recent, compatible TV you don't need to worry about the number of HDMI ports on your receiver, just use the television as a switcher.


Bluetooth, AirPlay and Chromecast built-in are similar, but have some key differences. Bluetooth works with nearly every smartphone and tablet (including Apple devices) within a range of about 30 feet, but it has somewhat diminished sound quality. AirPlay is designed specifically for Apple devices, with some exceptions, and it offers lossless, CD-audio quality. Unlike Bluetooth it does requires your receiver to be connected to your home network, while the upgraded AirPlay 2 adds multiroom capability. Google's Chromecast built-in is also able to stream to multiple rooms, is compatible with both Android and (increasingly) iOS apps, and offers higher-than-CD hi-res quality (24bit/96kHz).


That said, most receiver brands are geared towards providing better home theater sound than music -- though there are some exceptions including the sister brands Denon and Marantz. Be aware that some receivers are also tuned specifically for each market: for example, a Sony receiver will sound differently in the US to the way it does in the UK or Australia.


But most of all, it's worth remembering that AV receivers, much more than other home audio devices, are all pretty similar. Speakers and headphones can look and sound very different, but AV receivers mostly look and sound the same. Personally, I think AV receivers could get a lot better, but they're still your best option if you want high-quality sound.


That said, for typical home theater speakers and rooms, modern AV receivers offer plenty of power. CNET's listening room is medium-sized, but we never run into AV receivers that don't have the capability to get much louder than the average person would choose.


AV (audio/video) receivers are intended to function as the core of a home theater. They build on the stereo receiver concept by adding surround sound capability, digital audio processing, digital video processing and switching, automatic speaker setup systems, and, more commonly, network audio and video support.


Impedance: Impedance is a measure of electrical resistance. Most (but definitely not all) home audio speakers have an impedance of around 6 to 8 ohms. Manufacturers know this is the case, so they should publish power ratings established while driving an 8-ohm load. However, since power ratings can as much as double when established by using a lower impedance load, some receiver makers will use this to make their power ratings look better. Ironically, these receivers are nowhere near capable of driving a 4-ohm speaker in the real world. In fact, trying to do so will probably result in speaker and receiver damage. Bottom line, if you do see a 4-ohm power rating, there should also be an 8-ohm rating right next to it.


Auditioning at a retailer: While we always recommend that you do your final audition at home, you may want to have a listen to some receivers at retail stores. This is fine, but keep in mind that an in-store audition of a receiver can only tell you so much. Most showrooms have been designed to sound great, using sound-absorbing panels, precise speaker and chair placement, and dedicated power circuits. Chances are, your setup at home may never be quite as refined. So, plan on concentrating on the differences you hear between receivers and a little less on the overall sound quality.


Choose speakers similar to your own to give you a more accurate idea of what the receiver might sound like with the speakers you have at home. If you own bookshelf speakers with soft-dome tweeters, try to audition your receiver with something similar. Likewise, those who own two-way towers with metallic dome tweeters should find something similar in the showroom if they can.


Streaming services have become extremely popular for listening to music in the last few years. It seems that almost all audio systems today offer some way to enjoy streaming music. Ideally, your new home theater receiver will have the services built right into it. Of course, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Apple Airplay 2 are other ways to deliver all the fun of streaming music to your home theater receiver. Some of the higher performance home theater receivers may not have every service built-in, but you should certainly expect to see a way to enjoy streaming music on any modern home theater receiver.


Many home theater receivers give you the option of powering multiple rooms from the receiver. Usually, to do this, you will give up a pair or more of your surround sound channels or with some receivers, you have the option of adding a small amplifier to drive the second zone or third zone.


This is a pretty neat feature if your home theater receiver has streaming services built-in, but for the full enjoyment of surround sound, we would get sound in that other room, a different way rather than giving up a pair or more of surround sound channels.


One more factor to look at in a receiver is its setup flexibility. Most of the better ones have gotten pretty good at this, but you may have a specific need that not everyone is capable of. One thing we like to see is the ability to assign a source to more than one input and the ability to have a different video and audio source. One great example of this is watching a sporting event on television while the receiver plays the audio from a local radio station announcer instead of the audio from the television channel. Another example might be someone who likes to listen to music while casually watching the news. We also like home theater receivers that give us more flexibility in adjusting levels and crossover points. Finding out these answers will either require a deep dive into the online manual or a call to our experts!


A home theater receiver has the preamp section that does all the switching, digital to analog conversion, routing of the signals, decoding of the surround stream, and any room equalization. That is a lot! It also has an amplifier for each of the powered channels. Now if you think about it, the signals coming into a surround receiver are very low in level. The circuitry supporting those signals needs super accurate and steady power supplied to it.


When you get separate components, you are assured each one is designed just to do its job and not be a jack of all trades like a home theater receiver. So depending on your situation you may find purchasing separates is better or that a good receiver is a perfect fit for you.


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A guide on how to design your ideal home theater or media room so all your friends and family experience a beautiful picture with great surround sound. Learn about how the dimensions of your room can impact the sound, finding the ideal screen viewing height, and how to design a home theater riser so everyone has a great seat.


A Home Theater DIY guide on how to install in-wall and in-ceiling speakers for your home theater or media room. This video walks you through a live installation of Bowers & Wilkins in-wall & in-ceiling speakers for a home theater.


A guide on how to choose the ideal in-wall and in-ceiling speakers for your home theater or media room. This article will give you some insight into different types of built-in speakers and the best use case for each one. While some of these are great for music listening, we are going to focus on how to pick the best in-wall & in-ceiling sp...Read MoreTelevisions


A home theater receiver (also known as an AV receiver) brings immersive, theater-like surround sound to your living room. It acts as a connection hub for a variety of audio, video, and internet streaming sources. And it uses video processing and surround sound decoding to make movies and TV look and sound their best.


Many receivers work with multi-room music platforms that let you stream music to compatible wireless speakers you have set up throughout your home. You can create different zones and control what's playing in each room with an app on your phone or by using voice commands.


The dirty secret of the hometheater world is that most consumer-level speakers can be paired with even an entry level receiver, and do just fine. While a 120watts-per-channel A/V receiver has the potential to sound better than 100 or 80 watts-per-channel A/V receiver, thefact is that you are usually using only a few watts at any giventime on a continuous basis. There are a lot of reasons for this, but if you are trying to decidebetween two receivers and one has slightly more power, don't let this be your final decision making parameter. This is especially true as amplifier ratings are often not consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer, or even from model to model for a single manufacturer. You'll need to account for how power is rated (i.e. bandwidth, distortion level, number of channels driven, etc.) to do the best apples to apples comparison. 041b061a72


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