10 Key Features Your AV Receiver Needs

Audio video receivers are an essential part of any home theater system. It can be used not only as an amplifier, but also as an audio and video switching device. It plays a central role in what you can play and what the quality is.

Like many home theater components, an AV receiver isn’t the easiest item to buy. They come in a wide range of specifications, and many will be unfamiliar to you if you’ve never bought one before. If you’re looking to buy an AV receiver, check out the following.

1. Channels

The number of channels on an AV receiver refers to how many speakers it can power. Audio can be played using only two speakers, but you may need more. Here are some options and their meanings:

  • 2 channels: Left and right speakers.
  • 2.1 Channel: left, right and a subwoofer.
  • 3.1 Channel: Left, right, center speakers and subwoofer.
  • 5.1 Channel: This is the same as the 3.1, but with the addition of two speakers behind you. This is the minimum number of speakers required to enjoy surround sound.
  • 7.1 Channel: This is the same as the 5.1, but with the addition of two speakers on either side. Recommended for larger rooms.

It’s worth noting that, given the price, you should buy more channels than you expect to use. This allows you to add additional speakers later without having to replace the receiver.

2. Sound codec

Most AV receivers offer surround sound. This is achieved using codecs, the most popular being Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. As far as audio quality goes, there’s little difference between the two. But it’s important to note that Dolby Atmos requires height speakers, while DTS:X doesn’t. So unless you’re using the receiver in a very large room, you should go for DTS:X, which provides nearly the same audio using fewer speakers.

3. Resolution and HDR

In recent years, video resolution has increased dramatically. 4K is growing in popularity, and many manufacturers are now launching 8K TVs. If you own a high-resolution TV, or you might buy one in the future, it’s important to buy an AV receiver that supports high-resolution video.

You might also want to consider high dynamic range support. HDR is the reason many new TVs now offer such true-to-life color accuracy. There are three types, namely HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. Many new AV receivers support all three.

4. Input and output

Before buying an AV receiver, it’s important to write down everything you want to connect. It’s also worth considering other components you might purchase in the future if you want to use the receiver for extended periods of time.

HDMI inputs are arguably the most important as they are used by cable boxes, Blu-ray players, etc. But if you want to connect a phono, you should also consider additional connections, such as a phono input.

5. Power

Power is measured in watts. Power is important to audio quality, it’s not the same as volume. A high-power amp sounds better, even at low volumes. When deciding how much power you need, it’s important to consider your speakers and the room they’re in. The wattage per channel should be at least as high as the wattage per speaker. For example, 100 watts per channel is sufficient for most home theater systems.

6. Streaming

Due to the popularity of streaming services, many AV receivers now have them built in. This is not a strict requirement to buy a receiver. If you want to use a service that is not built in, you can use bluetooth to send it to the receiver. But if you want something convenient and ready to use the day you buy it, built-in streaming is worth shopping around.

7. Room equalization

Room equalization is an interesting feature that can significantly improve audio quality. Room EQ is designed to customize audio to better suit the environment. In other words, it takes into account the shape and size of the room and produces matching audio waves. Most amps are available for over $1,000, and if you’re going to pay that much, it’s worth looking for.

8. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Most AV receivers can be connected to your home network. This provides access to online streaming services and allows you to stream directly from any of your devices. Almost all AV receivers have an Ethernet port for this purpose, but if you want fewer wires, look for receivers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

9. Voice/App Control

Most AV receivers have well-designed remotes that allow you to quickly play whatever you want. Many receivers also have their own apps if you want something a little more sophisticated. This allows you to use your phone to control your home audio settings 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 capability. This feature allows you to split the audio signal and stream 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 channels. If you don’t want to do this, you can also buy receivers that allow you to add extra amps throughout the house.

How much should you spend on an AV receiver?

Like most audio equipment, AV receivers vary widely in price. You also get what you pay for, more expensive products tend to have better audio quality and a wider selection of features.

While many AV receivers cost over $1,000, you can also get one that will fit most home theaters for $250. Also, if it’s paired with good speakers, most people won’t notice a difference in audio quality.

However, if you want specific features or a high-end experience, you should be prepared to accept a higher price tag.

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