Complete Guide to Getting the Best AV Receiver for a Home Theatre

4 years ago

What’s an AV Receiver?

An AV receiver is a combination of a powerful, multi-functional player that can bring home entertainment to life with the use of best sound quality.

You can easily connect your wireless or digital television to the receiver for viewing.

Equally you can use the HD audio outputs to supply high-quality surround sound audio systems.

AV receivers are typically designed for connecting your various DVD, Blu-Ray, and CD players, and they also easily connect to a wide range of audio formats including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Digital, DTS-HD and DTS-ES.

As the latest, and at times advanced, audio formats are getting to be more popular, they integrate various advanced audio processing technology within their latest models.

5 Best AV Receivers

Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver with Bluetooth

Yamaha RX-V385 5.1-Channel 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver with Bluetooth

Sony STR-DN1080 7.2-ch Surround Sound Home Theater AV Receiver

Sony STR-DN1080 7.2-ch Surround Sound Home Theater AV Receiver

Denon AVR-X3600H UHD AV Receiver (2019 Model)

Denon AVR-X3600H UHD AV Receiver (2019 Model)

YAMAHA RX-V4A 5.2-Channel AV Receiver with MusicCast

YAMAHA RX-V4A 5.2-Channel AV Receiver with MusicCast

Marantz 4K UHD AV Receiver SR6014 – 9.2 Channel (2019 Model)

Marantz 4K UHD AV Receiver SR6014 – 9.2 Channel (2019 Model)

What to look for when buying an AV receiver?

When buying an AV receiver, you should look for the number of input and switching outputs. Some AV receivers can only accept one input source while others have more inputs.

You should also look and see whether the AV receiver supports HDMI or just HDMI and not the whole range.

You should also look at the selection of the different inputs and outputs, and the number of surround sound channels.

While buying an AV receiver, you should also look at the number of different speaker outputs, and the number of digital outputs.

You can look at whether the receiver automatically converts the standard audio format into new, and advanced, formats for improved sound quality, and you can also look at whether the receiver comes with a powerful remote control and a streamlined control panel.

How to set up an AV receiver so it looks and sounds amazing

Setting up an AV receiver so it looks and sounds amazing is easy with the help of the built-in editor which supplies you with information about the content players, speakers, number of channels and the rest of the information that you need to get the best, and most enjoyable, surround sound experience.

The editor fully describes the best sound positions for each speaker, and it also allows you to set up any subwoofer for use with the many included deep bass sound channels.

You should try to buy an AV receiver that delivers at least 7 channels for surround sound if you are doing all your surround sound from a single component.

In addition to a powerful multi-functional player, you also need to look at the amount of volume the receiver delivers at any time.

Key features to look for when buying an AV receiver

A lot of people would like to be able to watch TV and listen to music at the same time. AV receivers produce sound which can play different audio sources. You can play a CD in the CD player, watch DVDs in the DVD player, listen to the radio in the radio player, or listen to audio from the internet in the PC or IPOD input.

The number of analogue audio inputs can reach to 12. There are also a lot of digital inputs. A digital input allows the use of the AV receiver as a digital sound system.

You can also revert to plain listening with the analogue outputs.


The AV receiver should have the wattage of 100 watts or more to do all the other things. The more watts the better.

Audio Ports

The number of audio ports is important too. Some audio ports require a separate audio cable to connect your AV receiver to your computer, DVD player or DVD recorder.

It is important that a sound system has a wireless input and output to allow you to access your AV receiver if you are not able to plug it in.

Other features

Other features which are important are automatic setup, auto standby, dual networking abilities, room tone generator and a balanced digital outputs.

Under the counters, AV receivers are becoming portable and are becoming increasingly popular. You can use them on a small table or balcony.

AV receivers are just like recorders, and look like large batteries. The AV receiver is the part of the sound system that is left over when the recorder is built.

The AV receiver is bigger than a portable CD player, but smaller than a portable radio.

Many AV receivers have the options to play videos as well. Typically, they let you attach a VCR and/or a TV to listen to the video.

How can you tell a good AV receiver from a bad one?

Good AV receivers have a clean design. Any sort of wires going through the design will give the receiver a messy look. It is important to make sure that the AV receiver is tidy.

To find a good AV receiver, you should check the following features:

  1. The number of audio inputs and outputs to view a variety of music sources.
  2. It should be able to play various audio sources well, and at the right time.
  3. It should have an automatic or manual setup.
  4. It should have options for room tone.
  5. It should have a DSP.
  6. It should have a balanced output.
  7. It should have enough power to play from a digital source as well as the other sources.
  8. It should be able to produce quality sound.
  9. It should have a digital input and output for each device.
  10. It should have options for wireless inputs and outputs
  11. It should have a large display screen.
  12. It should have surround sound.
  13. It should have a DSP that is good.
  14. It should have a warranty of at least 2 years.
  15. It should have a remote control.

Discussing the different types of receivers

There are two different types of AV receivers:

  1. A stereo receiver/tuner:

You can buy a stereo AV receiver for $150 or less. This will allow you to transfer the CD disc to a CD player. Most of these AV receivers will allow you to view DVD’s and TV programs as well.

  1. A surround receiver:

This type of AV receiver will allow you to play music through the surround system for whole-room dynamics. It can play a DVD disc, and a CD player can be built into the AV receiver. Some also have a FM tuner. This type of AV receiver costs $500 or more.

The most popular AV receivers have the following features:

  • AM and FM tuners
  • Stereo and stereo surround sound
  • CD player
  • Minimalistic look
  • Auto or manual settings
  • Maximum of 12 inputs and outputs
  • Digital decoder for CDs
  • Balanced Sound
  • DSP
  • USB

How to get good performance from an AV receiver

When deciding which AV receiver to buy, it is important to make sure that you get the best performance. You want a fluent sound, digital quality sound and excellent compatibility with different audio sources.

It is important to let the computer’s and other source’s audio decoder work efficiently. This can be done manually, but it is better to buy a good AV receiver that will allow you to do it automatically.

You should also make sure that the amp is powerful enough to produce good sound on all the selected audio outputs. You can buy a receiver that produces much sound at the right time.

You should also buy a receiver that plays the source formats well. The AM and FM tuners are not good enough. So, you should buy a receiver that offers A2DP, AD, MCACC, and WAV audio formats.

It is important to be able to play all the audio sources well. You need a receiver that you can choose different functions on. It is necessary for you to be able to switch between the connected sources.

Most receivers have a CD player and a DVD player. But not all have a DVD player. Some have a PC and IPOD interface. Some have a USB interface that allows the use of the receiver as a sound system.

For optimum performance, the receiver should be complete. It should have a CD player, a DVD player, and a USB interface. You should choose a receiver that has all these things.

The receiver should have all the right things. It should have a good display screen so that you can set it up easily. The sound should be clear. Inputs should be in the right places.

Should you hire someone to install your AV receiver?

If you are thinking about hiring someone to install the AV receiver for you, you should keep some of the following features in mind:

Keep in mind the expertise of the installer. You shouldn’t mind the quality of the installation. It is important to make sure that the installer has the experience and knowledge to do the job well. He should be able to install the AV receiver with minimum damage to the furniture and yourself. He needs experience to install a wall unit, a television and to put in all the cables as well.

Keep a look out for the experience, qualifications and licenses of the installer.

Ensure that he knows all the tips and tricks for installation, and how to do it easily.

Installing an AV receiver

For a good experience, you should get an installer you can trust. Anyway, as you might have read in the beginning of the article, AV receivers are not that difficult to install. It is no problem just to read the instructions and make sure you follow all the instructions. You don’t have to hire an electrical specialist as well.

In fact, most AV receivers are not even that difficult to install. The main job of the installer is to follow the easy instruction and the instructions of the manufacturer.

In fact, it will take up to 100 man hours to install a good AV receiver. You won’t have to hire a specialist to do the job.

The reason why AV receivers are not that difficult to install is that the components are hidden behind the TV screen, behind the wooden panels, behind the wall, and behind the fireplace. Also, most AV receivers have to be installed with superb planning.

In fact, a bit of planning will make installation of an AV receiver easier. The AV receiver may be hidden behind wood panels, behind a fireplace, or behind a wooden door. Also, cables and electrical information are usually hidden behind a big TV screen.

But, the installation process is simple. It is important to clean the adhesive tapes and cleaned the surfaces first. With some good cleaning cloth, you should be able to clean the dust off the surfaces.

The sound will sound different if the surface is damaged or dusty.

The installation can be done easily with the help of a drill, a saw, and a hammer. You don’t have to hire a specialist to do the job.

When not to install an AV Receiver

You will not have to install an AV receiver if:

  • Better monitors are available
  • It is not possible to buy an AV box
  • You desire to use your television’s speakers for some reason

AV Receiver Channels Explained

A channel is a dedicated circuitry for one audio source, and there are two when we’re talking about stereo.) The two amplifiers in a stereo receiver will power your two stereo speakers, and though you can connect a stereo receiver to a TV, you won’t get surround sound as a result.

The engineers date back to the 1920s when radio technology was dominated by vacuum tubes. A single channel was a vacuum tube, because one channel produced sounds only. Hollywood was on the verge of technological dominance at that time, and tubes made dramatic movies possible. By the 1950s, the era of the transistor was dawning. Transistors were actually tiny vacuum tubes, and the concept was to replace discrete audio circuits with digital logic, and produce a more powerful stereo system. But it took another 15 years before stereo receivers started shipping.

In the 1920s, electronic circuitry had been perfected to the point that it could provide the outputs we know and they only needed one audio channel. The engineers of that time found that by using a combination of analog and digital technology, they could deliver a wide array of stereo sound signals to two speakers of the same size. The amplifiers would basically create a 50 percent increase in the power they would otherwise get from a single tube.

So one amplifier would drive the left and the right “speakers,” while the other would create the sound for the center channel. This is how every stereo system works until the 1980s, when new strides in digital signal processing (DSP) allowed the engineers to mangle the audio signals through a digital algorithm involving the creation of a quadraphonic matrix. This allowed them to multiply the spatial output to the four speakers, by placing the three speakers in the aural space around the listener, but in a way that caused the listener’s ears to gradually increase sensitivity to the sound.

By the 1980s, some designs provided six channels for music and six for the fancy surround sound effects, and this technique has been refined over the years. In addition, a technique called dynamic range compression is used to reduce the difference in loudness between the front and back channels.

Today’s digital receivers have two inputs for digital signals, one for LFE (low frequency effects) and one for stereo. If you want to connect your home theater system to a non-digital speaker system, you need to buy an adapter cable to make your stereo receiver (which is what you buy when you buy an A/V receiver) send a digital signal to the system you’re trying to use. Most people use five channel surround, so there are two for LFE and three for left, center, and right. On the back of most receivers these days, you’ll see a button marked “DSP” (Dynamic Surround). If you have a three-pronged plug, accessible from the back of the receiver, it will say “SPDIF.” For digital receivers, these seven chandelier-shaped jacks are for the seven audio channels plus LFE.

Some readers have asked about the difference between stereo and 7.1 channels, and I’d have to say they’re just two names for one thing. They both deliver on the same basic principle, the delivery of multiple stereo audio to your speakers. The term 7.1 refers to a digital surround system that adds two more channels of data, so it delivers the seven channels plus LFE. Stereo reproduces sound in a single channel, while seven surround brings it in to the listener just like surround sound does. The seven surround channels are usually delivered as separate elements at first, because they’re recorded with a Dolby surround encoder and encoded as PCM (Pulse Code Modulation). These seven signals are then mixed back into a stereo field, where they’re reproduced using the same tape heads.

Or at least, that’s the technical definition of 7.1, and it applies to satellite or cable channels and digital radio broadcasts, when the signal is delivered as PCM. There is such a thing as a 7.1 channel DVD, which will receive PCM audio. In that case you’ll hear PCM on seven channels, but you’ll actually get six channels because the last channel is a “silent” signal that tells the player that the disk is “closed.” You can’t hear it, but it’s there, and it doesn’t take up space on the disk.

HDTV (High Definition Television) was a complicated debate to resolve in the early 1990s, but the deluge of digital video beginning with the arrival of DVD in 1997 has turned it into a rosy rainbow, because now we have true high definition with aspect ratio vastly superior to the old 4:3, and color capability that goes well beyond what we had in the early 1990s.

HDTV, by the way, can deliver two separate signals using HDQ, which is the digital technique that has been progressively commercialized since the early 1990s. This has nothing to do with surround sound. HDQ is compatible with non-digital signal sources, but to make full use of the new high definition capabilities, you should make sure you have an HD-compatible receiver.

AV Receiver Placement Explained

Most of us have very good visual acuity, and when we can see things well, we can easily locate and focus on what we want to see with our eyes. The receiver can thus be placed a foot, or more, at either side of a screen, and will only produce a stereo sound image if it’s mounted directly behind the screen. You might need to do some room calibration, but if you know where the source of your sound is, you can place it almost anywhere behind your screen. I’ve explained the film placement systems in the galleries, but we’re talking about your home theater.

Sometimes people have trouble understanding the relationship between the sound and image. All you need to know is that a stereo sound should appear, heard from anywhere behind your screen. I discuss the film placement system in the galleries, but would point out that you can place two speakers at the sides of a screen and you’ll get pretty much standard stereo. Just make sure you still get LFE, and you’ll be fine.

I’ve also been asked about speaker placement and placement of an A/V receiver on the back-wall of a room, or a recommended position of the front speakers. I usually recommend that the speakers, because of their size, be placed on stands so that they’re raised up off of the floor. I believe that it’s the stands that have been the main problem in designing good audio centers. Dan Kriz wrote a blog about the speaker placement in theaters that I can’t recommend highly enough. He’s been following the issues with great care, and is willing to share his knowledge and expertise in this topic.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this problem. One, if you have something to gain by sticking a speaker right to the back-wall, then there’s nothing wrong with sticking it right there. The lack of a good front-wall speaker can be a problem, though. It’s a difficult problem to solve.

Most people plop the front speakers on the floor, because they’re more widespread and you can put them a few feet apart. I recommend that you put the front speakers not on the floor, but elevated, so that you can place a speaker near each corner of the room and you’ll have five speakers, with a sixth a few feet to the right or left. Three speakers will give you up-firing, two will give you bi-firing, but you should probably have two more on the floor, to give a little more room for the centers and the surrounds. If you’re careful that all your speakers are all of the same type (like Klipsch bookshelf) and you’re using them in the proper rim-reflector-cabinet combinations, front-wall placement and speaker size will not be problems for you.

If all of your speakers are located on stands, you can move the front-speaker pair close to the screen so that the speakers don’t have to be so wide. If all seven speakers are located in the same room, and if you have an AV receiver that will accept five channels but will only pass LFE to four, then you can use two front width-measuring speakers and two surrounds, and will get a five-channel system that will pass LFE to all five.

Planning an Audio Theater

Though I can easily see that installing an audio theater is relatively simple, beyond the physical location of the elements, it’s confusing for the average person. The basic problem is that a home theater is a combination of all sorts of factors. I’ve been asked to use the term “audio theater” for speakers and a receiver, because that’s how it usually works out, but people’s requirements are a little all over the place. It’s happened to me that someone will ask where my speakers are, and I’ll say, “I have thirteen,” and then they’ll ask if those are the center, surrounds, and LFE. This is because they’re assuming that every channel is “like stereo,” and that there are three surrounds.

There are two ways to treat surround sound. The first is to simply duplicate the whole soundtrack of the film. This is a common way for people who are trying to recreate a theater-like experience at home simply by sticking speakers to the walls and ceiling, in all of the room.

The second way is to have speakers for each environment. In a theater, you have the main speakers to reproduce the dialogue and the sound effects in stereo. For outdoor events, you’re better off with a speaker that distributes the sound with an omnidirectional pattern or a directional pattern that goes out in a cone. The large loudspeaker arrays found in stadiums and arenas can be turned to cover the outdoor environment with a basic stereo signal and spread it over the audience area.

But beyond the concept of “surround speaker,” there’s questions about the positioning, size, and type of the speakers. There are about two dozen possibilities, and with the evolution of individual speaker, product and brand names, we have a whole menu of combinations to consider. Though I don’t know all of the answers myself, I’ve tried to help identify the best combinations for home theaters.

The most popular speakers and receivers have been used in most installations, but we have to take careful note of the specs of each of the three main categories of components: center, surrounds, and LFE (sub-woofer). LFE is the component that allows a five-channel system to work as a seven-channel system, because extra bass content will appear in channels that don’t have the proper bandwidth. This is what people call a hidden channel, and it can be put to use if you wire channels to three speakers (a surround-surround, or L sub, pair) and one LFE channel.

Speakers and Surround Sound

There are two kinds of speakers, active and passive. Passive speakers are the way that they’ve been for hundreds of years, and there are several brands. I prefer to use smaller speakers like Klipsch, B&W and Paradigm, because I think they’re easier to use than the huge monsters. As you’re planning your system, there’s almost no way to get less than five active speakers, making for a total of nine passive speakers. Klipsch bookshelves are a good combination of all of the features that people look for. Their terrific sound quality and their reasonable prices still make them among the best returns on your investment.

As for the surrounds, a good starting point is with the Paradigms. You can get a full, well-defined 3rd-order surround from a minimal pair of speakers for the equivalent cost of a center channel. I recommend that you pair Paradigms in a four-way configuration. The 2nd-order surround will be a waste, but the 3rd-order surround will give you a sufficient surroundfield experience at a price that’s an order of magnitude less than a full surround system.

If you’re concerned about the ability of some of the older speakers to reproduce sound accurately, you can take five or six bookshelf or 3-way models and combine them into two-channel stereo. That will give you a pretty good sound that is almost indistinguishable from a center channel speaker.

Setting up Speakers

Listen to the speakers on the right side of the pair in the two-channel pair. They are identical and would give the same effect as two channels of sound. You can do the same with four-channel systems, of course, but you’ll need to run the LFE channel to the center speaker.

Once you’ve set up your basic system, it’s a good idea to take your new speakers out of the box and sit in the room to see what it feels like. The first thing I like to see with an audio theater setup is low distortion in the dialogue area. The system should be using an amplifier with a lot of clean power to begin with. The second area to check out is the bass management. That would mean watching for the sound effects versus the music. You might have trouble at first, because some systems can suspect foreign audio and automatically turn on the bass to filter it out. This is called phase cancellation. If you see the bass turning on, make sure that the bass control is not turned up too high. Also, make sure that it doesn’t interfere with the treble control as that can cause phase switching.

The last thing you want to see is phase or time discrepancies between the center speaker and the others. If you see talk popping or bubbling from one speaker and not another it’s probably resolving differences.

You should have a good general idea of what kind of system you need before going to order the speakers. The concept of “surround speakers” is one of the most difficult to grasp, but I wouldn’t use the word “surround” itself. Let’s call them surroundfill speakers. That means that they will fill the three-dimensional ambience that surround sound requires. They will make you believe that you’re sitting in the room with actors on stage, or in a forest.

You need some serious power to fill out the ambience. You want something simple to use, that won’t take up a lot of space and that you won’t be fidgeting with. £ 1200 to £ 2100 should be plenty for a five-channel surround system with high-end components, if you pay a bit less, you can find better value. Look for 5.1, 7.1, and 11.1 channel systems that hook in and out of the TV’s SCART or S-Video inputs. You’ll be able to tell early on if you have both of the two channels working, as well as the center channel and the other four channels. (Another way of doing it is to use an array of two or three smaller speakers and one LFE speaker. That’s what I do with my Klipsch system.)

Once you’ve got your system hooked together, the last thing you want to do is try to place speakers on the walls and ceiling. It’s not the time to go wild with placement. Your system is more than probably set in the room, and the placement is for the most part, upon listening. Place a center speaker where it sounds the best. Then keep the surrounds as small as possible, and place the surrounds in places where they’ll be used in their working corners.

If you are doing a home theater, you probably don’t have a subwoofer necessarily installed. With the advent of discrete surround speakers and the purchase of a movie home theater, you’ll soon find out that there is little point in using or even adding a subwoofer. The movie soundtracks already utilize bass that is quite powerful. If you have a trouble in reproducing the sound, check out the bass control on your amplifier and ensure that it’s not set way up.

Final thoughts

Remember that you’re not getting your money’s worth if you’re expecting the same sound quality as a commercial theater would. If you want a home theater to sound exactly like a commercial theater (and I really don’t think anybody does), then you’re getting into a $10,000 to $20,000 system.

Rebuilding that system will give you beautiful sound that will really rock your house. But don’t think that the sound is going to be like those big public theaters.

The biggest advantage of a home theater system is that you won’t have to go out and buy a V.H.F. system to re-create theater sound at home. You’ll have genuine sound of your choice at home.

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