Your comprehensive guide on how to choose the best home theater receiver
Choosing the best AV receiver can be difficult, as it is an essential part of a home theater system. In this buying guide, we’ll break down the features and technologies you need to consider and help you decide on the best AV options, when you’re deciding for yourself the best AV home theater receiver to buy.
How to choose the best home theater receiver
inputs and outputs first
The first part to look at is to make sure that the home theater receiver you choose has enough HDMI inputs to connect everything you have. We suggest having a spare entry or two in case it’s needed in the future.
Most high-quality home theater receivers have a lot of inputs. But there’s nothing worse than starting to wire everything up only to realize you need other inputs. If you think you might add an analog source like a vinyl record player, make sure your receiver has an input for an analog source. If you don’t already have a separate amplifier, look for an amplifier with phono inputs.
You also want to make sure that your selection will work with all devices and displays. If you buy a new 8k TV or projector and have a source that can output 8k, you will need to make sure that your receiver is also capable of displaying 8k if you plan to run it.
So in that case, you might want to make sure it’s HDMI 2.1 compliant and can send 8K signals, and with the proliferation of HDR content today; Make sure the receiver supports HDR10 streaming and has HDMI 2.0.
If your budget doesn’t allow for more expensive receivers that can display 8K and you have a
TV with 8K inputs, you can just look for one with e-ARC. This will allow you to connect an 8k source to your TV and send audio over an e-ARC HDMI connection.
For those who want to use the apps in your TV for streaming,
e-ARC should definitely be on your list as it will get the best complete Dolby Atmos
audio feed from your TV to the receiver.
The correct number of channels
You have to consider how many channels you will need. Home theater receivers these days have from 5 to 13 powered channels. If you think you’ll have nothing more than a basic Dolby Digital system of 3 front-facing speakers and a pair of surround speakers, a 5-channel receiver may be just right for your needs. However, if you have thoughts about updating and adding to your system now or later, consider a receiver with more channels.
If you’re considering Dolby Atmos, you’ll need a minimum of 7 powered channels,
in most cases you’ll need 11 depending on your setup.
Some receivers give you the ability to decode more channels than you have on your actual speakers. For example, a receiver may only have 7 powered channels but give you unpowered outputs for up to 11, these outputs are called pre-amplification outputs. They will need to be connected to a power amplifier to power the additional speakers.
But this is one way to ensure the future resilience of your system. Now you can have a 7 channel receiver, then if you need 11 channels, add more amplifiers and a subwoofer later. This can save you some money now, and give you a better investment in the future.
Power ratings are key to buying the best home theater receiver
When you look at receivers, you’ll see power ratings for how much power they can deliver,
but you need to read the text carefully to determine whether said power is real or not,
as movie soundtracks can be very dynamic. This means that they can jump from a whisper to a loud crash in a split second. To deliver these impressive dynamics, a receiver must be able to handle these rapidly changing demands.
You want to get a receiver with a large power supply. This is the part that supplies power to all components inside the receiver. The larger the power supply, the better the receiver will be at handling the dynamics of the film.
If you don’t want to go through all the confusing power ratings and try to decipher them,
just look up the gross weight of the receiver. If it’s heavier than 20 lbs (about 9 kg), it probably has an excellent power supply and good amplification. Just be very wary of devices that advertise a lot of power (more than 100 watts) and light weight because they often don’t look good.
There may be some cases where the receiver has a very good Class D amplification section,
which can weigh less, but you will know that from its specs and high price.
Digital division and music streaming services
Another important factor in the future of home theater is the DAC decoder and converter,
which takes the incoming digital signal and converts it into analog for our ears. If you don’t know DAC technology very well, it’s hard to read the specs and tell a good DAC from a bad one. But the difference a DAC can make in sound can be profound.
Most brands will specify the type of DAC you’re using, and you can
actually google the part number and see how much it costs, which generally correlates with performance. You’ll find them ranging from under 50 cents
It is high accuracy.
Streaming services have become very popular for listening to music in the past few years,
and almost all sound systems offer some way to enjoy streaming music. Ideally, your new home theater receiver will have all of the services built into it.
Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Apple Airplay 2 are other ways to bring the fun of music streaming into the future.
Many home theater receivers give you the option to play in multiple rooms. To do this, you either forgo a pair or more of the surround sound channels or have the option of adding a small subwoofer for zone two or three playback.
This is a pretty cool feature if your device has music streaming services built-in,
but to fully enjoy surround sound, we’ll get the audio in that other room,
rather than giving up a pair or more of the surround channels.
While it can be difficult to fix the sound drop caused by a room,
a good room equalization system can remedy that, bringing you much closer to the speaker maker’s intended sound. Most receivers in the $1,000 price level and up will include some type of chamber leveling system.
We hope this short guide to owning the best home theater receiver
helps you see what’s important to you and gain clarity about your future home theater goals.