Your Complete Guide for Buying a New Home Theater Receiver
For a truly immersive, cinema-like entertainment experience, you will want your home entertainment center to be equipped with a premium quality home theater receiver that your budget will allow. A home theater receiver also serves as the connection hub for the different audio and video sources in your home theater system. Whether you are upgrading or replacing an existing unit or are in the market to fill the need for a new piece of gear, these are the elements to tick off in this type of equipment.
Consumers can select from either a stereo or an audio/video (A/V) home theater receiver.
Geared to operate two speakers simultaneously, a stereo home theater receiver can even run two speakers at one time in different rooms. Many of today’s stereo receivers boast Sirius or XM satellite radio capability along with HD radio tuners, to augment the standard AM/FM tuners. Some other features include iPod integration with separate purchase of an iPod dock, as well as a phono input. Only few, if any, stereo receivers, support digital audio or video inputs, making analog stereo more preferable.
An audio/video receiver is engineered to be the heart of a home theater. It combines the stereo receiver system with surround sound capability, along with digital video processing and switching, digital audio processing, automatic speaker setup configuration along with network video and audio support.
A stereo receiver is less popular nowadays than it was before. However, it does offer a suitable choice for enjoying stereo music or for use in smaller areas such as bedrooms and office rooms, aside from functioning to elevate TV viewing experience. A stereo receiver does not quite have the capacity to interface a large number of sources including a DVD, satellite or cable box, game consoles, DVD, DVR and Blu-ray players and more with your TV.
When it comes to a home theater receiver’s power specs, manufacturers are beside themselves trying to outdo each other by enticing consumers with impressively large figures or numbers. In order not to be misled by the common notion that higher wattage ratings mean greater power, the buyer just has to make sure the unit adheres to the testing standards set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
You won’t need peak power as much as the root-mean-squared (RMS) power. This denotes power that can be sustained for extended periods of time and is more indicative of a unit’s genuine power capability.
Another element to consider is if the unit offers the ability to drive all channels in surround mode. In stereo mode, any low quality home theatre receiver can output 100 watts per channel, but this rating will fall substantially in surround mode. Once the amp power is split among a number of speakers, power availability can get reduced considerably. For all intents and purposes, you want equal amplification on all receiver channels.
To ensure that the unit underwent rating while driving a full range signal, check out products noted with (@20Hz-20kHz) for accuracy in rating. Something like 100 x 5 (@1Khz) is an indication that the power ratings of the device were evaluated under conditions of low stress, making the rating on paper a lot higher compared to what the unit can actually pull off.
The measure of electrical resistance is referred to as the impedance, and most audio speakers for the home come with about 6 to 8 ohms. This is where home theater receiver makers offer deceptively impressive figures on power ratings that drive an 8-ohm load. In reality, receivers that have high published power ratings can’t be as effective in driving a 4-ohm speaker, which can damage both the speaker and the receiver. The trick is to make sure to find not just a 4-ohm power rating but an 8-ohm rating as well.
Total Harmonic Distortion and Processing
The sound quality of a home theater receiver is not expressed in power ratings alone. You will also want information on the total harmonic distortion (THD) rating, which refers to the fidelity of the sound signal to the original during amplification. A THD lower than 0.1 percent will be inaudible or unclear while 0.08 percent or less is exceptional. THD rating beyond 0.1 percent is indicative of bloated wattage ratings.
Another factor worth considering is the signal that the receiver will amplify. A unit that boasts digital-to-analog conversion (DAC) capability is able to take the digital signal from a game console, Blu-ray, DVR, DVD and any other connected device for conversion to analog for amplification. You can expect better sound with better DAC capability. Do take note that only the better quality receivers actually disclose the DAC type they are geared with. The DAC type may include SHARC, Burr Brown and others.
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