How to choose the best AV receiver for you


Are you in the market for an A/V receiver? Home theater expert, Robert Heron, explains what an A/V receiver is and highlights the five things you should look for—power, inputs, surround sound, upconversion & upscaling, and finally, connectivity.

Transcript Hi, I'm Robert Heron, and today, we are going to learn what an A/V receiver is, and five things you should look for if you're considering buying one. A/V receivers are designed to provide superior sound performance for your home theater, as well as simplify your media center. They are the intermediaries for not only your surround sound system, but also your TV set, cable satellite programming, Blu-ray DVD player, computer and another media devices. They basically act as a central hub that manages and switches between devices. This allows you to simply move from input to input with the receiver versus connecting all the cables to the TV. In other words, A/V receivers allow you to have compatible devices connected to them and, at the push of a button, are able switch between devices without unplugging and switching cables. I know, pretty amazing. Now, let's talk about the five features to look for in an A/V receiver. Number one-- power. Power is very important, because it defines the energy that can be delivered to the speakers. The more power a receiver has, the more energy can be output, which creates better frequency response, accuracy, and sound performance, not to mention the obvious louder sound. Number two-- inputs. As I mentioned earlier, your A/V receiver is your entertainment hub. You'll need enough ports to handle all of your components. This receiver comes equipped with a versatile HD connection option for flexibility in connecting all of your devices, including five HDMI inputs for your video game system, Blu-ray disc player, and cable satellite box, and two component inputs for added HD-capable connectivity. Ideally, most of your devices will use an HDMI cable, as it is the best way to connect HD components, because it delivers 100% digital signal for true HD video and sound. Number three-- surround sound. If you're buying a receiver to build your home theater, then you're going to want multichannel surround sound. The first part represents the number of different channels-- think speakers-- that a receiver can output to. A 5.1 receiver can send signals up to five speakers, plus a sub. And a 7.1 receiver can drive up to seven plus a sub. The 0.1 represents the low frequency channel, which requires a specialized speaker known as the sub woofer. More speakers mean a fuller experience. Most movies on disk are 5.1, but the market is always moving up. For example, an increasing number of Blu-ray soundtracks contain 7.1 channels of information. So a 7.2 channel is not a frivolous item, especially for the movie lover. If you're looking to distribute audio independently to a second room, many premium receivers feature this useful capability. Beware of potential hardware limitations with some multi-receivers. For example, a 7.1 channel receiver may only support a 5.1 speaker set up when providing stereo sound to a second room. The speakers are the voice of the system, and there is no substitute for an in-person listening session with content that you frequently enjoy. Music fans, bring music to listen to. Movie lovers, bring a selection that you are familiar with, sonically speaking. Another rule of thumb is that, generally speaking, larger speakers usually sound better than smaller size speakers. You'll also want to look for a couple of video features called upconversion and upscaling. Together, these two features improve the image quality of analog connected devices to near HD. Analog connected device signals are converted to digital and output via HDMI, making one cable connection from the receiver to the HDMI-enabled TV possible. You'll be amazed at how great your non-HD programs will look. And if you're a movie buff, then you'll want the signal to pass through in film frame rate of 24p, so look for 24p pass through. And if you're a 3D junkie, then some receivers on the market also pass through a 3D video signal, so your 3D Blu-ray movies can play on your big screen. Pretty cool. Number five-- connectivity. Not only will you want to connect all of your home theater components to your A/V receiver, but what's really cool is connecting your portable device without wires. This receiver has the ideal package for that. It has built in Wi-Fi, so you can easily connect to the internet and your own network access music stored on your computer, or built-in music services like Pandora. Plus, it's AirPlay-enabled, which allows you to stream music from your iPhone, iPod, or iTunes, along with compatible music apps. And not to worry if you're a non-iOS device user. It also comes equipped with Bluetooth, so you can stream music from your smartphone or tablet to the receiver. Your options are endless. Now, let's recap the five features to look for in an A/V receiver-- powerful, five or more inputs for components, multichannel surround sound, up converts and up scales non-HD signals, connectivity for unlimited content. On behalf of Sony, I'm Robert Heron for Howdini. For more tips, check out
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  • Robert Heron

    Robert Heron Home Theater Guru Robert Heron is a technologist at heart with more than a decade of editorial, laboratory, and media outlet experience that has focused onthe consumer electronics (CE) industry. more about this expert »

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