The heart of any home theatre setup is undeniably the AV receiver. An AV receiver harmonises the audio and video components, ensuring you receive an immersive experience, in regards to both audio and visuals. Yet, for many, deciphering AV receiver specifications and features is daunting and complex.
In this month’s blog article, we have broken it down for you, so you can feel more confident in your choice of AV receiver for your setup.
AV Receiver Basics
At its core, an AV receiver is an electronic component that processes and amplifies audio and video signals, delivering them to your speakers and display. It's the hub of your home theatre, acting as the central connection point for your various connecting devices.
When used in tandem with a surround sound system, an AV receiver can transform your listening and viewing experience, immersing you in a soundscape that makes movies, music, and games come alive in a way that's close to a cinematic or live music experience.
How to Choose an AV Receiver: Key Specifications to Consider
One of the most important things to consider is how many speakers you want to process and power. The process channel count of an AV Receiver is the maximum number of channels you can control, note on some of the higher end models this may be higher than the maximum number of channels the AV Receiver can power with its internal amplifiers. For example a Marantz Cinema 50 is a 9.4ch AV Receiver, so it will power 9 speakers and control 4 subwoofers but it will actually process 11.4ch when used with a power amplifier to power the additional channels.
The wattage, impedance, and number of channels dictate the AV receiver's capability to power your speakers. When comparing brands, focus on power ratings under '2ch driven' with low Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) across the full frequency range. This provides a more genuine insight into its real-world performance. It’s always difficult to compare power ratings between different brands, it’s always best to make sure they’re displaying them the same when comparing, with the same impedance rating, THD, frequency range etc. Higher end models will also have better internal amplifier sections which are usually higher current, this allows for improved dynamic range with its instantaneous current supply when needed.
Audio Codecs and Processing
Audio codecs are software or hardware implementations designed to compress and/or decompress digital audio data. The term 'codec' is derived from 'coder-decoder' or 'compressor-decompressor'. Their main purpose is to reduce the amount of data needed to represent audio, making it more efficient for storage or transmission.
Audio codecs, like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, offer an immersive multi-dimensional sound experience. They play a pivotal role in audio quality, transforming ordinary sound into cinematic magic, making them a critical factor when selecting an AV receiver.
Video Support and HDMI Ports
An AV receiver’s HDMI ports serve as the backbone for high-definition video signals. Look out for the latest versions that support 4k@120Hz and 8K HDMI input/output. This will help you connect the latest gaming consoles which support 4K@120Hz and help to plan for the future a little if other devices eventually support 8K.
Beyond wired connections, modern AV receivers offer Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet options. These enhance system adaptability, allowing integration with various devices and online platforms.
Advanced Features of AV Receivers
Room Calibration and EQ
Room calibration software is a technology used primarily in audio systems, especially in home theaters and professional audio setups, to optimise the sound quality based on the unique acoustic properties of a particular room or environment. Given that every room and home theatre setup has its own set of acoustic challenges – such as reflections, absorptions, standing waves, and more – room calibration software aims to automatically adjust the audio output to compensate for these anomalies and deliver the best possible sound.
Audyssey, MCACC, and notably, Dirac Live are room calibration softwares which recalibrate audio outputs to suit room acoustics.
Dirac Live is an advanced room correction technology that optimises the audio performance of your sound system based on the acoustics of your listening environment. Developed by the Swedish company Dirac Research, it is recognised as one of the leading room calibration solutions in both the home theater and high-end audio sectors.
There are currently 3 main modules to Dirac which are supported on different products, all of which can be used at the same time if supported.
Dirac Live Room Correction which is the most popular which analyses your room and helps correct certain acoustics (ideally you still want to acoustically treat a room with good design and acoustic treatments where needed for the best results).
Dirac Live Bass Management which is used to integrate multiple subwoofers, integrate them better with existing speakers by smoothing the crossover region and helps even out the bass response across the listening positions. You’ll find this being added to certain Denon and Marantz AV Receivers in 2024.
Dirac Live Active Room Treatment (ART) helps cancel out lingering bass to reduce room decay time and eliminate bass smearing, optimising the sound across a wider area of seating positions. You’ll potentially find Dirac Live ART being offered in more high end AV Receivers and Processors in 2024.
Amplifier Pre-Out Connections
These pre-out connections are found on higher end models when you want to use the AV Receiver to process the channels but have them powered by an external power amplifier. The amount of pre-out’s available is something you should consider in case you’d like to upgrade your system by adding a power amplifier or if you’d like to integrate a separate 2ch integrated amplifier into your system to improve musical performance.
Multi-Zone and Multi-Source Playback
Imagine playing a movie in your living room while streaming music in the kitchen. Multi-zone capabilities make this possible. The beauty of multi-source playback, on the other hand, lets you play different content sources simultaneously. Some AV Receivers have their own multiroom software to control the music playback around the house using your mobile phone or tablet, such as HEOS which is available on Denon and Marantz models.
Network Streaming and App Integration
Modern AV receivers are compatible with popular streaming options like Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and Apple Airplay, allowing you to seamlessly access a vast music library from your phone or tablet with a subscription.
Voice Control and Smart Home Integration
Some of today's AV receivers can integrate with voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. Many are also compatible with smart home ecosystems, amplifying convenience.
Quality AV receivers exist for every budget. While premium models pack more features, many mid-range receivers also offer a stellar performance. It's essential to balance your needs against your budget when deciding on which AV receiver is right for you.
Tips for Making the Final Decision
- Consider your room size: Ensure the receiver can power your space adequately.
- Connectivity: Ensure the AV receiver has enough ports for all of your devices.
- Future-proofing: Consider the technologies you might adopt in the near future.
Denon AVC-X3800H 9.4ch 8K AV Receiver - Bonus DHT-S316 Soundbar
Marantz Cinema 50 Premium 9.4ch AV Receiver - Bonus HEOS AMP
Denon AVR-X1800H 7.2ch AV Receiver
Pioneer VSX-834 7.2ch AV Receiver
The Central Hub of Your Home Theatre
The AV receiver is more than just a piece of equipment; it serves as the anchor of your home theatre experience. While the vast array of specifications might seem daunting, understanding them is key to ensuring you enjoy cinematic magic in your home theatre.
Need personalised advice on how to choose an AV receiver and speakers? Our friendly experts at CHT Solutions are just a call away, and we are able to assist you in finding the best home theatre AV receiver tailored for your needs. Get in touch with us today.