The Ultimate Q&A Guide to Home Theater Receivers: Everything You Need to Know!
Updated: Oct 31
Hello, AV aficionados! Are you embarking on the exciting journey into the magical world of home theaters, but feeling a tad overwhelmed on where to kickstart your adventure?
Worry not! We've got a treasure trove of insights for you. Hosted by Rob Skuba from NSH (National Smart Home), our guide breaks down the A to Z of home theater receivers, ensuring you're well-equipped to begin your cinematic exploration. So, without further ado, let's get the ball rolling!
Table of Contents
1. Can you briefly describe what a home theater receiver is?
2. What are the core components of a home theater receiver?
3. How has the home theater receiver market evolved over the years?
4. What are the key specifications one should look for in a home theater receiver?
5. Can you explain the importance of channels in a receiver?
6. What is the significance of the wattage in a receiver?
7. How do different audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, etc., affect the receiver's performance?
8. What types of inputs and outputs are generally available?
9. How do home theater receivers handle wireless connectivity?
10. Can you connect smart home devices to the receiver?
11. How user-friendly is the interface?
12. Are there mobile apps for easier control?
13. How does the receiver ensure high-quality audio output?
14. Are there any built audio calibration features?
15. How does the receiver handle different types of audio sources?
16. Does the receiver support 4K, 8K, or other high-definition formats?
17. How does it handle different video sources like gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, etc.?
18. Does the receiver support multi-room audio?
19. Can you control different zones independently?
Futureproofing and Software Updates
20. How often does the receiver get software updates?
21. Is the hardware easily upgradable?
Brands and Models
22. What are some of the leading brands in the market?
Price and Warranty
23. What is the typical price range for home theater receivers?
24. What kind of warranty and after-sales service can one expect?
25. What are the upcoming trends in home theater receivers for 2023 and beyond?
26. Any additional tips for someone looking to purchase a home theater receiver in 2023?
27. Where can potential buyers go to find more information?
NSH: Can you briefly describe what a home theater receiver is?
Tom: Certainly! A home theater receiver (also referred to as an AV receiver or most commonly AVR) is like the brain and the muscle of your entertainment setup. It serves as a hub where all your audio and video components connect. It processes signals, amplifies audio, and sends the output to your speakers and display, essentially coordinating everything to give you that jaw-dropping cinematic experience right in your living room.
NSH: What are the core components of a home theater receiver?
Tom: At its heart, a receiver comprises of:
· Amplifiers to power the speakers. (The Muscle)
· Pre-amp processors for audio and video signal processing (The Brain)
· Input and output ports for connecting various devices (The Traffic Cop)
· A user interface for controls and a remote
· Network connectivity.
NSH: How has the home theater receiver market evolved over the years?
The biggest change in the last 10 years has been the addition of smart features, internet connectivity and room calibration tools.
NSH: What are the key specifications one should look for in a home theater receiver?
Key specs to keep an eye on include:
· Number of powered channels. Minimum is 5. Make sure they are talking about powered channels.
· Wattage per channel. Best if the specify all channels driven 20Hz to 20KHz 80 watts is kind of the minimum.
· Supported audio formats (like Dolby Atmos)
· Connectivity options (HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, etc.)
NSH: Can you explain the importance of channels in a receiver?
Tom: Sure, but before we do that let’s talk about Surround sound speaker nomenclature. The shorthand is Item-1. Item-2. Item-3 where 1 is the number of main speakers typically a 5 or 7. Item 2 is the number of subwoofers or Low Frequency Effect (LFE) channels and 3 is the number of Atmos speakers. A typical Atmos theater will be 7.2.4. That translates into 7 primary speakers (typically located around ear height), 2 subwoofers and 4 Atmos ceiling speakers.
Please refer to our Atmos speaker layout diagram.
Now let’s look at channels, Channels refer to the number of speakers the receiver can power. A 5.1 channel setup means you have five speakers and one subwoofer. More channels generally mean a more immersive experience. At Bravo our typical non-atoms theater build is 7.2. for an Atmos theater it typically is 7.2.4. Notice in both cases we are using 2 subwoofers. This is critical for getting good bass performance.
NSH: What is the significance of the wattage in a receiver?
Tom: Wattage indicates how much power the receiver can deliver to the speakers. Higher wattage usually means higher audio output, but it should match your speakers for optimal performance. As stated previously it would be great if the manufacturer told you about the watts per channel with all channels driven through the full frequency spectrum of 20Hz to 20KHz. However, there is no standard among manufacturers on how they report their performance.
It's better to have more power than you need so the amp isn't constantly operating at its limits. If you stick with a quality brand like Sony ES (elevated standard) or Anthem, you will be fine.
NSH: How do different audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, etc., affect the receiver's performance?
Tom: These formats offer superior sound quality and a more immersive experience. They are crucial for delivering sound that moves around you, like a helicopter flying overhead or footsteps behind you. These formats are supported by all high quality AVRs.
The main formats are:
• Dolby Atmos/TrueHD: Found on Blu-ray and streaming, Atmos adds overhead sound for immersive 3D audio. Uses object-based sound design that works on any speaker configuration.
• DTS:X: The DTS counterpart to Atmos with similar 3D audio benefits. Some receivers may only support the lower-bandwidth DTS:X format.
• DSD: Direct Stream Digital audio found on Super Audio CDs (SACD) that offers higher-resolution sound than CDs. Audiophiles will demand DSD compatibility.
NSH: What types of inputs and outputs are generally available?
Tom: Expect multiple HDMI input ports supporting HDMI 2.1 and HDCP 2.2. Modern AVRs support 4K and 8K video. Additionally, you will get: USB slots, analog and digital audio inputs. See Media Room Connectivity diagram for all the possible connections.
NSH: How do home theater receivers handle wireless connectivity?
Tom: Most modern units support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and sometimes even wireless streaming through Apple AirPlay or Chromecast.
NSH: Can you connect smart home devices to the receiver?
Tom: Yes, most new models support smart home integration through platforms like Savant, Google Assistant, Alexa, and others.
NSH: How user-friendly is the interface?
Tom: Most receivers today have intuitive interfaces. On-screen menus make it easy to navigate through settings and adjustments. However, at Bravo AV we will program a universal remote-control solution that will make operation easy.
NSH: Are there mobile apps for easier control?
Tom: Absolutely! Many brands offer apps that allow you to control the receiver right from your smartphone. This is a little misleading because you need to be able to control the whole system. That is why Bravo AV supplies all its system with a remote-control solution.
NSH: How does the receiver ensure high-quality audio output?
Tom: Look for models with high-quality DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters) and those that support lossless audio formats for pristine sound.
NSH: Are there any built audio calibration features?
Tom: Many units offer room calibration tools to fine-tune the audio to your room's acoustics. Sony and Anthem do a nice job with room correction. Room Correction is a must. Bravo AV would not install an AVR without room calibration.
NSH: How does the receiver handle different types of audio sources?
Tom: Easily. Remember AVRs are like a Swiss army knife, they are designed to handle all sorts of inputs.
NSH: Does the receiver support 4K, 8K, or other high-definition formats?
Tom: Most modern receivers support 4K & 8. Do not buy a receiver that does not support these two formats.
NSH: How does it handle different video sources like gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, etc.?
Tom: This is a core feature of all AVR. The better the AVR the better it handles this task.
NSH: Does the receiver support multi-room audio?
Tom: Yes, many new models offer multi-room capabilities but from a design point of view you are better tackling multiroom audio with Savant or Sonos.
NSH: Can you control different zones independently?
Tom: Most multi-room capable receivers let you control zones independently, allowing different media to be played in different rooms. Technically true but rarely comes into play in the real world.
Futureproofing and Software Updates
NSH: How often does the receiver get software updates?
Tom: This varies by brand but expect regular updates to add new features and improve performance.
NSH: Is the hardware easily upgradable?
Tom: Tom: Hardware is generally not upgradable, so it's wise to invest in a receiver that's already feature-rich.
Brands and Models
NSH: What are some of the leading brands in the market?
Sony is the number one choice in the custom installation industry. They offer-- several models in the ES line. When higher performance is needed, we turn to Anthem or Audio Control.
Price and Warranty
NSH: What is the typical price range for home theater receivers?
Tom: You can expect to start your investment around $1,000. Below this price point there are too many compromises. The top end is around $6,000. If you need greater performance, you will migrate to an AV process with separate multi-channel amps.
NSH: What kind of warranty and after-sales service can one expect?
Tom: Most brands offer at least a one-year warranty. However, Sony and Anthem do quite a bit better. Sony offers a 5-year warrantee and Anthem offers a 3-year warrantee.
NSH: What are the upcoming trends in home theater receivers for 2023 and beyond?
Tom: Expect to see more AI integration, voice control capabilities, and possibly even VR/AR support.
NSH: Any additional tips for someone looking to purchase a home theater receiver in 2023?
Tom: Look for a receiver that not only fits your current setup but also leaves room for future expansion.
NSH: Where can potential buyers go to find more information?
Tom: Bravo AV
That's a wrap, folks! Hopefully, we've covered all your burning questions. If you feel something is missing, don't hesitate to reach out. Happy home theater building!
While this article is very informative, nothing beats seeing it yourself. Please call us to see up and appointment to experience our home theater showroom.
This article is part of The Ultimate Guide To Home Theaters
Bravo AV 80 Morristown Rd.
Bernardsville, NJ 07924
Tel. (908) 953-0555
For additional resources, please visit our Home Theater web page. Tom Curnin, the owner of Bravo AV, is a CEDIA Professional Designer, a certified THX Level 1 home theater professional, and a member of the Home Acoustic Alliance trained to Level II. You can contact Tom directly at (908) 953-0555 or through email at Tom@BravoAV.com.
Stay tuned for more expert interviews on all things tech and entertainment!