Audio Video Receivers
If you want cinema quality right in your home then obviously you are aiming for a home theatre system. Home theatre systems replicate that in-your-face theatre excitement without the nauseating smell of fake butter, or the likely chance of sitting behind the world's longest torso--which creates a central barrier between your face and the screen. Home theatre systems are comprised of many different components, and the AV receiver is one of them.
Questions to Ask Oneself
- What video connections do I need? It is best to get a receiver with HDMI connectivity, even if your cable/satellite receiver does not use it. HDMI compatible receivers reduce the number of connections you will need, and are a must have for high definition--HD will not work without HDMI connectivity.
- What HDMI functionality do I need? The best AV receiver has 1.3a Deep colour support and true HD and DTS-HD audio decoding . These types of receivers, however, start at about £550--which is pretty darned pricey. If your display is limited to 1080i (a vertical resolution of 1080), then you may be able to put some notes back into your pocket--a DTS or Dolby Digital will be fine in this circumstance. Despite which receiver you choose, make sure it has multi-channel audio support (via HDMI)--so if you want to upgrade any of your home theatre components, your receiver will still be compatible.
- Do I need external inputs and preamp outputs? Receivers are usually composed of a tuner /pre-amplifier /amplifier /processor and it will often have multi-channel inputs--which make external inputs unnecessary. Preamp outputs are necessary, and although they are usually included, make sure to check the box just in case.
- Do I need multi-zone functionality? If you plan on routing speakers throughout the house for multi zone audio, you need to make sure the receiver you select has such capabilities.
- What are advanced base management features? A standard 80Hz crossover setting and one sub woofer output will satisfy most users, but for those of you that are really looking to advance your system, you will want a variety of crossover settings and independent sub woofer outputs.
- Sound Level Performance: Sound level performance is the volume measured in decibels. For a receiver to be twice as loud as another, it must have ten times as many decibels, usually referred to as Watts Per Channel or WPC (e.g. a receiver with 100WPC will be twice as loud as one with 10WPC).
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): A Receiver that has excessive noise or distortion at loud volume levels can be unlistenable. You are better off with a receiver of about 50 WPC with a low distortion level than a more powerful amplifier with high distortion levels.
- Signal-To-Noise-Ratio (S/N): The larger the ratio, the more the desirable sounds (music, voice, effects) are separated from acoustical effects and background noise.
- Continuous Power (RMS): Your receiver may be advertised with a 100WPC, but unless it is advertised in RMS terms, that doesn't mean it can sustain this volume for any significant length of time. Make sure the WPC output is measured in RMS terms so that the maximum WPC is something you can actually listen to.
- Dynamic Headroom: Dynamic headroom is the ability to double power output for a brief period of time. This is especially important when we watch films that have extreme changes in volume (for special effects and musical scores). A dynamic headroom of 3db can support these needs.