Home Theater Receivers
The receiver is the core of any home theater system. It receives data from input devices like set-top boxes and DVD players and then coordinates the screen and speakers to produce an immersive cinematic experience. Given how important the receiver is to the overall system, it is very important to pick the right one. A lot of different brands produce home theater receivers, including household names like Bose, Sony, and Yamaha.
How many channels?
Surround sound is a key part of the home theater experience and it provides noticeably better audio than stereo sound. Different setups use different numbers of speakers. Adding more speakers makes the sound more defined but also makes installation more difficult.
- 5.1-channel home theater receivers are designed to drive the standard 5.1 surround sound setup which consists of five speakers plus a subwoofer to create 360 degree sound.
- 6.1-surround sound takes the 5.1 setup and adds an extra rear center speaker. This gives sounds coming from behind the viewer more directionality and power.
- 7.1-surround sound adds a pair of side speakers to the 5.1 setup and is typically the most complex and immersive surround sound system used for home theaters. However, not all media supports this many sound channels, so you might not always get the most out of it.
Which connectivity features?
Once upon a time, home theater systems were totally reliant on cables. Now though, manufacturers have added various wireless connectivity features.
- HDMI sockets are the standard way to connect to other home theater components like televisions and DVD players. Make sure that your receiver has enough HDMI inputs for all the devices that you want to use, and maybe extras for future-proofing. You will also need at least one HDMI out socket for the television, possibly two if you also want a projector.
- Not all HDMI inputs will fully support 4K media. If this matters to you, make sure that they are compatible with HDCP 2.2.
- Bluetooth, and similar systems like Apple’s AirPlay, make it easy to connect external devices to your home theater system wirelessly.
- Some home theater receivers come equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows them to access music streaming services natively.
How much power?
Home theater receivers are typically rated in watts-per-channel and usually deliver between 100 and 200. The right amount of power for you will depend on your home theater setup.
- Different speakers are compatible with different ranges of amplifier power, so make sure to get a receiver that matches them. Too much and too little power can both lead to speaker failure.
- More powerful receivers don’t provide much extra volume: doubling your amplifier power only provides an extra three decibels. Adding extra power is most useful for reducing distortion and increasing dynamic range.
- Room size is a key factor. The bigger the room, the more power you will need to fill it with sound.