The receiver is arguably the most important part of a home theatre system. It is responsible for sending audio from connected devices to the speakers. However, as with most electronics, the latest receivers come with a wide range of features and options.
4K switching, built-in WiFi, DTS:X, and other technologies can make choosing the right home theatre receiver a bit more confusing. Here is your guide to finding the right receiver for your home theatre system in 2021.
What Is a Home Theatre Receiver?
A home theatre receiver includes input and output ports for connecting audio and video equipment, such as your TV, CD player, game systems, or record player. In the past, a receiver solely dealt with audio signals. Modern receivers now accept video signals from HDMI-connected devices. The receiver processes the video and audio signals before sending them to the TV and speakers.
The number of speakers connected to the receiver depends on the available channels. Most modern AV receivers offer at least 5.1-channel surround sound, which was first introduced in the 1970s. A 5.1-channel receiver has six channels (five speakers and one subwoofer).
A standard six-channel surround sound system includes the following speakers:
● Left front
● Right front
● Left surround
● Right surround
A 2.0 channel system only includes a left and right speaker. A 2.1 channel receiver includes a left speaker, right speaker, and subwoofer. Some of the latest AV receivers include 6.1-channel and 7.1-channel systems.
Adding more speakers to your home theatre setup provides greater depth, especially in larger rooms. If you have a relatively small room, you may not need seven or eight speakers. A 5.1-channel system offers surround sound and is easier to configure.
Most Important Features to Look for in a Receiver
Along with the number of speakers, you should consider the following criteria:
● Total power
● Input/output (I/O) ports
● WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity
● Video resolution
● HDR support
You may also want to consider the cost. Receivers vary in price from $350 CAD to $4300 CAD. You can also find receivers bundled with speakers, which tends to save money compared to buying speakers separately.
How Much Power Do You Need from an AV Receiver?
The total power that a receiver can output to the speakers is measured in watts. The power often ranges from 25 watts to 400 watts or more. The recommended power for a receiver depends on the size of the room. You need more power to fill a larger room with sound.
A small 10×10-foot room may only need 25 watts per channel. For a 5.1-channel system, this would require about 150 watts of total power. If you have a large room, you may want closer to 100 watts per channel, which equals about 600 watts for a 5.1-channel receiver.
Home theatre receivers include a variety of input/output ports on the back for connecting your devices and TV. You will typically find the following types of ports:
● Digital audio (optical and coaxial)
● AM/FM antenna
HDMI ports can carry video and audio signals. You can connect your Blu-ray player, DVD player, or game system to the receiver instead of the TV. An HDMI output then carries the video signal to the TV.
Depending on the number of devices that you want to connect, you may need at least four HDMI inputs. However, getting a home theatre receiver with additional HDMI inputs allows you to connect more components.
RCA ports are the red and white analogue connections found on older devices and some modern devices. If you have older devices, such as a record player or cassette deck, you should ensure that the receiver has at least a few RCA ports.
Some receivers include a USB port for connecting a USB thumb drive. The USB port allows you to play supported audio and video files from the USB stick. It is not an essential feature but may be useful for those who still use digital files instead of streaming or hard copies.
Most receivers include at least two digital inputs — an optical input and a coaxial input. DVD players, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and HDTVs typically include a digital audio-only output. If you use an HDMI switch or prefer to connect your device directly to the TV, a digital connection is needed for sending the audio to your receiver.
You can also find home theatre receivers with AM and FM antenna connections. However, AM antenna connections are less common these days.
WiFi and Bluetooth Connectivity on Home Theatre Receivers
WiFi connectivity is a useful feature if you want to set up a multi-room music system. A multi-room music system allows you to stream music from the receiver to wireless speakers in other rooms. You can also create different zones and control the audio in each zone independently.
Most home theatre receivers include Bluetooth receivers for connecting external devices, such as your phone or tablet. For best results, you may want a receiver that uses one of the latest versions of Bluetooth.
Bluetooth 4.2 is found in many devices and offers a maximum data transmission rate of 1 Mbps. Bluetooth 5.0 offers speeds up to 2 Mbps and four times the range. Bluetooth 5.2 is the latest version and provides support for new high-quality, low-power audio codecs.
Home Theatre Receiver Video Resolution and HDR Support
Your Blu-ray player, game systems, and streaming devices will likely connect to your receiver, which then sends the video signal to your TV. The latest receivers support 4K video switching, which is the highest resolution currently available.
Some receivers already include support for 8K video. However, no video content is currently released in 8K. A receiver with 8K support could future proof your home theatre setup but is likely to cost more.
If you plan on connecting video signals to your receiver, you may also want HDR support. The latest receivers can handle DV, HDR10, and HLG formats, which are the latest HDR formats.
In the end, the main considerations when choosing a home theatre receiver are the number of channels and total wattage. A 5.1-channel surround sound system with at least 150 watts is recommended for smaller rooms while a 7.1-channel setup with 600 watts provides more depth for larger rooms.