An AV (audio-video) receiver, as the name suggests, receives video and audio signals from multiple sources and routes them to the right output devices. Since AV receivers come with an integrated amplifier, they don’t “need” a separate amplifier to process and amplify the signals. Does this mean that an AV receiver can be used as a standalone power amp?
You can use an AV receiver as a power amp. To do so, connect your new receiver’s preamp outputs to your old receiver’s preamp inputs. The old receiver’s output units can then be linked to the appropriate speakers. Reset your old receiver to ensure its other features are rendered inactive.
If AV receivers were more than capable power amps, standalone power amps would not exist. Or maybe power amps do not have a truly significant role to play in the world of audio? Read on to find out.
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AV Receivers – A Brief Overview
An AV receiver is the first thing an audio head will probably shop for when setting up their home theater. The receiver is the gel that truly brings a surround sound arrangement together. A soundbar is good enough in a pinch and won’t require a receiver, but its performance is also not comparable to a robust, multi-speaker setup.
AV receivers are incredibly convenient and versatile. They offer a host of functionalities or features, such as input selection, tuner, volume controls, radio, preamp, etc. An AV receiver also has HDMI inputs, which comes in quite handy, especially with most electronic devices supporting the audio/video interface.
It’s evident AV receivers don multiple hats, which includes the role of a power amp. But how good of a power amplifier a receiver can be is the important question. To answer that question, it’s imperative to know about power amps in some more detail.
What Is a Power Amp?
A power amplifier, or power amp, is electronic equipment that helps increase an input signal’s magnitude. In other words, it boosts the voltage/power/current of the signal to power one or multiple speakers in a setup.
The device receives the weak waveform (electrical signal) and reproduces a stronger version of it. The increase in input signal power is at a level that can easily drive various output devices such as headphones, speakers, etc.
Power amps do not have the additional connections and features AV receivers have. Besides the power switch, the only control typically found on a power amp is the primary gain control.
Difference Between a Power Amp and a Preamp
The input signal a power amp needs to do its job should be at or above a specific threshold. To ensure the threshold is met, the input signal is usually passed via a preamp. The necessary modifications are made to the signal, which the power amp is eventually fed with.
A preamp (preamplifier) is an electronic device that converts a weak signal into a strong output signal to be further processed or sent to a power amp and then a loudspeaker.
During the preamplification stage, the signal’s current and voltage are slightly increased. The signal is then passed via the volume and tone controls circuit to make aesthetic alterations to the waveform. The last stage in this preamplification process is transmitting the signal to a power amp.
A preamp could be broadly classified as:
- Active: An active preamp requires plugging into an external power source. It has circuitry that amplifies line level voltages.
- Passive: A passive preamp can be successfully deployed only if the source possesses the needed energy to drive the power amp directly, with zero sonic compromises.
An AV receiver usually contains a preamp, which helps it feed signals to output devices with the right magnitude. The presence of an amp in an AV receiver is why many audio enthusiasts contemplate using an AV receiver as a standalone power amp.
Using an AV Receiver as a Power Amp
Using an AV receiver as a dedicated amp isn’t what the manufacturer ordered. But if the equipment has all the analog connection options needed to realize the setup and you need it in a temporary setup, go ahead and use it. To use your AV receiver as a power amp, follow these steps:
- Connect the cables from your new AV receiver’s amplifier outputs to your existing receiver’s multichannel analog inputs.
- Use the old receiver’s remote control or the control buttons situated in its front panel to choose the correct playback mode. This will ensure proper signal playback and circumvent the digital processing so that there’s no intermediary filtering or processing of the signals.
- On your existing receiver, designate how many incoming channels you intend to amplify.
Based on your AV receiver’s make and model, the connection options may vary, or you may have to make some slight alterations to the aforementioned steps.
If you know your way around audio equipment, adapting to the specific receiver model and working with its connection options should not be an issue. If you’re not sure or have zero clues, however, go through the product user manual. You may also contact the brand’s customer support for assistance/guidance.
When Is an AV Receiver Not Your Ideal Power Amp?
An AV receiver works well if your audio equipment or speakers do not require tons of power. If you usually do not play your speakers at max volume (max as in safely capable, not as in literal), an AV receiver will work great as an amp.
But if you’re looking to drive extremely powerful speakers efficiently, an AV receiver as a makeshift amp isn’t ideal. Your AV receiver not packing the required punch will show your unhappiness with your setup’s audio performance. If you think your high-end speakers sound underwhelming or are not walking the talk, they may not be getting the kind of amplification they require.
The amount of power a set of speakers need is usually mentioned in their product manuals and could even be printed on their rears. If your collection of speakers are popular, check out online forums to learn more about them.
Besides speaker load and increased power requirements, here are a few other things that warrant a proper power amp for your setup:
- If you like to listen to loud music or fill your room with audio.
- If your rooms are relatively big, the goal is to attain high sustained sound pressure levels (SPLs).
- If your primary speakers are running full range, they will invariably require greater power to accommodate bass-heavy audio passages.
An AV receiver may fulfill the above requirements, but it may struggle or be pushed to the brim doing so. When your AV receiver is trying to punch above its weight, the sound it helps produce via the speakers may not be clean or loud enough. Even if it gets loud, there would be discernible squeaking in the audio. And if you continue to push it, it could break and render the entire setup worthless.
Not all power amps sound the same, and when you use an AV receiver as your power amp, the difference in the output becomes a lot more apparent. To learn more about amplifiers and how they can vary across the spectrum about their sound, watch this video:
Using an AV receiver as a power amp certainly works. However, it’s not a setup that the professionals would truly recommend. If you do not have the budget to buy an additional amp for your new AV receiver and cannot liquidate or trade in your existing receiver for an attractive bargain, go ahead and repurpose it. Otherwise, always consider buying a dedicated power amp.