An AV receiver is a must-have device for audio lovers, more so for those in need of high-quality audio output. However, picking a good receiver is only one part of the equation. To enjoy that surround and enviable sound quality, you’ll need to find the right types of speakers to go with your receiver.
Various factors come to play when choosing speakers for an AV receiver. Besides size and overall appearance, you’ll need to check on technical specifications like impedance, power handling, and sensitivity. Matching an AV receiver with compatible speakers helps improve overall audio quality.
Great, read on for an in-depth discussion on choosing the best speakers for your AV receiver. We’ll also discuss ways you can set up speakers to make the most of your AV receiver.
Table of Contents
What Is an AV Receiver?
An AV (Audio/Video) receiver, also called a home theater receiver, acts as the brain behind the entire home theater system. Its main function is to receive, interpret, and process audio signals from various sources before they’re sent to the ultimate destination—the speakers. Inputs may come from media players, radio, satellite receivers, VCRs, DVD players, Blu-ray Disc players, and gaming consoles, among other sources.
After receiving an audio signal, the AV receiver will amplify the signal to drive the available speakers. Receivers come in handy as they perform tasks that would otherwise need separate equipment like equalizers, preamplifiers, and multiple power amplifiers. Compared to stereo receivers that typically have two amplification channels, AV receivers usually have a minimum of five channels of amplification.
What to Consider When Choosing Speakers for Your AV Receiver
When looking to buy speakers for your AV receiver, you should first check for impedance. Getting the impedance right will ensure you get dynamic audio without compromising the overall performance of the devices.
Described as the measure of a device’s electrical resistance, impedance is often represented by the Ω (ohms) symbol. You’ll find impedance ratings recorded on the spec sheets of both amplifiers and speakers. Ideally, to get high-quality, dynamic audio, you’ll need to purchase speakers that are compatible with your receiver’s impedance.
Receivers usually have a resistance range that helps to determine the minimum acceptable impedance. For instance, a receiver that can manage a resistance between 6 and 12 Ω can work well with speakers with 8 Ω ratings. However, you’ll need to be extra careful not to connect speakers with high impedance to amplifiers incapable of handling the load.
Disclaimer: As you look to purchase speakers, check the AV receiver’s spec sheet to determine its minimum impedance. If your receiver has an impedance minimum of say 8 Ω, then connecting it to speakers with a lower impedance of 4 Ω is a recipe for disaster.
However, it is okay to connect speakers with higher impedance ratings to receivers with lower impedance ratings as the receivers can handle the load.
Mismatching impedance can overload both the speakers and the AV receiver, leaving you counting losses. Luckily, modern receivers come packed with protection circuits and thermal fuses that help prevent current flow in case an overload occurs. One way to know you have mismatched your speakers and receivers is when they shut down frequently, especially during loud scenes.
For an AV receiver, it’s best to stay away from speakers with impedance ratings of 2 Ω and below since they’ll present excessively large loads for the receiver. This explains why most AV receiver speakers have an impedance of 6 Ω and above.
As you prepare to purchase speakers for your AV receiver, be sure to check the spec sheet to determine the acceptable impedance range. If you opt to purchase 4 Ω speakers, your receiver should be extra powerful lest you risk destroying it or the speakers.
Power Handling Capacity
Power in AV receivers and speakers, similar to all electrical appliances, is measured in watts. In speakers and receivers, wattage represents how much power the speaker can comfortably handle and the power output the receiver can manage.
Spec sheets usually mention two different types of power: continuous power (continuous RMS power or Continuous Power Output) and dynamic (peak) power. When looking to purchase speakers for your receiver, pay close attention to the continuous and dynamic power, which indicates how powerful the speakers are when in operation.
Continuous power provides a fixed wattage to a fixed number of ohms, such as 60 watts per channel into 6 and 8 Ω. On the other hand, dynamic power can push 150 watts into 6 Ω, and 100 watts in 8 Ω. Dynamic power helps ensure that all speakers are powered as expected.
When looking at power specifications, it’s highly advisable to pick speakers with lesser power capabilities than your receiver. A 500W receiver can perfectly handle a 250w speaker, which isn’t the case when using a low-power receiver. A receiver that’s more powerful than its speakers can drive the speakers, allowing for enough headroom to accommodate loud peaks.
Don’t pay much attention to peak values as they rarely count for much. Manufacturers often exaggerate peak values to lure potential clients into making purchases. Instead, focus on the root mean square values, which relay a speaker’s true potential to play audio consistently.
Therefore, in terms of power, choosing speakers that have lower power ratings than your receiver is highly recommended. This is because, with higher power speakers, you’ll need to turn on the receiver volume to power up the speakers, which can end up sending clipped waveforms to the speakers, increasing the chances of damage.
In a nutshell, compare your receiver’s wattage to the speaker’s continuous power to determine if they’re compatible and can work together. Try getting speakers with lesser wattage (up to half) than your receiver. This will ensure the receiver works well with the speakers without any device being overwhelmed.
Sensitivity is a measure of the loudness of a speaker (in decibels) when a meter away and being driven by a single watt of power. Taking sensitivity rating into consideration helps determine how loudspeakers can get when in use.
While not as frequently discussed as impedance and power ratings, sensitivity is a crucial feature to consider when looking to connect new speakers to your AV receiver. Speakers with low sensitivity tend to sound quieter compared to speakers with higher sensitivity.
Speakers with greater sensitivity aren’t necessarily better than their low sensitivity counterparts. It only means that you’re likely to struggle less to hear, hence eliminating the need to invest in a more powerful receiver. If you purchase speakers with low sensitivity, then your receiver must be strong enough to drive audible enough sound from the speakers.
When everything’s said and done, you’ll need speakers that can fill up a room with good audio quality. Assuming you have a capable enough AV receiver, finding speakers to match its capabilities shouldn’t be too hard. While a high-performance receiver can manage outputs of over 200 Watts per channel, you won’t need to use it all the time, especially in average-sized rooms.
Satellite speakers won’t do much in terms of good audio distribution, especially in rooms with high ceilings. Therefore, it is upon you to assess your room’s structure and size and consequently acquire a speaker that can fill up the space without being too loud or low. This is where you get creative and choose a bookshelf, in-wall, or floor standing speakers with similar or slightly lesser power ratings to your receiver.
Are you tired of all the technical terms? Easy, then perhaps you should try matching your AV receiver with similarly priced speakers. Although more of a shortcut than a proven solution, you can try purchasing speakers within the same pricing bracket as your receiver.
Purchasing speakers worth $40 to serve your $2500 receiver is a sure recipe for disaster. However, if you spend, say, $1200 on your receiver and end up spending $700 on your speakers, chances are you will get the value for your money.
Disclaimer: Buying speakers for a receiver based on price isn’t a sure way to get compatible speakers. To enhance the chances of success, consulting with an expert is highly advisable. So, don’t hesitate to ask around until you get speakers that perfectly suit your receiver; after all, you’ll be paying top dollar.
You might choose to purchase a complete set of speakers or do it the hard (and legendary) way of adding speakers gradually. When buying single speakers, you’ll need to take extra care to ensure you get products that complement the main unit.
However, if you’re not the type to assemble surround speakers one by one, then it’s best to buy a complete set of home theater speakers to lessen the burden. Either way, be sure to check on resistance and overall power stats to get speakers that are compatible with your receiver.
Types of Speakers
With several types of speakers available in the market, finding one that suits your audio needs and home design is anything but straightforward. To help you find the best type of speakers for your AC receiver, here’s a detailed description of some of the main types of speakers:
Also called a media bar, a soundbar is a speaker that projects audio courtesy of its wide enclosure. Soundbars are characterized by their width, as they’re usually wider than they’re tall. While the soundbar design is usually for acoustics, its wide shape allows for easy mounting either above or below display devices.
Multiple speakers are usually placed inside a soundbar to create a surround or stereo effect. As active systems, most soundbars have built-in amplification that allows for direct audio play without the need for a separate amplifier. However, if you want a soundbar that’s powered by a receiver, then you’ll need to go for a passive soundbar.
Passive soundbars usually need amplifiers to produce audio output. Passive soundbars usually include front left, front right, and center speakers inside a unit to provide the desired surround. Compared to normal soundbars, passive soundbars perform a lot better in regards to dynamic audio and surround.
Some soundbars come in as a complete package with dedicated surround speakers and a wireless subwoofer. An example is the Nakamichi Shockwafe 7.2.4 Channel Dolby Atmos Soundbar that boasts a patent-pending Spatial Surround Elevation (SSE)Technology.
Center Channel Speaker
A center speaker plays the all-important role of reproducing center channel information in a surround system. While this is mainly dialogue, it can also be music and sound effects in a movie.
On most occasions, the center speaker is usually a mono, single-channel speaker, but with several midrange drivers and tweeters. You’ll find speaker terminals that allow for a connection with your AV receiver.
A good example of a well-reputed center channel speaker to connect to your receiver is the Polk Audio Center Channel Speaker. This center channel speaker features a balanced dome tweeter with a top-quality neodymium magnet structure that allows for the realistic reproduction of instruments and vocals.
Bookshelf speakers are mostly packed with two drivers, a tweeter for high frequencies and a woofer to manage bass frequencies. These speakers are common in most households due to their convenient sizes as they can fit in cabinets, small speaker stands, and bookshelves.
These types of speakers are usually used for the right and left pairs, but you can also use them for surround, though they can prove difficult to position in small rooms. When buying bookshelf speakers for your AV receiver, don’t forget to check the impedance and power ratings to ensure they’re fully compatible.
Also called floor or tower speakers, these speakers are ideal for home theater setups and can handle frequency ranges of up to 30Hz. The convenient size of tower speakers allows them to reproduce extremely low bass frequencies while also having clarity of the high and mid frequencies.
The height allows for several speaker drivers’ placement, whereby each will get to play specific frequencies with a pretty neat crossover between them. In home theater systems, you’ll mostly find floor standing speakers used for right and left speakers.
Since tower speakers are meant to reproduce mid to low frequencies well, you might not need to connect a subwoofer to your AV receiver. However, a subwoofer might be necessary if you’re watching a movie with really low sound effects.
An example of a top-quality floor standing speaker is the KEF Q550 Floorstanding Speaker that works well in limited spaces. It features KEF’s unique Uni-Q driver array that helps promote more accurate 3D sound.
Subwoofers are common appliances that regularly feature in the speaker world. Subs come in a range of sizes and shapes and are designed to reproduce low-end bass rumbles, allowing for proper bass sound effects.
Subs usually have cones that range from 6 inches (15 cm) to 15 inches (38 cm) or even more. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the cone a subwoofer has, the better its performance in producing low-end frequencies.
These speakers are used as part of surround systems and are mostly used in 5.1 or 7.1 surrounds, but you can also purchase these bad boys separately to add to your existing speaker setup. Satellite speakers are preferred for small-spaced houses due to their small sizes, which eliminates the need to move or remove bits of furniture.
The main disadvantage with satellite speakers is their inability to reproduce lower end frequencies. Granted, they can prove to be a great investment for high and mid frequencies, but you’ll probably need a subwoofer for your lower frequency needs.
A great example of satellite speakers includes the SVS Prime Satellite Speaker that comes as a pair. This pair of satellite speakers reduce distortion while providing an impressive bass response that allows for high-quality audio output.
Bipole and Dipole Speakers
These types of speakers are mostly used as surround speakers as they have a unique design characterized by two speakers enclosed in a unit. The dual speakers reproduce sound by firing in different directions simultaneously, thus creating a less directional output.
Their ability to send sound in different directions makes bipole and dipole speakers ideal when used as part of a multidirectional surround. In bipole speakers, the audio is usually in-phase, which means both speakers push and pull concurrently. On the other hand, the audio produced is usually out of phase by a margin of 180-degrees in dipole speakers.
Wireless speakers are increasingly becoming popular due to advances in technology. On most occasions, wireless speakers are used for the subwoofer and surrounds. While wireless speakers help to enhance comfort, they can only work when used on AV receivers that can support wireless speaker technology.
However, most wireless systems that are supported by receivers don’t allow the speakers to be part of the surround setup. Instead, they mostly function for multi-room audio within and around the house.
Dolby Atmos-Enabled Speakers
Dolby Atmos elevation speakers are designed to direct soundwaves upwards such that they reflect off the ceiling, thus allowing for a surround audio quality. These speakers are easy to set up and are mostly used as supplementary speakers to give that final audio output the edge needed to create a surrounding atmosphere.
However, for these tiny giants to work, they’ll need a room with low ceilings. Flat ceilings work best as they tend to reflect and send the soundwaves back to the listener, thus allowing for a proper surround feeling.
Best AV Receivers to Accommodate Different Types of Speakers
The type of receiver you get plays a huge role in determining what speakers work best. As a result, you’ll need a receiver that can accommodate several inputs and outputs. Since most people tend to add new speakers to supplement the already existing ones, it’s vital to have an AV receiver with several channels.
Ideally, you should get receivers with 7.1 channels or more as they give you the freedom to add new speakers as the need arises. The more channels a receiver has, the better your chances of improving the overall sound quality and achieving high-quality surround audio.
Are you curious to learn about the best AV receivers to accommodate different types of speakers? Then, you’ll love our small examination of the best AV receivers around.
Denon AVR-X22700H 7.2 Channel AV Receiver
The Denon AVR-X22700H 7.2 Channel AV Receiver is a high-quality AV receiver that boasts a power rating of 95W per channel and fully supports 3D audio formats, making it a great option for home entertainment enthusiasts. With a minimum resistance of 8 ohms, this seven-channel receiver will easily accommodate most modern speakers.
The Denon 7.2 Channel AV Receiver stands out due to its wireless streaming capabilities. Some of its impressive features include Bluetooth, Heos multi-room streaming, and AirPlay2, all of which allow you to stream from anywhere in the house. When buying speakers for this bad boy, go for those with a power rating of below 80W per channel or even lower to avoid over exhausting the devices.
Yamaha RX-A1080 Aventage 7.2 Channel Receiver
Featuring a highly impressive Anti-Resonance Technology Wedge, the Yamaha RX-A1080 Aventage 7.2 Channel Receiver receiver can dampen vibrations emanating from the power transistor, heat sinks, and power transformer. It also helps minimize vibrations that emerge from speakers, thus improving the overall quality of the audio.
With this receiver, you won’t have to worry much about equalizing your speakers. It features an impressive AI technology that instantaneously analyzes various scenes by focusing on sound elements like background music, dialogue, sound effects, and ambient sounds. Once the AI has assessed the sounds, it automatically optimizes the final output, thus allowing for a neat, high quality surround effect.
This highly capable receiver is compatible with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, thus allowing for an extraordinary audio experience. Once you connect to the right speakers, the receivers will deliver realistic surround sound.
Marantz SR8012 11.2-Channel Receiver
The Marantz SR8012 11.2-Channel Receiver is among the best when it comes to high power performance. Its explosive power allows you to get theater-like effects in the comfort of your home. Widely referred to as the beast of AV receivers, this bad boy can accommodate up to 11 speakers and two subwoofers, making it a reliable receiver for audio lovers.
Even better, all the channels deliver an impressive 205W, thus allowing for hassle-free surround sound integration. It also features 192k 32-bit converters for all channels, which guarantees an ultimate listening experience.
This AV receiver boasts an Audyssey MultEQ acoustic correction feature that, through advanced algorithms, examines the output of all speakers ensuring all effects are balanced to produce rich sound.
FAQs About Matching Speakers With Receivers
Can You Use Any Speaker With a Receiver?
Yes, you can use any speaker with a receiver, provided you check on the ohm load and overall power. For AV receivers, try going with speakers within the 8ohm range as they tend to work well. However, avoid going below the minimum impedance rating stated on your receiver to avoid overloading it.
How Many Speakers Can I Connect to a Receiver?
The number of speakers you can connect to a receiver depends on the number of channels. You can choose from 5.1 channels to 7.1 channels, 9.1 channels, or even go higher depending on preferences (and budget).
More channels mean you can connect more speakers to your receiver. Therefore, be extra careful when buying a receiver, especially if you’re the type that fancies listening through several outputs.
Is It Advisable to Purchase an AV Receiver With Speakers Separately?
Buying a receiver and speakers separately is highly advised if you want better sound quality and the option to upgrade over time. This is because, with a receiver on standby, you can easily change or add speakers depending on the number of channels.
However, for some people, more so those with little technical know-how on connections and power ratings, it is best to buy complete sets. The sound won’t be as good as it could be but it is relatively easy to set up.
What Is a Second Zone Capable Receiver?
A second zone capable receiver allows you to connect to multiple video sources (Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Cable, etc.) and send the signal to two TVs in separate rooms. By sending second source signals to a different audio system, this technology allows you and your family to enjoy viewing in different locations.
How Can I Know My Speakers and AV Receiver Are Incompatible?
Besides the obvious low-quality audio output, you’ll know that your connections are incorrect when you constantly have to put the receiver (or speakers) on full volume. Another sign of a mismatch is when the AV receiver keeps shutting down during loud scenes.
Ideally, a good speaker and AV connection should produce a well-balanced, dynamic audio output. At the time of purchase, be sure to check on the key ratings to ensure you acquire speakers with suitable audio quality.
Choosing speakers for an AV receiver is no walk in the park (especially if you’re inexperienced). However, by understanding the key terms such as impedance, wattage, and sensitivity, you’ll be well placed to choose speakers that perfectly match your receiver.
Take as much time as possible to check on the speaker size, price, and functionality to determine if it’s the best fit for your receiver. When buying a receiver, try to choose one with several channels as it’ll give you the flexibility to add new speakers to your surround when your budget allows.