Home theater receivers are a real treat to have setup when you are watching movies or streaming your favorite TV show.
If you’ve ever had to struggle to get a DVD player connected to your TV set and Hi-Fi, before struggling to switch everything back to your satellite TV channels, you will know exactly what we mean. Yikes!
Modern technology has reshaped the way we enjoy entertainment. A few years ago, you had to go out and rent a DVD or tune in on your satellite TV channels to enjoy entertainment. Today, you can stream a movie from your mobile phone, via a TV box, through a smart TV set, or from your computer directly to your TV set. You can also play content from various devices such as laptops, computers, USB memory sticks, external hard drives, and more.
The only problem with so many devices is that it can be hard to get your home entertainment set up properly. It usually isn’t easy to plug in and unplug lots of cables so you can switch from a DVD player to your decoder or from a decoder to your external hard drive.
Luckily, even this issue is now a thing of the past because a simple home theater receiver makes it very easy to display entertainment from any device to any type of display set and to any speakers of your choosing.
What Is a Home Theater Receiver?
Home theater receivers are also referred to as a/v receivers or AV receivers. It is a box that connects various devices in your living room so all of this device can function in harmony. Home theater receivers can have quite a few main purposes:
Connects Your Audio Sources
All audio sources in your home can be connected to the A/V receiver. This allows you to play music or other sounds and recordings through all of those different audio speakers.
Switches Your Audio Sources
Your receiver also allows you to switch between different audio sources. A good example is when you switch between radio broadcast signals from your antenna to the music on a memory card.
Connects Your Video Sources
Your receiver also connects your video source such as TV set or monitor to your receiver. This allows you to display certain content via the receiver on your TV set.
Switches Your Video Sources
With this handy receiver you can easily switch between video sources. A good example is when you make a switch from a DVD or hard media player to a decoder or smart TV box.
Remote Controls Your Actions
Receivers are usually remote controlled. This means you don’t have to rise from your comfy seat to switch to a different video source or to crank up the volume. The best part is they are usually universal or at least programmable to make sure you can control all theater actions from your cozy seat remotely.
Tunes Into Public Programming
Receivers usually have a radio tuner, with some including a TV tuner. This allows you to connect to public TV or radio stations, even satellite programming. Once connected, you can stream any satellite content through your receiver. The only downside is that you will need to pay extra for a subscription to view these channels. But, on the upside, there are lots of free broadcasting channels that you can access so you can watch content for free.
Decodes Surround-Sound Formats
Traditional stereos only play analog sounds through its speaker systems. But modern receivers can decode analog and digital sound formats. This allows you hear many sound tracks and effects that movie and music developers incorporate in modern content and as a result, your sound becomes much more vivid.
Some video and audio files are encrypted with more files than others. A good example is older content that only features 3-channel sound files while modern content can have up to 9-channel sound files.
When you stream a 9-channel file over a traditional speaker set, you likely won’t hear many of the sounds that these files include. When you stream the same content over modern surround sound systems, you will hear more sound effects because all sound files become activated since they are played to different speakers in the room.
The result is a much more vivid sound that seems to engulf you rather than play at your face as with older TV sets and movies.
Amplifies Audio Signals
Most good A/V receivers have a minimum of five amplification channels. This enables the surround sound speaker system to perform at its full potential since all different sound channels are played to the correct speakers.
As a result, you have sound that’s much closer to the sound quality you would usually only experience in cinemas.
Interlinks Content Sources to One Speaker System
With your receiver, you can route content from various sources such as satellite, radio, DVD players, Blu-ray disc players, VCRs (hello fellow 90s people), video game consoles, memory sticks, external hard drives, laptops, set top boxes, steaming gear, and a great many others. This gives you much more flexibility and enables you to smoothly operate these different input devices.
Commands Electronic Components
Many people find it hard to fully understand and use an average remote. A/V receivers usually include various tools to help you maneuver your home theater system with ease. Systems like a remote control, the display on the receiver itself, and a screen display on your TV set make it very easy to navigate your way through different audio and video sources.
As you can see, a home theater receiver is a very handy little device to have, especially if you use various video and audio sources such as memory sticks, external hard drives, a laptop, Hi-Fi system, decoder, and other devices for content watching.
With this one handy tool, you get full control over all of these different devices and everything finally functions in harmony.
History of Home Theater Receivers
Home theater receivers are an upgrade from traditional stereo receivers. Where traditional stereo receivers were only used to navigate between different audio channels, home theater receivers allow you to navigate between audio and video channels.
The first stereo receivers were made around the 1980s and 1990s. These receivers allowed users to access a variety of digital audio signals via the same device so these channels would play over a home entertainment center. The main goal here was to simply make it easier to switch from one device to another – from radio to satellite TV or cassette for example.
Later on, basic stereo receivers were upgraded by adding more amplifiers which allowed people to enjoy surround-sound effects. This, in return, encouraged more content developers to create more advanced sound files for content. On a surround sound system, for example, you will hear many sounds that will be inaudible on a single speaker system because modern audio files contain various audio channels so certain sounds would play through certain speakers.
As time went on, more and more people started focusing on visual content and a greater variety of content and entertainment devices started showing up on the market. It once again became hard to switch between different types of video content from different devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, TV boxes, DVD players, Airplay, and more while using the same monitor, screen, or projector.
In the 2000s, more features were added to many A/V receivers, such as video processing. These receivers are now referred to as home theater systems, audio/video receivers, A/V receivers, or AVRs. This receiver acts as an audio frequency amplifier.
By the 2010s, these devices offered great functionality in luxury to average households, truly becoming a multimedia powerhouse.
Different Kinds of Home Theater Receivers
Home theater receivers were developed by a great variety of businesses. This is why there are so many different brands of receivers available on the market today.
Different developers had their own idea of the type of functionality they wanted to offer. As a result, many different kinds of home theater receivers were developed.
Here is a quick look at the most common types of home theater receivers that you can get for your home.
Compact Home Theater Receivers
Home theater receivers can be a bit big and bulky. Some of these devices are designed with inputs for a huge variety of devices. They need to have USB ports, various audio ports for different speakers and audio systems, various HDMI ports for different video devices, and more.
Compact home theater receivers are a bit more streamlined. They are smaller in size but can be just as functional as your average system. These units are better suited for home users who don’t use quite as many different video and audio devices.
Compact home theater receivers are compatible with many devices but might not allow you to connect all of your devices at the same time. For example, your compact receiver might exclude certain functions such as wireless or Bluetooth connectivity or LCDs.
Wireless Home Theater Receivers
Modern technology inventors and developers all seem to dislike wires profoundly. We see more and more devices all over transform into wireless units that you can easily set up or move where you please without having to worry about the length of cables and cords.
Wireless home theater receivers are not completely wireless, since these units do still require some form of power to function. But they do have much fewer wires to wonder about. This also includes home theaters in a box packages with their own receiver.
These receivers have built-in Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to pair your receiver with Bluetooth speakers and mobile devices such as smartphones, music players, and much more. With a wireless home theater receiver, the sky is truly the limit. You can use these devices to play music to Bluetooth speakers anywhere in the room or home.
You can also connect your smartphone, laptop, or other Bluetooth devices to your TV set, speaker system, or receiver and display any type of content on your screen or play any type of music from your phone without annoying wires getting in your way. Most wireless home theater systems do have additional ports installed, which allows you to also connect devices that do not have Bluetooth to your receiver.
It is also very important to know that most wireless home theater systems do have range limitations. On average, they can only stream and receive signals about 30 feet from the receiver. This means that speakers in the corner of your room might not be within reach, and you cannot stand too far from the receiver when streaming content via Bluetooth.
If your home theater receiver is not wireless or does not have Bluetooth compatibility, you can also consider getting a Bluetooth adapter. This is an external device that can be plugged directly into a non-wireless receiver.
It will then act as a mini modem that allows you to connect your receiver to other Bluetooth devices.
Refurbished Home Theater Receivers
Receivers can be pretty expensive, especially if you want something modern with lots of leading features. A good way to save money on your home entertainment system is by investing in a refurbished or renewed home theater receiver.
These A/V receivers are pre-owned open-box products. Previous owners returned the product because they did not find it to their liking or it had minor defects.
Once returned, these products are professionally inspected, fully repaired, and are then resold on the market at a fraction of the original cost even though these products function like brand new.
Any type of home theater receiver can be refurbished or renewed. It all depends on the buyer’s objective or the condition of the product upon delivery.
It is always good to have a peek around on the refurbished section of websites like Amazon. You might just get the exact unit you want at a much better price.
High-End Home Theater Receivers
Home theater receivers can vary in function and capacity. Affordable units usually do not have all the bells and whistles or might be made of cheaper materials.
High-end home theater receivers, on the other hand, are those units that truly do have it all. These receivers are preferable for advanced home theater systems with devices such as HD smart TV sets, surround sound speakers, soundbars, subwoofers, DVD players, projectors, smartphones, TV boxes, gaming consoles, and many other devices that all need to function as a unit.
These receivers or receiver sets are usually quite expensive and they usually have the following main characteristics.
High-end products are all made of exceptional quality materials. The latest technology is also used for all electric hardware and all the latest software is used to program these devices.
Compared to cheaper brands, these products tend to last much longer. This is first because of the quality design and secondly, advanced engineers are usually leveraged to design these units.
All high-end products have this factor in common – they are all very stylish. There is definitely a huge difference in the looks of a high-end home theater receiver compared to a cheaper model from an unknown brand.
These units are usually much more visually pleasing.
Cheaper models usually offer limited channels, where your high-end models offer up to 9.2 channel surround sound interface.
Cheaper units do not offer the vast inputs that high-end models do. For example, a proper high-end receiver might have up to 8 HDMI inputs compared to only two of cheaper brands.
These units are usually wireless and they can connect via Bluetooth so you can stream content directly to your speakers or screen via devices like a smartphone.
Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect your receiver to the internet so you can stream content directly from websites to your home audio system or display. These systems usually run through apps such as Spotify Connect or Pandora, but some are even compatible with other streaming apps.
High-end home theater receivers can offer you much more flexibility and these units are often much easier to use. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get the same functionality from a more affordable unit.
Cheaper receivers have been known to function just as good and they are often a worthier investment since technology is ever-advancing.
The receiver you use today might no longer be practical for use within just a few short years. In this case, it might be better to buy cheaper and upgrade every few years than it is to invest a lot of money in a high-end unit that might be out of date in a year or two.
Wi-Fi Home Theater Receivers
Wi-Fi home theater receivers can have several other features such as multiple HDMI inputs, 9.2 channel audio, and more. But these receivers are often considered as more advanced since they can connect directly to your home’s Wi-Fi so you can access online content without using an additional interface such as a smartphone, tab, or TV box.
Some Wi-Fi receivers are a bit limited in the proprietary apps and might only run through their own apps, while others might allow you to download and install apps of your choosing so you can stream your favorite content directly through your receiver onto your screen and through your speakers.
If your receiver does not have Wi-Fi connectivity, you can consider getting a streaming component. This is a little device that connects to your receiver and your home’s Wi-Fi. Most of these devices function much the same way as a smartphone. Use it to connect to the internet, but it can also be used to install and run various apps such as Netflix directly to your receiver without the use of a computer.
HD and UHD Home Theater Receivers
HD home theater receivers are compatible with most TV sets and projectors, but will offer 4K Ultra HD resolution when connected to an 4K TV set.
When you connect an average home theater receiver to an HDTV, you won’t get much more quality viewing than your average TV set. But when you connect your HD home theater receiver to your HDTV set, your viewing experience will truly come to life.
This is because modern video and audio files are designed with a vast range of viewing and audio channels. When HD content is viewed on an average TV with no surround sound, you might miss some of the sound effects that developers used, because these average receivers do not have the needed decoding software to properly read or view all information embedded in a video or audio file.
This is especially true for UHD or 4K. Most modern UHD devices will not even allow you to change the TV source to 4K unless your TV can handle it. Without a way to view 4K content on your HDTV or receiver, you’re really overpaying on your media and setup.
HD and UHD receivers can decode and process these additional sound and video channels. The result is phenomenal sound effects on surround sound speaker systems and a much brighter and more vivid display on your HDTV or 4K set.
If you are having a hard time navigating various remote controllers or switching between devices such as decoders, disc players, streaming devices, or other smart devices, then it is high time for you to consider a home theater receiver.
These units make it much easier to switch between different inputs and they give you full control over the output devices you want to use.
We could almost say that your home theater system is no theater at all until you get a home theater receiver that allows you to easily change between devices and output modes and that gives you the best possible audio and video.
We do hope that this guide helped you understand these handy devices much better. And if you are looking for information on the best theater receivers to buy right now or other quality tech gear to get for your home, then we welcome you to hop over to some of our other guides and reviews, where we share the latest and best info on these tech devices!
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Roy is the leading content creator here at Home Theater Heroes. He is as passionate about planning a home theater setup as building it. He blogs about IT, cybersecurity, business, and more at Davis Tech Media.