A receiver has traditionally served as the heart of any serious home theatre or audio system, yet competing solutions have dramatically shifted their adoption. With the advent of sound bars and their single-cable simplicity, or the wireless ease of Bluetooth speakers, many consumers justifiably question the need for a standalone receiver with its nest of connected wires and complicated features. There are still strong arguments for selecting a receiver in order to get the best sound from your home system, and thanks to exceptional models from the likes of Sony, Denon, and Onkyo there is plenty to get excited about.
What is a receiver?
A receiver, simply put, is that box with the volume knob sending a signal to your speakers. They amplify the audio and allow you to switch from a selection of inputs: e.g., selecting the DVD player for a movie or turntable to play our vinyl collection. They can also connect a range of devices to one another. Fundamentally, it allows you to have control of your entire home theatre setup from one central unit.
Do I really need to buy a receiver?
For an increasing number of consumers a receiver is not the ideal solution. For many situations these devices are too bulky and complicated, and they require additional investment in cables, speakers and space in your home in order to get the most out of them. Many people may find that a good sound bar provides the quality and quantity of sound suited to their needs. Sound bar quality has dramatically increased over the last several years, with some top-end models mimicking multi-speaker layouts, even decoding Atmos signals to further replicate the theatrical experience. Meanwhile, Bluetooth speakers have all the convenience of portability without the need for wires, and their current popularity for playback of music anywhere inside and outsite the home is undisputed.
Why, then, should I consider investing in a receiver?
While it’s true that the setup is certainly more complicated, the rewards of owning a home theatre audio system complete with a powerful and versatile receiver can be substantial. For those serious about getting the most out of their systems, from vinyl fans to home theatre fanatics, a receiver remains the ultimate solution; its benefits outweigh the conveniences of competing solutions. Having a receiver at the heart of your system provides far more flexibility, allowing you to select speakers of your choice that can be placed physically in the ideal location for optimal playback. It allows your setup to grow with increasing numbers of components, and a receiver remains the most powerful solution to centralize the control of your setup.
How do I chose which receiver is right for me?
Receivers are differentiated by the type and number of inputs they have, the number of sound channels that can be output, and the video signals that they can help route. Your choice depends on how you are going to be incorporating the device, either as the central component of a home theatre or as part of a robust music setup, and how much you’re willing to invest in terms of the number of speakers.
The Stereo Setup
Many music fans would be thrilled with a simple, capable unit dedicated to providing the cleanest reproduction of 2-channel audio. Paired with a good set of speakers that can be spaced a few feet apart to achieve the ideal soundstage, these receivers are superior to any portable solution.
CD players or even tape decks continue to be used by music fans, while all modern models include Bluetooth functionality allowing you to stream directly from your mobile device. With the addition of a 6.35mm headphone output jack for use with premium headphones, along with robust speaker terminals, a 2ch receiver provides an ideal solution for any audiophile.
Even a relatively modest receiver like the one shown to the right includes specifications that enthusiasts only dreamed of a few years ago. Many surround sound receivers include 4 or more HDMI inputs, 4K passthrough and the processing of Dolby Digital True-HD and DTS HD signals, and can easily drive a true 5.1 setup with aplomb. Modern examples like that shown here add in Bluetooth connectivity, along with post-processing that can take a stereo signal and have it spread across your soundfield and you’ve got yourself a prime device for any kind of playback capable of making everything from your video games to your favourite tunes come to life.
The Ultimate Setup
At the top of the peak are mega-receivers that incorporate all the latest surround modes and enough power to drive an entire room full of speakers. With a dizzying array of inputs and capabilities this unit is like a supercomputer for your home theatre, allowing you to plug in seven different HDMI devices, a half dozen other sources with the smattering of RCA inputs, and even your record player, all into one box to rule them all. Some are able to drive 13 (or more!) speakers as well as twin subwoofers, providing one box to rule them all. Higher end models include room correction such as Audyssey MultiEQ XT32, where via an included microphone and easy-to-follow on-screen prompts you can dial in your setup and tune the audio specifically to your room. If audio (and video!) perfection is your dream, having a model such as this in your setup will surely make those wishes come true.
Receivers provide the best audio for any home
A receiver is certainly not for everyone, and it’s a far more robust setup than many will require. Yet for those wanting the most out of their content, and are willing to invest the time, effort and expense, the rewards are great. Modern receivers, with their myriad features, are truly exceptional and with capabilities that rival any multiplex or concert hall. Paired with an investment in quality cables and speakers that can last for a lifetime of listening, a receiver can continue to serve as the heart of your setup far better than any other competing solution.