what is a home theater receiver

What is a Home Theater Receiver? – Best Things to Know

A home theater receiver, or AV receiver, is a device that serves as a hub for all your multimedia input and output. A receiver to a home theater system is similar to what a smart home hub is to a smart home. It lets you access your media devices in one place.

It can process both video and surround sound decoding which brings the best out of the connected devices. So, whenever anyone asks you “what is a home theater receiver?”, you know what to say.

Relying on the built-in speakers on your TV or projector will not give you the surround sound effects you might want. Using a receiver will help you output sounds from your TV through home theater speakers built to bring every sound to life.

As you read on, you’ll learn all you need to know about a home theater receiver. That’s not all, you’ll also find out what to look out for when you decide to get one.

If you happen to come across one that suits your needs in this post, just click on the image to claim it.

Without further ado, let’s get on with it.

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AV Receiver vs Stereo Receiver

You might not be able to tell these two apart just by staring at them unless you look closely. They may appear the same but they are two different breeds.

From the name, an AV receiver can process both audio and video signals. A stereo receiver deals only with sound.

From that, you can figure that an AV receiver is what you need for your home theater. That way, it can cater to all your multimedia needs.

An AV receiver has a minimum of 5 amplifiers that are used to drive the 5 speakers if you’re using a 5.1 speaker configuration. Each home theater speaker needs an audio signal from the receiver.

Of course, some configurations use more speakers. The more reason you should be watchful when choosing a receiver for your needs.

As for a stereo receiver, it uses only 2 amplifiers since it needs only 2 speakers; one amplifier for each.

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This type of receiver is only responsible for audio even though you can connect it to a TV. However, you won’t be enjoying any surround sound effects.

Which should you go for?

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Well, it comes down to what you need it for. If you want a receiver just for audio, you’ll get a great one at a good price.

If you intend to use it for your home entertainment hub, your best bet is an AV receiver. It is built mainly to bring surround sound effects with video for a cinematic experience to your home.  

What to Look Out for When Choosing One

You decided you need a receiver, great! Perhaps you want something to cater to all your media needs. Then an AV receiver is what you should go for. Even if your current need is just to enjoy good music, getting an AV home theater receiver will leave you room to upgrade as you please.

Before you get your purse out to make a purchase, there are certain things you need to pay attention to.

These are features that ensure all your needs are covered. You don’t want to buy a home theater receiver and later find out there’s no room for an additional device.

If you follow our guide, that won’t be you. Your choice will be one that’ll cater to your current need and a bit into the future. Of course, while not drilling a hole in your purse.

Core features


The power output of home theater receivers vary. Which one you go for will depend on certain factors. First, you have to consider the size of the room you’d be using it.

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Secondly, you need to know the power requirement of the home theater speakers you’re going to use with the receiver.

You don’t need to sweat this, though. This particular specification can be quite misleading as brands often overate it. You can go for a receiver with about 100 Watts per channel.

Don’t get hyped up by going for a lot of power. Too much power to your speakers can damage it. However, if you skimp on power and end up too low, there’ll be distortion in the sound output which is bad.


You want to be sure all your media devices can connect to your AV receiver. With the way technology advances and the rapid change at which we do things, any gadget you buy has to be future-proof.

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To ensure this, think beyond the connectivity needs you have now and put your future needs at the back of your mind. Before you make any purchase, take inventory of what you’ll be connecting to the receiver.

At a minimum, go for a home theater receiver with 4 HDMI ports. That will cater to your cable box, game console, Blue-Ray player, and a free port for an additional device.

If you join the video streaming bandwagon and get, say, a Roku streaming box, all 4 ports are already occupied. We hope you get the point now.

4k switching

Still on future-proofing, 4k is the best video quality you can get at the consumer level. The picture is so detailed that even if your face is right in front of the TV, you’ll still see the picture clearly without the dots.

Even if you don’t have a 4k TV yet, it makes sense to get a receiver that’s capable of handling 4k signals in case you decide to upgrade. Even the larger screen 4k TVs are fast dropping in price which is good news for everyone.

Built-in Wi-Fi

Internet of Things (IoT) is holding sway as everything is getting ‘smart’. You’d do great to consider a receiver that has Wi-Fi connectivity.

The smart functions available in TVs today can also be done via the receiver with Wi-Fi. You can stream music and movies without having to connect a router to the receiver with a LAN cable.

Surround sound

This is often the reason a lot of people want a home theater system. The surround sound is what brings the cinema feel into your home.

As we mentioned earlier, to get a surround sound from movies, you need an AV home theater receiver. When deciding on which to choose, consider how rich you want the sound.

At the minimum, a 5-channel receiver will give you that feel. However, if you ask us, we’ll tell you to get a receiver with a minimum of 7 channels. In this case, think of channels as speakers.

A 7-speaker home theater system will give you the feel of being in the stadium while watching the playoffs.

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That’s just the beginning, though. You can go for even more advanced sound. Consider a receiver that’s Dolby Atmos-enabled. With this, you’ll be using more speakers.

Either additional speakers are facing the ceiling projecting sounds there or have speakers hanging from the ceiling. That way you’ll hear sounds from all around you including a hovering chopper from the top.

You can learn more about home theater speakers and great options to go for.

Additional features

Multi-zone audio

This is a feature that lets a receiver power more than one audio/video source. For instance, you’re in the living room and you want to watch the Super Bowl. However, another person in the household wants to watch their favorite show airing at the same time.

A receiver with this feature can let you two watch your programs simultaneously without interference. So, if you know this type of need might arise, you should consider this feature.

Whole house audio

This receiver feature allows you to wirelessly stream audio to compatible speakers in different areas of your home.

For instance, your partner wants to listen to the song playing but they have to be in another part of the house. This feature can let her listen to it on a wireless speaker.

However, different brands only have certain types of speakers compatible with this feature. So put that into consideration.

Some of such include DTS Play-Fi (Anthem), Yamaha’s Music Cast, Fire Connect from Integra/Onkyo/Pioneer, Denon’s HEOS

Bluetooth and iPhone connectivity

If you want to be able to wirelessly play music from your smartphone on your home theater speakers, this feature is a must.

Some receivers have Apple Airplay compatibility which allows you to connect your iPhone or iPod to the receiver and jam away to your favorite songs.

Also, Bluetooth is another feature you will commonly find on recent models. Through Bluetooth, you can connect an Android phone or any other enabled portable music player to your receiver.

Remote control and mobile app

Your receiver will come with its remote controller. However, some of them allow you to download an app on your smartphone (Android and iOS) that can control the home theater system. This gives you a more convenient alternative.

Advanced features

Voice control

Admit it, sometimes you get so lazy to get up and reach the remote controller. In such cases, you don’t have to bother, technology will indulge you. Just make sure you go for a receiver that’s compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

That way, you can use voice control to give commands to your receiver and get things done without moving a proverbial muscle. Some of the voice commands you can give are as follows:

  • Turn the home theater system off and on
  • Play music; skip a track or go back to a previous one
  • You can link or unlink rooms in a multi-room audio setup
  • Change receiver input selection
  • Mute and unmute the receiver

Trust us, it’s fun using these smart speakers. As time goes on, you’d be able to do more things with voice commands. Google Assistant is getting smarter and Alexa is growing in skills.

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Bottom Line

Receivers are a necessity if you want to get the best out of your home entertainment system. It lets you connect all your media devices to a single source and get surround sound for an immersive movie experience. The best receiver for you is one that suits all the needs you have and is future-proof.

The prices vary widely depending on the features you want, power, etc. Do note that, receivers are sold as standalone devices. However, you can get some bundled with speakers. Whichever type you prefer, if you follow the guide we’ve presented, you’ll end up choosing the best option for your needs. Hopefully, it will fall within your budget. Sometimes, it’s best to wait to get what you want than settle for less.

We hope this post gave you what you were looking for. If so, kindly share it with others so they can benefit too. They’ll appreciate you for it. And if you saw any option you like, just click on the image to get it. Until the next post, thank you for your time.

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