Setting up a home media room or living room theater can be a rewarding experience. But figuring out what hardware you need—and what you can live without—can prove to be a complicated and expensive process.
If you’re unfamiliar with the various components of a home media system, including receivers and amplifiers, you’ve made it to the right place. This article will examine both devices to figure out why they’re important and how they differ and explore the different types of receivers available.
Using the information in this brief guide, you can make the best possible choice for your home media system, save time while shopping, and potentially save money that might have been wasted on non-essential tech.
What Is A Receiver?
A receiver is a device that accepts audio and video inputs from a source, then transmits that digital information to an output device such as a set of speakers or a television. Receivers a reasonably complex machines that typically contain several individual components, including:
- An amplifier
- Audio/Visual inputs and outputs
- Volume controls
- A preamp
Most receivers are box-like in shape and size. The volume control is often a twistable dial or series of depressable buttons, and there’s typically a small display screen that allows users to view settings and relevant information.
Of course, receivers can differ significantly in terms of their primary usage, amount of inputs and outputs, and additional features. Exploring these different types of receivers can help you find the ideal model for your home’s theater or media system.
Types of Receivers
There are two primary types of receivers used in home media setups. The best one for you and your household depends on your intentions.
For example, if you’re hoping to create a state-of-the-art audio system, you might want to invest in a stereo receiver. But if you’re planning on installing a full-media system that incorporates both audio and video signals, an AV receiver is typically your best bet.
Each type of receiver is designed for a particular purpose, so it’s crucial to spend time considering exactly how you intend to use it before purchasing one. Let’s take a closer look at each type to discover more about home theater receivers and how they work.
Stereo receivers are precisely what they sound like—they’re receivers built to handle the audio output of stereo systems. These receivers have two input channels, typically left and right. The receiver takes these inputs, amplifies them, and then outputs that audio signal to a speaker or series of speakers.
While stereo speakers can be a fantastic addition to any home’s music room or stereo system, it’s not usually the ideal choice for home theaters. When it comes to handling both audio and visual inputs, an AV receiver is the better option.
An audio/visual receiver, or AV receiver, contains all of the inputs necessary to connect your television and stereo system. It’s nearly identical to a stereo receiver, except it also has visual inputs and outputs in addition to audio connections.
AV receivers act as a primary hub for all of your theater system’s connections. They’re the most traditional and conventional options for home media systems. Still, buyers should be familiar with the various features of an AV receiver to ensure they choose the right one for their home theater.
How to Choose a Receiver
The average AV receiver costs anywhere between $200 and $700. Because these devices are considerable financial investments, it’s crucial to choose one that satisfies all of your current media needs, in addition to any potential ones that may arise in the future.
Predicting what types of inputs you may need isn’t nearly as challenging as foretelling how many inputs you might need. It’s often wise to choose an AV receiver that has more channels than you currently require. That way, you can add more sources to your receiver without having to replace the entire device.
However, an AV receiver’s number of connections isn’t the only aspect to keep in mind. Shoppers should also consider their preferred model’s:
- TV Readiness
- Wireless Capability
If you’re going to invest the time and money into creating a home theater system, you’re probably going to want to make sure that your media center lasts as long as possible. Double-checking these features before making a final purchasing decision can help ensure that you end up with the best potential receiver for your entertainment system.
The more channels a receiver has, the more speakers it can connect to. Traditional amplifiers only have two channels, allowing for a left speaker and a right speaker. Receivers tend to have far more channels, with many models allowing for nine or more speakers.
Television sets sure have changed a lot since their initial rise to popularity in the 1950s. They’ve become larger, thinner, and far more capable. TVs also feature much greater definition and clarity than they did in the past. Consequently, it’s vital to choose a receiver with 4K and HDCP compatibility.
Wireless connectivity and capability might not be such a big deal if you’re only planning on blasting high-quality sound in one room. However, if you’re eager to spread that sound around the house, you’ll want to choose a receiver that can transmit to speakers throughout the home.
What Is an Amplifier?
An amplifier is a device that takes a weak audio signal and magnifies it. Using electricity, amplifiers are able to generate powerful sounds that travel from the source (a microphone, radio, or stereo), through the amp, and out through a set of speakers.
Amplifiers are often far more straightforward than receivers, though digital models can be just as powerful and costly. Still, these devices only trump their more sophisticated counterparts when homeowners crave a single machine to handle their theater system’s audio needs.
Households that intend to use their entertainment area for equal viewing and listening may choose an amplifier over a receiver. Both are perfectly viable options.
Receivers vs Amplifiers
Receivers and amplifiers are very closely related, but they are different. While all receivers are technically amplifiers, the reverse isn’t necessarily true. To choose between them, you must first decide how you intend to enjoy your future media system. Your intention plays the most considerable role in determining whether a receiver or an amplifier would work for you needs.
But to help make this process as simple as possible, let’s summarize the significant differences between these two helpful devices.
- Receivers. These are often used as connection hubs for large entertainment systems. They have multiple inputs and outputs, an amplifier, and some receivers may even have a tuner.
- Amplifiers. These are often used in tandem with stereos or audio equipment. Amplifiers boost sound, making them an ideal option for modern stereo systems.
- Receivers. Most receivers have multiple channels, allowing them to work with many devices at a single time. You could attach your television, DVD player, laptop, and speaker system to a single receiver for maximum efficiency.
- Amplifiers. Because amplifiers are primarily designed for use with a stereo, standard models only feature a dual-channel system.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you’ll find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding receivers and amplifiers.
Which Is Better: Amplifier or Receiver?
The answer to this question depends on your preferences and budget. It’s possible to purchase standalone components to create a customized home media system, and if that’s your goal, an amplifier is the better option.
However, receivers consolidate those components into a single unit, saving space and time. If you’d rather streamline your home theater installation, an AV receiver is bound to provide the more convenient solution.
Still, your intended use and personal preferences will help determine whether an amplifier or receiver is right for your media system. A budget may also play a role, as multiple components are likely to cost more than a single receiver.
Can You Use a Receiver as an Amplifier?
Absolutely! A receiver is essentially an amplifier with more channels and features, so you can definitely use it as you would a traditional amplifier.
Do Amplifiers Improve Sound Quality?
Amplifiers take tiny signals and boost (or amplify) them. They’re designed to generate powerful sounds and transmit them through speakers. While amplifiers can increase a sound’s volume, they don’t typically improve a sound’s quality.
The quality of any given amplified sound is primarily dependent on the quality of the speakers. Poor-quality speakers may not be able to handle high-wattage amplifiers, resulting in unwanted pops, crackles, or buzzes. Solving this issue often requires purchasing a new set of speakers or having your current ones repaired.
Receivers contain amplifiers, but amplifiers have receivers tucked inside them. While both are valuable components of any home media system, they differ in terms of capability.
Amplifiers are better suited to sounds systems and stereos, and receivers can make a perfect connectivity hub for a living room’s smart TV, stereo, tablet, and more. Still, your preferences, budget, and intended usage can help you determine which option might work best for you.