What do you guys look for in a receiver?

dreday

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Andre Nelson
Hey I'm new to the audio portion of the home theater. I know video pretty well, but as far as sound go's I am lost. What do you look for besides obivous components such as hdmi or connections?
 

LanceJ

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(not in any particular order)

* Features that are truly useful: multiroom capability; different channel level setting capability for specific input sources or soundfields, displays that can be *completely* turned off and not just dimmed, etc.

Some features that aren't useful to me: wads of DSP modes, which are usually barely different from each other or sound gimmicky/unrealistic; HDMI capability, which is a total joke right now and AFAIK most receivers can't even use the audio portion of that connection (so you'll still need a separate audio cable); and any sort of THX certification.

* A good solid amplifier section, in whatever price range you're looking at: if the wattage spec uses a 1% THD rating along with a 40Hz-20kHz or just a single 1kHz frequency range, start getting suspicious of its REAL capabilities.

* a well designed remote: crappy remotes with tiny buttons w/dimly printed labels or volume buttons buried in the middle of the remote or next to the power/function buttons drive me up the wall.

* Build quality: impressive specs mean squat if the thing keeps breaking down all the time or knobs fall off.

* Ergonomics: if it's difficult to use, it had better sound reeeeeally good, otherwise forget it. Those little things that seem trivial on the showroom floor can turn into major hairpullers when used on a day-to-day basis. And most receivers nowadays all sound very good so this aspect can make or break a decision for me.
 

John Garcia

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THX cert doesn't mean it IS better than another similar receiver, however given the choice of two that are very similar, I'll take the one that has it over one that doesn't. I never use the processing, but the amp sections tend to be sufficiently stout due to the cert. Not a feature I look for either, but if it has it, it doesn't hurt anything.

I agree on most of the other stuff. I MUST have a display that can be completely turned off and a solid remote (or plan on a good universal). How they rate the amp is always a good indicator of how good it is.

What it comes down to for me is after I've compared specs, is to go listen to them and use them to get an idea if it is what I really want. I spent a bundle on my current receiver and I have not had any reason to change it in years, so in reality, it was cheaper to just get a solid receiver that would meet my needs for longer.
 

mackie

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I tend to feel that the main difference in receivers in similar price ranges are the features. Most newer receivers are basically sonically transparent, so I focus on the features that I like the most. That said, I would be careful not to pair a lower priced receiver with a hard load such as a martin logans or theils, and I wouldn't use a lower end receiver to power tower speakers full range without a sub.

My favorites are Yamaha and Denon.

My .02
 

JeremyErwin

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Two nice features are:
4-ohm capability (or, as a half measure, "high current") , so you can use any speaker.
pre-outs, so you can add an amplifier. (see above)
 

Seth=L

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Look for power ratings like this one: 90 watts x 7 @ 8ohms, all channels driven, (20hz-20khz @ 0.07THD). You won't likely see "all channels driven" in many receivers power ratings.

Look to be sure it has Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, and DTS 96/24. Also look for 192/24 bit DACs.

Preouts, as mentioned before, are quite handy for future amplifier upgrades.

Universal remote with macrofunctions are nice, as well as Zone 2.

Things to consider with most receivers: Weight, Power consumption, discrete amplifier stage, and Capacitor size (for the Tech minded) Capacitors are round shaped items in the interior of the receiver likely to be visible through the ventilation. If those are as big a pill bottles or bigger then that is good.

A receiver with some oomph will likely weigh over 30 lbs. and have a power consumption of around 5 amps or around 500-600 watts (this will be posted on the rear of the receiver were it says power consumption and will be accompanied by voltage and 60hz.
 

Seth=L

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Seth L
THX costs the manufacturer, that cost is then passed to the consumer. It is disproportionent of coarse. I have to aplaud Lucas's genious though, how much money do you imagine it costs to run THX inc. Think of the sick amounts of money he is making with THX, barely raising his left pinky toe.
 

ChrisWiggles

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which is not at all the case. HDMI inputs are quite important if you want high-res formats from HD-DVD/BR, because many of the players do not have full analog-out capabilities.
 

LanceJ

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Chris (this is a legitimate question - I'm not trying to argue): a. is there a list somewhere of receivers that can actually use HDMI's audio signal, as opposed to just switching capabilities; and b. I have yet to hear of an HD disc that includes either TrueHD or DTS-HD. Do you think the studios think these lossless audio formats are just a waste of disc space then? I keep hearing about all the interactive features they want to include, which seem like they themselves might be disc space hogs.

I'm not surprised about the lack of full analog outputs - us media pirates can't be trusted ya know.
 

mackie

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Also keep in mind that you're usually only using 1-2 watts of power with normal listening and larger amounts at peak levels which only last an instant. rarely if ever is a receiver ever asked to produce all of it's power simultaneouly.
 

ChrisWiggles

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a) I'm not aware of anyone having compiled a list, but there are receivers and processor out there with HDMI inputs. The Anthem d2 is one that pops up at the moment, but I know there are several others, and certainly many more on the way.

b) I haven't been paying too much attention to the specific soundtracks on HD-DVD/BRD, so I don't know but I am fairly certain that there are at least several out there with higher res tracks that would need HDMI or on-board decoding to analog out.

At this point it's not a *huge* issue, but it is something to be aware of.
 

Arthur S

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Andre

Look for the Pioneer 1016, about $400 delivered by Amazon. Just got the thumbs up by Consumer Reports. Other models they recommend are the Onkyo TX-SR504 ($275), and the Yamaha RX-V659BL, for ($500). I don't know the difference in the feature set between the Yamaha and the Pio 1016.

Someone else here can probably explain the differences.
 

John Brill

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First thing to do is determine what your needs are.

1) Do you have a large room or demanding speakers? This may affect the power requirements of the receiver you need. Do you want 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1?

2) What sources will you be running into your receiver (both video and audio). This will determine minimum connection requirements.

3) Will you be using the receiver for switching of video sources? Related to #2. Make sure the bandwidth of receiver is appropriate.

4) What sound format decoding features required? (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc).

5) What is your budget? This doesn't mean if your budget is $3k to not look at $400 receivers, but generally speaking, they more you spend, you'll get more features and solid components.

6) Speakers quality (especially the sub-woofer) is just as important (some would argue more so) as the receiver. This is why you need to audition to make sure the combination sounds good to YOU.

Generally speaking, I look for solid power with as little distortion as possible, required connections (current and anticipated future need), appropriate decoding software and, above all else, sound quality to my ears (not someone elses). I tend to pass on the bells and whistles (DSP's, THX, Room EQ, etc...).

To that end, once you have narrowed down the recievers that meet your needs, go listen to them as they don't all sound the same.
 

Arthur S

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I would simply add that in my experience, speakers make about a 1000X more difference than electronics. There have been numerous tests with amps, processors: Expected differences simply were not met. Very, very slight differences at best. Differences between speakers can be like night and day.

Of course JB has his own perspective... so if you want to pony up about $700 more than the Yamaha or 1016, go listen to Rotel
, or you could spend that money on better speakers, which would make a world of difference.
 

dreday

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Andre Nelson
im actually going to start working with high end home theater... So I am trying to get a feel about what ppl, No Im sorry Audiophiles and people in general look for when trying to buy a receiver. I got a another question though, what would be the benefit of using a amplifier through the pre outs.
 

John Brill

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The benefit would be to use the processor in the reciever for sound format decoding and use the more powerful/better amplifier to pump the signal to your speakers
 

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