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Selecting Your Next AV Receiver by the Numbers

Selecting Your Next AV Receiver by the Numbers

If you're in the market for an AV receiver and don’t have much experience reading back panel specifications, you may find yourself looking at a spec sheet with numbers that might seem confusing. For shoppers who don't already have a solid grounding in home audio technology, reading these specifications to find the right component for them can be a struggle. With a little guidance, choosing a home theater receiver can be a simpler process. Here are some of the questions to ask when shopping for a potential receiver.

Are there enough audio channels for an immersive experience?

Audio channels send sound from the receiver to your speakers, so this figure is one of the most important to consider. Surround sound systems generally start at six channels, meaning you can put together a 5.1 speaker configuration that consists of center, left and right-channel speakers, two surround speakers and a subwoofer.

Additional channels allow for more speaker connections, resulting in a more detailed and powerful sound with better dispersion throughout your viewing area. If your receiver supports object-based 3D-audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS X, you can enjoy an enhanced level of detail and precision with an arrangement that includes overhead speakers.

A three-dimensional speaker and subwoofer configuration is a series of three numbers: speakers in the horizontal plane (center channel, surrounds, left and right speakers), subwoofers and height-channel speakers. Dolby Atmos can be accomplished with 5.1.2, 7.1.2, 5.1.4, 7.1.4 and 9.1.4 arrangements. If you’d like to listen to movies and TV with 3D audio detail, opt for a receiver that supports a 5.1.2 setup at minimum. If you’d like to add greater clarity and dimension with more height channels or subwoofers in the future, then pick an AVR with a few more audio connections to support the future build-out of your home theater.

Can you hook up every component?

Since the AV receiver is the center of your home theater, it should have sufficient inputs to support all of your components and media players. For the best picture and sound quality, the latest HDMI connections are profoundly important. HDMI inputs with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) support ultra-high-definition video and the latest audio codecs. Without these inputs and digital copy protection, you might purchase an AVR that cannot display the picture quality promised by your TV, or might try and set up an Atmos speaker configuration but be unable to transfer that audio codec from your AVR to your speakers. In other words, it could be a huge waste of time and money.

The more HDMI hookups you have available, the better equipped you are for adding on to the system in the future. Check out the wireless connectivity features as well — they'll come in handy if you plan to set up multi-room audio or stream music.

Does your receiver have plenty of power?

The power rating of a receiver is one of the most crucial indicators of performance, but it can also be a source of confusion since manufacturers may test power output in different ways. Generally speaking, greater wattage through each channel enables clearer sound. A major advantage of a higher rating is increased headroom, which means you won't lose subtle details to distortion at moments when a soundtrack becomes particularly loud and complex.

If you do the math, you may find that the solution is a high-end receiver like the Marantz SR8012. This 11.2-channel receiver is built to offer top-quality sound and video for many years to come and features support for 3D audio, ultra-high-definition picture and wireless connectivity. With 205 watts of power-per-channel and eight HDMI inputs, home theater aficionados can count on making the most of their speaker arrangement with huge performance and exceptional clarity.

To find the best AV receiver for you, browse the specifications of the full-range of Marantz AVRs.