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Receiver Buying Guide

A comprehensive receiver buying guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new receiver.


Getting Started

The Home Theater receiver, also referred to as an AV receiver or Surround Sound Receiver, is the heart and brains of a home theater system. It is important to everything you are using as they all connect directly to a receiver giving you control through one unit. An AV Receiver provides an easy and cost-effective way of centralizing your home theater system.

A Home Theater Receiver combines the functions of three components
  • A tuner for AM/FM; in some cases, HD (High Definition Radio), XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, and/or Internet Radio.
  • A Preamp that controls which audio/video source is selected (Blu-ray Disc Player, DVD player, VCR, CD player, iPod, etc...), processes the incoming stereo/surround sound signals, and distributes audio to the channels and subwoofer output. Video from components (such as a DVD player) are routed to a TV.
  • A built-in Multi-channel amplifier (5.1, or above, channels) that sends the surround sound signals and power to the speakers.
As the saying goes, get a receiver for the units you plan on having, not for what you currently own. This is because you want your receiver to work effectively for as long as possible. If you currently do not have components, like a Blu-ray player or a cable/satellite box, take them into consideration when purchasing, as you will want them in the future.

Features

Surround Sound Formats
Shopping for a receiver can be a daunting task, but once you break everything down, you will get a better grasp of what you need. When you shop for receivers you may see descriptions like, “5.1 surround sound” or 7.1 surround sound”. This is referencing the amount of speakers that come with the unit. For instance, “5.1 surround sound” will include the following: a center channel speaker, a subwoofer and 3 additional speakers. Depending on the size of your room, and how you want to design your home theater system, find out how many speakers you will need.
Format Channels Channel Types Media Types
Dolby® Pro Logic® 4
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (center)
  • 1 matrixed, limited-bandwidth channel (surround left and right)
stereo and Dolby Surround-encoded VHS movies and broadcast TV programs, can be downconverted from any Dolby Digital source
Dolby Pro Logic II 5.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 3 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via Pro Logic II's bass management
stereo and Dolby Surround-encoded VHS movies and broadcast TV programs, stereo music, some video games
Dolby Digital up to 5.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
all DVDs, some broadcast HDTV, some satellite and cable TV, some video games
DTS® 5.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some DVDs are DTS-encoded, some CDs are DTS-encoded
DTS Neo:6 up to 6.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 3 or 4 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right, and back surround)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via DTS Neo:6's bass management
most audio sources connected to a Neo:6-capable receiver
Dolby Pro Logic IIx up to 7.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 5 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via Pro Logic IIx's bass management
most audio sources connected to a Pro Logic IIx-capable receiver
Dolby Pro Logic IIz up to 9.1
  • 2-7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels, depending on audio source (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 2-7 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels, depending on audio source (front right height, front left height, center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 1 subwoofer channel (discrete, or via Pro Logic IIx's bass management, depending on audio source)
most audio sources connected to a Pro Logic IIz-capable receiver
Dolby Digital EX 6.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some DVDs are Dolby Digital EX-encoded, regular Dolby Digital 5.1 DVDs can also be used with a Dolby Digital EX decoder
THX Surround EX™ 6.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
can decode any Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital EX source, can be used to enhance Pro Logic, Pro Logic II, DTS, or DTS-ES decoding
DTS-ES™ 6.1
  • 6 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some DVDs are DTS-ES-encoded, regular DTS 5.1 DVDs can also be used with a DTS-ES decoder
Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some Blu-ray discs are encoded with Dolby Digital Plus can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
Dolby TrueHD (lossless) 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some Blu-ray discs are encoded with Dolby TrueHD can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system as a lossless format, offers sound that's "bit-for-bit" identical to the original recording for more detailed, accurate surround sound
DTS-HD™ 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some Blu-ray discs are encoded with DTS-HD can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless) 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
some Blu-ray discs are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system as a lossless format, offers sound that's "bit-for-bit" identical to the original recording for more detailed, accurate surround sound
Visit Abt Electronics for examples of what each unit sounds like. If you have a smaller room you may want to consider having less speakers to save space and money. If you are looking for an expertly designed home theater receiver, then the sky’s the limit!

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