What to Look For in a Home Theater Receiver

HiFi Amplifier on a shelf

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To get the most out of your home theater system, you need to add something extra to give you that extra kick. This is in the form of a good quality receiver so you can enjoy your videos or music the way you want.

We’ll take a closer look at which receiver you need to create the best movie night setup. Most of them include great features to make your home theater an absolute joy and more fun.

So, let’s not waste any more time investigating what you need to look for in a home theater receiver.

What is a Home Theater Receiver?

While most of us know what a receiver for the home theater is, some don’t, and this is for them. This electronic device, also known as an amplifier, is included in your home theater setup to receive video and audio signals.

The signals received from different sources are amplified and then sent to your speakers or other output devices such as a TV or projector. The signals can come from anything, such as the radio, satellite receiver, video game consoles, DVD player, Blu-Ray-disc player, or even your smartphone.

A receiver comes with a range of features and different inputs, making it easier to integrate it into your home theater setup.

Types of Receivers

There are two main types of home theater receivers, namely stereo receivers and audio/video receivers.

Stereo Receiver

This type of receiver has an amplifier for both channels and is mostly used for listening to audio output. This device will power your speakers and the setup can be connected to your TV to function as a stereo output.

However, this device will not provide you with surround sound and other advanced sound setups for your home theater.

Audio/Video Receiver

This device, also known as an AVR or AV receiver, is the better option for movies and surround sound output. It is also more expensive than a stereo receiver but comes with great features added to make watching movies at home even better.

These receivers are designed for video output and to be used with your TV or projector for a high-quality video experience.

Denon Home Theatre Receiver in Audio Cabinet

What to Look For in a Receiver

We can now get down to business and take a closer look at what you need to look for and what you want from it. You will find that there is more to this device than meets the eye, and the following are some of the features you want.

Is Your Receiver 4K Compatible?

You may not have a 4K TV yet, but the chances are that your TV will have this feature built into it. You need to have that in your receiver as well to make full use of the video quality from this great modern feature.

Even if you don’t want this feature in your receiver, it will become standard in most TVs and other video devices. So, you can’t really avoid this in your future and that of your home theater receiver.

The Number of Channels Provided

This is a very important factor for your receiver; you can’t buy a five-channel receiver if you have seven speakers. For a two-subwoofer setup, your receiver must also have two sub outputs to accommodate your number of subs.

Make sure you have the correct number of channels available on the receiver to accommodate your system.

Are There Phono Inputs?

If you want to add a turntable or similar equipment to your home theater system, you’ll need this input on your receiver. If it doesn’t have a phono input, you will have to buy an extra device, called a pre-amp, to connect it with your system.

Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a more expensive turntable with a pre-amp built into it.

Does the Receiver Have HDMI ARC?

ARC is an audio return channel, meaning the same cable can send video and sound to and from the TV. The sound coming from the TV will then be sent through the receiver out to your speakers for better sound quality.

This great feature will help save up some of your channels for other devices and effects.

Can the Receiver Handle Dolby Atmos?

This great technology adds some height to your surround sound to improve the overall sound quality. This is not essential because the Blu-Ray Dolby Atmos will add that capability to your receiver for better quality.

It will be great to have this capability available, so you don’t need to have the Blu-Ray feature, for example, when you are streaming.

The Zone Control Feature

This is a very nice feature to have, as it allows you to run more than one device through the receiver with different outputs. Meaning that you can have a turntable in one room and a DVD player in another room and run them through the same receiver.

Some of the devices come with up to four different signals with the zone control feature.

Impedance and Power

Make sure you know the speaker’s power and impedance, which can be found with the wattage and RMS power handling (the power handling capability of your speakers or average output). Once you know the power and impedance, compare that with the rated output power of the receiver.

These figures must be in range with each other to provide the best results.

Total Harmonic Distortion

THD is what measures the amount of distortion of the sound or how much it is affected when it goes through your receiver. Most people will not notice the difference unless it is really high, but it’s best if it is less than one percent.

A good receiver will be around 0.08% or lower for the best results.

Streaming and Wireless Connection

Most of us listen to music on our smartphones through streaming services, which is a vital part of the entertainment experience. Almost all modern receivers have these capabilities and are compatible with many different types of connections, such as Airplay or Alexa.

It will be a handy feature to have and will become standard in most receivers.

You can also add a wireless unit to power remote speakers without running wires but any home theatre receiver can handle it as it uses the normal speaker outs. We talk more about that in this article on the Dynasty ProAudio wireless speaker kit.

Future proofing

When I bought my Denon AVR-x4500h Amp I bought it knowing that I would get ongoing Firmware updates and that it had a few features build in that meant if technology changed, I’d be ready for it. The inclusion of as many audio codec formats is ideal including Dolby Atmos, Aura etc.


Before going out to buy a new receiver, you should make a list of what types of output and connections you want it to have. Hopefully, this will help you know what to look for and make it easier to decide what you want to do with your home theater receiver.

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

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