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Buying Guides - Receivers

About Receivers

The receiver serves as command central of an audio/video system. It amplifies signals from the stereo components to achieve a certain volume and it helps customize your stereo's sound. Most receivers on the market today are designed for audio/video surround sound and for use with Dolby® Pro Logic® or Dolby® Digital decoding. Receivers actually serve as several components in one.


Receives AM and FM radio stations.


Operates the basic control functions (volume, treble, bass, etc.) and allows you to switch audio and video inputs and outputs.

Surround processor

Decodes the surround sound information and directs the channels of information to the speakers.

Power amplifier

Drives electrical signals to the speakers. The power an amplifier produces is measured in watts per channel. The higher the watts, the louder and cleaner the speakers will sound.

Ask Yourself These Questions...

How many inputs will I need, now and in the future?

Since the receiver serves as the hub of your audio/video system, make sure it has enough audio and video inputs and outputs to handle your sources (VCR, tape, CD, TV, DVD, DSS, digital cable, etc.). For example, look for S-video inputs/outputs if your television has an S-video input or a digital RF input if you own a laser disc player.

What kind of remote control comes with the receiver and will it be compatible with my other components?

A standard remote controls only the receiver. Audio/video remotes operate several components, provided they are from the same manufacturer. Multibrand remotes have internal coding that enable them to operate many component brands. Learning remotes can be programmed to operate other electronic brands. LCD remotes send messages to the receiver and display information from the receiver.

Does the receiver have expansion capabilities?

In other words, if you choose to add DTS® or Dolby® Digital, DVD-Audio, SACD or a satellite in the future, will the receiver accommodate it? What if you want to add a turntable? (Some receivers on the market today have eliminated turntable compatibility.)

How much do you want to spend?

Stereo and Dolby® Pro Logic® receivers are generally less expensive than Dolby® Digital and DTS® receivers.

Consider These Important Features...


The makeup of a receiver has a lot to do with its quality. Here are some quality construction indicators to look for:

  • separate internal circuitry rather than integrated circuit chips;
  • large filter capacity to store energy;
  • large power transformers;
  • high current capability; and
  • wide power bandwidth.


Surround format

The majority of receivers offer Dolby® Digital (AC-3) and Dolby® Pro Logic® surround sound formats

Rear surround power

For digital receivers, make sure the front and channels are powered equally. This encourages full surround sound effects.

Remote control

Remotes vary by manufacturer, but most remotes fall into one of five categories: standard, audio/video, multibrand, learning and LCD.

Total harmonic distortion (THD)

This is the amount of internal noise generated by the amplifier section of the receiver. THD is measured in percent and, in general, the lower the number, the better.

Front panel inputs

This makes it convenient to connect camcorders, video games, digital cameras and other components to the receiver.

5.1 Channel outputs

Provide surround sound to five speakers and a subwoofer.