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Everything You Need To Know About Home Theater Receivers (part 3)

The amount of power you’ll need from a receiver depends on two factors: room size, as well as the performance characteristics of the speakers you’re pairing it with. An average power rating for a receiver is 100 watts per channel. That level of juice should be enough for a small to mid size home theater with a five satellite plus subwoofer speaker system. But large tower speakers, particularly those that use exotic technologies like planar magnetic or electrostatic drivers might require more amplifier power to handle the sonic peaks in an action movie than a 100 watt per channel receiver can provide.

Since a receiver is the brain of your system, you should try to maximize its features to make your life easier and more enjoyable. At minimum, you’ll want to take advantage of it’s tape loop functions to route signals to a CD or DVD recorder or VCR for basic audio and video recording. Many higher end models also provide a multi-zone audio output that lets you direct stereo music or radio programs to a secondary room such as a dinning area or kitchen.

A new feature found on some receivers is automatic equalization. While this feature varies from receiver to receiver, it’s typically used to improve sound quality be automatically adjusting parameters such as speaker crossover points. Auto-EQ can also adjust the bass and treble of individual audio channels to compensate for any issues with room acoustics. Receivers with auto usually come with a small microphone that’s used for initial setup. The receiver emits test tones from each speaker in sequence, while the microphone picks up the tones and provides feedback. This information is then used to automatically adjust speaker levels, speaker distance settings, and various EQ and room correction functions.

Buying a AV receiver with all its bundled extras is hands down the easiest way to get started when putting together a home theater. But there are also downsides to this approach. Stuffing numerous electronic components like a processor, and radio tuner together in a single chassis can increase background noise levels. Which is why audio purists prefer to buy those components separately. With new home theater innovations arriving at a lighting fast pace, buying separate components also gives you insurance against obsolescence, you can upgrade your processor without having to buy a new amplifier.