Every high-performance home theater has one thing in common: a powerful AV receiver. This piece of equipment works to reproduce the cinematic experience by connecting all of the audio and visual elements of your setup. Most AV receivers are highly compatible, resulting in a multitude of acronyms and sockets that are confusing for first-time buyers. However, our team at SounDesign has put together a guide that leads you through each process of buying, installing, and calibrating an AV receiver that's ideal for your home theater.
Before you choose an AV receiver, there are three questions you should consider that will streamline your selection process.
How Many Speakers Will I Have?
In the most basic surround-sound system, you'll need five speakers and one subwoofer; known as a 5.1 system. Every AV receiver will have that capability, but let's say you'd potentially like to expand your sound system to the maximum 11 channels of surround sometime in the future. In that case, it's best to invest in a receiver with a capacity of 9 to 11 channels.
How Many Inputs Do I Need?
The answer to this question depends on the number of sources you would like to connect to your AV receiver. Do you plan to game with your PlayStation 5, watch movies with your Blu-Ray player, or stream your favorite show from Roku? It's essential to make sure every source you want to utilize has a matching input on your AV receiver.
What is my Budget?
If you're looking for something under $450, you can find an AV receiver that can handle 5.1 surround sound and a few inputs. If you want to experience more features, such as Wi-Fi, DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, 4K HDR passthrough, music streaming, or additional inputs, you can expect to spend $800. If you can afford $1,000 for your AV receiver, you'll be able to enjoy everything listed above with more power and polish. If you haven't decided on your budget, we recommend halving your speaker budget, with the resulting number being the higher range of a good AV receiver.
Now that you've purchased your AV receiver, it's time to hook it up to your system. If you set up your connections with the proper inputs, you won't have to deal with them anymore. First, power off your amp to prevent short-circuits in the system. Next, plug your sources into their respective connections, which have clear labels and color-coded inputs. AV receiver manufacturers create specific inputs for each source to operate at its best, including DVD, CD, Game, CBL/SAT, and HCP2.2, which corresponds with your Blu-Ray player. Although it might seem easier, we suggest skipping out on the Wi-Fi hookup for a more reliable ethernet connection.
Your AV receiver may take less time to calibrate than it took to set up. Most amps are equipped with an auto-calibration microphone that measures the room and your speakers to produce the optimal levels and distance. Once you plug in the microphone, follow the instructions displayed on your screen. Within minutes, your audio calibration will be complete! However, if your sound seems slightly off-balance, you can make manual adjustments to the speakers' distance and levels within the settings menu. Hold onto your setup microphone in case you want to rearrange your furniture; you'll need to recalibrate the system again. Lastly, turn off the dynamic range compression (DRC) in your settings so your neighbors aren't worried about the number of explosions coming from your movie night.
It's almost time to enjoy your movie night, but there’s one more step: exploring your audio and visual settings! Testing out sound and music effects is the most enjoyable aspect of the setup process. Surround sound modes, digital sound processing (DSP), Dolby or DTS modes boost different aspects of your audio. Certain settings like Sci-Fi, Drama, Adventure, and Game will highlight the audible aspects of these media. Certain audio effects imitate the acoustics of concert halls, jazz clubs, and even cathedrals. Simple filters like Straight, Direct, or Pure Direct produce a clean sound across media types. However, if you prefer a particular filter, you can create presets you can swap between for your movie, sporting event, or video game.
It's finally time to use your AV receiver for your home theater! Warm-up your AV receiver by "running it in," or playing it continuously for 24-48 hours before any serious watching. The more you use your amp, the better it will sound over time, which is a great excuse to binge-watch a new TV series. If you have questions about AV receiver brands or need help with the installation process, contact our team of certified professionals at SounDesign today to get started!
2521 Fairway Park Dr., Suite 402, Houston, TX