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AV Receivers

Buying Guide
So you want to build your own home theater system or stereo system? Well...
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Buying Guide

So you want to build your own home theater system or stereo system?
Well you've got a plethora of choices out there, so many in fact that it can be downright confusing at times.

Often times you'll have lots of technical jargon thrown at you and salespeople trying to sell you with these fancy words and things you might not understand. Like impedance, or Dolby DTS, sampling rates and Signal to noise ratio and many,many more. The fancy words aside, there are a few things you can take a look at easily to determine what receiver is right for you without knowledge of all of the fancy technical terms and jargon used today.

Which one is right for you?
-Well that can and will be determined by several factors, many of which are often overlooked by most consumers.

Price:
In this day and age when it seems the prices of everything are on the rise, the price of luxury items has become and important factor in our buying decisions. If you've got money to spare then it's not a big deal, but most of use don't and are very concerned about getting the best value for our money and a product with the features we want at the cost we are willing to accept.

Power:
The power of a receiver is very important in determining which one you want to get and what other components are going to be used with it, specifically the speakers. You'll want a system that will be able to effectively power the speakers you choose. Some people choose the speakers first then the receiver, but it's best to choose the receiver first then find speakers that will work well with it.

Build Quality:
If you can examine the receiver you are interested in first hand, check all of the connections to see if they feel or look cheap, and of course check the overall look and feel of the unit. Something else to consider is the weight of the unit itself, while lightweight might be appealing to most people, it's sometimes considered a sign that the product is made with inferior parts, with receivers oftentimes the heavier the better. If the unit is heavy that usually means there are more parts inside, more heat sinks where they need to be and a good power supply is built into the unit. While this isn't a steadfast rule for determining the quality, it is a good indication of what's inside.

Inside the Unit.
If possible take a peek inside the unit, check the power supply, check for heat sinks, you don't want your unit to overheat on you, this can cause sound dropouts, and it can cause the unit to shut down or even possibly destroy the unit itself from the excess heat. I've personally had a receiver die on me because of inadequate heat sinks, so I know first hand about this. Taking it to the shop it was fixed at no cost, but still I was out of a receiver for quite some time while it was being fixed.

Sound:
Sound quality is probably the most important feature to look at or 'hear at' as it were. The sound quality of the receiver will determine all of your experiences from there on out, no matter what speakers you buy, if the receiver has poorly made components it will not sound good. A very easy way to determine sound quality is using nothing at all really, in a quiet are turn up the volume, if you hear static, hissing, crackling etc then the pre-amp inside might not be that good of quality and it's one that you will not want to purchase.

Surround Sound Quality:
You're buying an AV Receiver most likely to control and be the centerpiece of your home theater system which will most likely be surround sound based. If you're intending on using several speakers including a center channel for the voices, test it out first if you can. Put a movie in, check the sound quality to see if everything is where it's supposed to be in the sound field, like the voices only coming from the center channel and not hearing them from any other speakers. With surround sound quality you'll also want to pay attention to the surround sound encoding choices offered by the receiver, the more the better usually, this gives you a great freedom of expansion or upgrade ability for your system in the future.

Connections:
This is a very important thing to look at when buying a receiver, if you're building a system from scratch then it's most likely you've got several other components in mind that you want to go with the receiver, you'll need to make sure they all work together. If you're upgrading your receiver or adding existing components to the receiver then the same thing applies of course. Once thing people often overlook though when it comes to the connections is expandability and the ability to upgrade in the future. If you use all of the connections for your current components you won't be able to add anything else if you wish to expand your system, some receivers come with dual inputs for many components and can come with several auxiliary connections that can be used to add onto the system. Even if at the present time you have no use for an HDMI or Optical connections you might have a use for them in the future, so it's nice to have the connection there if need be especially since technology is always evolving and changing.

Aesthetics:
Not as important as the others but still something you might want to consider is what does the unit look like? Do you want some hulking ugly beast in your home theater? I know I wouldn't, many are designed with aesthetics in mind but some aren't really or at least what they consider good looking isn't good looking to me.

Remotes:
The remote control is very important as it will most likely be the main way you control your system, you don't want one that is overcomplicated, too small or too big. You'll want one that is easy to use, and has buttons that are arranged well with the most common ones within easy reach. Some remotes can come with a back light, this is a great feature so you won't be fumbling in the dark to find a button. Most remotes, but not all, that come with receivers are capable of controlling other devices, make sure the included remote has enough options to control all of the devices that you will be adding to your system.

Expandability and Further Features:
This feature was mentioned in the connections section, but what I mean here is that some receivers come with USB connections that will enable you to connect a USB drive to possibly play your mp3s.

Optional/Added Features:
Some receivers are Bluetooth enabled , compatible with ipods, and even satellite radio capable. Of course these features will add more to the price, but to some they are well worth it.

Displays:
Some receivers have a built in display on the unit to show you what's playing like song titles, artists and more. Some of them are even capable of displaying this information on your TV screen as well, so if that's something you like then check to see if it's available on the unit you are interested in.

Presets:
How many presets do you need? Some can have 40 or more presets, while some can have less, how many do you need or use?

The AV Receiver that you finally decide upon will determine your experiences from there on out, it can be a very expensive purchase that you'll most likely use a lot and have for a long time. You want to be sure you get one that will be reliable, sound good and overall be easy to use for you and your family.

Whenever possible try the receiver before buying it, make sure it can do what you want and need it to do, check it out thoroughly from all angles and aspects to make sure it's exactly what you want. The right receiver can make a world of difference in your home theater system and your overall enjoyment of your movies and music.

Look around for reviews and find what other people have to say about the receiver you intend to purchase. You can learn quite a bit from what other people tell you about their own experiences with any product. Sites like TestFreaks can offer a slew of great information in helping you decide on whether or not to purchase any product and can be invaluable when it comes to making a large dollar value purchase.

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