Two of the main factors to consider when looking for the best home theater processor are features and styling. You may want to consider all of the different types of audio and video you will need to run through your processor, and choose a unit capable of supporting them. The processor should also be capable of driving enough speakers to accommodate your home theater plans. Less expensive processors typically have a fixed set of codec and format compatibilities, while high end systems often allow you to upgrade the firmware or even hardware components later on. Styling is often a secondary concern, though your own personal preferences may affect how important the physical appearance of a home theater processor is.
A home theater processor is a device that you can plug all of your various audio or video components into. Unlike receivers, which contain amplifier components, home theater processors require external amplifiers. Processors typically have a number of audio out connections that need to be connected to an amplifier, which is in turn connected to the actual loudspeakers. These devices can also have a number of video out connections, and if budget is your biggest concern you may want to find a combined audio/video (A/V) processor.
When looking for the best processor, you will need to consider your own home theater setup. If you have an eight speaker system, then you will need to choose a home theater processor that supports at least that many audio channels. You will also need to find an amplifier that offers the same number of channels.
It can be important to take your output devices into account when looking for a home theater processor. You should choose a unit that supports the same formats as your existing equipment, or you may not be able to use it. It can also be a good idea to look for a unit that will allow you to update it in the future, as some processors have upgradeable hardware. An easier way to add new codecs to a home theater processor is through firmware updates.
If you want to be able to upscale your old video home system (VHS) and digital video disc (DVD) movies, you may want to look for a processor that is capable of doing so. Some processors are able to upscale standard video signals, and output them over high definition multimedia interface (HDMI). These units also commonly offer some type of on screen display (OSD) along with the video output, allowing you to view and change settings on your television screen.