How Do I Choose the Best Stereo Receiver?

M. Kayo

Before going to a local electronics store or searching online for the best stereo receiver, it pays to do a bit of homework and take a look at all the available options. The receiver handles a number of functions including providing power to the speakers, tuning into AM and FM radio stations, allowing you to specifically design the type of sound for a particular room, and providing a switching function between audio and video components. First, determine if the stereo receiver will be primarily used as an audio system or serve as the driver for a home theater system. Other key considerations include adaptability and connectivity, just in case you want to add more components to the stereo system later on or provide stereo sound in another room.

First determine whether the stereo receiver will primarily power an audio system or be used in a home theater setup.
First determine whether the stereo receiver will primarily power an audio system or be used in a home theater setup.

If you just want to provide quality stereo sound to a single room, a simple receiver will work well. If you want to add surround-sound to your home theater system or add simultaneous stereo sound to another room, then consider buying a home theater stereo receiver. A home theater stereo receiver can provide music, movies, TV and video games in surround-sound. They can provide Dolby® Digital and DTS® soundtracks for HDTV broadcasts, DVDs and other types of programming. Other models are equipped to handle the advanced surround-sound formats like Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD® Master Audio typically found on Blu-ray® high definition video discs and players.

A stereo receiver may be used for television purposes.
A stereo receiver may be used for television purposes.

If your kids want to watch a movie in surround-sound in one room and you want to listen to classical music in another room, determine in advance whether you want a 5.1-surround sound system or a 7.1-surround sound system. Some receivers allow a user to watch a movie and experience surround-sound as part of a home theater system on five channels while simultaneously playing music in another room on two additional channels without an using additional stereo receiver. These advanced seven channel stereo receivers will typically utilize five channels for a home theater system while providing two more stereo channels for speakers in a different room.

One of the most important factors in choosing the best receiver is power. The most basic rule is to make sure the receiver has enough power to provide optimal sound quality from the speakers. A good stereo receiver will require more power to provide quality sound in a large space. Typically, stereo receivers with a higher wattage produce better quality, more dynamic sound. The quality and volume of sound that a receiver produces, however, can be more accurately determined by looking for the full-bandwidth power rating. This information is usually listed alongside the amplifier power rating.

Connectivity is also an important consideration when looking to purchase a quality stereo receiver. Look for receivers with a wide variety of input and output connections. Later on, you may want to add components, like a turntable, component-style CD burner, satellite TV tuner, DVD player, game console or other device. Selecting an advanced stereo receiver with a number of input and output connections allows plenty of space to expand your stereo system or to add additional components.

Another feature to consider when choosing the best stereo receiver is its capability to handle subscription-based satellite radio that requires an optional tuner and antenna. In addition, people often carry their music collection with them, and the capacity to interface with an mp3 player is another function available in many stereo receivers. Other receivers have the built-in networking capability for playing music from a PC via an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection.

If you plan to add other components made by the same manufacturer, they will all likely respond to the remote control that comes with your receiver. If you plan to use multiple brands of stereo components or to add other components to your stereo receiver, however, think about getting a multi-brand remote control that comes loaded with the codes to operate all of your stereo components from a single remote control.

A stereo receiver can be used to create surround sound in home theaters.
A stereo receiver can be used to create surround sound in home theaters.

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