Why You Need an AVR
With the whirling assortment of media devices available, one thing that deserves emphatic appreciation is a device that simplifies all of them into one entertainment router called an AVR or Audio/Video Receiver. It’s essentially a network hub for all your media from your Blu-ray player, your satellite or cable box, your iPod, your Xbox or PS3, your Sirius or XM Radio, and now your computer to your surround sound speakers and HDTV set. It’s easy to operate and gives you access to all of your movies, TV shows, songs, and photos with one remote in just a few button clicks.

The best part is the surround sound audio –which is complete audio immersion. TVs aren’t built with “real” surround sound speakers, nor do they typically have the muscle to power extra speakers. Most come with two built-in Dolby stereo speakers that “simulate” surround sound –and not very well. The movie audio on TVs would make George Lucas cry. Films like Avatar and games like Call of Duty spend an incredible amount of time and resources on surround sound design with a kaleidoscope of intricate audio details in every scene. And without the right equipment to hear it, you’re left listening to mostly monotone dialogue and poor-quality bass. It’s a shame to experience the stunning visual quality of HDTV and miss out on all the amazing HD audio in your movies and music.

Theater-style surround sound audio is just the beginning of what these AVRs can do. You can stream music and movies from your computer to your TV, without having to point and click, and dig around for your files. AVRs access a shared media folder and deliver it to your speakers and HDTV -instantly. Plus, HD video streaming from computers is likely to be the wave of the future and these AVRs give you that power –straight away. Need another reason to step into the world of AVRs? How about built-in Blu-ray players, which saves you from having to drop more money on yet another component to take up even more space. That’s another thing, AVRs are space-conscious and likely to be very spouse-friendly – fewer cords and less clutter.

What to Look for in
Surround Sound

It breaks down like this: a 5.1 channel AVR is probably all you need for most surround sound. There are 7.1 capable AVRs (for 2 extra rear speakers) out there, but most movies, games, TV shows, and DVD-Audio music only use the 5.1 design for now. However, picking up a 7.1 channel AVR gives you the option of speaker expansion and future-proofs your AVR for when 7.1 becomes more mainstream, because that’s where sound design is likely headed. Dolby DTS decoding gets you discrete 5.1 channels and works incredibly well, but for lossless audio (an exact replication of the studio recording) go with Dolby TrueHD or DTS-Master Audio decoding on a five or seven speaker configuration. It doesn’t get any better than what the audio engineers recorded in the studio, so AVRs that deliver lossless audio are likely to last you for years and years to come.
HDMI, Blu-ray, & 3D
If you’ve held off on getting that Blu-ray player, getting an AVR with a built-in Blu-ray player makes good economic sense, because you’re going to plunk down $100 or more on one anyway, why not spend the extra money and get all the benefits of the AVR along with it. We recommend selecting an AVR with at least 4 or more HDMI ports for component switching from one HD device to another, and one that does upconverting, which scales up non-HD video sources like DVDs to 1080p, so you don’t have to run out and upgrade all your DVDs to Blu-ray. But be warned, upconverting does not look like a Blu-ray HD –not even close, but it’s better than no upconversion. Want to connect that 3D TV you just bought or are getting when the prices drop? Choose an AVR with an HDMI 1.4a port. Otherwise, the HDMI 1.3 is good for non-3D components.
New AVR Features
Most AVRs come with auto-audio calibration for speaker configuration and it works very well. Audiophiles can sink their teeth into the manual calibration option for precise acoustic tailoring. New iPod docks and bridges are another reason you need an AVR –just plug in and play all your tunes right away. Higher-end AVRs come with Sirius & XM Radio tuners built-in. You have to buy a subscription, of course, to take advantage of it, but it’s a nice option to have. Expect to see lots of Internet & computer connected options like Ethernet, USB, and even Wi-Fi for streaming Pandora, listening to iTunes, and viewing your party or vacation photos on your TV. If you’ve seen the DLNA logo and wondered what it was, it’s an easy way to connect to your computer or other DLNA-certified media devices with a hardwired or wireless connection and access all the photos and music on them. The multi-zone feature on AVRs extends your music to speakers in other rooms or even outside with one button –which is really cool for those get-togethers that could use a healthy dose of music energy.

An AVR is a very important component in your home theater system. You can pick up a good one for around $500. The best part is, the AVR surround sound feature can last you for 10 or more years, despite media technology evolution, because audio technology changes very little over the years. The Dolby TrueHD or DTS-Master Audio on AVRs is exactly what they record in the studio, so how much better can you get than that?

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Audio-Video Receivers

Interesting, and of course the average television has the cheapest audio system that the manufacturer believes that they can get away with. No question about that. So a better quality device would indeed provide a clear benefit, and probably a neater installation as well.

But the repeated plugs for blue-ray players, totally refusing to acknowledge the fact that most of us see no reason at all to consider having one, is a bit damaging to your credibility. Either you really do believe that this unneeded mode is what everybody should have, or you have fallen for the hype. Blue-ray is just simply an invention seeking to be adopted primarily to make money for the sellers, without offering any real advantage for the users.