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In this article, we will be discussing whether or not you need an AV receiver for surround sound. We will explore the importance of an AV receiver in creating an immersive audio experience, and also discuss alternative options. By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of whether investing in an AV receiver is necessary for achieving high-quality surround sound in your home entertainment system.

Do You Need An AV Receiver For Surround Sound?


Surround sound systems have become increasingly popular in home theaters and entertainment setups, providing an immersive audio experience that enhances the overall viewing experience. To achieve this, an essential component in any surround sound system is the AV receiver. But what exactly is an AV receiver, and do you really need one for surround sound? In this article, we will explore the role of AV receivers, their importance in surround sound systems, and the factors to consider when choosing one.

What is an AV receiver?

An AV receiver, also known as an Audio/Video receiver, is a multi-channel audio amplifier that serves as the heart and brain of a home theater or surround sound system. It acts as a central hub, connecting various audio and video sources to speakers, delivering high-quality sound, and providing control and customization options for the user.

Overview of AV receivers

AV receivers typically have multiple audio inputs, such as HDMI, optical, and analog connections, allowing you to connect various devices like Blu-ray players, game consoles, media streamers, and cable/satellite boxes. They also have multiple audio outputs to connect different speakers, including front, center, surround, and subwoofer channels.

Features of AV receivers

In addition to their connectivity options, AV receivers come with a range of features that enhance the overall audio experience. These features can vary depending on the model and brand, but some common ones include:

  • Amplification: AV receivers amplify the audio signals from your source devices to power the speakers. They have built-in amplifiers that provide sufficient power output to drive multiple speakers simultaneously.

  • Audio decoding: AV receivers support various audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and others. They decode these formats to ensure that the audio is reproduced accurately and in surround sound.

  • Video processing: Many AV receivers also include video processing capabilities, allowing you to connect your video sources to the receiver and output them to your TV or projector. This simplifies the setup by reducing the number of cables required.

  • Digital signal processing (DSP): DSP technology enables AV receivers to optimize and enhance the audio quality by applying various audio effects, equalization, and room correction. This helps in achieving a balanced and immersive sound experience.

  • Networking and streaming: Some AV receivers feature built-in Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity, allowing you to access streaming services, internet radio, and music libraries directly from the receiver. This eliminates the need for additional devices and cables.

Importance of AV receivers in surround sound systems

Now that we have a basic understanding of what AV receivers are and their features, let’s explore their importance in surround sound systems. There are several reasons why an AV receiver is crucial for achieving the best possible audio experience.

Enhanced audio quality

One of the main reasons to invest in an AV receiver for your surround sound system is the significant improvement in audio quality. AV receivers are designed to amplify and process audio signals accurately, ensuring that each channel produces clear and detailed sound. With separate amplification for each speaker and advanced audio processing capabilities, AV receivers can create a more immersive and realistic soundstage.

Centralized control and connectivity

Another key advantage of AV receivers is the centralized control they provide. Rather than having multiple remotes and complicated setups, an AV receiver allows you to control all your audio sources, volume levels, and audio settings from a single device. This simplifies the user experience and eliminates the hassle of juggling multiple remotes or navigating through different menus.

AV receivers also offer a wide range of connectivity options, allowing you to connect all your audio and video sources through a single device. This eliminates the need for separate switches or cables and provides a clean and organized setup. You can easily switch between different sources and enjoy seamless connectivity without any signal degradation.

Support for multiple audio formats

In today’s audio landscape, there are various audio formats available, each with its unique characteristics and advantages. AV receivers are equipped to handle the most popular audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which provide a three-dimensional audio experience with sounds coming from all directions.

By investing in an AV receiver, you can future-proof your surround sound system and ensure compatibility with emerging audio formats. This allows you to fully enjoy the latest movies, music, and gaming experiences that are optimized for immersive surround sound.

Types of surround sound systems

Before delving further into the role of AV receivers in surround sound, let’s briefly understand the different types of surround sound systems available.

5.1 surround sound system

A 5.1 surround sound system consists of five speakers and one subwoofer. The five speakers typically include a center channel speaker for dialogue, two front speakers for the left and right audio channels, and two surround speakers for the rear left and right audio channels. The subwoofer is responsible for reproducing low-frequency sounds and adding depth to the overall audio experience.

7.1 surround sound system

A 7.1 surround sound system expands on the 5.1 setup by adding two additional surround speakers. These two speakers are placed on the sides of the listening area, providing a more immersive and enveloping sound field. This setup is ideal for larger rooms or for those who want an even greater sense of audio immersion.

9.1 surround sound system

A 9.1 surround sound system takes the audio experience to the next level by adding two additional front height speakers. These speakers are placed above the front left and right speakers, creating a three-dimensional soundstage with sounds appearing both around and above the listener. This setup offers an incredibly immersive audio experience, making you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.

Do You Need An AV Receiver For Surround Sound?

How AV receivers contribute to surround sound

Now that we have explored the different types of surround sound systems, let’s see how AV receivers contribute to creating a captivating surround sound experience.

Amplification of audio signals

One of the primary roles of an AV receiver is to amplify the audio signals from your source devices to power the speakers. Each speaker in a surround sound system requires its dedicated amplifier channel. AV receivers contain multiple amplifiers, each of which drives a specific speaker channel, ensuring that each speaker receives the necessary power to produce optimal sound.

By providing dedicated amplification for each speaker, AV receivers can deliver a balanced and dynamic sound experience. This means that the dialogue will be clearer, the soundtrack will be more impactful, and the special effects will have a greater sense of realism.

Decoding and processing audio formats

AV receivers play a crucial role in decoding and processing audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. These audio formats use object-based audio technology, allowing sound to be placed and moved around in a three-dimensional space.

When an AV receiver receives a signal in one of these formats, it decodes the audio and determines the precise location of each sound object. It then processes the audio to route the sounds to the appropriate speakers, ensuring that the listener perceives them coming from the correct direction.

This decoding and processing capability is what creates the immersive and realistic surround sound experience in movies, music, and games. It allows you to hear sounds coming from different directions, adding depth and dimension to the audio and making you feel like you’re a part of the action.

Routing and distributing audio signals

AV receivers act as the central hub for all your audio sources and speakers, allowing you to route and distribute audio signals effectively. They take the audio signals from your source devices, such as Blu-ray players or gaming consoles, and send them to the correct speakers based on the surround sound format.

For example, if a scene in a movie has a sound effect coming from the rear left speaker, the AV receiver will route that audio signal to the rear left speaker. Similarly, if the dialogue is supposed to come from the center channel speaker, the AV receiver will send the audio signal to that speaker.

This routing and distribution of audio signals ensure that each sound is reproduced accurately and in the intended location, creating a cohesive and realistic audio experience.

Support for multiple input and output devices

AV receivers offer extensive connectivity options, allowing you to connect multiple input and output devices. This means you can connect various source devices like Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, media streamers, and cable/satellite boxes to the AV receiver using different audio connections.

The AV receiver then processes and amplifies the audio signals from these devices and sends them to the appropriate speakers, creating the surround sound effect. This eliminates the need for separate amplifiers for each device and simplifies the overall setup.

Additionally, AV receivers often have multiple output channels, allowing you to connect different speaker configurations depending on your surround sound system. Whether you have a 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 setup, the AV receiver can accommodate it and provide the necessary amplification and routing for the audio signals.

Alternatives to AV receivers

While AV receivers are the go-to choice for most people when it comes to surround sound systems, there are a few alternatives worth considering depending on your specific needs and preferences.

Soundbars with built-in amplification

Soundbars are a popular alternative to AV receivers for those who want a simplified setup and a compact form factor. Soundbars are slim, single-unit speaker systems that typically include multiple built-in speakers and amplifiers in a single enclosure.

Many modern soundbars come with built-in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X technology, allowing them to create a virtual surround sound effect without the need for additional speakers. They often provide connectivity options like HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) or optical connections to connect to your TV or other audio sources.

However, it’s important to note that the audio performance of soundbars may not match that of a dedicated surround sound system with AV receivers. While soundbars can provide an improved audio experience compared to TV speakers, they might not offer the same level of immersion and accuracy as a full-fledged surround sound setup.

Separate amplifiers and preamp processors

For those who prefer a modular approach and want to have full control over the audio components of their setup, separate amplifiers and preamp processors are an alternative worth considering. Instead of a single device like an AV receiver, this setup involves using a separate power amplifier for amplification and a preamp processor for audio decoding and processing.

This setup allows for greater flexibility in terms of component selection and customization options. It also allows you to upgrade or replace individual components as needed, without having to replace the entire system.

However, this approach requires more space, additional cables, and a higher level of technical know-how. It may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who prefer a more user-friendly and streamlined setup.

Do You Need An AV Receiver For Surround Sound?

Factors to consider when choosing an AV receiver

If you have decided to go with an AV receiver for your surround sound system, there are several factors you should consider to ensure you choose the right one for your needs. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

Power output and channel configuration

The power output of an AV receiver determines how loud and dynamic the audio can be. It’s essential to choose an AV receiver that provides sufficient power for your speakers and the size of your room. Look for the RMS (Root Mean Square) power ratings, which indicate the continuous power output that the receiver can deliver.

You should also consider the channel configuration of the AV receiver. If you have a 5.1 setup, a receiver with at least five channels of power amplification is necessary. For a 7.1 or 9.1 setup, you will need an AV receiver that can provide additional amplification channels. Ensure that the receiver you choose has the necessary channel configuration to accommodate your desired speaker setup.

Audio decoding capabilities

Check the audio decoding capabilities of an AV receiver to ensure it supports the audio formats you plan to use in your surround sound system. Look for support for formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and others. Some receivers also offer upmixing technologies that can enhance the audio quality of non-surround sound formats.

Additionally, pay attention to the supported bit depths and sample rates, as higher values usually indicate better audio quality and fidelity. Higher bit depths and sample rates can result in greater detail and accuracy in the sound reproduction.

Connectivity options

Consider the connectivity options provided by the AV receiver to ensure compatibility with your source devices. HDMI is the most common and versatile connection for both audio and video signals. Look for an AV receiver with multiple HDMI inputs and outputs, preferably supporting the latest HDMI standards like HDMI 2.1. This will ensure compatibility with the latest video formats and allow for future expansion.

Other important connectivity options to consider include optical, coaxial, and analog audio inputs/outputs, as well as USB and network connections for streaming and accessing online content.

Compatibility with other devices

Check if the AV receiver is compatible with other devices that are essential to your setup. For example, if you plan to use a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, ensure that the AV receiver supports HDCP 2.2 and HDR (High Dynamic Range) pass-through to maintain the video quality and integrity.

If you have smart home devices or voice assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, look for AV receivers that offer compatibility and integration with these systems. This can enhance the overall user experience and provide convenient control options.

User-friendly interface and remote control

Consider the user interface and ease of use when choosing an AV receiver. Look for receivers with intuitive menus, on-screen displays, and user-friendly remote controls. This will ensure that you can easily navigate through the receiver’s settings and make adjustments without any hassle.

Some AV receivers also offer smartphone apps that allow you to control and configure the receiver from your mobile device. These apps can provide added convenience and flexibility, especially if you prefer using your smartphone as a universal remote.

Popular AV receiver brands

When it comes to AV receivers, there are several reputable brands known for their quality and performance. Here are some of the popular AV receiver brands worth considering:

Denon AV receivers

Denon is a well-respected brand known for its high-quality AV receivers. They offer a wide range of models catering to different budgets and feature requirements. Denon receivers are praised for their robust amplification, advanced audio processing technologies, and user-friendly interfaces.

Yamaha AV receivers

Yamaha is another trusted brand that has been producing AV receivers for many years. Yamaha receivers are known for their excellent sound quality, extensive connectivity options, and solid build quality. They offer various models suitable for both entry-level and high-end setups.

Marantz AV receivers

Marantz is often associated with premium audio equipment, and their AV receivers are no exception. Marantz receivers are renowned for their audiophile-grade sound quality, refined amplification, and stylish designs. They offer a range of models with advanced features and comprehensive connectivity options.

Onkyo AV receivers

Onkyo is a brand that is highly regarded for its value-for-money AV receivers. Onkyo receivers offer a blend of performance, features, and affordability. They come with a range of connectivity options, advanced audio processing capabilities, and user-friendly interfaces.

Pioneer AV receivers

Pioneer is a brand known for its commitment to audio quality and innovation. Pioneer receivers offer excellent sound performance, versatile connectivity options, and user-friendly interfaces. They offer models at various price points, making them accessible to a wide range of consumers.

These are just a few of the many AV receiver brands available in the market. It is advisable to research and compare different models and brands based on your specific requirements and budget before making a purchase decision.

Do You Need An AV Receiver For Surround Sound?

Cost of AV receivers

AV receivers are available at different price points, depending on the brand, features, and performance. Here is a general breakdown of the different cost categories:

Budget-friendly options

Budget-friendly AV receivers typically range from $200 to $500. These models offer basic audio and video processing capabilities, sufficient power output for small to medium-sized rooms, and standard connectivity options. While they may lack some advanced features, they can still deliver a satisfactory surround sound experience for entry-level users.

Mid-range options

Mid-range AV receivers range from $500 to $1,000. These models offer improved audio quality, more power output, and additional features like advanced audio processing, networking capabilities, and support for higher-resolution audio formats. They often provide more flexibility in terms of connectivity options and offer a better user interface and remote control experience.

High-end options

High-end AV receivers can cost upwards of $1,000, with some flagship models reaching several thousand dollars. These receivers offer top-of-the-line audio quality, exceptional amplification, and an extensive range of features and customization options. They often include advanced room correction technologies, multiple HDMI inputs/outputs, and support for the latest audio and video formats. High-end receivers are suitable for enthusiasts and those who demand the best-in-class performance from their audio systems.

It’s important to note that the cost of the AV receiver is just one part of the overall budget when setting up a surround sound system. You will also need to consider the cost of speakers, subwoofers, cables, and other accessories, which can vary significantly depending on the brand and quality you choose.

How to set up an AV receiver for surround sound

Setting up an AV receiver for surround sound requires careful consideration of speaker placement, calibration, and configuration. Here are some essential steps to follow:

Speaker placement and calibration

Proper speaker placement is crucial to achieving an optimum surround sound experience. Follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer for speaker placement, ensuring that each speaker is positioned correctly. Aim for an equal distance between the speakers, with the front speakers facing the listener and the surround speakers positioned to the side or behind the listener.

Calibration is an essential step to ensure that each speaker is producing sound at the correct level and that the audio is accurately reproduced. Most AV receivers come with an automatic room calibration system that can analyze the room’s acoustics and adjust the speaker settings accordingly. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to calibrate your speakers effectively.

Connection to audio and video sources

Connect your audio and video sources to the AV receiver using the appropriate cables. HDMI cables are the preferred choice, as they carry both audio and video signals in a single cable. Connect your source devices to the HDMI inputs on the AV receiver, ensuring the correct input is selected on the receiver.

For devices that don’t support HDMI, like older game consoles or CD players, use optical or analog connections to connect them to the AV receiver. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer for the specific connection options and settings.

Configuration and programming

Once your speakers and audio sources are connected, navigate through the AV receiver’s settings menu to configure the audio output options. This may include selecting the appropriate audio format, setting speaker distances and levels, and enabling any desired audio processing features.

Each AV receiver has a different interface and menu structure, so it’s important to consult the user manual or online resources provided by the manufacturer for detailed instructions on how to configure your specific receiver.

Do You Need An AV Receiver For Surround Sound?


In conclusion, an AV receiver is an essential component in any surround sound system, providing enhanced audio quality, centralized control, and support for a wide range of audio formats. AV receivers contribute to surround sound by amplifying audio signals, decoding and processing audio formats, routing audio signals to the correct speakers, and providing connectivity options for various input and output devices.

While there are alternatives to AV receivers such as soundbars and separate amplifiers and preamplifiers, AV receivers offer the most comprehensive and convenient solution for achieving an immersive surround sound experience.

When choosing an AV receiver, consider factors like power output, audio decoding capabilities, connectivity options, compatibility with other devices, user-friendly interfaces, and remote control options. Popular AV receiver brands include Denon, Yamaha, Marantz, Onkyo, and Pioneer. AV receivers are available in various price ranges, from budget-friendly options to high-end models catering to different performance levels and budgets.

Setting up an AV receiver for surround sound involves proper speaker placement, calibration, and configuration. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions to ensure optimal speaker performance and accurate audio reproduction.

Overall, investing in an AV receiver for your surround sound system is the key to achieving an immersive and immersive audio experience, allowing you to fully enjoy movies, music, and games in their intended form.