Why You Should Buy A New AV Receiver
I’ve heard it a hundred times. "I have a perfectly good AV receiver but I can’t plug the HDMI cable that came with my new TV into it." While I may agree that you have a perfectly good receiver, I may also recommend replacing it with a new one. What?!? Next Step Audio Enhancement is all about helping people improve their home entertainment experience on a budget. How is replacing your receiver budget friendly? Please note that I said "may" and "recommend" above. Recommending a new receiver is just that, a recommendation. We can usually get an older receiver to work with a new TV, but the TV may not have the best picture quality it is capable of producing, and the sound quality will not be the best.
Working with Old Technology
As little as five years ago component RCA video and audio connections were the best that were available for most home theater systems. The RCA cables, also referred to as component cables, were initially used in sets of three. There was a video cable, identified by a yellow terminal, which carried analog red, green and blue video signals. The TV would decode and combine these signals to produce the picture on the screen. This video signal was sufficient for TV’s that were low definition and had smaller screen sizes (up to 40 inches measured diagonally). There was also a cable for the left audio channel that was identified by a white terminal, and a cable for the right audio channel that was identified by a red terminal.
Later generation TV’s had sets of five component cables. The single video cable, described above, was split into three cables carrying separate signals with more detailed video information. The more detailed information was needed for higher definition (720I or 720P) displays and larger screen sizes (up to about 50 inches measured diagonally). These three cables are described below. The Y cable, which was usually identified with Green terminals, carried the Luma (luminance or brightness) and synchronization information. The PB cable, which was usually identified with Blue terminals, carried a signal with the difference between Blue and Luma (B − Y). Finally, the PR, which was usually identified with Orange terminals, carried a signal with the difference between Red and Luma (R − Y). The Green signal was now redundant as green can be derived from the Y, PB, and PR signal information. The cables for LH and RH audio signal information were still used. All of the component cable combinations above carried analog signals to the TV.
In addition to the digital HD picture information, HDMI cables pass along digital HD sound information. This digital information has advanced audio coding, also called format, imbedded in the signal.
Any flat screen TV that has component inputs on the back can still process the analog signals and produce a low definition picture along with LH and RH audio output. The five cable analog inputs helped a lot but they still used analog information that is not capable of carrying today’s high definition signals. All flat screen TV’s sold today are either 1040 HD or 4K Ultra HD sets. Using cables that can only support a low definition picture kinda defeats the purpose of buying a new TV.
We can usually get around this limitation by running HDMI cables from the cable box and DVD (or Blu-Ray) player to the TV’s HDMI inputs. That will get the HD video signal to the TV and allow it to produce a HD picture, but the sound is still going through the TV’s speakers. Running component cables to an old AV receiver will be a vast improvement over the TV’s speakers, but still only result in low definition sound, the sound will just come from more speakers. Older receivers basically send the same RH and LH sound signals to the rear speakers at a lower volume. They also send the low range sounds to the sub-woofer. The end result is a more immersive sound stage with better bass response, but not true surround sound.
Another advantage of a new AV receiver is the reduction of cables needed for a home theater system.
In addition to the digital HD picture information, HDMI cables pass along digital HD sound information. This digital information has advanced audio coding, also called format, imbedded in the signal. A few of the audio formats that most AV receivers are compatible with are Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic IIz/Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, & FLAC/WAV 192 kHz playback. Film makers use these formats when producing movies. The different formats allow the film maker to locate sound in space. For example, when a gunshot originates off-screen to the right and behind the viewer, the sound of that gunshot should come primarily from the right rear surround speaker. This happens because a new AV receiver interprets the digital audio format and sends the sound signals to the proper speaker channels.
Another advantage of a new AV receiver is the reduction of cables needed for a home theater system. New AV receivers have multiple HDMI inputs. This means that the cable box, Blu-Ray player, CD player, ROKU stick, etc., can all be plugged in to the receiver. In addition, there is also at least one HDMI output that runs to the TV. That means that instead of multiple sets of three or five component cables, or multiple HDMI cables running to the back of the TV, there is only one HDMI cable. The AV receiver sends the video signal through to the TV and sends the audio signals to the surround sound speakers. Neat, huh?
How Much Do I Need To Spend On An AV Receiver?
This conversation started because you just dropped a chunk of change on a new TV. Now you are being asked to spend more on an AV receiver? That doesn’t seem to fit with the Next Step philosophy of budget minded home theater improvement. Once again I will point out that a new receiver is only a recommendation. As noted above we can make the new TV work, so you can enjoy it until the time is right for you to take the Next Step and get a new AV receiver.
When that time comes, there are dozens of receivers available for under $500.00. We can help you make a decision as to which receiver is right for you based on your budget, your wants and your existing components. The price of a receiver goes up depending on the number of inputs and outputs along with the number of speakers supported, the wattage of the output to the speakers, and the receiver's feature list. Generally speaking though, a $500.00 AV receiver will usually outperform an older analog receiver, even if the old receiver cost much more than $500.00 when new.
In our quest to experience the best that Hollywood has to offer in our homes, there are many decisions that need to be made. As with any system that has many parts, some decisions can lead to others. The beauty of this quest is that there are many paths that lead to the end goal. Each of these paths can be navigated one step at a time, and every goal is specific to the one undertaking the quest. Next Step Audio Enhancement is here to help you navigate the path of your quest, wherever that path may lead.
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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