Some argue that all receivers sound the same, while others vehemently disagree. The most honest answer is, “You both may be right, to a point.” Much depends on ear sensitivity, room acoustics, and room sizes, but overall, receivers don’t all sound the same.
All receivers don’t sound the same, but if you’re not an audio enthusiast, you most likely won’t even hear a difference. Some have a better power supply, higher quality DACs, higher current output devices, and more heat sink areas, making them sound different. Still, speakers are a more important component for excellent sound.
The rest of this article will explain a few topics related to this question in more detail. Receivers are manufactured for different consumer needs, but we’ll focus on AV receivers for home entertainment systems in this article.
Do Receivers Make a Difference in Sound Quality?
In theory, receivers should all sound the same because they have the same functions:
- Connecting and switching audio and video sources.
- Decode surround-sound formats.
- Amplifying audio signals.
The difference in sound quality comes from how the receivers are built.
Like most products, receivers are mass-produced, and manufacturers have price points that they want to meet. Naturally, they make choices between quality and quantity, depending on their target customer base.
With each passing year, new technologies emerge, and customers demand more components in the receiver for the same price, so the manufacturers have to make choices to keep units affordable. Additionally, the cost of raw materials continues to rise. So naturally, manufacturer cost-cutting decisions mean that all receivers will not sound the same.
To explain, as consumer demands evolve, such as additional channel requirements and new output options, and new technologies emerge such as 4K or 8K resolutions, manufacturers have to cut corners to offer the latest specs. The first cut is generally power supply, but this cut impacts output the most.
There’s a lot of math involved in how receivers and their associated power supplies work together. Still, to simplify the concept, amplifiers require DC voltage to amplify the input signal.
The general assumption is that the higher the current, the more sound. The problem is that when the necessary voltage is unavailable, the amplifier tries to increase the signal, resulting in distortion or clipping, and the receiver generates more heat.
Once the heat increases, so does the resistance, and the receiver will either reach a static operating temperature or burn up.
The simple solution for manufacturers is to supply the receiver with a dedicated power station; however, material costs involved in this type of upgrade would cause vendors to lose money or price themselves out of the market.
Tips for Tweaking Your Current Receiver Sound
There are many tweaks to your current system you can consider before deciding to purchase a new receiver. Here are some ideas to try:
Consider Speaker Placement
Make sure you place your speakers for optimal output. Many consumers have the speakers positioned in the room correctly vertically but out of place horizontally. Your surround speakers should be on each side of your listening position, and your rear sound, of course, should be behind you. Plus, they should be head height considering where you’ll be sitting.
Recalibrate Your AVR
Your unit should come with a calibration mode, though you may need to purchase a microphone if one doesn’t come with your receiver.
While in calibration mode, you are prompted to move to different room positions so the AVR can send signals to your speakers, which the microphone will pick up. The result is a set of sound levels for each channel that can then be fine-tuned by ear.
Choose the Best Surround Sound Format
Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master are best, but many receivers come preset with Dolby and DTS formats. So, go over your device’s settings and see if the sound format is configured correctly.
It’s also a good idea to check your device’s ventilation. Receivers create a lot of heat, so make sure there’s adequate air circulation to avoid damages to your device.
If these tips don’t improve the sound, it may be time to buy a new receiver.
Reasons To Buy a New Receiver
Considering that new technology emerges every five years or so, it probably will not take much to convince many consumers to purchase a new AV receiver for their home theater, whether or not sound is the primary motivator. Here are some additional reasons to buy a new receiver:
- Wireless streaming is possible with newer models. While this feature would not be my sole reason to upgrade, if I was on the fence, it’s a convenient feature to have.
- You have purchased more devices than your receiver has inputs for. Five years ago, two HDMI inputs were sufficient, but today many more devices use HDMI, so you will likely need more outputs.
- You want to enhance the viewing experience from HD to 4K resolution. (Remember that 8K resolution is already available, so the price for 4K is now within reach for many consumers.)
None of the reasons above will impact sound quality, but if you’re searching for better sound, considering these options before making your purchase can save you time and money.
AV Receiver Recommendations
Here are some AV Receiver available on Amazon.com:
This unit is a favorite because it connects with HEOS or HDMI and comes equipped for 3D, 4K, and 8K resolution.
It supports 9.2 channels and has a 105W at 8Ohms power output. In addition, it has 7 HDMI outputs plus RCA, optical Stereo, and CoAxial inputs. The power boost will make the receiver sound better for audiophiles than the less expensive AVR S960H.
This Denon device comes at a lower price point but is still built for gaming, music streaming, and 3D audio and video. It, too, is ready for both 4K and 8K resolution when you upgrade your TV.
The price difference is due to the 7.2 channel versus the 9.2 and the power output difference. However, the average home cinema user will be happy with this receiver. Further, only consumers with incredibly receptive ears will hear a difference between it and the AVR X3700H, so guests to your home cinema will be pleased too.
Another top device that makes our list is the Yamaha RX-V4A. The unit is ready for 4K and 8K resolution and comes with an affordable price tag. It offers HDMI, AirPlay, and Wi-Fi connectivity. You can also control the device using digital assistants like Siri and Alexa.
This Yamaha unit has enhanced gaming functionality, letting you play your favorite games with a variable refresh rate and lower latency.
You can get incredible sound quality if you connect your device to MusicCast 50 or two MusicCast 20 wireless rear speakers, letting you create a 5.1-channel home theater.
From a technical and listening experience standpoint, receivers don’t sound the same, though many disagree. The difference, in part, is because of human factors, such as ear sensitivity, room size, and room acoustics. However, receivers also sound different based on the quality of parts the manufacturers used. The adage, “you get what you pay for,” applies here.
Receivers made with better internal components with the best available raw materials naturally sound better than those cheaply made. Either way, though, a receiver coupled with the right speakers will enhance any listening experience when the system is set up correctly.