Why Receivers?

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Why receivers?

A match made in heaven

The receiver is the heart of a home entertainment system. It amplifies all the sound, decodes surround sound, receives AM/FM radio, and acts as the control centre for your system. One of the most reliable components, receivers rarely break down or lose their capabilities over time. That's why you should always take into account your present and future needs when choosing a receiver.

Bang & Olufsen, by way of integrating their products, have invested a lot of time in effort in putting their products together. BeoLab 5000 of 1967 represented the world's first true hi-fi stereo receiver; to this date the company has been leading the world with yet more sophisticated and effective models.

What are my options?

There are two types of receivers: stereo and surround. Stereo receivers are conventional two-channel receivers that may be used to play music recorded in two channels, such as CDs, LPs, minidiscs and audio cassettes. Surround receivers process up to six channels of sound. Besides accommodating traditional two-channel sources, multi-channel surround receivers can deliver the multiple-channel sound necessary for six channel home cinema audio - the kind that comes on DVD movie discs.

How much should I spend?

The more you pay for a receiver, the more you'll get. A good stereo receiver with remote control could cost under 200 euros or £120. Surround receivers start at about 200 euros. As you add power and features, then prices go up.

Should I buy a stereo or surround receiver?

Multi-channel audio is the future. If this receiver is going to be the only receiver in your home, or anywhere near your TV, you will need a multi-channel surround receiver. Surround receivers will play all your music sources, as well as offering you the option of creating a surround system for audio or home cinema - either now or in the future. On the other hand, if you are certain you will only use the receiver to listen to two-channel stereo music, you can get very powerful, high-quality product for very little money.

How much power do I need?

It is pretty much impossible to have too much power. The power a receiver can produce is measured in watts per channel. The minimum power rating for a receiver is around 30 watts per channel; the most powerful receivers are rated upwards of 100 watts per channel. A surround sound receiver will have four or five amplifiers, one for each speaker. A surround sound receiver might be rated '5 x 100 watts'. This indicates that the receiver has five built-in 100-watt amplifiers to drive each speaker in a surround sound system.

The amount of power you need also depends on the speakers you have, the size of the room you intend to use the system in, and how loud you're going to be listening.

The more power you have, the louder your speakers will play before the sound distorts. Some speakers require more power than others to play at the same level. Matching your receiver to your speakers simply involves making sure you have enough power to play them at the highest volume you'd like to listen.

Generally, an amplifier of 100 watts per channel is enough to play nearly any speaker at high volume in average size rooms. Note: Dolby Digital surround has six channels of audio - including one for the subwoofer. Receivers usually don't provide amplification for the subwoofer channel. That is why most subwoofers have an amplifier built in.

Note that with Bang & Olufsen products the emphasis nowadays is on using active speakers - loudspeakers with amplifiers built in. If you're already using B&O active speakers then you won't be able to connect them up to another manufacturer's receiver. This is because B&O active speakers are linked by PowerLink (and so would not fit another manufacturer's products). Another reason is that unless they are driven by a separate 'line-in' lead, there will be no way to control their volume levels.

All receivers are not created equal. Music and movie soundtracks have peaks and valleys in volume. The loudest moments draw the most power from the receiver. Cheaper receivers don't handle those peaks as well as more expensive 'high current' receivers. High current receivers deliver cleaner, more accurate sound, performing superbly at both low and high volumes. A great benefit to this type of receiver is that you don't need to crank it up to hear all the action, or to get a good clean sound, free of distortion and noise.

What other features should I look for?

Once you decide how much power you want, you'll be able to choose from a variety of features. Here's information about some of the more important ones:

DSP (digital signal processing)

DSP creates the ambiance of concert halls, jazz clubs and so on with non-surround sound sources. Some receivers add this ambiance to Dolby Pro Logic surround channels to create cinema-like sound

Dolby Pro Logic® Surround

Dolby Pro Logic has been around for a while and is the surround sound standard for regular TV signals, cable and VCR tapes. Since the surround information is encoded in a stereo signal, you need a stereo (or hi-fi) VCR or a stereo TV with audio outputs to listen to Pro Logic audio. When you hook those audio outputs to the Pro Logic receiver the information is decoded and is sent out to the different speakers; left front, centre, right front, and the two rear speakers. The left front, centre and right front speakers are somewhat independent from each other - you can hear different sounds coming from each speaker. However, the left and right rear speakers are mono sound only - they both play the same sound. You'll need a receiver equipped with Pro Logic to get a home cinema effect from TV and VCR tapes

Dolby Digital Decoding

Dolby Digital sound is divided into six channels: left and right front, centre, left and right surround and low frequency (subwoofer) effects channel. Only receivers with built in Dolby Digital decoders can provide this sound. Some receivers are 'Dolby Digital-ready' in that they offer inputs for connecting an external Dolby Digital decoder. Today, virtually all DVDs are encoded with Dolby Digital sound. In the future, terrestrial TV transmissions, TV satellite broadcasts and cable companies may also provide Dolby Digital sound. This is often referred to as 5.1 channel surround sound which represents five main channels and the subwoofer channel

DTS - DTS (Digital Theatre System)

Another brand of 5.1 channel surround sound. Several DVD movie discs and a few audio-only DVDs are encoded with DTS. Most serious audiophiles believe that DTS sounds slightly better than Dolby Digital because of the higher bit levels used during recording and playback. Every disc that uses the DTS format can be played back on a Dolby Digital (5.1) system

THX

THX is essentially a seal of approval from Star Wars' director George Lucas. His company licenses the THX logo to electronics manufacturers whose products pass certain performance tests

Audio and Video inputs

- be certain that the receiver you choose has enough audio and video inputs to accommodate not only the components you have now, but those that you might add in the future

Remote controls

- most receivers come with a remote control. But more sophisticated remotes can be programmed to control the other components in your home entertainment system as well

Multi-room/multi-source function

- this feature allows you to play different sources in different rooms simultaneously. However, Bang & Olufsen users already have this in Beolink®!

Created: 10th January 2007
Modified: 2nd April 2007

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