Skip Navigation

Home theatre receivers buying guide

Find the surround sound receiver that's right for you

N

othing beats surround sound for movies and TV – and surround sound starts with a home theater receiver. But a receiver can give you a lot more than that. We’ll walk you through the most important and coolest features so you know what to look for.

Covering the basics

A home theater receiver (also known as an AV receiver) brings immersive, theater-like surround sound to your living room. It acts as a connection hub for a variety of audio, video, and internet streaming sources. And it uses video processing and surround sound decoding to make movies and TV look and sound their best.

A receiver is a connection hub for all your A/V gear

A receiver routes incoming video signals from your cable box, Blu-ray player, and other devices to your TV. At the same time, it directs the audio from these devices to your speakers.

How much power do you need?

Home theater receivers have built-in multi-channel amplifiers to power a full complement of surround sound speakers. How much power do you need? The ideal wattage for your receiver depends on the size of your room and the power requirements of your speakers. 

Receiver output power scale

You’ll often see a range of acceptable wattages to power a given speaker. To get the clearest sound with minimal distortion, aim for the high end of this range.

What kinds of inputs and outputs do you need?

Look at the back panel of any AV receiver and you’ll find lots of different connections for audio and video components. Most of your gear will connect to your receiver via HDMI cables, which carry both audio and video signals.

HDMI connections with HDCP 2.2 and 4K capability

To allow for system expansion, get a receiver that has more HDMI inputs than you need right now. Want to connect two TVs? Look for a receiver that has more than one HDMI output. Check out our article on multi-zone video for more information.

If you have audio components without HDMI connections, an RCA or optical digital connection is your best bet.

Wood cabinet with turntable and home theater receiver

Got a turntable? For the easiest connection, look for a receiver with a dedicated phono input. For trickier scenarios, see our article on how to connect a turntable to a receiver.

For a comprehensive list of AV receiver ins and outs, including older video connections, check out our Home AV Connections Glossary.

How many channels do you need?

We usually recommend receivers with at least seven channels. Even if you’re just starting with a pair of speakers or a 3.1 system, you can always add more as your budget permits.

Dolby Atmos surround sound

With seven or more channels of power, you can play cutting-edge surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. They use in-ceiling speakers or special up-firing speakers to project sound from the ceiling. 

Want to listen to music out on the patio? Get a seven-channel receiver and you can use five channels for surround sound and two channels to hook up a pair of stereo speakers outdoors or in another room.

Multi-zone audio/video diagram

Most A/V receivers can provide power to at least two zones. See our article on how to power a multi-room music system for details.

Get the right fit

You may need to think about how your current living room setup will accommodate an AV receiver. See our receiver placement tips for some helpful ideas.

Not sure where your speakers will go? We've got speaker placement tips for all sorts of rooms.

Slimline receiver next to full height receiver

A slimline receiver like the Marantz NR1609 (left) is about half the height of a typical home theater receiver (right). It's perfect when space is at a premium.

Advanced features

AV receivers are great for hooking up all kinds of audio components, but your music choices don't stop there. You'll find plenty of AV receivers with built-in support for popular streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and TIDAL.

Receivers that have built-in Bluetooth let you play anything you want from a Bluetooth-equipped phone, tablet, or computer.

Home theater receivers can reproduce top-quality audio, so naturally most of them are compatible with popular high-resolution audio formats like FLAC and DSD.

Wireless multi-room music

Many receivers work with multi-room music platforms that let you stream music to compatible wireless speakers you have set up throughout your home. You can create different zones and control what's playing in each room with an app on your phone or by using voice commands.

If you want your receiver to be part of a wireless multi-room music system, you have quite a few options. The current list is as follows:

Controlling multi-room audio with a phone

Receivers with wireless multi-room capability work together with compatible wireless speakers in other rooms. 

How about wireless surround sound?

Customers have been asking us about wireless surround sound for years, so we're very excited that technology has finally advanced enough to make it a reality. We expect to see more and more wireless surround sound solutions in the coming years, but there are a couple of compelling options already.

All Yamaha MusicCast receivers from 2018 on support wireless surround sound with the addition of MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless speakers.

Denon's HEOS AVR is a 5.1-channel receiver that lets you connect two HEOS wireless speakers to its left and right surround channels for wireless surround sound. You can also wirelessly connect a HEOS subwoofer.

Convenient control options

The remote controls included with most home theater receivers have extensive options for switching sources and dialing in settings.

Many remotes have "scene" buttons, which are presets for specific activities like watching TV or listening to the FM radio. Press a scene button to select the source and all the settings you need to enjoy it. 

Scene-button shortcuts make life easy for guests, babysitters, or anyone else who doesn't want to learn how to operate your system. Receivers typically come with a few pre-programmed scenes. You can easily edit them and add new ones.

Using scene presets on a remote control

Convenient "Scene" buttons on a receiver's remote let you quickly fire up your favorite sources and settings.

App control

Just about every AV receiver with network capability offers a free app to use your phone or tablet as a remote. They make it easy to switch sources, adjust the volume, tweak settings, and stream music from online sources.

Remote apps for receivers

Remote apps are the easiest way to control your receiver’s multi-zone features. You can choose which rooms to play music in, and select the music for each room. 

Voice control

Voice control integration adds a new level of convenience to today's home theater receivers. When you don't have your phone or remote handy, you can just speak.

Denon receiver next to Amazon Echo Dot

Receivers with voice control capability work together with voice-activated virtual assistants like the Amazon Echo Dot for easy control of your A/V system.

Some receiver models support voice control with Amazon Alexa, and others support Google Home voice control. Whichever your preference, you can use verbal commands to:

  • power your receiver on or off
  • control volume on the receiver
  • play and pause music; skip or go back to the previous track
  • mute/unmute the receiver
  • change the receiver's input selection
  • link or unlink rooms in a multi-room music setup
  • control music playback in different rooms

Whether you use Alexa or Google Home, voice control functionality is constantly improving. Alexa is always acquiring new skills and the Google Assistant gets smarter all the time. 

We're here to help

Have questions about hooking up your new receiver? Check out our setup guide. Need help choosing the right receiver? Call, email, or chat with us today.

Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out. Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need for your home theater. 

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 11/2/2018
  • Natalie from Arlington

    Posted on 8/10/2018

    Are there any home tuners (or receivers) capable of receiving digital FM, which has multiple channels per station?

  • Donnie Stuart from Dandridge , Tennesse

    Posted on 11/23/2017

    Does onkyo have there hdmi issues fixed yet, sound n video lost. They have repaired my unit twice but it keeps going out, now they refuse to fix again, each time the the unit goes bad within 15 to 23 months, afraid to buy anything from them again

  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/11/2017

    Hi Roger. Just because a receiver has outputs for two subwoofers doesn't mean you have to connect two of them. It will work just fine with one subwoofer connected, but you have the option to upgrade in the future if you crave more bass.

  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/11/2017

    Hi John. Most home theater receivers come with one or two subwoofer connections. When referring to a "5.2-channel" receiver, for example, the "5" indicates the number of surround sound speaker connections the receiver has, while the ".2" indicates how many subwoofer connections it has.

  • Roger from Prairieton

    Posted on 9/12/2017

    I would like to include 5.2 and 7.2 channel receivers in my consideration, but do not want to use 2 subwoofers. Does a receiver with "N.2" channels require 2 subwoofers, or can it be setup to work with just 1?

  • John from Elk Grove

    Posted on 8/28/2017

    When you say a 5 channel receiver: left front, right front, left rear, right rear and center does that include the subwoofer? Would I need a 6 channel? Or do all receivers automatically come with the subwoofer connection?

  • Frank from Belleville

    Posted on 7/24/2017

    Great set of articles. It's the first time I've found information on all the components used in a home theater setup in one location.

  • Evan from Denver

    Posted on 2/13/2017

    Comcast will be wiring my neighborhood to replace DirecTV. It will be high-speed fiber. I will be replacing my equipment at that time. I want to be able to separately control my front and rear speakers. What do you recommend that's a great receiver with that feature?

  • Don T.

    Posted on 5/21/2016

    Very informative. Thanks to Crutchfield for putting all of this information in one place and making it easy to understand.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/3/2015

    Hi Jason, I sent your questions to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Jason Wentsel from Livermore

    Posted on 12/2/2015

    G'day! Very informative article, thank you! I was hoping you could helpcme out. I recently received aa Denon S710WW A/V Receiver for my bday. I was excited till I found out I need to buy speakers, lol! Thanks step-mum. I'm having a hard time understanding how to pair the appropriate 5.1 speakers to this receiver. Could you give me a few ideas and why they would work? Jason W

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/24/2015

    That's a tough call, Nick. My advice, check out the Yamaha RX-A550. Yamaha has long been a customer favorite, and I've always been impressed with their build quality. Then, get in touch with our advisors to see if they have a better recommendation for your system. Mine is just one guy's opinion.

  • Nick from Chicago

    Posted on 8/24/2015

    Thanks for the great article. I still have this one question; in your experience and with the products currently available, what receiver/brand would you recommend that does the best at 5.1 channel surround theater as well as pure, clean 2-channel stereo for music lovers? I'll looking for a one piece solution but don't want to skimp on the sound quality too much in either arena, without going to a separates solution.. I dont need anything more than 5.1 but I'm seeing less and less options for it out there. Am I better off with the newer 7.1 components?.. I still want great, clean 2 channel Stereo. Thanks for your help!

  • Crutchfield Writing Team from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/3/2015

    Rick, Setting up Atmos with the '737 is pretty simple. All you'll need other than a basic 5.1 surround speaker system is a pair of height speakers and a relatively new Blu-ray player. Until Atmos content is available via streaming, Internet speed shouldn't be an issue as all of the current Atmos content is on Blu-ray disc.

    Tom, Thanks for the compliment. We have lots of great receivers. We sent your and Rick's question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Tom from Brentwood

    Posted on 8/2/2015

    What a great article. Thanks for taking the time on writing this. As you know, the technology is changing so fast, our AV guy just can't keep up with it. I have an Onkyo NR808. and it's just not performing. I purchased it for the pwr, and the 7.1 Onkyo replaced the pwr amp under extended warranty. I had to purchase a new BluRay, as the new movies no longer played. Thanks Samsung. (No SW upgrades.) For a high power Receiver with 7.1, what would you recommend? I am using all Definitive speakers. We have a 65 Samsung non 3D. Most likely we move to a 4K.

  • Rick Johnson from La Veta

    Posted on 8/2/2015

    I was thinking on getting a onkyo receiver and wanted to know if i got the 737 model how hard it would to be to st up dolby atmos our internet is not the best here. I would like to get the new surround option but if not i don't mind using the regular dolby true hd and dts hd options.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/24/2015

    Alan, That's a lot of stuff to string together. My best recommendation would be to give our advisors a call at the number on top of this page for some expert advice.

  • Alan Meier from Stockton, Ca.

    Posted on 6/21/2015

    Help. How many channel receiver do I need? This is what we have. Family room with four ceiling speakers, sub woofer, a center channel. We have a pair of in wall speakers in formal living room and a pair on out door speaker on patio. Both patio and living room speakers have separate controls to turn volume off and on. In family room we plan on buying a Samsung SUHD 65" 4k JS9000 or JS8500 TV and a pair of front and rear speakers. I like the Atmos system. What speakers and receiver would you recommend? Budget of 3k for speakers an receiver.

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/4/2015

    Great question, Don. We may have a solution that could work, such as our highly rated Channel Master CM6104 Ethernet-over-powerline kit.

    If that won't do the trick, you should give our advisors a call. I'm certain they could recommend something that will.

  • Don from Medford OR

    Posted on 6/3/2015

    Router. My computer and router are located in another part of the house and to far for a LAN connection on a receiver. Are there any other ways to make this connection. Thanks. Don

Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.

Find what fits your vehicle

 
 
 
 

Can't find your exact vehicle?

Featured Products