In the previous page, we talked a little bit about what an av receiver was and now. let’s talk a little bit about how do av receivers work.

AV receivers are some of the more complex, more powerful pieces of electronics that you can buy right now. They are the heart of your home theater system, devices that have both the brains and the brawn to control and drive your home entertainment experience.

Now, let’s go into details on how they work.

How do AV receivers work?

It’s complicated. As the central hub of your entertainment station, an AV receiver has a lot of responsibilities from decoding and amplifying sound to connecting and switching your audio and video sources.

Along with all this, they also double up as a radio, and most importantly, serve as the user interface for your home theater.

Here’s the quick rundown.

The decoding process

The source component (DVD player, DVR, etc.) feeds a signal to your AV Receiver. You choose which input component you want to feed to your output unit, and the preamplifier selects this signal, cleans it and amplifies its line level a little bit.

In parallel, the receiver sends the video to your television and sends the audio to the decoder.

At that point, the decoder sorts out the different sound channels from the video signal, and then sends the information to amplifiers for each sound-channel output. These amplifiers are connected to the appropriate speaker or speakers.

This is a good (brief) segue into the role of Amplifiers.

home theater amplifier

home theater amplifier

Amplifiers (as the name implies) are used to amplify the sound you listen to. While the image above shows a dedicated amplifier, the average home theater receiver has the amplifier built into it.

I will share more with you about dedicated amplifiers a little later in the AV Separates section.

Digital Decoding

Digital decoders and analog decoders handle the job differently.

Digital surround sound is quite simple: When a company is producing a Dolby Digital® program, for example, they encode six separate audio channels, specifically balanced for a Dolby Digital speaker setup.

A Dolby Digital surround-sound decoder recognizes these different channels and sends them to the appropriate speakers.

AV Receiver connections

AV Receiver connections

Analog surround sound is something else altogether. The different analog surround-sound channels are actually extracted from the two standard audio channels that make up any ordinary stereo signal.

This is commonly called 4-2-4 processing because the encoder essentially takes the rear and front channels and works them into the ordinary stereo channels, and a surround-sound decoder separates the four channels out again.

Now, let’s take a look at the tasks assigned to a home theater receiver, which should explain in detail what these devices are capable of doing when put to use.

Managing your audio sources

Every audio source in your home theater should connect to your AV receiver, where the preamplifier allows you to easily switch to or select the audio source that you want to listen to. If you like listening to music, this is where you will be spending quite a bit of time.

Managing your video sources

With the exception of a few, most of your video sources will also be connected directly to the AV receiver, which in turn will be connected to your display device, whether a plasma TV, LCD or OLED screen. This setup greatly simplifies your selection of video sources, and you can have multiple devices connected at once, including those that make use of HDR standards like Dolby Vision.

Decoding surround sound

AV receivers have the ability to decode both analog and digital surround sound formats, and this is a feature that distinguishes them from the more traditional stereo receive. Modern AV receivers have the ability to decode the latest audio formats in use today, including ones from Dolby and DTS.

Amplifying audio signals to drive speakers

Home theater receivers have the ability of amplification to drive your surround sound speaker system. They can provide power to multiple speaker configurations, from 5.1 to newer ones like 7.1.4 that is used by standards like Dolby Atmos.

Providing the user interface for your home theater

When you build a home theater, you need something to command all the electronics in your setup. An AV receiver does the job remarkably well here, via its remote control, the displays on the receiver’s face, and in many cases, an onscreen display on your television.

So that’s a little bit about how AV Receivers work. After learning all this information, it begs the question:

=> do you really need an AV Receiver?