Understanding the difference between AV Receivers and Amplifiers

July 31, 2017
Understanding the difference between AV Receivers and Amplifiers
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Difference between AV Receivers and Amplifiers

Quite often manufacturers bog down users with confusing terminology and jargons. These jargons often confuse buyers. A great example of this is with the terms Amplifier and AV Receiver. At times, it can seem that these are completely interchangeable terms, however, there are differences between the two.

In common parlance, receiver and amplifier might as well mean the same thing. However, they are not. There are subtle differences between the two. This guide by Ooberpad helps you understand the main differences between the two and also highlights which one you should choose for your home theatre based on your requirements.

Understanding the Difference: Amplifiers vs. AV Receivers

Before we delve into this topic further, it would be helpful to get a brief primer on the various terminologies used by manufacturers.

What is an Amplifier?

An amplifier, as the name suggests, is a device used to amplify an incoming signal to drive the speaker output. Currently, there are different models and variants available. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to the basic definition of the amplifier first. There are no controls of any sort in a basic amplifier. Its primary job is to take an incoming audio signal from one end (source) and amplify it (makes it loud enough) for speaker playback. Needless to say, for any speaker to work/play, an amplifier is important.<

Where does the receiver fit in?

A receiver, as the name suggests receives or accepts multiple sources, takes care of the routing and even amplifies the signal for speaker connectivity. When it comes receivers, there are 2 primary variants: the stereo receiver and the AV (Audio/Video) receiver.

  • Stereo receiver
    Also known as Integrated Stereo Amplifiers, they pack in the ability to amplify audio signals along with additional functionalities such as volume control, multiple stereo inputs, speaker/source selection and even a radio tuner in some models. In simple words, it is an all-in-one box for you to plug and connect to your speakers for audio playback only. Getting a stereo receiver is one of the quickest modes to get your sound system up and running. It is important to know that you can’t connect a stereo receiver to video outputs, as it is designed for audio interfacing only.

  • AV receiver
    An AV receiver is the electronic component that controls and drives your home theatre experience. Without any doubt, the AV receiver is the hub of a home theatre system. It takes in both audio and video signals from various sources and routes them to their respective outputs. For e.g. If you have connected a Blu-ray player to an AV receiver via HDMI (for both audio and video signals), the AV receiver sends the video signal to the connected display (TV or Projector) and the audio signals to the speaker system (7.1, 5.1 or 2.1).

    Most of today’s AV receivers now also have a feature called an HDMI pass through. AV receiver allows to use, control and switch between multiple audio and video inputs without the hassle of adjusting or manually connecting cables between the multiple sources and the connected display and speakers.

    Audio wise, an AV receiver can do what a stereo receiver does, i.e. routing and amplifying the sound signals from source to the speakers. However, it adds more functionalities such as decoding surround-sound formats such as Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos and others. The ability to decode surround-sound formats is a feature that distinguishes an A/V receiver from traditional stereo amplifiers you may have come across. In many ways, the AV receiver is the brain or the central processing unit of a surround sound home theatre system.

Who should go for a Stereo receiver?

  • Users whose only application is listening to music in stereo and not multichannel surround movies.
  • Audiophiles looking to setup a vinyl based stereo sound system.
  • Users who want to get the best sound possible with full control to tweak and make modifications to the tonal characteristics.
  • Users who believe in assembling their sound system by carefully selecting individual components.
  • Advanced users who understand technicalities of wiring and impedance matching.
  • Users looking for a detailed sound with high power handling.

Who should go for an AV receiver?

  • Users are looking for a convenient, all-in-one solution for both audio and video management.
  • New users who lack the knowledge of all the components required for working sound system.
  • Users who want the latest and best of audio and video interfacing technologies.
  • Users who have limited space, as AV receivers provide you with all features required for most home applications.
  • Users who intend on watching Blu-ray movies or playing Games on an immersive sound system. As mentioned earlier, stereo receivers do not support surround sound technologies.
Finally, it is important to remember that both stereo receivers and AV receiver are equipped with amplification capabilities. In simpler words, amplification is functionality both types of receivers offer.

We hope you are now aware of the differences between the two and what option is suitable for your needs and budget. Most regular users can opt for receivers for its feature offerings, cheaper pricing and ease of use. On the other hand, serious audiophiles might want to consider going for a system with handpicked components such as preamps, tube amplifiers, equalisers and other components.

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