There are several perfectly acceptable ways to set up a home theater system. A popular version that you can read about here on Bright Hub involves using a media center PC for the command and control center for the entire system. This has the advantage of including home networking and network storage.
Another perfectly suitable and popular setup, and the one we'll look at here, is to use an audio/video receiver as the center of the home theater system.
Most stereo receivers sold today have some way of interacting with a television or television accessories. This might include accepting input from the television or set-top box and decoding certain sound streams. Dolby processing would be an example of a common feature. A dedicated audio/video or A/V receiver, however, is more concerned with providing outputs to the television and doing the sound processing from the source stream itself. All serious A/V receivers provide some sort of surround sound with support for multiple speaker placement. Some can even take a standard definition video signal, like from a DVD, and scale it up to high-definition 1080p size, or take a standard stereo audio source and turn it into surround sound.
A/V receivers are available from about two-hundred to several thousand dollars. All have long lists of features and specifications, but what do all the terms, ratings, and numbers really mean? Can comparing the specifications and features help the potential purchaser decide on a specific receiver?
We think so. Knowledge is a significant tool in a consumer's arsenal. Understanding specifications and terminology will help you select the best AV receiver for your home theater system.