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Building a Home Theater Part 2: AV Receivers and Source Components

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Introduction to AV Receivers

In Part 2 of our Building a Home Theater series we will introduce you to the all-important AV Receiver (including how to assemble your own high-power receiver), and look at some of the various source components that feed signals into the AVR.Welcome to Part 2 in our series: Building a Home Theater!  In this segment we will introduce you to the all-important AV Receiver (including how to build your own high-end/high-power receiver from off the shelf components), and look at some of the various source components (DVD players, etc) that feed signals into the AVR.
•    Introduction to the AVR
•    AVR Buyer's Guidelines
•    Entry level AVRs
•    Mid-range AVRs
•    High-end AVRs
•    Assembling Your Own High-End/High-Power AVR
•    Source Components

Overview of the Building a Home Theater Series:
•    Building a Home Theater Part 1: Introduction and Planning
•    Building a Home Theater Part 2: AV Receivers and Source Components
•    Building a Home Theater Part 3: Video
•    Building a Home Theater Part 4: Speakers
•    Building a Home Theater Part 5: Calibration, Room Treatments and Remotes
•    Building a Home Theater Part 6: HTPC/Media Server

Introduction to the AVR (Audio/Video Receiver)

The modern AVR has evolved over the past few decades into a complex and sophisticated device that performs numerous functions.  According to the Wikipedia:

AV Receivers are one of the many consumer electronics components typically found within a home theater system. Their primary purpose is to amplify sound from a multitude of possible audio sources as well as route video signals to your TV from various sources. The user may program and configure a unit to take inputs from devices such as DVD players, etc. and easily select which source you want to route to your TV and have sound output from.

The term receiver originally referred to a component which included a tuner, a pre-amplifier and a power amplifier. These were generally called stereo receivers. The built in tuner in these devices gave them the name receivers. 

As home entertainment options expanded, so did the role of the receiver. The ability to handle a variety of digital audio signals was added. More amplifiers were added for surround sound playback. Video switching was added to simplify switching. Within the last few years, video processing has been added to many receivers.

The AVR is the central hub of most home theater systems.  The more advanced AVRs contain multiple decoders and Digital Signal Processors (DSP) that process both the audio and video streams coming in from various sources.  Add in user controls, a small LCD display, remote control capability, updatable firmware and Ethernet connectivity and you have a very sophisticated piece of equipment.  And of course with all these features come complexity and the challenge to make the system usable for the average enthusiast.

Basic Features of a Modern AV Receiver:
•    Allows switching between multiple audio and video sources
•    Integrated AM/FM tuner
•    Internet, HD, XM, and/or SIRIUS Radio ready
•    Provide audio processing (Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Surround effects, EQ)
•    Provide video processing (Scaling, deinterlacing, noise reduction)
•    Pre-amplifiers for audio signals (typically 8 channels)
•    Power amplifiers to drive speakers (typically 7 channels)
•    Controls and LCD display
•    Remote control
•    Updatable firmware

Basic AV Receiver Block Diagram

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July 31, 2011 | 07:59 PM - Posted by DracoDan (not verified)

This was a great series that I used quite extensively for setting up my home theater so far, but what happened to part 3-6?

August 1, 2011 | 03:57 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

We can hope that Lee gets the time to put this together, and perhaps a little more money to pick up more components to offer his expert opinion on.

November 4, 2012 | 06:46 PM - Posted by Joe (not verified)

You r too much...great article....Now can we have the last bits? I write from Nigeria......