Building an affordable Home Theater:PT2

If you would like to see Part one of this series? Look here.

Now that we have HTIB out of the way.  For those of you who are looking at actually building a solid high quality sound out of a surround sound system I recommend buying separate components next I will be speaking on Receivers.  One I've recommended several times is the Onkyo like this one here because its a standalone receiver that comes with the speakers.  So if you want to get it going now and have a limited budget, expecting to wait some time to add on different components as time progresses. I would go with that model.  It has all HD capabilities including 3D compatibility with more than enough features to be future proof for sometimes

Now some have hinted that they prefer 2.1 ? For those of you in that boat, understand these days 2.1 can be created with all 5.1,6.1,7.1 receivers.  just click a button.  2.1 receivers are nearly obsolete and if you want it for the same price you can get another receiver that does it all cheaper.

What to look out for when choosing a Home Theater Receiver

When buying a stereo receiver you must make sure you understand whats what.  Opinions mean nothing unless someone knows what they're talking about, as a result I have always decided to make my own decisions.  With that being said I may recommend things on my blogs but in the end of the day I always recommend you try everything before you buy it.  Nearly every retailer has a 30 money-back guarantee.  Use it and test out all the receivers that catch your eye one by one.  The room you place your system in will  sound different then when you crank up the demo model in the store.  Everyones ear is different and what sounds like perfection to one person may not quite hit the spot with another.

Now when you're looking for a receiver, in my opinion anyways its an investment.  As a result you must try to "futureproof" it as much as you can.  Simply put, ensure it has enough new features, technology that you wont be saying "damn I should have waited a month and got the super-duper model".

No matter what anyone says.  Price is the first factor. you must determine what is in your budget and stay within or just above (if your a negotiator) when looking for a product that suits your needs.

2. AUDIO Decoder

When purchasing a receiver you must make sure it has audio processing that includes all the current HD Formats.  The most important necessity in an audio decoder is Dolby Digital.  Many Television stations and nearly every form of media requires this.  Ya you can get away with just sound fields on a crap receiver but why?  It doesn't sound like it was developed to sound.
As Blu-ray has become more and more common, the quality of the picture and the audio has increased 10 fold from regular DVDs.  However, without the necessary decoder in your receiver you won't realize it.  I'm referring to audio formats such as TrueHD, DTS-HD,Dolby Digital EX/ES, PCM(lossless audio).

3. True Power readings and RMS(Continuous power)

I had a couple comments regarding a preference to Sony products from some of you guys; Power and Distortion are the main reasons why I quit the Sony train when it comes to stereo receivers.  Yes I did have one way back, but let me explain.  THD(total harmonic distortion) is a measurable consideration you must consider.  This effects when you turn your stereo up to loud volumes...does it get so distorted you can't listen to it?  I find in many circumstances this is directly related to receivers where the specifications aren't accurate.  Many companies list WPS (Watts Per Channel) as say 100w.  You must take this at face value, unless its an RMS rating.  Simply put, manufacturers like SONY will list Watts Per channel as 100w x 5.  This is completely inaccurate. Realistically in my experience with such SONY receivers(which I have owned) the true power (RMS) is more like 20-30 WPC.  What is occurring with many manufacturers is that they test the power which spike in places and where the see the highest spike, also known as "peak to peak" readings ...they list that as the wattage.  The diagram above shows a line in the middle where continuous power is.  The peak at the top is what many manufacturers list as the power rating while the true power rating is much lower.  The problem is that these receivers cannot maintain this power continuously as you can see power peaks and dips. Where as companies like Yamaha and Onkyo and many others will list the accurate wattage.  The simple way to avoid this trap is look at specifications. if they dont say RMS besides the wattage? Make sure you understand this point.


When buying a receiver, ensure you can connect everything you need to.  Make sure you have enough HDMI inputs to plug your Playstation, HD Cablebox, Computer..etc and beyond that you know what you need.  If you have devices that require optical connections or coax connections or even analog.  Generally, any standalone receiver with HDMI inputs and outputs has the rest of these connections but there is one other thing you must know.  Does the HDMI have "audio passthrough".  I've purchase receivers that have everything I need but when I attempt to run audio through the HDMI it doesnt work.  As a result, with that receiver I have to run the audio directly into that tv then the digital audio into my receiver with an optical from the TV.  Long story short- pain in the ass.  Luckily its in my bedroom (Harmon Kardon AVR146 fyi)

While there are a couple things missing here that  I'm sure we could all use at our disposal while building an "Entertainment Center".  I hope this information can help you choose more carefully when looking to purchase your home theater receiver.  I know I've gone through a lot of trial and error during this process and hopefully I can save some people from learning the hard way.