Stereo receiver vs AV receiver [Explained]

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If you’re in the market, what is the best choice: AV receiver or stereo receiver? Looking at the hundreds of choices, balancing them against your budget, and worrying about whether you will end up regretting your decision can grind things to a halt.

The best way to tackle this is by addressing your specific needs. Let’s take a look at some of the questions that will help narrow down those choices.

Take some time and answer these questions:

Movies or music?

If you enjoy turning down the lights, sitting back, and listening to some music, a stereo receiver can provide a better listening experience.

AV receivers are great for hooking up everything under the sun, but the consequence is a much more complex path from the music source to the speakers. Every circuit that you put between the music and the speaker is another opportunity for noize to be introduced.

Am I the primary user?

Make sure that the people who are going to be using the receiver can operate it. If you are going to get a call at work whenever your parents want to watch the news or the kids want to watch Paw Patrol, you will regret it. I’ve had these calls. Prepare for some anger. A good programmable remote can solve this. If you can say “push this one-button” you will have a happier household.

What is my budget?

Keep in mind that a receiver does not come with speakers, speaker wire, hook-up cables, etc. If you are serious about a music setup, cabling can end up costing as much as the receiver.

Speakers can be a major expense as well. A home theater can start with a pair of speakers and expand in the future if your budget isn’t big enough right now.

Take a moment and write down what you want to spend. List every piece of equipment that is going to be hooked up to your receiver and look up the cost of the connecting cable. Your receiver will need to accommodate all these cables as well. Look at the price of a speaker set that meets your needs. Whatever is left is your receiver budget.

AV Receiver Concerns

AV receivers do not operate in a vacuum. You need to match your existing equipment with the receiver. Take a good look at what your TV supports. Most TVs should support HDMI-CEC and HDMI-ARC. HDMI-ARC can be a lifesaver when hooking up things like Roku or Apple-TV.

HDMI-ARC explainer

HDMI-CEC how-to

If your TV is older, you may have to hook up the old-fashioned way and juggle remotes to get everything working. In my experience, HDMI-CEC can be flaky. Search for your TV model + HDMI-CEC + receiver model and see if there are any known problems before buying.

Keep in mind that really cheap HDMI cables may not have the wiring to support either of these features. The dollar-store special may lead to a lot of head-scratching as you try to set up.

Stereo Receiver Concerns

If you are going to be hooking up a TV to your stereo receiver, make sure that they both speak the same language. A lot of TVs simply do not have stereo output anymore. An optical cable can be a solution, but even these are going by the wayside. All is not lost if this is the case. An HDMI audio extractor is a cheap and workable solution.


If you are setting up a music room, there are a couple of things to look for in the room. A room with massive windows is a problem. The glass will cause all sorts of spurious reflection. This can be solved with some judicious use of drapes. A thick drapery will absorb the sound going in and being reflected out.

Go into your room when it is quiet and do a single loud clap where you will be sitting. If you hear any ‘zings’ or bad echoes, you have a problem. There are ‘room-tune’ solutions available, but sometimes a little packing foam in the corner where the two walls and ceiling meet is the solution.

It will break up the reflecting surfaces. Couches and throw pillows can also absorb some of these echoes without being an eye-sore.


A game plan is your friend when purchasing audio equipment.

Make a list of what your minimum needs are.

When you have a list of candidate receivers, start looking at the features that are over the top and will just add confusion.

Whittle down until you have a good choice.

Last update on 2022-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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