The AV receiver is the brain and main powerhouse of the home theater. Without it, a newbie or intermediate’s home entertainment is incomplete because the pros have been shifted to the separates (preamp and power amp). The separates is a separate topic. But In this guide, I will answer this question. Cheap Vs Mid-range Vs Expensive receiver: which is better?
At A Glance: The price of an AV receiver is relative to the watts and room size. If your room size is small (216X144), you need fewer power watts to fill the room. That’s why cheap is better and for the medium you need mi-range and for a large room, you need expensive.
Keep reading because I am providing you the facts that will back this statement and no difficult jargon will be used like ohms or current under load. You will know exactly what you need at the end of this article. Stay for the final verdict, you will get exact room dimensions with a few more points.
But first, let me clear this up. What is cheap, what is mid-range, and what is expensive? Under $500 is cheap and under $1500 is mid-range and under $3000-$6000 is expensive. But don’t worry, the expensive ones are used for the Dolby Atmos with a 7.2 setup on the ground and a total of 11.2 channels. Don’t be confused, everything will be clear once you finish the guide. In a few cases, you will need to accompany it in a large room with an amp.
Aspects that decide which sounds better. Let’s discuss
It depends on the Room Size and the speakers’ wattage
The room size and speakers’ wattage is relative. That’s why I will talk about this aspect in one heading. Here are two aspects to this point. Read this heading to completely understand this point.
#1 The one aspect is that you want to fill your room with sound. Here you will need a mediocre speakers’ system that will have the power of at least 570 RMS watts in a 5.1 system. This many watts can fill your room size. And That’s why you need a cheap receiver. Here in this case the cheap one is better for you and the expensive one is just a luxury. Don’t fall for the watts number the manufacturers provide to you in the product description of cheap AV receivers. Hunt for the RMS watt. I have shown how to hunt for the RMS watt in this guide. Is an amplifier necessary for home theater?
#2 Another aspect is that you need hi-fi speakers at the front of the surround sound or want 7.1 instead of 5.1. Here you can then proceed to the mid-range receiver. Because here now your goal is to have hi-fi sound and not only fill the room.
Here, if you want to fill the room with just 7.2 channels of sound. This amount of channels is enough to fill the room with sound. Because they have almost 650 Watts of RMS power. Here the mid-range receiver of $1000 is better for you, but if you Dolby Atmos with it then the price will be $1500.
If your room is larger then you will need an expensive receiver here. But still, there are two prices for you. If you want a hi-fi 7.1 speakers system then an under $3000 receiver is good for you, but if you want Dolby Atmos with it then under $6000 is good. The reason I said under $3000 is that a hi-fi 960 RMS watts speakers system can fill up a large room. But if you want a 9.2 ground speakers system with Dolby Atmos then you should consider an under $6000 receiver.
This will be better if you use an amp for the front speakers and connect all other channels to a receiver. Or just go with separates and ditch the AV receiver for the large room because I recommend separates for large rooms. But I am bound by this article’s title to just talk about AV receivers.
Read about the cheap Vs expensive soundbars. which is better? I have compared them for all room sizes along with the channels you will need.
It depends on the acoustic nature of the room
If your home theater has poor acoustic nature, and it is not treated better then you will need powerful speakers to fill up the room and for powerful speakers, you will need an expensive receiver.
If your home theater acoustics are treated the best, then you will need less powerful speakers and a cheaper AV receiver.
It depends on the audio/video format you will use
If you want to listen to Dolby Digital surround sound technology then the price of the receiver will be cheaper but if you want object-based audio such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or Euro 3D then the receiver will be more expensive.
It depends on the features that you want
The 4K HDR, Bluetooth, and ARC technology come with almost every cheap receiver nowadays. But if you want 8K HDR, eARC, and second/third zone audio then you should go for the expensive receivers.
The more features you want, the higher the price gets.
Final Verdict: Which is better?
|Room Size||Needed Wattage (7.1 Layout only)||Which is better?|
|Small (216X144)||525 Watts RMS||A cheap receiver is better|
|Medium (240X156)||650 Watts RMS||A Mid-range receiver is better|
|Large (240X180)||940 Watts RMS||An expensive Receiver|
These table values are valid for just 7.1 because I tested a lot of the system of the other guide. For this guide, I just tested the Object-based audio and added the results. The same test with object-based audio will take more time and energy. But if you want 13.2 channels of audio in the large room with 9.2 on-ground speakers layout and 4 Dolby Atmos channels then you should upgrade to a separate preamp and power amp.
If you want me to test values for 9.2 channels with 4 additional Atmos channels then post a comment here. I will carry out the test.
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Does a receiver make a difference in sound quality?
The receiver does make a difference in sound quality because the receiver has an internal processor and amplifier and these two decide the quality of audio and video. If these two are installed of good quality then the sound will be good too.
The AV receiver is a cabinet that has many components build-in like a video and audio processor and an amplifier. These two components decide the quality of the sound. The audio processor is called the preamp.
Do newer receivers sound better?
The newer receivers sound better because they have the latest technology but when comparing the older and newer ones in the same price range the old will sound better. Because in the newer receivers, the brands have to install all the in-demand features that were in none existent before.
Because they inject all these features in a cheap model and they compromise on the sound quality that’s why today’s expensive receivers are better but when you want just good sound then the old receivers are better because they have a nice mechanism for the sound quality but they will lag in new features.
Helpful Resources For The FAQs
- You can know more about why these two affect the sound by reading this guide. Why Use A Preamp And A Power Amp? I have discussed facts and figures here.
- This was my opinion read more about it from this AVSforum Discussion.