The AV-Receiver is the amplifier for your home cinema speakers, but it is so much more than that. It really is the hub for your home entertainment system.
The AVR has the HDMI inputs for all of your source devices, the HDMI outputs to send the picture to your TV and/or projector, and the connections for your speakers and subwoofer.
It contains a computer as well as the amplification. It receives the digital information from the source, decodes it, upscales the image and amplifies the sound. It then sends the picture to the screen and the sound to the speakers.
They can be used as a HiFi amplifier too, however, all but the most expensive AVRs tend to be too much of a ‘Jack Of All Trades’ to truly compete with a decent HiFi amplifier when it comes to stereo performance.
These are rather feature-packed and sophisticated pieces of equipment. The set-up and operation can at first seem rather complicated, but they usually make sense when you get used to using it. There are many connections on the rear of the unit. HDMI inputs for connecting the source devices, HDMI outputs for the TV/Projector, speaker connection terminals and an output for the subwoofer.
There is also often a variety of other analogue inputs for HiFi components such as a turntable and CD players, as well as old analogue video connections, which can be useful if you have an old VCR or ‘retro’ games consoles.
AVRs usually also contain many other features too, such as the ability to stream music and internet radio and to integrate into a multi-room audio system.
How to Set up an AV Receiver
AV Receivers usually have a relatively user-friendly graphic interface and menu system which appears on the connected TV or screen.
The set up process is similar for most models. Once you have connected all of the source devices, the TV/projector and speakers, an initial calibration should be carried out. When the unit is switched on for the first time, the instructions often appear on the screen to guide you through this process, but essentially:
A small microphone which comes with the receiver should be positioned centrally to the seating area and plugged, via a long lead, into a socket on the front of the receiver. Following the on-screen prompts, the receiver will then in turn, play a series of noises from each speaker. It measures the feedback from these sounds via the microphone to detect any connection issues and correctly adjust and calibrate the sound output for the speakers and the acoustics of the room.
HDMI ARC and Optical connections: How Does the Sound Reach the AVR When the TV Itself is the Source?
We’ve said that the AV-Receiver usually receives the sound and video information via its HDMI inputs then outputs the picture to the TV via an HDMI output.
What about if the TV is also the source? For example, if you are watching TV via the TVs internal tuner or one of your Smart TVs apps? There has to be a way to get the sound from the TV, back to the AVR.
Most AVRs and TVs these days have a feature built into just one of their HDMI connections called Audio Return Channel. One of the TVs HDMI inputs is labeled ‘ARC’. Although it is in an input to receive the picture from the AVR/Source, it also serves as an output, to send the TV’s sound ‘the other way’ back to the AVR.
Likewise, the main HDMI output on the receiver is likely to also be labeled as ARC, which means that as well as sending the picture to the TV, it can also receive the sound signal from the TV.
HDMI ARC means that only a single HDMI 2.0 lead is required to connect the AV-Receiver to your TV. The exception is if either of those devices does not feature ARC compatibility. In this case the sound can be outputted to the receiver using a Digital Optical Cable.
Connection via ARC/HDMI 2.0 often enables other features too. For example, the volume control on your TV remote may be able to adjust the volume on the AVR.