What does an AV receiver actually do?

What does an AV receiver actually do? Is it worth the investment?

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury

Put simply, a receiver has two main functions: firstly, it amplifies the sound so it can be fed to your speakers, and secondly, it allows you to select the audio and video you wish to watch. You can use it to switch from a DVD to free-to-air TV, for example, with the touch of a single button.

It's well worth paying extra for a good surround system to go with your new flatscreen TV. But if you're looking at the PDP-427XDA, then you needn't get a AU$4000 receiver to go with it. I'd only spend up to a maximum of twice what the front stereo speakers are worth, as a rough guide.

If you want features, then the complementary Pioneer VSXAX2AS-S receiver would work perfectly, and will only set you back half of what the TV cost. You also get a remote control that will work the TV as well. But if that's also a bit rich for your blood, then try Denon's AVR-1707 for under a grand.

Speakers, are of course, another discussion entirely -- but it pays to shop around and listen to as many pairs as your ears and budget can stand.

Buying a big TV is only half the battle and it can be a long road to finding the home theatre system you're happy with, but the resulting experience can be very rewarding. Home-cinema-in-a-box solutions may be fine for the kids room, but if you're investing in a large-screen TV it's worth budgeting for more.