It’s the foundation of any serious entertainment set-up, so what are the must-haves in your next AV receiver?

When you’re assembling a home entertainment setup, there’s a lot of kit on your shopping list: display, Blu-ray player, HDD recorder, HDTV tuner, a set of surround speakers and a subwoofer. How on earth are you supposed to control all this stuff?

Fear not: there’s one more device you need, and it’s the most important one in your whole entertainment arsenal. It’s the audio-visual receiver.

Also known as a surround sound receiver, multichannel or home theatre amplifier, the AV receiver’s job is fairly easy to describe: it takes all your audio-video sources – DVD player, pay TV box, games console, PVR – and sends them out to your TV and your speakers. It’s a sort of super-adaptor: you plug everything into it, and the receiver sends the video out through a single cable to your TV, and the audio out through many cables to the speakers in your surround sound system.

When you introduce an AV receiver to your setup, your TV’s remote won’t get much of a workout: volume and source selection will be handled by the receiver’s remote, which also handles the selection of surround formats, audio processing, and video upsampling functionality.

Broadly speaking, the AV receiver’s job has two important aspects: video and audio. Let’s take a look at both in detail.

AV receiver – video must-haves

Most TVs have a limited number of video inputs, especially where HD is concerned. Remember, for HD you need to use HDMI or component cables. A good HDTV will have two or three HDMI inputs, and one or two component.