Speakers are what you hear, and television is what you see in a Home Theater system. But what core unit functions between these devices to bring about the best sight and sound your home theater experience can have? That something is an audio/video receiver. Receivers are in large part the reason why your sound can range from fantastic to lousy. While speakers where thought to have the most impact on whether a system sounds good or sounds poor, the truth is that a great set of speaker will still sound pretty bad with a poor quality receiver, while poor or mediocre speakers will still sound pretty good with a quality receiver. The choices for receivers are many and you can spend as much or as little you like.
For those with limited budgets, there are plenty of options from many well-respected audio component manufactures. The first thing that you will want to look for is the proper amount of speaker outputs. Most affordable receivers will generally support 5.1 outputs. This boils down to left and right front and rear speakers as well as front center channel speakers and subwoofer outputs. Some affordable receivers will support 7.1, though this is more of an exception than the rule.
The other thing to look for is HDMI inputs and outputs. HDMI connections are the premier format for transferring the highest quality audio as well as video signals, which is extremely important with high-definition audio and video being all the rage these days. These multiple HDMI inputs will allow you to connect multiple high-definition components and filter them down to one single output to your high-definition television.
The more expensive receivers for home theaters will often have more advanced audio encoding and processing as well as pre-amplifier outputs, which allow you to run a passive signal to dedicated power amplifiers that power your speakers with optimal power that is clean and has minimal to almost discrete distortion levels.
Whether your budget will allow you a certain level of indulgence when it comes to home theater receivers, or you and your wallet are kept on a short leash, the truth is that there is something for everyone. For the audiophile, there are receivers with four to five figure price tags just waiting to be bought. For others who are looking for a more modest home theater system, there are more budget friendly options that have a respectable amount of quality and will not require you to live out of your car to afford it.