Are There “Small” AV Receivers
An AV receiver does a lot of stuff. It switches inputs, converts digital signals to analogue, and amplifies speakers. But that isn’t all. AV receivers can receive Internet radio, stream music, and calibrate video and audio signals. But you don’t need all of that. You are looking for something smaller. Something that can do less. Because if it does less, it should cost less, right?
Physically Small Receivers
Before we move on, there are two reasons you might be looking at this article. Google took you here because you wanted a less full-featured AV receiver, or you really wanted a smaller receiver. If you are looking for a physically small receiver, you don’t have a ton of options. Most receivers come in the same sized box. If your problem is how tall receiver boxes are, look at Marantz. Specifically their NR series of receivers. The NR series is about half the height of a normal receiver but the same width. Receivers (and many pieces of AV gear) are the same width so that they can be rack-mounted. If you don’t love Marantz (or just want a second option), Yamaha has one slim model, the RX-S602. For deals, look at Accessories4Less.com for B-stock offerings that have full manufacturer warranties.
Less Full Featured AV Recievers
If by small you mean fewer features, you are unfortunately going to run into a problem. The logical line of thinking is that having a receiver with fewer features would decrease the complexity and number of components. Therefore, the cost would be less. That makes sense if each AV receiver was handmade. But they aren’t. AV receivers are mass-market products that are created on assembly lines.
When you start creating a product en masse, you can reduce your costs. This is called economies of scale. By increasing the number of units you create, you reduce the cost of manufacturing and therefore reduce the consumer price. By asking for a receiver with fewer features, you are requesting a product that has less broad appeal. That produce would, by definition, have lower sales numbers and would therefore be more expensive to manufacture.
“Small” AV Reciever Options
As we mentioned above, if you are looking for a physically small AV receiver, Marantz and Yamaha have a couple of options for you. They aren’t as full-featured as their larger brethren but maybe that is what you want? Otherwise, the only other options out there are integrated amplifiers and vintage gear.
An integrated amplifier is, by definition, a receiver without an AM/FM antenna. Unfortunately, they also tend to be stereo only. While there is no reason that they couldn’t be surround-capable, the people that are usually interested in an integrated amplifier generally only want stereo. Not only do they only want stereo, but they also want as few other “features” as possible. This comes from the audiophile belief that having additional circuitry can somehow negatively affect the sound.
Second, if you are looking for an AV receiver with fewer features, you could buy vintage gear. Again, you’ll be getting a receiver, it will just be old enough to have fewer features. But that may also include features you want. If you are looking to use the latest HDMI standard, room correction, or streaming options, you are just going to have to buy a current AV receiver. Yes, it will have a whole bunch of features you may never use, but it will still be cheaper than any other option out there.
If you really just need to power some speakers and don’t need anything other than volume control, you could look into distribution amplifiers. These devices are meant for whole-home audio. Depending on the one you buy, they can have multiple inputs, multiple amplifiers, and you can pick and choose what inputs go to which amps. They can only decode stereo sound and can sometimes combine it into a mono signal. There is usually the ability to control the volume on each amplifier separately
This makes sense for a whole-home audio system. The problem with distribution amps is that they are usually pretty low power and there is no way to integrate them into a surround sound system. You COULD but you’d need an AV receiver to do it. And that puts you back as square one doesn’t it?