Surround Receivers

AV Receiver Upgrade Checklist


So you think you need a new AV receiver. Your AV receiver is a little old and it seems like something you should upgrade. If you are being honest, it is mostly because you read about some new receivers being released and you really want to buy something new. But, will it actually make a difference? Or are you just wasting your money? Fear not! We’ve put together an AV Receiver Upgrade Checklist to help you out. Fill out the information below (here it is in PDF form) and we’ll help you decipher it afterward.

Decoding our AV Receiver Upgrade Checklist

Now that you’ve filled in the relevant data, let’s start to see if you really NEED a new AV receiver or if you just want one. Listen, if you have the money and you just are itching for an upgrade, we get it. We’ve all been there. But you are here because you want to know if you need an upgrade.

Step 1: What Do You Actually Need?

We had you list what you have and use at the beginning for a baseline. What we are doing here is solidifying what it is you’ll actually use. If you aren’t a hardcore gamer (using one of the newest game consoles or a high-end PC), you don’t need HDMI 2.1. Even if you are, but you don’t own a display that can take advantage of the increased framerates and other features of HDMI 2.1, then upgrading your receiver won’t help.

Now, if you are on the market for an AV receiver anyway, we would suggest you get one that fully supports HDMI 2.1 (future-proofing). But if that is the only reason you are upgrading, you better be able to take advantage of those features.

Step 2: What Will You Actually Use?

Compare the number of speakers that you own with the number of channels in your current AV receiver. Do you need more amplifier channels? Then an upgrade is in order. If you plan on buying more speakers soon (to upgrade to Atmos for example), and your current receiver doesn’t support more speakers, then you’ll need to upgrade. But when we say soon, we mean VERY soon. You have either ordered the speakers or are currently shopping for them. Too often we’ve heard people say, “Well, I might upgrade to Atmos someday,” when they know they won’t. If you aren’t going to do it soon, don’t upgrade your receiver “just in case.” By the time you get around to the speaker upgrade (if you ever do), you’ll probably want to upgrade your AV receiver again anyhow.

Step 3: Is There A Feature That You Really Need?

Let’s take a look at the “benefits” you listed. Are any of them sound quality or sound quality adjacent? If so, scratch those out. Nearly all modern AV receivers sound identical. Any differences people hear can be attributed to many other factors (usually a different brand of room correction) but the make of the receiver is not one of them.

But there are features out there that you might want. A newer and more powerful room correction program is one. You might need more zones (if you are looking for that) or more inputs (HDMI, legacy inputs) or outputs (pre-outs for an external amplifier).

Lastly, we asked about the most used features. For most of us, we use a fraction of what an AV receiver can actually do. We use less than a handful of inputs, almost never change our listening modes, and maybe control our receiver with an app once or twice. Buying the least expensive AV receiver that does the things you actually use is the best expenditure of your money.

Wrap Up

Some of you looked at that “number of watts” line on our AV Receiver Upgrade Checklist and wondered why we haven’t talked about it. Honestly, we put it there because you want to list it. The number of watts on any given AV receiver is pretty inconsequential. While one might list 10 more than another, they are functionally the same.

The goal with your AV Receiver Upgrade Checklist is not to make your decision for you. It is to help you identify exactly how you’ll use your AV receiver. If you are upgrading because you think a new receiver will sound better or different, you are probably going to be disappointed. But if there are features that your current receiver can’t do that you feel would make your life better, then you should upgrade right away. The key is to examine how you actually use your AV receiver.


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