Can You Add Channels to an AV Receiver?
Buyer’s remorse is a real thing. Maybe you started your home theater journey like so many others. You had an inkling of what you needed, went to a big box store, and bought what the salesperson recommended. But now you realize that you should have bought something different. Maybe you should have gotten different speakers. Most likely, you’ve got an AV receiver that doesn’t have enough channels. You thought you wanted a simple setup, but the lure of a full surround system has ensnared you. Now you want ALL the speakers! Can you make this entry-level receiver work?
Processing vs. Amplification
In general, AV receivers have two different specifications regarding the number of speakers it can support. There is the number of speakers it can amplify, and the number of channels it can process. Every AV receiver can power a certain number of speakers. They have binding posts for each speaker (pictured below). Some AV receivers will actually have more binding posts than amplifier channels. This is so that you can switch configurations without having to rewire your speakers. So you can’t just count the number of pairs of binding posts on the back of your AV receiver and assume it can power that number of speakers. You have to look at the specifications.
To further confuse the issue, some AV receivers can process more channels than they can power. You’ll see this listed as an “11-channel receiver with 9 channels of amplification” or some such. This means that the AV receiver can decode and send a signal to 11 speakers but only has 9 channels of amplification. With these AV receivers, you can add an external amp to provide power to these additional channels.
But What About Your AV Receiver
Obviously, we don’t know which AV receiver you own. But we can help you figure it out. Head over to the product page on your manufacturer’s website. You’ll need to look at the specifications and see if it can process more channels. It should be fairly obvious but you can always shoot them an email or use their chat function to find out. If your AV receiver can process more channels than it has amplifiers, then you can add that number of speakers. You’ll have to check the manual to see if there are any limitations on what channels need to be amplified externally (there often are).
What About Pre-Outs?
But what if your AV receiver has pre-outs? Can you use external amplifiers on any number of speakers so that the internal amps in your AV receiver can power additional channels?
The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Freeing up amplifier channels does not allow your AV receiver to process more speaker channels. The limitation isn’t the number of amps, it is the intrinsic ability of your receiver to process a finite number of channels. Regardless of the number of amps (external or internal) you have available, a 7-channel AV receiver can never provide a signal to more than 7 speakers. If you want to add more speakers past 7, you’ll have to buy a different receiver.