Surround Receivers

Do You Need a New AV Receiver

Let’s be clear: You want a new AV receiver. That’s not in dispute. But if you are like me, you probably want a little more justification for your purchase. It doesn’t have to be much. Just something that can push you over the edge from “wanting” a new AV receiver to “needing” one. You’ve probably been trying out a couple of rationales. Let’s walk through some of the most common.

These Don’t Hold Water

There are a lot of reasons to buy a new AV receiver. We’ve even got a checklist to help you out. If you don’t have unlimited funds, you’ll need a real, substantive reason (or two) to spend the cash. Unfortunately, these two, most common reasons don’t really work.

More Power

Probably the most cited reason for upgrading an AV receiver is the desire for more power. The reasoning is often that the additional wattage will somehow make the speakers sound better. That simply isn’t true. There are lots of things that AV receivers can do that may make your speakers sound better, but providing additional power isn’t one of them. If your current AV receiver has enough power for your speakers, then getting more won’t make any audible difference.

VU meter power
Moar POWER!!!


Futureproofing is probably one of the laziest reasons for wanting to upgrade your AV receiver. You are essentially saying you are going to buy a new receiver for features you aren’t planning on using any time soon. How does that make sense? Will these features somehow not be available in the actual future when you are ready to take advantage of them? Wait until you actually need the features to purchase a new receiver.

“Upgrading” from Mid-Level to Entry-Level Receiver

While this isn’t a reason to upgrade, you may want to look at your AV receiver closely before you consider an upgrade. If your receiver would have been considered mid-level when you bought it, it is probably pretty close in performance to current entry-level receivers. Sure, the new AV receiver says it can do things your current receiver can’t, but there is a lot that isn’t said. Your mid-level receiver likely has tons of functionality that an entry-level receiver will lack. Don’t be fooled by the shiny new features.

Real Reasons to Upgrade

Of course, there are real reasons to upgrade your AV receiver. We’re not going to argue that. These reasons solely focus on needing something that your old receiver can’t provide.

More Stuff

Did you get a new 4k TV that you want to pair with a current-generation game console? Your old AV receiver won’t pass through the latest HDMI 2.1 gaming features. Want Atmos? You’ll need a new receiver for that (no, you can’t just add speakers). Additional HDMI inputs, streaming capabilities, zones, pre-outs, subwoofer outputs…all of these require a receiver upgrade. If you are ready to expand your system, upgrading your AV receiver is a clear necessity.

Form Factor

Life is change. As we move through life, often our situations change drastically. A job change may require a big move. A big move may see your home theater shrink from an open-concept living space to a small bedroom. With space at a premium, suddenly your receiver and external amps aren’t really needed and can’t fit. “Upgrading” your receiver because you need more space isn’t such a crazy idea. While you might not need more “stuff,” you might need a different receiver. Fair enough.

New Features

Every year, receiver manufacturers come out with new features to shove into their offerings. If there wasn’t anything new, why upgrade? But most of these features are marginal improvements to existing technologies or niche use features that might not apply. But when a truly new tech does come out (like the inclusion of Dirac in more AV receivers), then you may be tempted to upgrade. If you are going to actually use the feature, that is a good reason to start shopping.

But it can be more than that. If you bought an entry-level receiver, you may find that there are convenience features that would make your life easier. HDMI output to zone 2, upconversion to HDMI, and eARC all come to mind. Sure, you didn’t think you’d need those features, but you’ve come to realize that they would make your life a whole lot easier. The features might not technically be new, but they’d be new to you.

Take Away

Of course, it’s your money. Just wanting the latest and greatest can be enough for some people to upgrade their AV receiver. But if you are looking for real reasons why you should upgrade, it comes down to use. If you will actually use the new AV receiver in a way that is substantially different than your current receiver, then buy away. Otherwise, save your money until you will or, better yet, invest in some room treatments.

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