Surround Receivers

Most Valuable Upgrade – Speakers or AV Receiver

We all want the best home theater. Unfortunately, we are stuck having the best home theater we can afford. When we find ourselves with enough money to afford an upgrade (finally!) we want to get the best upgrade. “Best” in this case means “most noticeable.” Upgrading from a small TV to a very large one is very noticeable. Buying your first subwoofer and experiencing true bass for the first time is very noticeable. When deciding between your speakers and your AV receiver, which is the most valuable upgrade? As you might expect, the answer depends. Let’s discuss!

Something > Nothing

When you are shopping for upgrades, something is always better than nothing (not Atmos speakers). If you have a stereo system and an AV receiver, then getting surround speakers would be the way to go. Sure, you could get a center speaker as well if you want. If you have surround speakers but no subwoofer, then buying a true subwoofer will give you the most bang for your buck. If one of your speakers or your AV receiver in your system breaks, replacing it is probably the most valuable upgrade.

AV Receiver

AV receivers are the brains of your home theater system. They can make your life very easy or create problems. All things being equal, AV receivers change significantly more often than speakers. AV receivers are more likely to have upgrades than your speakers. Speakers that are 20 years old can still sound good today. AV receivers from 20 years ago are so hopelessly out of date that they are practically useless (if they still work).

Of course, just because newer AV receivers can do more, doesn’t mean you actually need that upgrade. If you aren’t interested in expanding your speaker system or have an older TV that doesn’t need the latest HDMI features, upgrading your AV receiver won’t do much for you. Sure, you can get better room correction which has some value. But is that enough? You’ll have to decide.


Most of the time, the more valuable upgrade will be an AV receiver over speakers. But is there a time when speakers are the best upgrade? Of course! This is most common when you move your system from one room to another. Usually when this happens, your speakers are the wrong size (too big or too small). Speakers that are too large end up creating problems placing them in your new, smaller room. Speakers that are too small can’t create enough sound to fill a large space. They also tend to distort and sound bad. This can cause listener fatigue and eventually damage the speakers.

What if you just don’t think your speakers sound very good? Is that a reason to upgrade your speakers? We know you want us to say, “Yes.” Unfortunately, the answer usually is, “No.” We assume that you bought your speakers either because you thought they sounded good or the Internet told you they would be good. Either way, it is important to remember that your speakers are only one part of the system that affects how you perceive the sound quality in your room. There are so many other things you can do to improve the sound in your space. Buying new speakers is usually the last step, not the first.

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