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Receivers Buying Guide

Tags:  speakers | entertainment | music | turntables | stereo Write a guide!

Drive your stereo or surround sound speakers with a new receiver.

Determine Which Type of Receivers You Need


Determine Which Type of Receivers You Need

Receivers power speakers and allow you to adjust settings such as your bass and treble settings. You can connect them to multiple home entertainment devices, and most include a built-in AM/FM radio tuner. When shopping, decide if you want a stereo receiver or a home theater receiver.

Stereo receivers

With two channels of amplification, stereo receivers output stereo audio from traditional CDs, cassettes, turntables, or radio to a set of speakers.

Home theater receivers

Home theater receivers sit at the center of your home entertainment system, powering multiple speakers and decoding surround sound audio from DVD movies, HDTV, and multichannel audio discs. Plus, you can also listen to music from traditional CDs, cassettes, turntables, or radio. The number of channels a receiver amplifies and outputs depends on the number of channels required by the surround sound formats supported by the receiver. A separate speaker will reproduce each channel of audio, with a subwoofer making up the .1 in a system.  

  • 5.1 surround sound: 5.1 surround sound provides audio for a center-channel speaker, two front speakers, two surround speakers, and a subwoofer.

  • 6.1 surround sound: 6.1 surround sound provides audio for a center-channel speaker, two front speakers, two surround speakers, a rear-channel speaker, and a subwoofer. 6.1-channel surround sound receivers can amplify six or seven channels of audio and support Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES formats.

  • 7.1 surround sound: 7.1 surround sound provides audio for a center-channel speaker, two front speakers, two surround speakers, two rear speakers playing the same channel of audio, and a subwoofer. They can also output audio from 5.1 and 6.1 channel audio sources to the rear speakers.

Home theater receivers also have digital inputs and outputs so that audio does not have to go through a signal-degrading analog-to-digital conversion process.

Multi-room receivers

Dual room home theatre receivers (sometimes called dual source) play audio from one source in one room while outputting audio from a different source to a set of speakers in a different room.

  • Preamp-level second-room output: All dual source receivers can output to a second set of stereo speakers on the preamp level. The second set of speakers needs to have its own power source, which means you'll need powered speakers or an additional amplifier or receiver.

  • Speaker-level second-room output: Certain 7.1 surround sound receivers allow one user to watch a movie in 5.1 surround sound while another person listens to stereo music from a separate audio source in a different room. To easily switch between 7.1 channel surround sound and dual source mode, look for receivers featuring "back surround" and "Zone 2" speaker outputs.

  • Dual room A/V output: Send stereo audio and a second video source to another room in your house.


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Support Surround Sound Formats


Support Surround Sound Formats

Your home theater receiver should support all the surround sound and multichannel audio formats you want to hear.

  • Dolby Digital: Widely used in DVDs and digital television broadcasts, this 5.1 channel surround sound format includes five channels of audio and a low-frequency effects (LFE) channel dedicated to delivering bass sound effects in the 10 Hertz to 120 Hertz range.

  • Dolby Digital EX: Featured on more DVDs each week, this 6.1 channel extended surround format from Dolby includes six channels of audio and a low-frequency effects (LFE) channel dedicated to delivering bass sound effects in the 10 Hertz to 120 Hertz range. It can also play back Dolby Digital 5.1 content.

  • DTS: 5.1 surround sound format that competes with Dolby Digital. It is an optional format on many DVDs and multichannel audio recordings.

  • DTS-ES: Optional 6.1 surround sound format on many DVDs and multichannel audio recordings. It is backward-compatible with DTS and competes with Dolby Digital EX.

  • DTS Neo:6: Format that creates five or six channels of audio for surround sound setups from matrix stereo recordings. It can also create a 6.1 surround sound experience with a rear channel from 5.1 channel surround sound recordings. It competes with Dolby Pro Logic II.

  • Dolby Pro Logic: Many video games can simulate surround sound with an adapter kit, digital audio cable, and decoder.

  • Dolby Pro Logic II: Create a 5.1-channel surround sound experience from stereo recordings or four-channel Dolby Surround audio from TV shows and VHS tapes.

  • Dolby Pro Logic IIx: Create a 7.1 surround sound experience from your stereo, 5.1, or 6.1 channel recordings.

  • THX-Certified: THX isn't actually an audio format that needs a special decoder, but if you're a movie buff you probably still want THX-certified equipment. It uses proprietary equalization to realistically recreate a THX movie theater experience and meets specific standards for power, frequency response, and acceptable levels of distortion. THX Select-certified equipment can deliver cinematic performance in rooms up to 2,000 square feet and THX Ultra-certified equipment delivers theater-quality performance in rooms up to 3,000 square feet.

  • THX Surround EX: Surround sound decoding format that can create a 6.1 channel surround sound experience from any home theater audio source. It natively supports Dolby Digital EX and Dolby Digital and can also be used with DTS-ES, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic, and Dolby Pro Logic II. For best performance you'll want a 6.1 channel surround sound receiver and speakers.

The back packaging of your favorite DVDs, multichannel audio recordings, or video games will list the surround sound formats they support.

DVD-Audio & SACD

DVD-Audio and SACD require decoding at the source. You'll need an SACD player to listen to SACDs or a DVD player that supports DVD-Audio to listen to DVD-Audio discs. Both can also contain Dolby Digital and DTS material that your receiver can decode.


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Choose Receiver Cables


Choose Receiver Cables

Your receiver should have inputs and outputs for all the devices you want to hook up, including your DVD player, CD changer, satellite TV receiver, and AM/FM tuner.

Look at receiver inputs

Buy a receiver with enough inputs to support multiple audio sources. Don't worry if a receiver only has a few audio inputs. You can use audio/video inputs to connect audio-only devices, too.

  • Line-level stereo: Support analog audio connections from many devices including your stereo, AM/FM tuner, turntables that have a built-in phono preamp, and devices that offer decoding for Dolby Pro Logic.

  • Phono: Connect your turntable and listen to your LPs.

  • Digital audio: Make basic connections between digital audio sources and your receiver. Make sure the inputs on your receiver are the same as the outputs on your audio source.

  • Component video: Transfer signals from your progressive-scan DVD player or HDTV. Receivers offering component video conversion transfer video from a composite, S-video, or component video input source to your television via a component video cable. Check for HDTV compatibility before you buy.

  • S-video: Receivers that support composite-to-S-video conversion take in a video signal via an S-video or composite video cable and output them to your TV over an S-video cable.

  • DVI: Carry encrypted high-resolution video signals from an HDTV-capable satellite or cable set-top box to an HDTV monitor with a DVI connector. It can also be used with some DVD players.

  • HDMI: Transfer uncompressed digital video signals and multichannel digital audio signals from HDTV tuners, HDTV-ready televisions, and DVD players over a single cable connection. It offers copy protection and works well with plasma, LCD, and rear-projection DLP televisions.

If you have a standalone CD recorder or DVD recorder, make sure your receiver has digital outputs compatible with the digital inputs on your recorder.

Get the right cables

Purchase high-quality cables to go with your receiver. They'll carry audio and video signals more reliably and allow less noise than the cables that come with your components. The devices you want to connect to your receiver determine the type of cable you need to buy.

  • Coaxial RF cable: Use coaxial RF cables to connect your standard TV antennae, VCR, turntable, or tuner.

  • Composite (RCA) cable: Transfer a video signal from a DVD player or VCR to your TV over a single composite RCA cable connection.

  • 75-ohm digital audio cable: Transfer digital audio over 75-ohm digital audio cable. Make sure the inputs on your receiver are the same as the outputs on your audio source.

  • Optical digital/fiber optic: Transfer digital audio from digital music players, progressive-scan DVD players, and HDTVs over optical digital cable. Make sure the inputs on your receiver are the same as the outputs on your audio source.

  • Component video: Split a video signal from your DVD player, VCR, or HDTV tuner and process the signals separately for improved picture quality. Most component video cables need to have 12 megahertz or higher bandwidth, but cables used for HDTV require 30 megahertz of bandwidth or more.

  • S-video: Many digital devices, including camcorders, use four-pin S-video cables to transmit video. You can use the connection to transmit a video signal from a camcorder to your television, for example.

  • DVI: Transfer digital video from your HDTV tuner, HDTV-ready TV, or DVI-compatible DVD player over DVI cable. Most home electronics use DVI-D cable.

  • HDMI: Transfer up to eight channels of audio to your 7.1 channel surround sound system along a single HDMI cable. Many HDTV tuners and HDTV-ready TVs support HDMI connections, which is backward-compatible with DVI.

Remember to buy speaker cables to connect your speakers to your receiver and purchase separate subwoofer cables for the best low-frequency sound. To find out how much speaker cable you need, measure the distance between each component that needs a cable connection, taking areas that need extra length (windows, door frames, corners) into consideration. Buy cables on the long side; usually at least two feet more than you think you need.


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Power Your Receivers


Power Your Receivers

Make sure your receiver provides enough power for the speakers you plan to use. Look at speaker sensitivity, receiver wattage, and total harmonic distortion.

Speaker sensitivity

Sensitivity determines how much power your speakers require. Speakers with lower ratings require less power to reach a specific volume than speakers with higher ratings. For example, in order to produce sound at a specific volume, a speaker with a sensitivity rating of 3 decibels greater than another requires half the power. Sensitivity above 90 decibels is good; sensitivity between 88 decibels and 90 decibels is average; and sensitivity below 85 decibels can push your amp. Also make sure that a manufacturer lists a full-bandwidth power rating that covers the range of human hearing from 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz. Some manufacturers only provide a power rating for a partial range.

Amp wattage

A surround sound receiver amplifier should offer at least 100 watts of power per channel, equally distributed throughout a system. For example, 100 watts x 6 for a 6.1 channel surround sound system. The equation may also specify an impedance rating; for example, 100 watts x 6 @ 8 ohms. Many speakers have an 8-ohm rating, but some go down to 6 ohms, 4 ohms, or even 2 ohms, requiring more power. Additionally, actual impedance can vary depending on frequency. Play it safe and make sure your amp can handle lower-impedance speakers without overheating or shutting down.

Receivers with more wattage deliver sound with more detail than receivers with less wattage. However, when it comes time to compare receivers with similar wattage ratings, don't make power a deciding factor. In order to increase sound 3 decibels, you need to double wattage, for example, from 50 watts to 100 watts. However, in order to double how loud audio sounds, you need a 10-decibel increase. In other words, you won't hear much difference between a 100-watt receiver and a 120-watt receiver.

If you want a bone-rattling experience, look for a high-current power receiver capable of quickly reproducing sudden sound surges in movies and music.

Total harmonic distortion

A seller might list a receiver's total harmonic distortion (THD) rating, a measurement of amplifier signal purity. The number indicates how clean your music and movies will sound. Even though THD ratings typically fall below 1 percent, look for lower numbers, preferably below 0.1 percent, if you want the cleanest power.

Digital receivers have higher THD ratings than traditional receivers. However, they use other technology to minimize distortion and offer comparable sound. When looking at THD ratings, compare traditional receivers to other traditional receivers and digital receivers to other digital receivers.


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Find Receivers on eBay


Find Receivers on eBay

Now that you know what you need, go to eBay's Consumer Electronics portal and click the Receivers link under Home Audio to start your shopping experience.

  • Product Finder: Located on the left side of each listings page, the Home Audio Receivers Finder has a set of drop-down menus that'll help you narrow down item listings by brand, number of channels, and condition.

  • Categories: Located beneath the Home Audio Receivers Finder, links in the Categories list help you navigate through a category. For example, you'll find links to Home Theater Receivers and Stereo Receivers (2-Channel) on the first Receivers item listings page. Once you click a link, you'll find another Categories list providing links to popular brands in the category.

  • Keywords: Let eBay find items for you by entering the keywords you want to find into the Finder's Keywords search box or into eBay's general Search box. Visit eBay's Search Tips page to get more information about searching with keywords.

  • Let sellers help: If you want to know about information not included on an item, email the seller your question by clicking the Ask seller a question link under the seller's profile.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.


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Buy Recievers With Confidence


Buy Recievers With Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that you don't receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover your purchase price plus original shipping. Learn more.


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