Audio and Video Connections
Audio and video inputs are important because they determine the number of components you can connect to your system. Consider the components you have now and those you might want to add in the future. At a minimum you will want to connect a DVD and/or CD player and a television, but you may want to add a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or a cable or satellite dish receiver in the future. Digital (optical and coaxial) and analog audio connections are equally important.
Most receivers have six-channel analog inputs, which are very important for playback of the latest, high-resolution audio discs such as DVD-Audio or SACD. These discs offer significantly better fidelity than CDs but require a capable disc player and corresponding receiver inputs. The six-channel analog input may also be necessary for any future audio formats that come along. Lately, many higher priced receivers also offer an IEEE 1394 FireWire™ digital connection (also called I-Link) between the player and the receiver for playback of DVD-A and SACD discs.
Video connections come in three types: composite, S-video and component video, with component offering the best performance including better contrast and sharper images. Most new DVD players and television monitors have component video connections. Many receivers feature a circuit that “up-convert” all incoming video signals to component video with a single video cable connecting the a/v receiver with the TV, which simplifies connections and improves video quality. The bandwidth or frequency range of the component video circuit in the receiver is important for the highest video quality. Bandwidth, measured in megahertz (MHz), is a specification that indicates how much information can go from the source through the video circuits in the receiver to the television or monitor. More bandwidth generally means a better picture. The minimum bandwidth is about 30MHz, but 60-100MHz is better. Some higher priced receivers, such as the Yamaha RX-Z9 include video enhancement circuits to further improve picture quality.
Front panel A/V inputs on the receiver are important if you want to connect a video game console or a camcorder to the receiver without removing it from the cabinet or shelf to use the rear-panel connections. Typically front panel inputs are analog audio (sometimes digital audio, too) and composite or S-video inputs.
Multi-Room / Multi-Source Capability
If you think you might enjoy sound in more than one room, this is an important feature to consider. Many receivers can route signals to second or third zones (rooms), enabling you to enjoy audio and video throughout your home using the same receiver. Some receivers send analog line level signals (un-amplified), speaker level signals or both to the remote zone(s). In either case, you will have to run audio and video cables to the remote zones plus you will need to add an amplifier and speakers. Consider whether you have the skills and tools to do this, or if you need to hire a professional contractor or electrician to install the necessary wiring. Sherwood has introduced new receivers and separate components with Advanced Room 2 that outputs digital audio signals to a second zone for higher quality multi-room sound. More about multi-room audio distribution systems.
In addition to an a/v receiver, you will probably have a CD player, DVD player and a television, and maybe a tape player, cable box or satellite receiver and a DVR. Soon your coffee table will be covered with remote controls. You need a Universal Remote Control, which can be programmed with codes to control all of your components, or can learn codes from other remote controls. Programming and learning functions are easy and will simplify the operation of your system and reduce clutter. Many remotes have Macro Command capability, which can execute several system functions with the touch of one button. Higher priced receivers often include an LCD touch-panel remote control that can operate the entire system by pressing icons on the remote’s screen.