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Buyer's Guide: AV Receivers

Speakers' corner

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In the dock

A USB digital connection for your iPod is very much a recent feature, but you should find it on most amps available this year and it saves you the need for a separate iPod dock. A notable exception is Yamaha’s offering, which utilises a proprietary connector for its optional iPod dock accessory.

Pioneer VSX-1020

AV remotes tend to offer a bewildering range of options

You should also consider whether you want your receiver to control different rooms. Some will offer two or even three different zones with programmable settings which you can flick between at the touch of a button. Secondary zones may only offer audio capability rather than video however.

The lower end of the AV amp/receiver scale doesn’t tend to include network capability but it’s a feature that’s well worth considering if you want to be able to stream music or video directly from your computer to your TV or surround system, especially if it’s in a different room. This level of functionality is creeping into the midrange though, so look for DLNA certification to ensure easy(ish) set-up.

All receivers include a radio tuner, but some can also function as Internet radio receivers. For this, of course, they’ll need an Internet connection, typically using Ethernet, although some also offer access from Wi-Fi, which may come built in, or may require an additional adaptor. Internet connections also offer the possibility of software updates, which can come in handy for future-proofing and bug fixing.

Buying an AV receiver is a significant investment and you’re likely to want to keep your amp or receiver for a some time. While specs and features are important, especially those that will protect you for a while against new developments, the bottom line is that you’ll need to enjoy the sound it delivers. Whether you go for low-end grunt or prefer a more refined and detailed approach to soundtrack or music, the only way to be sure of getting what you want is to give your choices an extended listen at a demo session.

Next: Denon AVR-2311

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