You may also want to connect devices like CD players, tape decks and video recorders, and thatâ€™s why AV receivers usually provide plenty of â€˜line-levelâ€™ (unamplified) analogue inputs, as well as outputs (often labelled â€˜Tapeâ€™) for passing signals to external devices like audio recorders. Some high-end receivers also provide a grounded phono input for turntables.
Keeping with the analogue theme, most AV receivers provide a set of 5.1 or 7.1-channel inputs. These will come in handy if the receiver lacks HD audio decoders but you still want to enjoy HD audio soundtracks. Of course your Blu-ray player must be able to decode these formats and sport corresponding multichannel analogue outputs. If so, rig them up and enjoy Blu-ray soundtracks with no discernible drop in quality.
Some AV receivers also provide analogue line-out sockets for playing back audio and/or video in additional â€˜zonesâ€™. For instance you can use the receiver to watch a movie in the front room while you simultaneously pipe music to the kids up in the bedroom.
A set of line-level pre-outs may also be found on the rear panel. These make it possible to send audio signals to powered speakers or to a separate amplifier if the receiver simply doesnâ€™t provide enough welly on its own. Use the subwoofer pre-out to connect an active subwoofer.
Itâ€™s also worth checking the quality of the terminals used to connect the speaker cables â€“ ideally you want gold-plated or plastic binding posts for all channels for a sturdy, secure connection (most also allow you to insert banana plugs) but some cheaper models substitute some or all of these for springclip terminals which arenâ€™t as robust â€“ although thereâ€™s no difference in sound quality between the two.
These terminals are always clearly labelled to help with installation â€“ when rigging them up you have to make sure that the cable connected to the positive post on the receiver is connected to the positive post on the speaker, and likewise for the negative posts. If not, the reversed polarity causes sound to be â€˜out of phase, which can adversely affect sound quality.
Itâ€™s also handy to have a few connections on the receiverâ€™s front panel, which makes it easier to connect devices temporarily without having to fumble around at the back every time. Typical front-mounted inputs include composite, analogue stereo, a minijack port for MP3 players and sometimes even a USB port for connecting storage devices or iPods and playing music directly.
Surround Sound Buyer's Guide - Part 2: Speakers
Analogue Audio and Speaker Terminals