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When Should I Upgrade My AV Receiver?

by December 13, 2014
Marantz 4240 Quad Receiver

Marantz 4240 Quad Receiver

We often get asked by our readers if they should upgrade their A/V receiver.  Some of them asking this question bought a new receiver as little as a few months ago, while others are still pimping a vintage 1970’s era silver-wood panel wonder with quadraphonic stereo.  This helpful guide and our Youtube Video attempts to answer this question in the best possible way to accommodate your circumstances.

When Should I Upgrade My AV Receiver?

To give a useful answer, it’s important to be honest with yourself, and ask the following questions:

Q: Does my current A/V receiver work? 

A: If not, then the answer is obvious. Upgrade!


Q: Am I running two-channel setup only or a multi-channel surround sound system? 

A: If you’re only running a two-channel rig and your current receiver supplies plenty of power to your speakers, then there is little reason to upgrade.


Q: Does my A/V receiver support HDMI 1.4 or greater?

A: If your current A/V receiver does NOT have HDMI, then you can’t access the latest in HD audio or video.  The ONLY way to get native 1080p from new Blu-ray players today is via HDMI.  Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD lossless audio bitstreams require HDMI 1.3 or above.  The only exception to this rule is if you have a Blu-ray player with multi-channel preamp outputs and an A/V receiver with analog multi-channel inputs.  The ONLY way to get 3D and 4K pass-thru is through HDMI 1.4 or above.

Please see:  HDMI 1.0 to 2.0 Explained for more information about the various versions of HDMI and their capabilities.


Q: What about Dolby Atmos?

A:  Unless you plan on running discrete in-ceiling speakers for the height channels required for Dolby Atmos, we don’t feel that it’s worth the expense to upgrade to an Atmos-ready A/V receiver. If in-ceiling speakers aren’t in the cards, then as mentioned above, HDMI 1.3 or greater is all that’s needed to pass Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD.


Q: Do I need more power or more amplifier channels?

A: If your current A/V receiver only supports 5.1 or 7.1, and you want to add additional speakers for height/width channels or support multi-zone audio, then you may want to upgrade to a model that offers these features.  Also consider adding an external amplifier for a power boost and/or the ability to re-route unused amp channels in your A/V receiver, as this could be a more economical route.

See: When Should I Add External Amplification to an A/V Receiver?


Don’t upgrade your A/V receiver just to keep up with the Joneses, or because you want the latest networking support from streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.  Your SmartTV will likely do these functions BETTER than any A/V receiver that offers it.  In our opinion, it’s generally a good idea to buy a higher model receiver and spend a few more bucks now as you will likely get more usage out of it before needing to upgrade again.  A seven channel model will usually allow you to reassign the unused amp channels in a 5.1 installation for another zone.  At the same time, you will often get more elaborate bass management and configuration flexibility with the higher end models.  Go for the better model NOW so you don’t get buyer’s remorse next year when the replacement model comes along.     


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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