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Immerse Yourself in Your Home Theater

Watching movies at home has become an ever more popular alternative to going out. TVs are getting bigger and sound is getting better.

How Many Channels Do You Need?

Stereo sound developed because people have two ears, and they are innately directional. The more audio channels you have, the better spatial separation the system can generate. This helps create the feeling of immersion by putting you in the center of the soundscape; sounds that would naturally come from a given direction can actually come from that direction. There are three different kinds of channels, plus the subwoofer.

  • Front: With either two or three speakers, this gives you stereo separation and form the base of any system. The optional third channel is the center speaker, which handles dialogue and makes it easier to understand the actors.
  • Rear: These speakers add immersion by centering you in the soundscape. The most common setups feature two rear speakers, although some do include a rear center speaker as well.
  • Surround: Moving up to 7.1 audio gives you surround speakers that fit off to the sides. It's an incremental improvement and more difficult to wire. 
  • Subwoofer: The sub provides the deep bass that gives you the sensation of being there. You only need one sub because it's not directional so there's no benefit from spatial separation.

How Do You Choose a Receiver?

In many ways the Receiver is the heart of your home theater experience. It gathers all the signals from your various source media and outputs them to your amplifier and speakers. It lets you control all your audio and video entertainment from a single remote and enjoy the experience of music and movies without leaving your home. The trick is finding the right balance of features to meet your needs:

  • Inputs: The more inputs you have, the more devices you can connect, it's also helpful to have a good mix of both digital and analog inputs to deal with different devices.
  • Power: A 400-Watt receiver like the Kenwood VR-405 has a total output of 400 Watts but can only put out 80 Watts per channel. Always check how much power can go to each speaker, as that may be more important than total power.
  • Outputs: Outputs involve more than just audio channels. For example, the Kenwood VR-615 has two AC power outlets as well as being a 5.1 channel AV receiver. That way you can shut off the power to multiple devices at once.

The Evolution of Receivers

At one time, all you needed was a decent stereo receiver; it only handled music and had two channels of audio output for a basic speaker system. Since then, receivers have moved from strictly handling audio to managing an entire audiovisual experience.

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