Why do I need an amplifier for my home theater system?
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A home theater setup is a great addition to any family room, or a man cave, for that matter. It completes your home’s entertainment system. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for homes to feature a separate home theater room. After all, what better way is there to listen to your favorite music, enjoy the latest movies or catch the thrill of your favorite sport than with surround sound?
True, you now do have soundbars and smaller power speakers with internal amps that emulate surround sound to some extent, but the sound quality just isn’t the same. A common question that arises when people are buying their home theater systems is if they really need an external amplifier when they’re already investing in a receiver.
This is not surprising, since the two words often get used in the same context. However, there are differences between the two, and knowing this is important if you’re in the market to upgrade your home audio to a home theater system.
Components of a home theater system
Let’s first begin by looking at what the basic components of a home theater system are.
The number of speakers may vary depending on the room size, but most theater systems feature two front speakers, a center speaker, surround speakers, and a subwoofer.
Display devices differ, and depend largely on budget as well as personal voice. Choices vary from flat-screen LCD televisions. Also, OLED televisions, and ultra HD 4K televisions to a video projector and a screen.
Home theater systems are not particularly cheap. The last thing you need is for a power surge to destroy the expensive audio-visual gear you just invested in. Surge protectors offer much-needed protection to these devices.
Read more: Whole house surge protector worth
Amplifiers and receivers
Power amplifiers and AV receivers are essential to every home theater sound system because they both perform the basic function of taking the audio signal from the output devices, which could be blu ray players, DVD players, CD players, or the audio from your television, and amplify that signal before sending it out to the speakers. There are, however, differences between the two.
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Why amplifiers are necessary for home theater systems
A common question is why amplifiers or receivers are necessary for home theater systems. Why can’t speakers directly be connected to televisions, like soundbars can?
There are a couple of reasons for this. To start with, most televisions and display devices do not have enough ports for all the speakers in a home theater system.
Then, there is the fact that all high-end speaker systems are passive, which means that they need an amplifier to be able to work. Without a power amplifier, the speakers will not receive enough power to function.
Differences between an amplifier and a receiver
A power amp is a standalone amplifier that takes an audio signal and amplifies it, in layman’s terms. Depending on the type of amplifier you choose, the amplifier channels will deliver a certain number of watts per channel to each of the audio devices connected to it.
The amplifier you need will depend on a number of factors, such as the size of the room, the sensitivity rating of the speakers, how far you need the sound to travel, and how loud you want the volume to be.
However, an amplifier alone is insufficient to power your home theater system. In addition to it, you will need what audio professionals call “separates”, such as an equalizer, a preamp or a processor, a tuner, and more.
An AV receiver, on the other hand, has internal amplifiers and comes with all the other bells and whistles, such as a radio, a tuner, an equalizer, and a preamp.
This brings about another obvious question. Why should you invest in an external amplifier when you could simply buy a receiver?
Pros and cons of a stand-alone amplifier
- If you are serious about the kind of gear you want your home theater system to have, a stand-alone power amp makes sense, considering you get to choose every single component of the AV system.
- Upgrading components becomes easier when you choose individual products. For example, if you want to upgrade only your amplifier or only your preamp, you can do that without having to disturb the rest of your home theater setup.
- Buying stand-alone AV components will be more expensive than buying a receiver with everything inbuilt.
- Building your own AV system will take up a lot more space than a self-contained home theater system.
Pros and cons of a receiver
- You get everything built into one unit. This means you do not need to bother about spending time choosing and buying individual audio-visual components for your home theater system.
- Receivers take up a lot less space in comparison to external amplifiers and add-on components.
- A receiver setup will cost you considerably less than buying all the parts of your home theater system separately will.
- The quality of the receiver amps in an all-in-one home theater receiver tends to be of lower quality in comparison to external amplifiers. What this means is that even if you have really high-end speakers, the output and sound quality might not match up to what you would get if you bought an external amplifier with separates.
Of course, you have high-end receivers that can compare with external amplifiers in terms of audio output. However, the level of customization possible is still limited in comparison.
- You cannot upgrade individual components of a receiver. You will need to replace the entire system.
Which one should you choose?
The answer to whether you need to invest in an external amp with other individual AV components or buy a receiver with everything built in boils down to the purpose of the home theater system.
If you want to sit back and simply watch the occasional movie or listen to music, a receiver will do just fine. However, if you are a serious audiophile and serious music buff.
It might be a good idea to invest in an amplifier.
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