Inside an Arcam AVR 350 receiver. Designed in the UK, but built in the Far East. Seven power amplifiers sit on central fan cooled heat sinks, and a large circular toroidal transformer supplies power.

Although AV receivers seemingly belong in traditional hi-fi territory and one or two shine in this role, it’s simply the case that most do not: they are distinguished by mediocre sound quality. The reason is that AV receivers are hugely complex items purposed to meet the needs of large Consumer Electronics companies (e.g. Sony, Panasonic etc) in supporting the AV market they created and control. These receivers are priced at peanut levels for what’s inside them, achieved by highly automated, mass manufacturing in a few, large Far East OEM factories, mainly in Korea, Taiwan and China. Money is not spent on niceties; every component is cost cut to the bone and even On Screen Displays suffer, with horribly crude graphics the Brand Name manufacturers, often Japanese, seem unable or unwilling to improve upon.

Most AV receivers measure satisfactorily well but flaws are common and our measurement routines identify them. Most receivers sound crude in comparison to real hi-fi amplifiers. All the same, good receivers from brand leaders Marantz and Onkyo can do things beyond the capabilities of stereo hi-fi, such us play high resolution 24/192 digital audio in full surround-sound – and their sound is quite stunning. It takes advanced measurement methods and equipment to reveal this and ours are able to do so.

Our receiver tests are comprehensive, applying all the methods used for the performance measurement of true hi-fi to assess receiver amplifier and tuner sections. The HDMI digital input of receivers offers a more advanced performance than anything found in traditional high fidelity, and our measurements take account of this by using highest resolution 24/192 digital audio test routines from Rohde & Schwarz and Burosch in Germany to get a full insight into what receivers under review are capable of. Our room acoustics analysis equipment from Audiomatica of Italy enables us to assess the effectiveness of room tuning functions built into many receivers.

High quality receivers can deliver great sound but it is important to use advanced measurements to sort the good from the bad.


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