Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi

Larry Dent is the owner of Chesapeake Home Theatre & Hi-Fi.

These articles were written for the Islander Weekly.

Comments can be forwarded directly to

Larry's Tech Talk

Grand Central Station

Let’s talk audio and video system components! Maybe the best place to start is the heart of any system, the audio / video receiver. I refer to this “black box” as Grand Central Station. Today’s a/v receivers are so sophisticated I sometimes wonder how manufacturers can sell them for profit. Companies like Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo and Sherwood are a few of the mid to upper end manufacturers competing for our family’s time and entertainment dollar..

OK LD, so what exactly is an A/V Receiver? Well, if we break down the guts of our system’s Grand Central Station this is what we will find inside the box. If money were no object, you might have several “separate” components that a receiver has inside of one box. First there is the “pre-amp” or the traffic cop as I like to call it. The pre-amp section accepts inputs from source components like a CD, Blu-Ray, IPod, XBox or Cable TV receiver (or Satellite TV). Today’s “source“ components might output via a digital or analog connection. So our a/v receiver needs to be both digital, analog, audio and video capable.

A few years ago, receivers were analog audio capable only, and probably only 2 channel stereo. But today’s receivers process both audio, video and can have as many as 7 or 9 separate power amplifiers built into their one enclosure (the black box!). That means we now have a pre-amp and several power amplifiers in our a/v receiver. What else dude? OK, we’re having fun now! Let’s add a surround sound processor to our list, so we can listen to our favorite music or movie in a 5, 7, or even 9.2 nice surround sound mode, i.e. orchestra, dolby hi-def, cinema, stadium, unplugged or whatever.

Is that it, a pre-amp, several power amps, and a surround processor? This is a busy unit here! No, today’s a/v receivers also add an FM tuner, and a network connection. WHAT, a network connection? YES, an Ethernet connection that connects to your home network to play internet services like Pandora or Sirius XM (to name a few), through your family’s system with no other add-on devices. Pop a flash drive into the USB connection on the front of the receiver and you can watch the family’s vacation taken from your video cam or digital camera on the big TV in the Family Room.

That’s a lot of stuff Yo, sounds expensive. Well you can purchase a receiver with all of the above capabilities in the $500 range. There are less expensive units, but $500 is a real good place to start. Think of it as the “sweet spot” If you want more power and features plan on $1000 and up. So what does $1000 get you? Since today’s a/v receivers accept video as well as audio, the higher end units actually will upscale a standard video signal to hi-definition and the built-in surround sound processor will be upgraded. With more power even audio at lower volume levels sounds fabulous. Like a half ton truck will get the job done, but a one ton truck won’t struggle.

If you’re OK with listening to your TV via your TVs speakers, you probably don’t need an a/v receiver. But if you want to add control, surround sound and upgraded video, think about adding Grand Central Station to your family’s entertainment system. And if you have an IPhone or Droid, most receiver manufacturers offer free remote control apps for download. Yes. Remote control from your cell phone to that new a/v receiver!

Now boarding on Track Number Nine!