Earlier this year we wrote extensively about what an AV receiver exactly is and what you should pay attention to when you buy one. However, we would like to highlight an important part of the receiver a bit further; AV receiver connections. A receiver is equipped with dozens of connections, with different functions. In this article we explain everything about it.
Connections to AV receivers
AV receivers are, as you could read in our previous article , a kind of central hub for your home cinema system. You can connect all types of inputs (sources) to these devices and often link multiple outputs (display devices). The receiver is capable of directing sound to the connected speakers and sending video material to the connected TV or projector. In addition, we now see many receivers that can wirelessly stream audio towards linked multi-room speakers.
Connections for video (HDMI)
In the past five years or so, a lot has changed in the field of video connections to a receiver. Previously we saw, for example, composite (the yellow tulip cable), component (RGB cable) and S-Video (round cable with pins). However, these are all analog connections and they are outdated. Nowadays most connections (there is often still a small number of composite and component connections available) have been replaced by one video connection; HDMI.
HDMI is now a generally accepted and used connection for connecting digital devices. The HDMI cable can transmit both audio and video in the highest quality, which significantly reduces the number of cables required. You can store almost all your digital sources on most receivers because an average of five HDMI inputs is roughly the standard. Before you purchase, however, check which devices you want to link to your receiver and make sure that the receiver you want has more HDMI ports than you need. After all, you will always see that you buy a new device and cannot get rid of it. Do you have a TV and a projector or a TV and a second TV in another room? Make sure that the receiver has two HDMI outputs,
In the field of HDMI it is also wise to look at the version of the connections. At the moment, HDMI 2.0a is the latest HDMI version and with this version you are in the right place with regard to 4K Ultra HD content and there is full high dynamic range support. This content is accepted by the receiver and can be forwarded to a display. It is also important that HDCP 2.2 support is present, which makes streaming 4K content possible. Please note; In the field of HDR there are today several standards and if a receiver has HDMI 2.0a then all standards are supported, except Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision must be listed separately as this requires specific hardware.
Of course there are also enough sources that you can connect via an audio cable, for example when HDMI is not available or when you have directly connected the source to the TV via HDMI. To send the audio to the receiver, and ultimately the speakers, there are various connections available; both analog and digital.
The analog RCA, or cinch, connection is special and only for audio. It is the best known analog audio connection, but it has its limitations. The decoding of the digital signal has to be done by the source (the CD player for example) and each channel needs its own cinch cable. Red and white stand for left and right, so stereo. However, you often also have access to 7.1-channel analog RCA inputs. To use these inputs on a receiver, you have to lay 8 cables (for a 7.1-channel playback) between the source and the receiver. There are advocates of analog (RCA) who claim that the sound is warmer and more natural, but there are also plenty of people who prefer digital.
There are also digital connections especially for audio, such as digital coaxial and optical . These connections provide good audio quality, without loss of signal, which can happen in analog connections. Yet there is a difference between audio via an HDMI cable and audio via an optical (toslink) or digital coaxial cable. To begin with, an HDMI cable is capable of transmitting both image and sound, while an optical or coaxial cable can only transmit audio. An HDMI cable is therefore in principle the only cable you need to send and even receive audio and video back (via HDMI ARC) from your TV. Both cables can transmit 5.1 channel audio (Dolby Digital or DTS), but note that optical does not support HD audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bitstream format, found on Blu-ray discs. The bandwidth is too small for this, a problem that HDMI does not have.
If you have linked all sources, it is of course the intention that you put the receiver to work to direct the audio from these sources to speakers. For this the receiver has an amplifier and a number of outputs for speakers. These so-called speaker terminals are clearly labeled on the back of the receiver. This way you can immediately see where a specific speaker must be connected, for example at the position of the front left or the center speaker.
Most receivers have speaker connections for at least a 5.1-channel (five speakers and a subwoofer) system, but with a larger budget you can also find receivers that support 11.2-channel or even larger systems. It all depends on the speaker setup you have in mind. In addition, the more expensive receivers come with extra speaker terminals that can be used for a second room, for example. These extra terminals often have two functions; or the height speakers in a Dolby Atmos setup or extra speakers in another room. Incidentally, the subwoofer is not connected with a simple speaker cable. A subwoofer cable (actually a normal RCA cable) is used for this.
AV receiver connections: More connections
With the above information about AV receiver connections, we have covered the most important connections, but that is certainly not all. For example, more and more receivers have an Ethernet port, which makes a direct and wired inter connection possible. For integration with (home automation) installations, RS-232, Flasher Out, IR receiver in, DC-Trigger and similar connections are often available. For example, RS232 is a direct communication port to the microprocessor of the device. Via this connection you can control the components and get status information without making any visual contact. And of course we should not forget the connection for the FM / AM antenna.
Think about what you want in advance
Before you purchase a receiver, it is wise to make an overview of all devices that you want to connect to your new home cinema system, such as the somewhat older CD player, record player, game console, DVD / Blu-ray players, a (HD TV decoder and possibly a laptop / computer and an internet connection. The outputs are also very important. Do you want to have images and / or sound in several rooms? Are you using an (Ultra) HD TV or an older picture tube TV? When you have all this in order, you can start looking for the perfect receiver .