What is an Audio Receiver? (Answered)

What is an Audio Receiver

The world of audio is often so confusing—so many names for so many different things that all seem to matter. Audio receivers are one of those essential things you’ve probably heard of but might not exactly understand. So what is an audio receiver?

An audio receiver is a device that accepts audio signals. It seems simple on the surface, but there’s more to understand beyond just the brief explanation. Audio receivers are either stereo or A/V receivers. An A/V receiver is a control center for audio and video sources, hence the A(udio) and the V(ideo). 

Another audio receiver can be a standard stand-alone Bluetooth receiver that functions as a connector between a mobile device and a sound system. So what’s the difference beyond that? Let’s break it all down.

The Usual Components of an Audio Reciever

This depends on the type of receiver. If it is a standard audio receiver, then it likely only has an audio input, preamplifier, and outputs. In the case of stereos, it will have audio input, preamplifier, outputs, and power amplifiers.

When it comes to A/V receivers, these will contain the audio/video input, preamplifier, outputs, power amplifiers, and surround sound decoder.

Stereo Audio Receiver

A stereo receiver acts as an audio amplifier and switching device for stereo systems. This receiver has inputs for the collective audio sources and distributes this to one or more sets of speakers. Sometimes they also include AM/FM tuners. This, however, isn’t always the case. 

If there is an external amplifier, the stereo receiver will provide outputs from its preamplifier and deliver a connection to the external amplifier with superior power. 

In the event that you’re using a stereo as a home theater system to add that high-quality audio to video sources, there are some things you need to know. First, a stereo receiver is not designed to handle multiple video sources. Instead, the video-only signals will need to be wired directly into and managed by the TV. This is where you’d perhaps need the A/V receiver.

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A/V Receiver

Audio/Video receivers are a duo, working together to make your home theater system run optimally. A combination audio amp and audio/video switching device, the A/V receiver is an essential component of home theater systems.

A/V receivers contain inputs for all of your audio and video sources. These can include sources such as; cable, CD player, Blu-ray, game system, digital media hub (Netflix, Apple TV, Roku, etc.). 

Surround Sound Processors

A/V receivers also support several movie soundtrack formats such as Atmos, Dolby Digital, and DTS. In addition, A/V receivers have built-in audio effects, which help to enhance movies and music.

Quality height speakers also help to improve the depth and performance of the audio you receive. 

Receivers Have Amplifiers

Like other receivers, A/V receivers have their own amplifiers, which power the speakers. They also, however, provide optional outputs for external audio amplifiers if you require something a little more powerful. In this instance, it acts instead as a preamplifier. 

Integrated Amp

An integrated amplifier is a combination of the preamp and power amplifier. These are typically for two-channel stereos. The preamp will provide both the input switching and the phonograph equalization. The amplifier boosts the signals (volume) to the desired speaker. 

The people who end up using integrated amplifiers are the more serious audiophiles who are looking for a specific sound when listening to their music. Sometimes they opt for the detached combo of a preamp and amp. This will suffice their needs, in some cases.

Amplifier Vs. Receiver

This all depends on you and what you need. 

Amplifiers turn low voltage signals from your source device into a signal that has enough gain to be used to power a pair of speakers. As we’ve learned, Receivers is an amplifier in itself that has a radio section built-in. The radio is selected as any other input on the amp, but no additional connection is required other than a pair of speakers.


The main idea of an amplifier (or simply amp) is to increase electronic audio signals. This is done from the source device and delivered to the output. The output can be anything from a stereo to headphones or speakers.

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Amps have two main functions; first, to collate and select multiple inputs, and then select the required level of gain. This is generally referred to as the preamplifier. The second function is adding the gain to the signal in order to be used as power to a pair of speakers. This is considered the heavy lifting of the two functions.

If these two functions are separated, they are considered in the terms; pre (851E) and power (851W) amps. However, they are deemed integrated amplifiers when both of these functions are placed in a single chassis. 


Created in the 60s, receivers came about as a way to save space and offer an ability to access the radio directly. For a long time, receivers dominated the market over amplifiers. But, everything changed with the digital age. 

With radio waning in popularity, most amplifiers were made as just amplifiers. Basic receivers today are more commonly just radio tuners and have a minimum of two channels. With more connected devices to our systems comes the need for more advanced receivers. 

Most receivers are capable of handling multiple audio and video inputs. This is where the need for an AV receiver is needed. It’s best to think of a receiver as a user interface that incorporates a remote control to make accessing these different outputs more convenient.

So which one?

Some situations actually will require you to have a receiver, more commonly the A/V receiver. So be aware of what the actual need is so you can make the proper determination. Modern receivers allow for more advanced connections like HD radio or satellite radio which are growing in popularity.

In Conclusion

This doesn’t make the entire world of audio suddenly make sense, but hopefully, now you have a clear idea of this aspect of it. If you’re someone who’s looking to make a real difference in how you are delivered sound through your devices, take some time to consider these aspects so you can make a more informed decision. Knowing your options, audio control centers can make a world of difference.

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By Charl Jooste

Writing full time from home, Charl enjoys modern technology and advanced gadgets but still has a soft spot for quality reliable appliances. He is passionate about durability and quality going to great lengths to find the very best ideas and leading products to share with readers.