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Lead image

6 reasons to upgrade your old home theater receiver

For better sound, ease of use, and compatibility with the latest tech

If your A/V receiver has given up the ghost and is in need of recycling, you might end up being glad it expired when it did. Today's receivers have all sorts of new technology and cool features to take advantage of.

Even if your old receiver is still working, it might be time to pass it on to a friend or family member for their "starter system," and hook up something swanky for yourself. Not sure whether the change is worth it? Here are six solid reasons to go ahead and upgrade to a new home theater receiver.

Back panel

Life moves pretty fast. Chances are that your hard-working receiver has earned its retirement, and you could benefit from an upgrade with the latest tech.

1. New gear means you need more connections (or the right kind)

The more equipment you pick up and add to your system, the more connections you'll need on your receiver. If you've got a TV, Blu-ray player, a couple video game consoles,etc., you can start running out of real estate pretty quickly. Some gear also requires specific connection types. A dozen RCA inputs won't help you play the music you've stashed on a flash drive. You'll need an USB port for that.

Sure, you could hook one of your sources directly up to the TV or pick up an adapter/switcher, but you'd be adding an extra layer of needless complexity. Who wants to try (and probably fail) to explain the intricacies of their home theater setup every time their relatives visit?

Let's walk through a few more quick tips. A new receiver can help you:

Power up your sound

If want to add more speakers to your surround sound system, or hook up wired speakers in another zone, you'll need more speaker outputs. We'll talk more about surround sound and multi-room systems further down, but we recommend getting a receiver with at least seven channels if you think you'll want to expand.

Get 4K-ready

If you're picking up a new 4K TV, you'll need a receiver that supports HDCP copy protection. Fortunately, this is the industry standard now, so the vast majority of receivers available are HDCP compatible.

Add more bass

Adding a second subwoofer can help you feel the full impact of those dinosaurs exploding onscreen, no matter where you are in the room. If you want extra bass, look for a receiver that has dual subwoofer outputs.

Hook up a turntable

The records you've been holding on to for years aren't going to play themselves. If you're picking up a sweet new turntable, it's easy to connect it to a receiver with a built-in phono input.

Gaming

If you're looking to experience the full benefit of a next-gen video game console like the PS5, you'll want a receiver that supports key new features like passthrough for 4K resolution at 120 Hz.

2. You want to get the most out of your next-gen gaming console

Speaking of connection types, if you're adopting a next-gen video game console, you'll need the right system to fully take advantage of your investment. Both the Xbox Series X/S and the PS5 really need to be hooked up with an HDMI 2.1 connection to shine their brightest. This latest version of HDMI has a much higher bandwidth that its predecessors, passing up to 48 Gbps. (In comparison, HDMI 2.0 hits a max of 18 Gbps.)

Because HDMI 2.1 can pass so much information at a time, it's capable of running 4K picture quality at a super-smooth 120 Hz refresh rate — a key feature for next-gen consoles. On the flipside, that means it can pass 8K at 60 Hz too. This is great news if you're also investing in a stunning 8K TV.

Securing the best connection requires every link in the chain to be compatible with HDMI 2.1. That means you'll need HDMI 2.1 support from your receiver and your TV. You'll also need ultra high speed HDMI cables to support HDMI 2.1's greater bandwidth.

Leave one of these out and you're automatically working with the lowest version of HDMI in the chain, and missing out on the enhanced gaming features of 2.1. Take a look at our HDMI cables buying guide for more information on HDMI 2.1.

Here are a couple more important HDMI 2.1 gaming features to look out for when shopping for a new receiver:

VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) dynamically adjusts your TV's refresh rate to match the framerate of your game. This keeps your visuals smooth by preventing distracting screen tearing and shuddering.

ALLM (Auto Low-latency Mode) signals your TV to automatically switch over to a gaming-focused "low-lag" preset when it detects a signal from a gaming source. This keeps your controls responsive and in sync with the action onscreen.

Atmos

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats bring your entertainment to life by immersing you in high-quality surround sound.

3. It's always a good time to pump up your home theater sound

Upgrading a sweet A/V system is often incremental. Most of us collect cool new components and incorporate them piece by piece. Your home theater receiver is the hub of that process, and as you push for bigger and better sound, an older receiver can start to hold you back. If you're looking for your new receiver to open the door a little wider, there's a pretty key factor to consider: surround sound.

Few things can make movie night or gaming more immersive than being fully wrapped in sound from all directions. Having more speaker channels increases the number of discrete locations sound effects can arise from, which builds to create a detailed three-dimensional soundscape.

Taking your receiver from a five-channel to a seven or a nine can make a world of difference. If you're looking for the most expansive surround experience possible, or want to make sure you have room to grow in the future, you can turn this dial all the way up to an eleven- or thirteen-channel system.

Check out our article on DTS and Dolby surround sound formats to get an idea of what adding more speakers to your surround sound system can do for you.

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X: the latest — and coolest — surround sound formats

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are the most immersive surround sound formats yet, with support for true overhead sound effects. Fortunately, decoding for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X is now standard for most new receivers with seven or more channels. For a deep dive, head over to our helpful article on DTS:X vs. Dolby Atmos.

A few more ways a new receiver can give you better sound

If you're a little hesitant about adding more speakers to your system, a decked out receiver can still work in your favor — even if you're not using the extra channels. For one, you can give more power to channels you are using by bi-amping them for fuller sound.

A new receiver with more power output makes your speakers sound their fullest. Automatic speaker calibration can also quickly tune your surround sound to the acoustics of your room, making the setup process a lot simpler.

A receiver is only part of the story though. If you're looking for some guidance on what to look for in new speakers to fill out your system, check out Home Speakers 101.

High res system

Receivers with decoding for high-resolution music files can be paired with high-quality home speakers for a dedicated listening experience that's rich and detailed.

4. You want to give this whole "high-res" thing a go

A new home theater receiver can also net you better sound processing for music, helping you take advantage of high-resolution music. Who doesn't want to listen to music in better quality? It just makes sense. Fortunately, most new receivers have built-in decoding for uncompressed high-resolution files, so you're hearing more of the artist's original performance and intent. The level of quality can meet and fully exceed what you would get from a CD.

A new receiver with a high-quality onboard DAC (digital-to-analog converter) can improve the clarity and performance of all of your digital files. It's an essential ingredient for the best high-res music experience. It's all about nuance and the subtle details. After you've experienced high-res with the right combination of receiver and speakers, it's hard to go back. It can feel hollow in comparison.

If you're ready to start your high-res journey, head over to our high-resolution audio guide.

Streaming

Streaming liberates your musical options. Play tunes through your home theater system by passing them from a mobile device or pulling them directly from the internet.

5. Network and streaming features are super-convenient

If being able to access all of your favorite music at the drop of a hat interests you, you're in luck. Streaming is more accessible than ever and there are several ways to go about it. Let's dive in to some of the options currently available.

Bluetooth lets you play about anything you can listen to on your phone or tablet through your home theater system. Pairing up a device is almost instantaneous, and these days receivers with built-in Bluetooth are easy to find. It's also a quick way for your friends and family to share their favorite tunes with you. Few things bring people together like discovering new music. Sharing is caring, after all.

You've got even more options with an internet-ready receiver. New receivers usually have Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection, letting you access internet radio stations from all over the globe and streaming services like Spotify, Qobuz, and Pandora. If you've got a stash of digital files on your computer, you can tap in and stream those through your home theater system as well.

Apple fans are covered too with receivers that have AirPlay 2 built in. If you have an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, or even just an iTunes library stashed away on your computer, you can use Apple AirPlay 2 to quickly access your music. It can also be used to stream audio from other sources, like Youtube videos and even Netflix.

A lot of manufacturers integrate various streaming sources into a single app, letting you use your mobile device as a remote and control everything in one place. If that sounds cool (it is), then you'll want to look for a receiver with built-in app control.

You know what's even easier than controlling your music with a phone? Using your voice. A lot of receivers are compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant now, so it's easy to get started. Few things make you feel like you've arrived in the future like saying "Alexa, play Queens of the Stone Age" and watching your system light up and kick on "Go with the Flow" all by itself.

Music cast

If you have a receiver that supports a family of wireless components like MusicCast, you can rock out a home theater system in your living room and spread the love to other rooms in your house.

6. You can add music (and video) to other rooms in your house

Got a hankering for tunes in another room, but need your receiver to stay put with the rest of your home theater system? Instead of buying two receivers, you can use just the one to power the home theater in your living room and the stereo music system in your office. There are two ways to get this ball rolling: wired or wirelessly.

Wired multi-room audio and video

Snagging a receiver with discrete Zone 2 or Zone 3 outputs and extra channels gives you the extra flexibility for multi-room applications. You can keep all of your sources connected in one place, but output music to a dedicated second or third zone. Sounds pretty nifty right? If you're interested, check out our guide to powering a multi-room music system.

You can do more than music in a second zone though. You can also use a single receiver with multi-room HDMI outputs to set up video in another room. You can keep your Blu-ray player in the living room and still set up a movie for the kids in the playroom, without interrupting your morning coffee and news combo. For a full rundown, head to our article on multi-room video.

Wireless multi-room music

If you want to go multi-room without all the wires, you can do that easier than ever. More and more receivers are now compatible with wireless multi-room music platforms. Here's a quick list of options:

These platforms let you integrate your home theater system into a wireless ecosystem of speakers throughout your house. You can then group your equipment and control the various zones with your phone.

Get started today!

There are tons of options, but we're here to help. If you need a little guidance finding exactly what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly Advisors.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 5/20/2021
  • Matt Pipke from Bristol

    Posted on 5/15/2021

    Just built our first ever home theater and used a Denon X3700h avr klipsch ref speakers and svs subs, the avr makes everything work flawlessly. I registered today for the adapter Denon is shipping out to owners that have the 8k avr and next gen consoles, namely the Xbox Series X. Cant wait for it to arrive to test it.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 5/17/2021

    That's a sweet system you've got there, Matt!
  • Keith from Newark

    Posted on 5/8/2021

    I'm still using my Sansui G-6700 receiver, Akai GXC-570D cassette deck, Technics SL-D2 turntable, and Bose 301 speakers to enjoy my music. I've had all of these since 1983 and they all still work great. The only thing I added was a Sony 5 disc cd changer to play my 900+cd's I purchased during my time in the military. Why spend thousands to replace what cannot be duplicated by modern technology. Besides these 60 year old ears would not be able to hear the difference anyway. ????

  • Howard White from Alexandria, Virginia

    Posted on 3/18/2021

    Upgraded my Yamaha system 2 years ago. A lot but has changed in sounds since the early 90s. Can do a whole lot more with less. Who ever thought bookshelf speakers could produce a astonishing sound. Turn tables have become a whole lot better. I was very skeptical at first, but it was worth it. Only old school thing I have left is a cassette deck. Some things I just can't part with.

  • Mike Phillips

    Posted on 1/7/2021

    You want bigger better sound you stick to something good from the 80's .. 2 channel for music. Today's sound quality drops because of all the mp3 bluetooth and all the other codecs !! Hardware is cheaper because of all that stuff !! That $500 receiver we had in the 80's to get that same great sound quality is going to cost us around $3000 today !!

  • Chip from Chantilly

    Posted on 1/1/2021

    Crutchfield, You are truly the best company on the internet today to buy all forms of AVR, speakers, car systems and anything else which involves complex Stereo equipment solutions in today's ever changing world. Your prices are competitive and/or the best in the market place. I have purchased a number of your products and always satisfied. This article again exemplifies the excellence you provide as the common denominator! Keep up the good work!

    Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    on 1/5/2021

    Thank you for your kind words, Chip!
  • Sam from Baltimore, MD

    Posted on 3/10/2020

    Digital to analog - I think people have it wrong. A speaker is an analog device. Power supplies are analog, too. Just because the source is digital, a speaker can't move for point A to B point without crossing all the space between the two points. Power Supplies, too. You can't magically go for 0 to 1000. There's a power curve which again would be a continuous analog curve. ( Probably steep, but still analog.)

  • Tracy from Prescott

    Posted on 1/13/2020

    Bluetooth out for wireless headphones or AirPods is a must. You should add that to your features. Denon 2019 has it.

  • Ken from Little River

    Posted on 12/6/2019

    I'll stick with my Harman Kardon AVR-7200, haven't found anything to change my mind yet.

  • Tom from Eugene, OR

    Posted on 10/25/2019

    I have a power beast Denon AVR-5600. It is supposedly 140 Watts RMS at 8 ohms to all 5 speakers, which are only driving the midrange and tweeters. This was a replacement for my Marantz 2325. Now my only dilemma is will not work with 4K and has no HDMI at all. Does Anyone know of an AMP that compares? I have 5 Channel Stereo and cannot live without that.

  • Hap Hall from COLUMBUS

    Posted on 6/11/2018

    I Bi-Amp my Yamaha. Yamaha has separate power supplies which equates to bi-amping as well. My floor standing Linn Nexus Speakers sound great! Especially for 30 years old (paid $1100/pair new back in 88...whoa)

  • Billy Grinstead

    Posted on 12/2/2017

    I always biamp my speakers, using an external amp or the biamp provision in the receiver. Each speaker gets more power and the sound is a lot more stable. With two channels you don't get exactly double the power but close. Better use of power than surround back or some such. Not as much strain on the amps either. Biamping is my defense against the manufacturers insistence on cramming more and more channels (most of which are unnesesary) into a receiver when five are fine. Better use of resources

  • Kris from Atlanta

    Posted on 11/29/2017

    My 19 year old receiver's center channel is going out. I have doing a lot of research on purchasing a new receiver. I find it odd that nearly all of the new receivers on the market don't have HD FM tuners built it.

  • Chad from Miami

    Posted on 10/2/2017

    Maybe I'm sentimental, but I am into the aesthetics of the receiver as well. I can just see upgrading my receiver, opening my equipment closet to show a friend and it being the only box that doesn't have a brushed aluminum face. Why don't they come in silver any more? My Sony STRDA-5000ES looks amazing in silver and sounds even better 12 years later. I switch 4K through my TV, have yet to hear a DTS or Atmos system that compels me enough to make that jump (and I manage high end audio dealers for a reputable brand) and you can accomplish high res with a player that also has multi room abilities and tablet/ phone control.

  • Robert from Grove City

    Posted on 8/10/2017

    "Why would I want digital to analog!" Because your ears are analog.

  • Emilio Mosqueda from Norwalk

    Posted on 7/27/2017

    Why would I want digital to analog!

  • Myron miller from dade city

    Posted on 7/9/2017

    The statement about biamping doing nothing couldn't be more wrong. For certain types of speakers it allows way more dynamic room for quick explosion/higher volume type of sounds. it does work and make a difference. But many speakers don't need it or cannot handle it but there are some that not only can but work well with it. My current speakers at higher volumes will actually cause without bi-amping, the receiver to cutoff or turn off from overload from drawing way too much wattage. I know because it has happened to me. Bi-amping helps the receiver from getting into this situation. And many of the new receivers drive not just two speakers but up to 7 speakers with equal amount of wattage. In fact, most drive 5 channels equally well or badly, especially the better receivers (by this I don't mean the bottom end ones but even middle of the road ones, such as Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo, etc.

  • Cat from Covington

    Posted on 5/23/2017

    New ones are too complicated. Guess we will just keep rolling along with good working Denon receiver.

  • Vincy from Johns Creek, GA

    Posted on 4/26/2017

    11th is, you never had home theater stystem before :)

  • Jerry

    Posted on 3/21/2017

    Reason #10 25yo amp just died.

  • Matt from Philadelphia

    Posted on 1/27/2017

    Bi-amping? With the same amp? That's bad info that should be removed. All receivers put out more power when only driving two speakers. The transformer only has so much power, and it delivers it's max with 2 speakers. Bi-amping does NOTHING! Most features listed have been available for years. If you haven't upgraded in 10 years, most of the list applies. In the last 3-4, Atmos and DTS-X you may not have, or even need due to the need for more speakers in weird locations.

  • Brian from Portland, OR

    Posted on 1/20/2017

    It is hard to pull the trigger on buying a new receiver as they seem to be obsolete the week after they are set up. Didn't have that problem a few decades ago. Also it is a challenge to buy over the internet when trying to match components, especially speakers and amplifiers. Guess I am old fashioned and will have to progress with the times.

  • Kevin from Dallas

    Posted on 1/15/2017

    Personally I suggest waiting to purchase a new receiver, unless your current receiver doesn't have hdmi capabilities. I've been an audiophile for a very long time. One thing we audiophile's have noticed with these new feature ladened A/V receivers, is their predessors (in most cases) weighed more with less features. So how can this be? I'll tell you. They are skimping on the power supplies and smaller amps. How can a 9.2 or 11.2 receiver weigh 10lbs less with more amps? Most mainstream name brand receivers are getting clever on how they post the wattage (and wattage is used very loosely these days) ratings. For example, I've seen several big name brands post 120 watts at 6ohms and in fine print (with two channels driven). Show me a speaker that uses 6ohms? Most all speakers are either rated at 8ohms or 4ohms. So if you do decide to purchase a new A/V receiver, look at the true wattage with all channels driven at 8ohms to see what you're really getting. Also, look under the hood. Most all receivers are heavily vented on the top hence being able to view the power supply. If not, look on line at the model you're shopping and see if they show the components inside the receiver. Power supplies are usually easy to see, as they're that big round silver thing usually with a hexagon shaped bolt in the middle. Having all these new features requires ample power. So do your homework before you spend your hard earned money! You won't regret it.