Home AV Receivers Info What Is the Difference Between Stereo Receivers and Home Theater Receivers?

What Is the Difference Between Stereo Receivers and Home Theater Receivers?

Setting up a home entertainment system is very complex, involving selecting numerous parts and items. Successively choosing the proper receiver is the cornerstone of any setup, and making the final decision can be very problematic, especially for those newbies to the world of audio receivers. Stereo receiver vs. AV receiver — which is better and should be your choice?

Stereo and AV Receivers: Differences and Similarities

While both of them represent the receiver family, there is a massive difference between these two units. Generally, receivers come in two 2 main variants: Audio/Video (AV) receivers and stereo receivers. Although they are capable of reproducing hi-fi sound, they are not entirely interchangeable, and here’s why:

AV Receiver

av receiver for home theater

An AV receiver is the heart of any home entertainment system. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most critical parts of the home cinema that does all the management. It supports numerous sources(Blu-ray players, mp3 players, gaming consoles, etc.) and can deliver audio and video signals to the target ones (TVs, etc.). But the most remarkable difference is that it supports multichannel sound. For example, an AV receiver may support 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, and more systems. The first number represents the number of speakers, and the second is the number of subwoofers. Such a significant number of speakers is necessary for delivering immersive surround sound when watching movies or gaming.

Stereo Receiver

stereo av receiver

As it goes from its name, it supports only 2 channels and comes in a 2.1 setup: supporting 2 speakers and a single subwoofer. You can also encounter this type of receiver called integrated stereo amplifiers, including pre and power amplifiers built in. The primary purpose of such a unit is listening to music. Indeed, one can use a 2.1 stereo receiver to watch movies, but two channels won’t deliver surround and immersive sound. There are specific ways to emulate it using 2 speakers, but it is far from the real deal. Therefore, stereo receivers are specially designed to listen to music. That is when these units perform in their optimal way.

Stereo and AV Receiver, Which Choose and When?

So, the main difference between surround sound and stereo lies in the number of supported channels and the ability to deliver quality sound when listening to music or watching movies. So, here are the main reasons you should go for one of the solutions.

Reasons to Choose an AV Receiver?

av receiver for home theater back

  1. Having numerous audio and video devices and an AV Receiver is a great solution for managing them.
  2. Simplicity—AV receivers are all-in-one solutions, having shallow requirements for establishing a simple but productive sound system.
  3. Getting a hand on the latest sound and video technologies—immersive audio is at the forefront of human progress in terms of technologies.
  4. Neat and small setup. If you don’t have much space for separate amplifiers and preamplifiers and don’t want to deal with all this cable management—an AV receiver is the finest option.
  5. If gaming and watching movies are your primary purposes for buying a receiver, then an AV receiver is your only option.

Reasons to Choose a Stereo Receiver

stereo av receiver back

  1. If listening to music is your main reason for buying a receiver, a stereo receiver is your choice.
  2. Works amazing with vinyl-based audio systems.
  3. It offers excellent control over sound quality and peculiarities. Since the unit is dedicated to audio, it has various sound tweaks and modifications.
  4. Stereo receivers are committed to listening to music, offering exceptional sound quality at a lower price than their AV receiver analogs.


Finally, both units come with built-in amplification capabilities and deliver quality sound. The scope of application of these units is very different. The main steps to consider are your budget and the purpose of using it. So, the rule is simple: if listening to music is the primary purpose—a stereo receiver is the right choice. If you want to watch movies and play games—an AV receiver is the way to go.

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