No matter which side of the receivers-versus-separates debate you find yourself on, it's simple to understand why A/V receivers have the broad appeal among home theater buyers that they do—they're easy, period. A well-executed receiver is easy to purchase, easy to set up, and easy to use. These are commodities that go a long way in any market today, regardless of bottom-line performance. And let's face it, the performance of receivers has improved considerably in recent years. You're still not going to see dedicated theaters or music rooms built around a receiver, but you won't get laughed out of the room anymore when you start comparing its performance to that of comparably priced separates. Context is key in the receiver game. What do you really need, where do you need it, and how much are you willing to pay for it?
Denon's AVR-4800 receiver is the one-box key to home theater nirvana. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in your living room, the consumer electronics industry has come up with yet another home theater surround scheme: THX Surround EX. If excess truly is the path to the palace of wisdom, then it will be home theater products, not those retro hippie Gingko brain supplements, that make us all smart really quick. Wisdom will, however, probably have to take a back seat to confusion before all is said and done. Nonetheless, THX Surround EX is here, although its entrance was not celebrated with the carnival-like fanfare that heralded the entrance of Dolby Digital and DTS.
Yamaha's flagship RX-V1 receiver has enough power and flexibility to float anyone's boat. Flagship is one of those words like ultimate and reference that just can't seem to get any respect these days. The next time we see last year's "ultimate" product superseded by this year's "improved" model, I think we should all complain to the manufacturer.
The details surrounding my technical background are really quite inconsequential. Summers in retail, winters in correctional facilities for the perfectly capable. Desperate for the dollar, I'd often drug customers and dress them up like French maids. When they'd awaken, my friends and I would thank them for shaving our backs and assure them we wouldn't tell anybody. This was the sort of activity that would keep food on the table and our young bodies healthy for the beach. In the springtime, we'd make capacitor helmets with heatsinks on them. Then, we'd test each other's knowledge of schematics while running downhill. It was really quite breathtaking . . . you should try it sometime.
Three bargain-basement receivers go head to head to see who's on top of the cheap heap.
Believe it or not, I wasn't always as tall and dashingly handsome as I am now (don't worry, guys, that comment was directed toward our female readers). I remember back in fifth grade when I was an awkward runt who got picked last in kickball. All the bigger guys would laugh at me. I'm not jaded, though—I now have the coolest job in the world, I'm a minor celebrity, and I've got the names and addresses of all my adolescent torturers (yeah, even you, Billy, in Colorado Springs).