Many components go into crafting a home theater system. Some of these items are similarly named, and those similarities may lead to confusion regarding each item's function. For instance, an A/V receiver and amplifier are sometimes confused in the minds of consumers. However, the differences between the two are not very complicated to understand.
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What an amplifier does is basically explained by its name. It amplifies sounds. An audio source, like a musical instrument or a CD player, feeds its audio signals via a cable into the amplifier, which then enhances the sound in a variety of ways and outputs it through built-in or externally connected speakers. A higher-powered amplifier, measured in watts, can produce louder sounds with more clarity. Lower-quality amps will distort the sound if it is unable to handle high volume.
A/V Receiver Basics
A/V stands for "audio and video." An A/V receiver is capable of receiving both audio and visual signals from a variety of sources, such as radios, CD players, DVD players and video game consoles. The receiver can then output these signals to a variety of displays, speakers or recording devices, like a television or CD player. An A/V receiver typically has various volume and sound controls and the ability to switch between various inputs for a single output.
An amplifier has one basic function: to amplify audio for a stronger output. An A/V receiver has some functions similar to an amplifier, namely the ability to boost the volume of an audio source and add audio effects. An A/V receiver has the added ability to take in video signals which it can then output to a video display. This is mainly used when you have numerous sources trying to feed into a single television or monitor that has insufficient input ports. This ability to handle video is the primary difference between an amplifier and an A/V receiver.