Help me keep a receiver for a decade.
February 27, 2012 10:41 AM   Subscribe

What features do I need for 10 years of future-proofing out of an AV receiver?

I have had the same two channel stereo setup since 1996. It serves me pretty well, actually, at 12W per channel, plus a 25W powered sub, which I rarely use because we have thin walls. The sound reproduction is better than you would expect, but not superb.

I'm looking to upgrade, but I would prefer to be able to keep the new receiver for at least ten years. The only feature I really want is HDMI switching, because I'd like to route everything (including a component Wii) through the good speakers. I don't need 7.1, 5.1 is fine. The TV is 720p, so it seems like any receiver will meet my current needs.

However, will I regret not getting a receiver with AirPlay support, or one that doesn't do HDMI 1.4, with support for a 4Kx2K picture, or 3D? It would be a nightmare if a new TV or video standard came out without backwards compatibility, so do I need to do anything special? The receivers with Airplay seem overpriced when I could get an Apple TV for $100.
posted by wnissen to Technology (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think anyone can tell you what you'll regret. You don't need AirPlay if you run an Airport Express with the optical out into the receiver (or use an Apple TV). Plus, you can get an external HMDI switch to keep your options open / minimize on cost. If you're planning to have it for 10 years, I think you have to be a little zen about it not being the perfect receiver for at least 7 of those 10... My receiver is about the same age as yours--it's a little jury rigged these days, but I just let it keep on doing its thing, and expect to do so until it dies.

When it does, I think I'm just going to go for a very simple, high quality two-channel set up that I'd hope would last 20 years.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:49 AM on February 27, 2012

10 years is too far to "future proof" anything. I'd keep it simple and get something decent from Onkyo or another mid-range brand.

If you'd like to keep control of things centralized you're probably better off getting a Harmony remote.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say check to see if it is upgrade-able. Some TVs and receivers can have their firmware upgraded so that they can handle new/different formats. I know Pioneer has this available on their mid to high end receivers. A quick Google search says Yamaha receivers might be able to do this, too.

Make sure you have HDMI, DVI, and optical audio inputs and outputs. My receiver is nice in that these ports are labelled by default, but the set-up allows me to remap the inputs and outputs to different names and buttons.

Perhaps see if your receiver can be hooked up to your home network. This will help with firmware and software upgrades and it seems like the internet is the current wave of home theater components.

And then always check the back of the receiver and see how many inputs you get. More HDMI inputs the better. That seems to have always been the downfall for my home theater set-ups: not enough inputs for my receiver for all of my electronic toys.
posted by jillithd at 11:51 AM on February 27, 2012

But with regards to "future proofing" for ten years... Maybe if we look at what's changed in the last ten years, we can give you a better idea of what might change in the future.

I was selling TVs and VCRs and DVD players ten years ago. So what's changed in those ten years?

The new technology then was DVD and digital cable and satellite signals. I remember discussing with a lot of customers the difference between composite and component video inputs. They use the same kinds of cables, but one splits out the color into three plugs for better defined picture. There was also the S-Video that fit in the middle, quality-wise, of the previous two. Flat screen TVs were just coming out, but they were just flat glass and still had the tubes in the back. Over-the-air signals were all analog, so 30 year old TVs could still work. 5.1 surround sound systems were becoming more ubiquitous.

Now? DVDs are still here, but fading out like VCRs were 10 years ago. Most TVs now are digital and over-the-air signals are digital. 30 year old TVs don't work unless there is some kind of box to down-convert the signal. DVD players, TVs, and BluRay players are all offering internet connectivity along with proprietary apps and content. Everything is networkable or has WiFi. Everything is a digital signal. Plugs all look to be HDMI or DVI and use USB and Bluetooth and infrared controllers. There are now 7.1 and 9.1 surround sound systems.

So my recommendation to you would be to find a receiver that can handle 7.1 or better, has multiple HDMI slots (in and out), maybe a DVI slot, too. Should also have a USB plug (maybe even a firewire port). Customizable input mapping. Network capable (not necessarily Wi-Fi). Are you an Apple user? If so, and you are planning on having the receiver for 10 years, I would say getting a receiver with AirPlay would be a good bet. And, as I said before, try to get one that is firmware/software upgradeable. That'll be your best bet on being able to handle future standards.
posted by jillithd at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2012

Find the future proof version right now. Take the money you would spend and divide it into two equal piles. Spend half on a solid new mid-range receiver (I like Yamaha personally) which does everything you need now. Put the other half back in the bank. 5 years from now take the money from the bank and buy a new receiver which does everything you need to do then.

I would be willing to bet in 5 years you will still be happy with the first receiver.

The sad truth of things now is nothing is designed to last 10 years - and the name of the game for electronics producers is to get people to upgrade. If you want to opt out of this path (for 10 years) you have to pay a lot for extra flexibility which you may never use.
posted by NoDef at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just fyi, HDMI 1.4 is a bit of a crock and functionally no different really from 1.3.
posted by smoke at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2012

Or you can go seperates and get a processor and an amp (or multiple amps, as necessary). This way you're not throwing out both halves because you want to upgrade one half. Not sure if this is at all in your price range.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:18 AM on February 28, 2012

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