How to Buy Digital Receivers

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How to Buy Digital Receivers

A digital receiver is a digital sound or television tuner that works to convert digital music and video transmission into a format that that can be read and processed by a television. In some cases, digital receivers are used for audio only, as in the case with stereo sets, while in most cases, they are used for television and media. Some digital receivers are made for the purpose of sending and receiving media from a personal computer.

The most common digital receivers are for home cinema and home audio setups, and they work by processing sound and amplifying it on the way to speakers. Usually, digital receivers are connected between television and CD or other music player and speaker, and used to fine tune and control audio. Buyers should consider their budget, their needs, features they are looking for, and where to purchase the digital receiver before choosing one for their home.

Why Purchase a Digital Receiver?

Digital receivers are not used in many homes, but they can make a big difference to the quality of audio and even video depending on how they are used. An audio digital receiver is a digital quality receiver, often likely to support Hi-Fi sound quality, HD sound quality, and perhaps surround sound as well. Many people also have outdated and old digital receivers, not realising that newer ones provide better sound quality, more options, and are relatively affordable compared to their price several years ago. Receivers often feature interesting technology that can improve sound quality, or even allow buyers to listen to audio from their PC via Wi-Fi. Although some of the new functions and features can be confusing for buyers, they essentially mean that the digital receiver is versatile, useful, and definitely worth the money.

Stereo vs. Surround Sound Receivers

Stereo receivers are two-channel receivers, generally considered to be the predecessor to surround sound receivers, but both are frequently used in the home. However, many stereo receivers are not digital, but analogue, which means that it is important for buyers to read descriptions, labels, and specifications on product’s packaging. Analogue is a sound format that uses lower bandwidth frequencies. The analogue receiver usually has lower quality audio support and is likely to be found used, and in homes where newer receivers have not been purchased for some time.

For most people, the digital receiver is a much better idea. Digital receivers can be used for surround sound or stereo sound, depending on the needs of the user, and offer access to Hi-Fi and HD quality sound. On the other hand, many audio stereo receivers feature XM Satellite radio, which is useful for anyone who does not really need more than two channels.

Choosing a Digital Receiver

Choosing a digital receiver should depend on budget, needs, and receiver specifications, although manufacturers do not always give accurate product details. For most people, a simple budget or low-cost digital receiver can cover the wants and needs of the system, while for audiophiles and anyone interested in creating HD sound quality, specific features and specifications, such as whether it is intended for TV or audio, are important to look out for. Higher-end systems usually offer slightly better sound quality, but for the average users, a lower cost one is usually adequate for their needs.

Understanding the Digital Receiver Specifications

Specifications vary from receiver to receiver, but unfortunately, manufacturers are not always honest with the details they provide. While specifications are not quite as good for quality indication as they used to be, they can still be used to see what the digital receiver is compatible with, its general ranges, and other important details. Other items, such as watts per channel, are mostly misleading, except on high-end brands.


The power specifications on a digital receiver can mean a lot of things, but most of the misleading factors in receiver specifications are in the power. Power is measured in watts (such as 100 watts) and is subject to testing by the manufacturer. Since tests are not disclosed, they can be as easy or as difficult as the manufacturer likes, meaning that any receiver can have a high power rating when it does not deserve it. In most cases, buyers can watch out for power specifications, such as the difference between RMS (Root Mean Square) and peak power.

Peak power is almost always a great deal higher than RMS, because it is the highest the device can achieve, even if only for a second. RMS is continuous sustainable power and, therefore, is a better indicator of quality. On the same power note, many cheap digital receivers might state that all channels are 100 watts, but the power might fall to a lower number when used for surround sound. Buyers can get around this fact by choosing a model that claims ‘All Channels Driven’, meaning that all channels remain the same in surround sound.

Generally, buyers can also check the bandwidth rating to see the quality as well. For example, 100 watts (W) at 1 gigahertz (GHz) means that the receiver was tested under very low sound conditions. A better test would have a higher bandwidth, preferable 15-25 GHz for testing, which should be listed as 4 × 100 W at 20 GHz. This means that the receiver was tested at 100 watts with 20 gigahertz bandwidth.


Impedance is a very important factor for a receiver because statistics mean more than quality. Impedance is rated in ohms and measures the rate of electric resistance, which can translate into distortion, or blowing the speakers, amplifier, or digital receiver if the ohms are not matched. Most but not all receivers have a 6-8 ohm impedance rating, although some are available as 4 ohm. However, 4-ohm receivers are virtually useless with most modern audio systems, so anyone with 4-ohm speakers should look for a receiver that reads 4-8 ohms.

Impedance should be used to purchase a digital receiver that matches the specifications of amplifiers and speakers in order to improve sound quality. Other factors to look out for include sensitivity (also known as SPL), which affects the volume and bandwidth ratings.


THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) are two terms that are frequently seen in the specifications. Total harmonic distortion is the total distortion between the original sound source and the speakers. Generally, a THD rating of less than 0.01 per cent is the most desired. Digital to analogue converter is another important term, generally meaning that it transfers sound from digital to analogue so that it can be amplified. Most manufacturers do not actually list DACS, but products that include this specification are generally very high quality.

Surround Sound

Surround sound is a very common option for digital receivers, mostly because many people want surround sound as an option. Many receivers can switch between stereo and surround sound, making them perfect for almost every buyer. But while there is a lot more to buying a good surround sound system than choosing a digital receiver, the receiver can greatly affect the quality of the system. Generally, anyone who is setting up an HD or Hi-Fi surround sound system should carefully choose their receiver to match their system.

Considering Video Receivers

Many digital receivers are sold as ‘set top boxes’ for use with audio and video formats. Many of these boxes can connect directly from TV to speakers and any connection devices being used. Most digital receivers labelled as set top boxes can also be used to convert video such as cable TV or satellite TV to the television, which can save space in the home by removing the need for an extra box. The television receiver in this case is often called a television tuner, a set top box, or a transmitter. Some are available with HD video quality, and digital receivers are usually a great deal higher quality than their predecessors. Some receivers also offer the ability to convert an older analogue TV to digital, which might be important for anyone who still has an old TV. Specific receivers include satellite receivers, cable receivers, PVR sets, and TV tuning sets.

Buying a Digital Receiver on eBay

eBay is a great place to purchase digital receivers in whatever quality or style you are looking for. From used budget models to top of the line digital receivers, there are literally options for every budget and taste, so it is a good idea to set a budget and decide what you are looking for before going on eBay. If you want a specific model or brand name, you can choose to simply search for that brand. On the other hand, if you are just looking for any digital receiver that fits your specifications, you can search for a digital receiver and browse through the site.

It is important to thoroughly read the description, contact the seller about any information that is not listed, and check up on any specifications or reviews of the receiver if you are concerned about the sound quality. If you are purchasing a used model, you should ask about the age of the device and why it is being sold as well. Finally, check the shipping rate and time. Local eBay sellers probably offer cheaper and faster shipping, but if that is not a concern, you can shop from a wide range of models internationally as well.


Digital receivers are an important part of any home audio setup, and television tuners are equally important for TVs. They both can be used for audio and video, although some models are typically sold for audio only. The receiver can also be called a tuner, although this is not always true. The ‘digital’ part of the name separates the analogue and the digital receiver, although both can still be purchased.

Considerations for buyers include the specifications, where to purchase, the price, and the quality. Some cheaper manufacturers can provide slightly misleading statistics as well, so it is important to pay attention and choose a model based on quality rather than watts per channel. Other considerations include the THC, the DAC if applicable, and the ohm rating or impedance level. Buyers can choose the specifications they are looking for, and then decide whether they want to purchase the digital receiver in an electronics store or at an online store such as eBay before making a purchase.

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