Judging by the Comments responding to my recent "Do receivers have too many features?" blog post, a lot of folks think today's receivers are overstuffed with gizmos. Now sure, if you crave a full complement of the latest doodads--streaming Rhapsody-Napster-Pandora-Flickr, USB inputs, iPhone certification, Audyssey MultEQ XT Auto Calibration, Wi-Fi, Windows Vista, DLNA, HD Radio, Internet Radio, multiroom-multizone connectivity, Ethernet and RS-232C ports, or Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmission Capability--rush out and buy a home theater receiver. Enjoy reading the 120-page operating manual and exploring layer after layer of setup options. Good times!
But if the goal is to simply enjoy music and a movie every now and then, do yourself a favor and consider a stereo receiver, or if you don't care about radio, an integrated amplifier (an integrated amp is essentially a receiver without a radio). Another plus for stereo home theater converts, they'll never have to deal with convoluted speaker setup menus, or risk an out-of-balance sound mix. Stereo is nearly impossible to get wrong.
A lot of people think stereo receivers are old hat and they "have to" buy a surround receiver. Wrong! And as I pointed out in the blog post the other day, home theater receiver features aren't "free"; manufacturers pay very significant licensing fees and royalties to the companies that developed those features. To bring a receiver in on budget, engineers and product planners make cost-saving decisions to cut back on other aspects of the design. The audio circuitry is probably the first to take a hit.
With stereo receivers the engineering budget is directed to the audio side and Denon, Marantz, NAD, Onkyo, Sony and Yamaha all make stereo receivers. Apparently, there's still a market for stereo components, and now that more and more folks are getting into LPs, most new stereo receivers have turntable inputs.
Stereo home theater setup is supereasy: hook up your DVD or Blu-ray player's stereo (left and right) analog outputs to the receiver. That's it! If your Blu-ray player internally decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio lossless codecs (many do), you won't be missing out on high-resolution audio sound in stereo. My Oppo BD-83SE Blu-ray player does just that, and also plays SACD and DVD-Audio discs in my stereo home theater.
NAD Electronics' amps and receivers have always been budget-minded audiophile favorites, so their C-725BEE stereo receiver is an obvious starting point. It's rated for 50 watts per channel into 8-ohm speakers. Doesn't sound like enough power? Hold on, the C-725BEE is rated to deliver up to 220 watts "IHF Dynamic" power into 2-ohm speaker loads. That low impedance capability is a better indication of the NAD's true power, so it should play at least as loud as most 100-watt-per-channel home theater receivers. More important, it'll probably sound better than similarly priced home theater receivers.
If you're already into stereo home theater, share the news in the Comments section.