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Have AV receivers gone down the wrong road?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by TheDeuce, Jun 2, 2017.


    1. TheDeuce

      TheDeuce
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      Posting this (as a debate) because recently I've become quite frustrated with the pointless stuff hurled at AV receivers and the reality seems to be that you can no longer buy a quality receiver (IE one that receives and amplifies) without paying for about 100 additional bells and whistles, most of which you will never use as your smart TV and various other bits of kit do the same thing.

      In my position, I simply want a powerful, solid and well made receiver to take an optical feed from my TV and give 5.1 sound. Basically, I don't need any of the visual abilities of the receiver. And why would I? Like most I now stream music via my TV (spotify etc) or via lossless audio into the TV USB port. Do I need a receiver that also streams and has a USB port? Nope... And 5/6 HDMI in, 2/3 HDMI out on the top receivers? Really!? Everything I want to watch is either fed direct to the smart TV or can be streamed to it from PC - including 4k for movies.

      I'm aware there are exceptions, and some people genuinely do use receivers to link everything. But the vast majority use them to process sound - the end. So why is no one making a receiver that focuses purely on receiving, (and/or decoding) and amplifying sound? Why can't I buy the guts of a £2000 receiver in a more basic package for £1000?

      The root of my grumble, is that it seems patently obvious that for the last many years the Smart TV revolution has meant most people that would buy a top end receiver already have much of the functionality in their TV and various other devices.

      I'm aware that audio only receivers are available and that I could externally amp the output.. But why no decent, solid, single box solution for stereo and surround sound handling? Do I really need to be able to stream Spotify from my phone to my tv to my amp, or direct to my tv to my amp, or to blu-ray player to my tv to my amp, or direct from blu-ray player to my amp? No. But I already have all these choices. Yet for some reason all top end receivers seem keen to bang on about how I can now also hook my amp up to spotify directly.. And that's just Spotify, but the principal of duplicated ability applies to so much of what we apparently have to pay for these days.

      Rant over :)
       
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    2. dante01

      dante01
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      Most of the additional features you are talking about are not in fact present on TVs. The number of HDMI inputs can actually be too few for some ussers and having more than one output makes it a lot easier for those with both a PJ and a TV. Features such as scalling could be dropped and even analogue to HDMI could be phased out. The latter is now something that isn't available on many of the lower tier products.

      By the way, TVs cannot passthrough many of the formats AV receivers can handle and have the ability to play. Using a TV as an HDMI hub or hub for all your sources is not a viable option. Also note that not everyone has a smart TV hooked up to their AV receiver so what about those with more dedicated AV rooms where there's only a projector and associated PJ screen?

      Remove all the features you've mentioned and you'd save less than £100 and not increase the ability of the receiver in terms of its audio performance. There's nothing to gain by removing these features even if they are not required by everyone, but you will alienate many potential customers by not including them.
       
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      Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
    3. TheDeuce

      TheDeuce
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      Why can't a TV be used as a 'hub' now? Most smart TV's have more than enough HDMI inputs, all of which carry digital packetised sound all the way to the AVR via HDMI or optical. Can you give an example of a format that a TV can't pass through?

      I understand that some people have a projector or second screen and many varied inputs that they all want to control from a single (possibly remotely managed) AVR hub. But those people, although fairly prevalent on these boards, are in the extreme minority in the real world.

      I don't agree it would only save £100 on a £2k AVR. I imagine the licensing cost of all the various tie-in technologies in addition to the raw hardware would save more. But the true cost saving would be in the R&D process. Extra functionality means extra complexity from a design and programming point of view, it feeds into everything from circuit design, power and heat management, form factor and even affects how easy rear port access and front end user management is. All these costs are indeed hard to isolate now as they have, for the last 20 years, become part and parcel of how AVR's are marketed and sold. But now so much is handled elsewhere, it feels like they're running a race to keep up with technology to compete, when the average customer already has most of the same tech already and they would be better to focus on competing on terms of core functionality and quality. IE: Sound.

      I'm not saying all singing 'true' AVR's they don't have their place. But for the vast majority it seems like the option is to either choose between crap sound with a few features they don't need - or at the top end, excellent sound with a whole raft of features they don't need.

      What does a person that wants to decode and amplify 7.1 and music buy to do the job, if they want something better than a pre-pack £200 surround sound system with speakers? Why can't there be a simple, but high end 7.1 audio receiver and amp?
       
    4. xmb

      xmb
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      Actually removing these features may not result in any lower costs of the end units as they would sell so few they become esoteric items! As already pointed out it may not result in any improvement in sound quality at all.

      The market you are considering, those with new "smart" TVs are covered by the many sound bars that are available making the market for those looking for beefier separate systems even smaller.

      So feel happy when you buy a receiver with features you don't need in the knowledge they actually ddid not cost you anything extra!
       
    5. dante01

      dante01
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      AS said, TVs cannot and do not passthrough all audio formats.
       
    6. TheDeuce

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      Can you give an example? And in any case a much more basic receiver focussed on audio only would still be able to take audio from various sources. It's all the visual/network additions that I can't see very many people using.
       
    7. TheDeuce

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      I'm not after better sound, I'm after a better price for top sound without the stuff I (and the majority) don't actually need.

      And I work in product design, everything costs money. Even stuff which costs nothing to add (IE can be achieved via firmware addition alone) still has a considerable real cost to be implemented.
       
    8. dante01

      dante01
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      Dolby TRueHD, multichannel PCM, DTS-HD Master Audio, DSD, ALAP etc, etc, etc. PLus you'd not get Atmos or DTS:X associated with Blu-ray content either because they require TrueHD and DTS-HD MA bitstreaming in order to convey the associated DTS:X and Atmos metadata.

      No one is forcing you to use the additional features and removing them will not inprove the performance of the receiver or result in a price reduction. Simply don't use the features if you don't want or need them. I don't complain about my TV having inbuilt tuners or speakers, but I never use them.
       
      Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
    9. gibbsy

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      Four years ago I bought my Panny VT65, a reference level TV. It will not pass through 5.1 only PCM, therefore a receiver as a HDMI hub is essential. I'm very conservative with the coupled equipment, well I'm an old fart, but to others with a VT65 the more HDMI ports available the merrier.

      I do think, however, that video conversion is somewhat unwanted. My Pioneer player will do a better job as will the TV itself. A receiver is only part of the chain towards quality audio.
       
    10. Crocodile

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      I think you're mistaken in believing that your requirements reflect those of the masses. I would hate to have to turn the TV on for streaming music.

      My smart TV has two HDMI inputs, nowhere near enough for my requirements. So would need to add a switch, & indeed did before having HDMI switching in the amp. As above, it also won't pass multi-channel through optical.

      IMO you should be rejoicing in the fact that you can pick up older stuff for peanuts without so many bells & whistles.

      Now if you where complaining that you pay top dollar for all these bells & whistles & they're largely pants, then I'd be with you! Streaming that can't do gapless, flaky control apps, no radio preset buttons, poor menus, etc.
       
      Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
    11. TheDeuce

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      But the latest
      1) The latest TV's can send DD+ through, I think DTS:x too. There is a more insightful topic here: Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) / Atmos over HDMI ARC - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews

      2) Even if a current top-end AVR was pared back to basically just an audio processor and amp, it would still be able to process all the audio inputs you have listed, directly, even if the TV couldn't pass them all through. All I'm suggesting is that most people just need a surround receiver/amp, not a box that you also route all video through and stream sound to etc.

      3) I have not said once that I believe removing features will improve performance. As for it having no effect on price... Sure. That's why all dirt cheap AVR's have the exact same feature set as £2k class leaders? Because of zero cost effect? And because upscaling two HD feeds to 4k on the fly doesn't require about 1000 times the processing as decoding a single digital audio stream.
       
    12. dante01

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      My TV only has one HDMI inputs that fully supports UHD and HDR. What am I supposed to do if I've more than one source with HDR capabilities?
       
    13. TheDeuce

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      To those that do have older TV's and therefore 'need' the extra HDMI's on the receiver, and have TV's that also cannot pass through DD+ etc, surely this is only a fairly temporary reason to need the functionality on the AVR. Within a few years virtually anyone who cares enough about AV to even have surround sound is very unlikely to have a TV which can't pass virtually all audio formats and has at least 4 HDMI inputs.

      I think the point of this thread has been lost slightly. I'm talking about the 'direction' AVR's are in, which I think it's fair to say is already overlapping the direction smart TV's are headed, and will do increasingly so. Even if it's not a big overlap for many today, in a few years time, it surely will be.
       
    14. dante01

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      You think wrong. No TV can passthrough any HD audio format. The next gen TV sets may fascilitate this with the advent of HDMI version 2.1 though?

      DD+ is a standard definition format and not HD. ARC is basically limited to the same formats associated with S/PDIF optical apart from the slighly higher bandwidth DD+ ability. You still cannot convey Multichannel PCM, DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD via ARC or S/PDIF. You can convey Atmos using DD+, but Blu-ray and UHD discs do not use it and use TrueHD in association with Atmos.

      Making stuff up as you go along doesn't make your arguement any more credible. If you honestly believe what you are relating then may I suggest you actually try it? Let us know how you get on :)
       
    15. TheDeuce

      TheDeuce
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      Your views on whether AVR functionality is starting to pointlessly overlap Smart TV functionality would be relevant to me regardless of how many HDMI ports your own TV happens to have. Personal setup doesn't mean you can't have a view on a much broader debate.
       
    16. TheDeuce

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      As I said, most formats can be passed by the latest TV's. I accept not all formats - but as I also said, it's totally irrelevant because not one person on this thread has suggested the signal processing abilities of AVR's should be reduced at all.
       
    17. dante01

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      What you've said is incorrect though. LIving in the make believe doesn't make it a reality.
       
    18. TheDeuce

      TheDeuce
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      What bit is incorrect? If it is, I'll happily retract it. I'm sure nothing I have said would affect my core point though.
       
    19. dante01

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      PLease name me one TV currently on sale that can passthrough or even play DTS-HD Master Audio, TrueHD, Multichannel LPCM, DSD, ALAC FLAC or any of the HD formats commonly accessed by most AV enthusiasts? The Sony TVs that convert TrueHD to Dolby Digital don't count because the result is Dolby Digital and not HD TrueHD.
       
    20. TheDeuce

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      If Atmos is considered HD audio:

      List of TVs that support DD+ over ARC
      (copied that from the link I gave earlier).

      But let's assume no TV can pass through any HD audio, and lets assume they never will be able to. My point is still unaffected as in myriad other ways, the abilities of TV's and AVR's are overlapping and will only overlap more in the future.

      And it's still 100% irrelevant to this thread whether or not TV's can pass through certain audio formats. I'm not saying movie audio should be passed through the TV. I'm saying that TV and video in general doesn't need to be passed through the AVR in most cases. Most people use them as audio only devices.
       
    21. dante01

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      Neither DD= or Atmos are HD formats. TrueHD is the HD element not the Atmos metadata. As I said, you can convey Atmos metadata along with DD+, but DD+ is not HD. Also note that ARC cannot currently convey more than 5.1 DD+ and Atmos is reliant upon 7.1 DD+. You'd have to wait for the implementation of HDMI version 2.1 before being able to cnvey 7.1 DD+ via ARC.

      Note that only one service currently provides Atmos ising DD+ and that is BT's UHD service. You have to connect the UHD box directly to an Atmos enabled receiver in order to be able to convey the Atmos metadata to it. You cannot pass the 7.1 DD+ audio with the Atmos metadata through a TV. Nor would you get Atmos via any streaming service accessed via any currrent TV's smart capabilities. You'd need an external box hooked up to the receiver directly via HDMI.

      Your TV and no other TV currently available can passthrough HD formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD or multichannel PCM.


      You only named one overlapping capability when mentioning an AV receiver's capabilities compared to those of a TV and that was Spotify. What are the other overlapping abilities?
       
      Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
    22. dollag

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      A lot of entry level receivers now come with all the 'bells and whistles' including the latest video passthrough, dlna streaming etc. The flagship models are now focusing on more power, more channels, better dac's etc.

      These additional 'things' you do not need and will not use will not have a large impact on licensing and installation costs.
       
    23. dante01

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      The latest video passthrough? Passthrough is passthrough and wouldn't require any additional processing. I think you may be referring to things such as HDR and Dolby Vision? This isn't down to the receiver's manufacturer and they simply implement the ability to passthrough metadata that is associated with such things as HDR. What would you suggest, that they don't passthrough such things? Again, I think you'll find that far more people want these abilities than don't. I'd even go so far as to say you're the only person I know who doesn't want such abilities and sees them as a disadvantage.
       
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    24. TheDeuce

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      But what's the issue with connecting your HD Audio source directly to your AVR? And what has that got to do with this thread?

      It seems like you're focussing your efforts in showing that a very small part of the argument was not put perfectly - as opposed to joining in discussion on the fact that (inarguably) more and more aspects of what Smart TV's and AVR's offer are crossing over, and are on a path to increasingly cross over.

      It seems perfectly reasonable to me that as many responsibilities previously handled by the AVR cross over to being handled by the TV, that it would make better sense for AVR's to focus more on what matters, and less on what is fancy.
       
    25. dante01

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      You are the one suggesting the TV be a hub. And even if you only meant it in terms of the services you access via the TV, those services are restricted to the audio the TV can handle while the same services accessed externally can potentially provide higher quality audio.

      Again, which abilities are you suggesting are duplicated apart from Spotify. I'd stress once again that those accessed via the TV may result in poorer quality sounddue to the TV's limited audio capabilities or ability to handle higher quality formats commonly supported by most AV receivers.
       
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    26. dante01

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      So increase the cost of the TV in order to decrease that of the receiver. Not really logical then.
       
    27. BondJames

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      One thing that could be dropped is the radio tuner - what do you need that on an avr these days when you can get radio across the internet?
       
    28. TheDeuce

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      But TV's can already do so much of what we used to rely upon AVR to do. And looking at the entire marketplace, it is a more logical place for technology to live. Only a relatively small number of people own an AVR compared to a TV. But the majority of TV owners stream music and other content in various ways. So where do you stream Spotify to? Makes sense it's into the TV for those with just a TV, or passed through the TV to AVR with those that have both.

      Another argument when it comes to cost, is that ANY technology that could exist in either the TV or AVR, is going to result in far better value in the TV. How many TV's are sold compared to AVR's? 10 to 1? Probably closer to 100 to 1. This means that not only is the final cost of newly implemented tech less to the consumer, but also that TV manufacturers are likely to (and generally do) make a better job of implementing things in a more seamless, user friendly manner. The remote media server app on my LG TV is stunning. And now AVR's offer the same and I can tell from screenshots that it's simply not as elegant a solution.
       
    29. Greg Hook

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      This thread is gold! :)
       
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    30. TheDeuce

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      Yes. But it's become a bit like cigarette lighters in cars, even when virtually no-one smoked in their cars, and even those that did just used a pocket lighter, they just kept on leaving the ol' fag lighter there (and the ashtray which no one ever used even if they did smoke), just because 'well, we always have'.

      What's most confusing is they still slap "RDS" on the box and unit itself. As if it's important to let people know, as it could be a deal breaker on a £800 AVR which was otherwise perfect lol. It's a shame they can't be as clear with power ratings..
       

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