Mar 25

Having upgraded to a UHD TV last year, it was time to get a new AV receiver to match. It’s been a long time since I was in the AVR market and a lot has changed.

After doing the research at the end of last year, I thought I’d share the take-aways in this how-to guide.

Since I got my first AVR, two sets of HD codecs became commonly available. The first set, mainly used on Blu-ray are:

  • DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Dolby TrueHD

These are very well supported now so you don’t need to worry whether an AVR will be able to decode them.

The more recent set, most likely to be found on 4K Blu-rays consist of:

  • DTS:X
  • Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is actually fairly commonly available, e.g. BT Sport, Sky Q (Sport and Cinema) and Netflix, so it’s important to ensure your AVR will support these latest codecs if you want any kind of future-proofing.

They are now fairly well established so it’s not too difficult to find support.

The last thing to mention about audio is eARC. This is the Enhanced Audio Return Channel finalized in the 2.1 HDMI spec. It allows the newer high definition codes, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to be passed back from the TV to your AVR. If you really want to future-proof, consider this feature. Personally, I don’t find it necessary – all my equipment is attached to the TV through the AVR so there is little reason to send the sound back. The obvious exception to this is when you have a smart TV that you use for streaming Netflix or other services. Since regular ARC supports the first generation high definition codecs, just not the new “3D” ones, I’m happy to live with that – especially since I don’t have a TV that supports it!

ARC is important, but common enough that you don’t need to look out for it.

Now for video – there are basically two things you need to look out for.

Firstly, HDMI 4k Ultra HD 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 compatibility. This is essential but not too difficult to find on recent models.

Secondly, and a little more obscure is HLG. Standing for Hybrid Log Gamma, this is the HDR format conceived by the BBC and NHK which will most likely be used by broadcasters in the UK (BBC / iPlayer, Sky Q). There is little content right now, but if you want to see HDR content in the future, you’d better make sure your AVR has HDR pass-through (HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG).

I ended up choosing the Denon AVR-X1400H. This was a good combination of minimum requirements, price and number of HDMI inputs.

You can find my comparison / shortlist here, though the pricing and models will start to get out of date quite quickly.

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