Guide to Stereo Component Features and Specifications

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Should You Buy a Stereo Receiver, Integrated Amp or Separate Components?

A stereo component (receiver, integrated amplifier or separate components) is the heart and brains of a stereo system. It is the point where all source components are connected, it powers the loudspeakers and controls the entire system, so it's important to select the right features for your system. If price was not important, we would all buy separate components, but good, even great audio performance is possible with a moderately priced receiver and a well-matched pair of speakers. Start by reading this overview of stereo components to learn the advantages of each type of stereo component. Once you've decided on a receiver, integrated amp or separates, consider power output which is determined by the speakers in your system.

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How Much Amplifier Power Do You Need?

After picking out a receiver, integrated amplifier or separate components, power output is the next consideration. Power output requirements are determined by the speakers, the size of the listening room and how loud you like to listen. Power output specifications are commonly misunderstood. An amplifier with 200-watts per channel will not play twice as loud as an amplifier with 100-watts per channel. In fact, the difference in maximum volume will be hardly audible, about 3 decibels. A typical amplifier playing at a moderate level will only output about 15-watts of power to the speakers. When the music reaches a peak or crescendo the amplifier will output much more power, but only during the period of highest demand. Read more about amplifier power and how much power is really required.

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How Many Source Components Do You Want to Connect?

Some stereo systems include a CD Player, DVD Player, Tape Deck, Turntable, Hard Disk Recorder, Game Console and video components, while other systems may have only a CD or DVD player. Consider the number and type of components you have when selecting a receiver, amplifier or separates. This Guide to Audio and Video Connections describes the different types of components and connections available.

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Important Features to Consider When Purchasing a Stereo Component

Stereo receivers are generally simpler than home theater receivers but still have plenty of features you may want in your system. Review this guide to stereo receiver features and my list of Top Five Features to look for on a receiver.

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Understanding Stereo Terms and Specifications

There are many terms and specifications used to describe and measure the performance of stereo components, and many can be confusing. Some specifications are important and others are not. Read this List of Stereo Specifications and the Stereo Glossary of Terms to learn more about specifications and terms used in stereo receivers.