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Audio Files: The Revolution Doesn’t Have to Be Televised

Audio/video receivers used to have all the goodies, but now stereo receivers are getting modern features too

Outlaw RR2160

Stereo receivers once formed the core of practically every audio system. By combining a power amplifier, preamplifier, and AM/FM tuner in one box, they offered the most convenient and affordable way to start a music system. As music fans shifted their focus to streaming services and smartphones, the trusty old stereo receiver was left behind. But finally, newer stereo receivers are catching up to the technological advances of the Apples and Googles of the world—and adding a few tricks of their own.

One reason receivers became a rarity in new stereo systems is that audio manufacturers rushed to accommodate the home theater craze of the 1990s, adding video inputs, surround-sound processing, and other features. That’s all great for watching an action movie like Resident Evil on Blu-ray, but useless when you’re listening to a jazz classic like Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil on vinyl or CD. Most of those manufacturers ended up with just one token stereo receiver in their line, stripped of cool features and any serious attempt at engineering.

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Originally Published

Brent Butterworth

Brent Butterworth has been a professional audio journalist since 1989, and has evaluated and measured thousands of audio products. He is currently a writer at Wirecutter and editor of the SoundStage Solo headphone site; served as an editor at such magazines as Sound & Vision and Home Theater; and worked as marketing director for Dolby Laboratories. He also plays double bass with several jazz groups in Los Angeles.