April 11, 2013 by Grant Clauser
8. HD Radio
The concept of HD Radio sounded pretty good when it first started hitting the market years ago. Who doesn’t like better sound and more options? There are two problems with it though: first, it’s still basically just radio. For the most part, HD Radio station are just digital versions of standard existing stations, and the public doesn’t need more of that, even if it sounds a little better. Second, just like AM/FM, Internet music has proven a more satisfying option for almost everyone.
The point about this, especially the parts in which I offer counterpoints to my own arguments, is that when making a decision about a component that you’re going to use for many years, you should seriously put some time into understanding how you’re realistically going to use it. Do you want to pay a few hundred dollars more now for a receiver with a phono input because you might want to dig out your old college-age LPs, or would you be better off getting a higher-quality outboard amp, or just going to iTunes and downloading those old albums to your iPad.
Receiver companies, though, don’t really give us a choice. If you want the receiver with 4K upscaling and 6 HDMI inputs, you’re also going to have to live with a trunkful of other features you won’t use. As receivers go up in performance specs, they don’t get more specialized, they get more bloated. The result is a lot of people end up buying things they don’t need just to get the few features they do. It’s like car shopping—to get the GPS you have to buy the package that includes a sunroof, fancy hubcaps and seat warmers, none of which you really want. I’d rather see receivers come in a more modular format so we can buy just the features we need and upgrade modules when necessary.
Read 10 Features for Your Next A/V Receiver, which frequently contradicts this list.
All About Receivers
Review of Sony’s STA-DA2800ES Control4 Receiver
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.
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