When it comes to home theater technology, we all want to get the most out of it to justify the price. I’ve had many people ask me, “How long do home receivers last?” because this can be an expensive bit of technology to replace. I decided to do some research to come up with a definitive answer.
Home receivers can theoretically last 30-40 years based on the quality of the hardware. However, due to the rapid advances in home theater technology, the typical lifespan of a home receiver is around 5 years. You could make your home receiver last 10 years if you planned your purchase.
While a home receiver can basically last as long as you want it to, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to replace your old home receiver. In this article I look into how long home receivers last, along with when you might want to think about getting a new one.
Read: What does a receiver do in a home theater to better understand its functionality.
The lifespan of home receivers
Anyone familiar with the workings of home theaters will know that the receiver is the central hub of all your equipment. It’ll be the site of all connections, and is what you use to hook up your media device to your speaker systems and viewing devices. Therefore it’s probably the most important bit of kit you own.
I’ve known people who are still using home receivers they bought in the 70s and 80s for listening to music, which shows how long they can last if cared for properly. However, this situation is a bit of an anomaly because these people are still using record players and vinyl, which also hasn’t changed in the last 40 years.
When it comes to working out how long a home receiver will last, it really depends on what you’re considering to be its point of death.
If this is when the technology begins to fail, then your home receiver could last decades if cared for properly. One of the best ways to ensure this is to buy a good quality receiver in the first place.
However, if you’re basing a receiver’s lifespan on its ability to keep up with tech advances, then you’re looking at a much shorter period of time. A fair estimate for how quickly technology advances is about 4-5 years. For example, look at the crossover time between HD and 4K, which has been going for a few years now.
So probably the biggest factor in terms of a receiver’s lifespan is its compatibility with existing and emerging technologies. If your devices all use standard HD, then you should be covered for a few more years.
If you’re thinking of bringing in 4K technology to your home theater, then this could be a reason why you need to upgrade your home receiver. With the increasing popularity of formats like HDMI 2.0a an HDCP 2.2, we’re starting to reach a point of discontinuity.
Think of it like the crossover from SCART to HDMI, as this is essentially the same kind of upgrade. You wouldn’t expect your HMDI leads to work in a SCART device, and the same is basically true for the new forms of HD.
So, in short, you can probably expect to get about 4-5 years of use out of your home receiver. If you buy intelligently and start with high-end equipment, then you can probably stretch this out a bit more.
What to look for when buying a new home receiver
Before you go ahead, check out my top picks for home theater receivers. These have been tested in regular homes, so the reviews are more realistic unlike the ones you find on big websites.
If you’ve decided that your old home theater is starting to fall behind, then it can be a good idea to buy a new one. Now is probably a good time for this because several new technologies have emerged recently and these are starting to be found in more affordable products.
Similarly, the price of 4K technology is beginning to trickle down. It might be worth trying to take advantage of this crossover period because you can have a receiver that’s future proof but still works with your current technology. Here are some things to look for when buying a new home receiver.
- This is probably the most obvious thing, but pay attention to the receiver’s connections. Most good quality models should come with at least 1 HDMI input and output, which is designed for 4K.
- On the same note, make sure the receiver is well equipped to handle your current range of HD technology. This will probably require at least one normal HDMI input, but it could need more.
- Automatic speaker setup. Many of the higher end home receivers have automatic speaker setup, which can save loads of time. While this isn’t a must, it can be a big help.
- 3D compatibility. If you’re interested in 3D media, then make sure your new home receiver has a HDMI 1.4a connection.
- Bluetooth/wireless capabilities. Another popular technology is Bluetooth connectivity, which will allow you to play media from your phone/mobile device on your home theater setup.
- Hi–res audio. Hi-res audio is growing in popularity and is definitely something to look out for in your receiver. Normal mp3 music is considered low quality, so this is basically HD music.
- Video upscaling. If you’re investing in future technology, then video upscaling is a must. While this doesn’t physically improve the quality of the media (you can’t make 720p into 4K), it definitely improves the image quality massively.
While many of these features will only be found on higher end models, this is the bracket I’d recommend looking in if you’re upgrading your home receiver. As you can see, they don’t have a brilliant lifespan, so it’s definitely better to invest a bit more money now so that the receiver lasts a bit longer.
Probably the most important factor is making sure you’ve got the right connections for your current technology and any future developments. 4K seems to be the way forwards and will soon become the standard for at-home viewing. Therefore, making sure your receiver has 4K compatibility is probably the most important thing.
Signs you need to upgrade your home receiver
As I mentioned, home receivers can basically last as long as you want them to. However, there are plenty of signs that indicate you might need to trade in your old home receiver for a brand new one. Here are the biggest signs that you need to make the jump to some new tech.
1. You don’t have enough connections
Even if you’re not thinking of making the jump to 4K technology just yet, it’s entirely possible to run out of the right kind of connections for your current equipment. For example, if you bought a home receiver when HD technology was becoming popular, you may only have 1 or 2 HDMI inputs.
You could solve this problem with a switcher, but it can also be a sign for upgrading to a new home receiver. Seeing as HD is the standard now, it’s not uncommon for receiver to have 3 or 4 slots, which would cover you for most media devices in your home theater.
2. You want better sound
There have been a range of advances in sound technology over recent years that are definitely worth taking advantage of. As I mentioned earlier, many home receivers have automatic setup and calibration, and many will also include different listening modes to get the most out of your speakers.
Also, there are the developments in surround sound formatting, such as Dolby Atmos an DTS:X. These are the cutting-edge in immersive surround sound experience and are definitely worth investing in if you’re a fan of your speakers. What’s more, Dolby Atmos generally comes as standard on receivers supporting 7 channels or more.
3. Advanced network capabilities
Another feature worth upgrading for is the improved network connectivity features found on modern home receivers. These allow you to connect to music streaming services like Spotify directly from your receiver. You can also use this feature to take advantage of things like Apple AirPlay too.
4. You want more remote control features
Along with the obvious reasons for upgrading are the less obvious ones. Being able to use your phone or mobile device as a remote control is one of these less obvious reasons. However, it’s surprisingly helpful.
While most home receivers will come with a remote control, those that support mobile remotes allow you to access all of the receiver’s functions from a single interface. This makes fiddling with your sound and picture settings a complete breeze. Having this option gives you much greater control over your options.
Some final thoughts
High quality receivers are built to last, but unfortunately this doesn’t stand up to the advances in technology. While you could expect a high quality receiver to last over 10 years, you’ll find you need to replace it after about 4. However, now is probably the best time to do this so you can take advantage of the crossover in technologies. Hopefully this will allow you to keep your new receiver around for a good few years.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.