A receiver is one of the most confusing pieces of audio equipment to buy. There's so many different standards and features, it's hard to know what's giong to fit your budget, while still satisfying your household requirements.
Recommend this product?
The first thing that I found hard to figure out is the range of price. You can get a new receiver for around $150 if you shop around. You can also spend $6,000 at the same store on a different brand of receiver. Why the huge differences in price? Here are some of the features you will probably be looking for in a receiver:
Power: This is your amplifier, naturally you want it to be able to dole out generous portions of sound to each channel. This unit does 100 watts per channel. This is by no means huge, but unless you're planning to entertain in a room the size of a gymnasium -- and even then, this unit could probably do it -- you shouldn't be needing any more than that. You do need a subwoofer. This unit has a dedicated subwoofer output.
Clarity: This is important. No matter how much you spend on a CD player or DVD player, a crummy amplifier will make it sound like a transistor radio. This model has optical inputs. Using an optical mode for data transmission completely eliminates the electrical noise present in any copper wire. You still have to select adequate speakers and good wire to enjoy your system's clarity of sound to the fullest.
Surround: Most receivers will process surround, but there are a number of different types. Dolby surround is the most common, and has several different settings to choose from (I find that hall works best for sports). This unit is probably the most inexpensive one that also processes DTS surround. I couldn't tell you all the technical details about DTS, but as it was demonstrated to me, the DTS mode was clearly superior is bringing directional sound to the viewer. If a helicopter appeared to be in front of you on the screen, then flew to the left, the right, and overhead, the DTS mode placed the sound exactly where the image appeared to be. I'm basically repeating the sales pitch that was given to me, but it was a hell of a sales pitch.
Self-preservation: Let's say you do something stupid, like say, cross the wires while attaching your speakers. While the unit is running. Loudly. Most units would overheat and burn out in seconds. This one has an auto shut-off that simply turns the whole unit off (and tells you on the display that you've done something stupid). I'm not sure whether the other Panasonic models do this, it's not a smart thing to try. The same thing will happen if you come close to overheating your unit by running too much power through it.
Inputs: Plenty of inputs. Nowadays, is there any one of us that doesn't have a CD player, cassette player, phonograph, DVD player, VCR and television which we need to run through an amplifier? Okay, maybe I don't have half of these things. But if I did, this Panasonic would handle all of them smoothly.
And finally, being a Matsusita product (makers of Panasonic and Technics as well as some house brands) I am quick to trust their quality. I've never owned anything made by a Matsusita company which I wouldn't buy again.
The price of amplifiers has come way down in the last 10 years. For what this one does you'd have spent well over $1,000 in the early 90s. If you're looking for a hub for your home entertainment center, don't hesitate to try this one out. You'll probably end up taking it home.
Amount Paid (US$): 299