Introduction to Processor Reviews
When the term processor is used, it is very often part of a discussion about audio/video separates. While a receiver is really a pre-amplifier and amplifier in one, the processor came about by separating the pre-amplifier and amplifier into multiple audio components. The theory behind this was that having separate components would allow for greater fidelity by allowing for more choice of amplification and componentry at various price points. It was also intended to alleviate the expense of replacing amplifiers whenever the processing side of the receiver had to change.
Like the receiver, today’s audio/video processors are at the heart of any home theater system. The processor connects all the devices in your home theater including your television, Blu-ray and DVD players, cable and satellite boxes, gaming systems, media servers, and even old legacy devices like CD players. Besides offering all that connectivity, the processor is first and foremost a pre-amplifier (or pre-amp) which serves to process and decode everything from two-channel stereo up to 11.2 channels of immersive 3-D surround for formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro:3D. The processor is also responsible for routing the video signals from each source device to your television. While some processors are still able to handle legacy analog video inputs, the trend is to support the latest HDMI formats with support for HDCP2.2 and 4K UHD video codecs.
Today’s processors support a wide range of speaker configurations, from stereo and traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround systems, up to the latest 11 channel systems with multiple pairs of height channels and multiple subwoofers. External amplifiers must be purchased for use with a processor, but this is also part of the fun since amplifiers are an entire product category with lots of options.
Like a receiver, the processor has often included a tuner for AM/FM radio, but todays’ processors can now include such things as an HD Radio tuner, room correction, multi-media connectivity, multi-room and multi-zone connectivity, and control apps for your favorite phone or tablet. Our reviews and bench tests cover the full range of processors and offer insight into product design, setup, operation, the features and functionality that matter most, and of course how the processor performed and sounded in our home theaters. Our processor reviews will help you decide which processor is right for your home theater and your budget.