A/V Receiver Power - Leave Off or On?
Q. Should I turn my A/V receiver power off, or, like my computer, just leave it on all the time? Does it draw lots of power on startup causing undue strain over time? If I do leave it on, should I turn the volume to zero or is mute ok? Thanks. – I.Z.
A. This debate has been going on for years. It grew out of the vacuum-tube era of recording studios and early vacuum-tube computers, where there was good reason to leave tube equipment running all the time. Tube gear takes some time (hours or even days) for the circuits to stabilize whereas solid-state circuitry settles down in a few minutes or less. The surge of power to the tubes' cold heater elements also shortened tube life each time tube gear was turned on. But that just isn't true of solid-state gear used on an occasional basis—even every day—in domestic applications like home theater and music reproduction. The turn-on power surge for solid-state equipment has negligible life-shortening effects, given the remarkable longevity of modern transistorized components.
Unless you are running a recording studio 24 hours a day, it makes no sense to leave your A/V receiver power on all the time. Heat is the enemy of all circuitry over the long term, and all components generate heat. This is especially true of A/V receivers, which jam seven amplifiers plus control circuitry onto one chassis. (Incidentally, the position of the volume control or whether the receiver is set to “Mute” is irrelevant.) If you want to see how much power you are wasting in heat when you leave the receiver power on all the time, look up the “idling power consumption” in the specifications section of your receiver owner's manual. It will likely be at least 120 watts if it's a 5.1-channel (or more) surround-sound model. That's like leaving a 120-watt light bulb running all the time. And most A/V receivers nowadays have “Standby” circuits that use a tiny bit of power to keep the infrared remote receptor and circuit active, so you can use the remote control to conveniently switch the unit on or off.
In the days of abundant cheap electrical power 30 years ago, many TV sets had an “Instant On” feature (my old Sony Trinitron had it) that kept a low voltage supply to the picture tube's heater element so the TV didn't have to “warm up” for a couple of minutes. But most brands eventually dropped that feature as the cost of electrical power moved upwards. Still deciding on equipment? Receiver power consumption is just one consideration - see more here!
About the Author
Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada's largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, "Sound Advice", began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada's largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time.
He also wrote on consumer electronics for Maclean's magazine and made occasional appearances on TV on "Canada AM," the national CTV morning show, and on June Callwood's national afternoon TV talk show.
In 1983, he was appointed editor of Sound Canada magazine, which he relaunched in 1985 as Sound & Vision, incorporating video content and reviews as well as hi-fi and audio features. He also became a contributing editor to Stereo Review in New York, and an audio columnist for Music Express, a Canadian rock magazine.
An audio and electronics enthusiast from childhood, Alan began building vacuum-tube hi-fi gear for his father, who was an audiophile in the 1950s. Lofft's passion for audio continued through college, during which time he hosted and produced "On Campus", a radio show taped on location (on a portable Ampex 650 open-reel recorder) at Wilfrid Laurier University and broadcast locally in Kitchener, Ontario.