Both A/V receivers and soundbars fall under the category of audio devices, which let you play the audio from your TV through a better quality sound system than the basic speakers that are integrated into most TV sets.
If you see an extra device around your TV that looks like it's got speakers in it or that's connected to external speakers—chances are, you have one of these audio devices. The following info may help you figure out which kind you have.
What's a Soundbar?
Soundbars are the simplest of these audio devices—they're essentially an external speaker system connected to your TV. With some models, you control volume through the soundbar itself, using its own remote control; with other models, you continue controlling volume through your TV (and its remote), but the audio plays out of the soundbar. When you set up Ray, we'll help you figure out which of these scenarios you have so that your Ray can take over volume control.
Soundbars are often long and bar-shaped—hence the name—although not necessarily. They're generally pretty simple, with a minimum of buttons or controls.
What's an A/V Receiver?
An A/V receiver is more complicated than a soundbar. It's the hub of a home theater system, taking both the audio and video inputs from various devices (cable or satellite TV, gaming devices, media players, etc.) and sending them out to an external speaker system and the TV screen (and/or other types of video displays—for example, a projector). A/V receivers also have built-in radio tuners.
While a soundbar is its own speaker system, an A/V receiver needs to be connected to an external speaker system—which gives you the flexibility to configure multiple speakers however you'd like (for instance, a true surround-sound setup). A/V receivers also handle input switching—that is, telling your TV which device you're using. An A/V receiver generally has a lot of buttons and controls on it, as well as a display screen.
You might also want to read: I have external speakers–how do I set those up?