Despite the growing popularity of active acoustics, amplifiers are not going to retire, since, in addition to their main task – amplification, they have learned to receive music via wireless channels (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) and even act as a streaming player.
We have prepared a selection of the best amplifiers relevant in 2023. Our material will help you buy an amplifier that will delight the listener with high-quality sound and useful functionality. Before moving on to choosing an amplifier, the future user must decide:
- Stereo or multi-channel system? Most Hi-Fi amplifiers are designed to connect one or two pairs of speakers, while AV receivers combine multiple surround sound channels around them. For listening to music, classic stereo is preferable, since most recordings are made in this format. Watching movies, on the contrary, involves many channels to immerse yourself in what is happening on the screen.
- Do you need a phono stage? Vinyl records are back on the crest of a wave, so if you plan to listen to this analog medium, then the phono preamp built into the amplifier will greatly simplify connecting your turntable. Read about how to connect your home audio system here .
- Is sound from streaming a priority? In the era of wireless audio transmission, the presence of a DAC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in the amplifier will be an advantage, thanks to which it can be easily connected to a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
- How much power should the amplifier have? This is influenced by the size of the room, the type of speaker system and other factors. For example, many bookshelf speakers require less amplifier power than large floor-standing speakers. For a room up to 18 meters in size, 60 W of power will be quite enough, but for a living room, 100 W may not be enough. Let’s make a reservation that the choice of power is influenced by too many factors.
A squat integrated stereo amplifier with wide functionality. Despite the budget segment of the model, we were pleased with the contents under the cover: a large toroidal transformer, two rows of cooling radiators, neatly laid wiring. The amplifier produces an “honest” 50 W (8 Ohms) in class AB, which is quite enough to control bookshelf speakers such as DALI Spektor 2 or Klipsch R-40M .
On the rear panel of the SA3 there is a scattering of analog and digital inputs that allow you to connect the amplifier to a variety of sound sources. There is a separate phono input for working with a vinyl player, in addition to seven more RCA pairs. In addition to the speaker system, you can connect an active subwoofer to the amplifier to enhance the low-frequency output of the audio system. An interesting feature of the SA3 is the ability to operate in mono mode with increased power up to 100 W.
Quad Vena II Play
The English audio manufacturer creates stylish and compact amplifiers that are much smaller than standard hi-fi components. However, appearances are deceiving. You will understand this when you install Vena II Play – the model weighs more than 6 kg. The amplifier has clear and simple controls using buttons on the front panel. Both analog and digital connection options are available to the user, so Vena II Play is universal.
The model is designed to work with streaming services via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless channels. The built-in DAC allows you to listen to music in Hi-Res Audio with a resolution of up to 24 bit/192 kHz (via Wi-Fi) and 32 bit/384 kHz (via USB). The amplifier is optimally suited for work in small rooms and supplies 45 W (8 Ohms) to the speakers. We are sure that Vena II Play will be appreciated by those who save free space in the house. The model can easily fit on a TV stand or computer desk.
Rotel RA-1592 MKII
The Japanese company Rotel is amazing in its approach to creating audio, it still relies on its own factory capacity and produces most of the internal components of amplifiers in-house. The RA-1592MKII is a powerful integrated amplifier belonging to the upper Hi-Fi segment. It can “drive” even power-demanding floor-standing speakers, such as the Amphion Argon3LS or Bowers & Wilkins 704 S3 .
The model will become the center of your home audio system, as you can connect most sound sources to it via analog or digital inputs. The amplifier even has a balanced connection option to transmit the signal with less distortion. If you are assembling your first audio setup, then the RA-1592MKII will become its reliable foundation.
PS Audio Stellar Strata
The powerful Stellar Strata integrated amplifier is the only one in the PS Audio line. The model combines an amplifier and a source under one cover. Stellar Strata gives you quick access to streaming services through the app. You just need to “add a speaker system,” as the manufacturer advises, to get a self-sufficient stereo. It is also easy to connect third-party analog and digital audio sources to the amplifier. However, the main role of Stellar Strata is working with digital audio. It has a powerful ESS Saber Hyperstream DAC on board, which processes PCM up to 384 kHz, as well as DSD64 and 128 over a wired connection.
The solution for those who want to be free from cables. The amplifier is equipped with Wi-Fi for stable operation with a home network. You just need to choose a streaming service with the ability to transmit high-resolution audio. We are accustomed to the fact that in many Hi-Fi amplifiers, manufacturers do not pay due attention to the quality of the headphone output, making it according to residual principles. However, Stellar Strata will qualitatively boost not only acoustics, but also headphones thanks to the built-in amplifier in class A. PS Audio Stellar Strata is an all-in-one solution for the modern user.
Primare I15 Prisma
An all-in-one system that combines a power amplifier and a streaming player. The I15 Prisma will be a godsend for those who prefer streaming audio and Hi-Res Audio, but practically do not use analog audio sources. For streaming, the model supports AirPlay, Chromecast, and Bluetooth. Inside the amplifier is a DAC capable of processing a digital signal at a mind-boggling resolution of up to 32-bit/768 kHz. All that remains is to find files in such high quality.
A Class D amplifier delivering 65 W (8 Ohms) was placed in the Primare I15 Prisma case. This class of amplification is loved for its high detail, low distortion and compact size. The model is undemanding in terms of cooling, so you can even install other devices on the I15 Prisma. However, it is better to find a separate place for the amplifier.
Michi is Rotel’s High End division. The Japanese manufacturer invests in advanced audio solutions in Michi models without regard to the budget. The Series 2’s specs are amazing. The amplifier delivers a staggering 600 watts (4 ohms) to the speaker system, yet delivers just 0.009% harmonic distortion—a level virtually unattainable by competitors. The sound will not lose its analyticalness and dynamics even if the amplifier operates at high volume. All that remains is to choose the appropriate acoustics.
Michi X5 Series 2 will require a separate pedestal, since the amplifier weighs more than forty kilograms. Inside the X5 there are a pair of toroidal transformers, which will require a lot of current to power. However, the game is worth the candle, since the user will receive a reference class amplifier with a built-in DAC and phono stage.