People who love music or have a hobby or profession related to music wants to hear it in the best way possible. The modern devices like the smartphone, wireless speakers are trying to ensure it, but if you are passionate about music, then you must have an integrated amplifier to get the best out of your sound device.
The job of an integrated amplifier is to ensure a noise and disturbance-free path for the audio signal, then power it with more watts to provide an immense sound for your speaker.
The same task is performed by a pre-amplifier and a power amplifier respectively, but with an integrated amplifier, you can do the same thing with a single box. The modern trend of flat output also makes it a better and cost-effective choice. Integrated amplifiers are also considered as helpful when you are trying to channel the music in different zones at the same time.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Integrated Amplifier
A quality integrated amp will provide you with more options in terms number and types of connections. You must make sure that the amplifier supports your current audio tools and it will also support more components in future if you want.
Analog Audio Inputs
RCA Audio Inputs – It is the typical input to connect audio gears. It is most common in every source.
Balanced XLR Audio Inputs – This is for modern high-end audio components. It is designed for 3-pin connection setups and provides high-level audio.
RCA Phono Input – This helps the old way of playing music by providing a direct connection to the turntable.
Digital Audio Inputs
Quality integrated amplifiers will support digital audio inputs by converting them into an analog signal. It will help you to attach different DVD, CD and Blu-ray Players, computers, including network-based music players. These are the important digital inputs your integrated amp must have-
USB Connection (Type A and Type B) – Type A helps to charge and play gadgets like Smartphone, iPod and also helps to play the music on your USB drive. On the other hand, type B lets you engage your computer while you are playing stored music or streaming. A quality integrated amp may help you to decode high-quality music files.
Optical and Coaxial – These two audio inputs provide scopes to engage different digital music devices and audio for video supplies.
The Ethernet Port – This essential port helps to connect your computer or laptop with your integrated amp and lets you play your music stored in a network-based computer or from other such devices.
Speaker Output – Most of the amplifiers will provide you a single pair of connectors for the speakers, but if you are planning to have another pair in a different room or at other space then look for dual Speaker Connectors (A+B). This will help you to connect double pairs.
Headphone Output – It’s a must have as it lets you enjoy your music personally.
Subwoofer Output – This gives an opportunity to introduce a subwoofer to enhance your system’s bass. It works great with Televisions or with dual speakers.
There are few integrated amplifiers those lets you use the pre-amplifier and power amplifier separately. You can ignore this feature unless you have plans to use them separately or want to enhance a single part in future.
In modern scenario, it is impossible to neglect this part of connectivity and your integrated amp must know all the ways of going wireless.
WI-Fi and Bluetooth – These will help you to play music from the computer, laptop, tablets, smartphone and all the other gadgets that have the support of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Apple AirPlay – If your amp has this feature, then it will be able to play music from iPad, iPhone and from apps like YouTube, Spotify. It will also help to receive music from iTunes.
How Much and What Kind of Amplifier Power Do You Need?
This largely depends on the size of your room or space where you are planning to play and the kind of speaker you are using. As an example, a 15-20 watts/channel powered amp is fine for a laptop attached to two closely placed speakers in a room that is smaller and less affected by outside noises. When the room is big and full of stuff, then you might require hitting more than 200 watts to get a big sound. Generally, amplifier manufacturers recommend what kinds of speakers are suitable for that product. Try to follow that instruction or stay close to the recommendation.
Amplifier Construction and Class
As soon as you will go to buy an amplifier, you will come across class – Class A, Class D and Class A/B. According to experts, one can find quality amplifiers in all these classes, thus the “Class” thing is not much important. At the same time, one must take a cue from the structure.
Ring Shaped transformers are known for a quality power supply that helps to provide large amount current without too much vibration and electronic noise.
Also, look for Dual Mono Construction, it stops to the right and left channel to interfere with each other. This gives better stereo experience in wide spaces.
Best Integrated Amps Under $1000
Teac AI-101DA-B Integrated Amplifier with USB DAC
Pro: A very cost effective solution loaded with good features. Build quality is really good. Value for money.
Con: Bluetooth connectivity although present, has very limited connectivity range before the audio starts to stutter.
The Teac comes loaded with USB DAC connectivity and Bluetooth 3.0 aptX wireless streaming capabilities. This means that this audiophile grade amp has wireless connectivity and also has a dedicated subwoofer out the channel, that works like a charm.
Onkyo A-9050 Integrated Stereo Amplifier
First off, you can’t beat the price on this Onkyo. Second, you need to see the gorgeous silver version for yourself so you can be as annoyed as I am that it’s not available in the US. As for sound quality, it’s impressive for what you end up paying.
Nothing particularly special about this amp, and I would only really buy it just because the retro look is really cool and even though things will sound quite bright the first few times you run it, the sound quality is pretty good for the price.
Music Hall – A15.3 Integrated Amp
Pro: Works well with older speakers and breathes new life into them. A well made modern age amp.
Con: The remote control icons may be a little hard to read for some users. Could have had more features. Subwoofer output, when connected to the Music hall is only satisfactory. No Bluetooth connectivity.
The Music Hall is a 50-watt powerhouse that is very simple. Crafted from a very sturdy aluminum base, the amp has a brushed look and looks sleek and high-tech. The highlight of this amplifier is its Ultra Low noise pre-amp section. Perfect to drive your floor speakers really well, you are going to love the low end below that this amp creates especially should you decide to watch action movies. Music on this amp has a resounding presence and an awesome definition. A brilliant audiophile-grade amplifier that is going to put a smile on your face everytime you think about how less you paid for its top-notch sound quality and construction.
NuForce DDA120 Powerful Integrated Digital Amp
Pro: Compact and Small Size. No software or firmware upgrades to mess with. The sound is awesome even when connected wirelessly to personal computers, Blu-Ray players, and mobile devices. Phenomenal price.
Con: Extremely tiny remote, can easily be misplaced. Multiple functions have been designated to the volume knob. This can be quite confusing.
Before we get to anything, we just would like to say that this NuForce integrated amplifier is one of the most beautiful looking devices we have seen in a long time. Quite literally, it looks like it belongs in a sci-fi movie. Equipped with the Nuforce Bluetooth module, this amp shall feel like nirvana when you get back home after a hard day’s work and you can connect your phone to your sound system with the touch of a button. The amp features the proprietary aptX codec that does not let the quality of sound deteriorate when streaming music wirelessly.
Onkyo Integrated Amplifier 85W+85W A-973
I don’t think many have heard of this amp, basically because it is only available in Japan, and if you want it, you would have to have it imported. That being said, the sound quality is pretty decent, only there are plenty of alternatives that need less work procuring for this price range
AudioSource AMP 1200
This amp produces good sound and has all the basic features, however, you may want to avoid tinkering with whatever you plug into it or plug it into too much as you may break some of its connectors. After a while of running it, you will also notice that it gets pretty warm.
Don’t get this review wrong, this is a good amplifier, only the listener shouldn’t be nitpicky or an advanced level audiophile as this tends to sound a bit “thin”, especially in the lower midrange and bass. It looks nice and sleek though.
YAQIN MC-13S EL34
Looks very cool with the tubes exposed, and the sound definitely does not disappoint, especially when you consider it’s way under 1000 bucks. I personally would get this and have it double as a display piece in my apartment. One of the things I had an issue with is the absence of a “balance” feature so I can control how much sound I hear from either speaker.
Cambridge Audio CXA80 Integrated Amplifier
Pro: Solid sound in both direct and USB mode, does not get warm
Another excellent addition to your audiophile arsenal, only it’s only shy of a grand by a mere dollar, so if your budget is tight you may want to consider one of the other products on this list. This amp’s sound is powerful and clean and looks great.
If you’re more of a digital audio file or internet radio kind of listener, this would be an excellent choice for you. It produces really good sound for this purpose, but using it for vinyl is also an auditory experience.
Onkyo A-9070 Stereo Integrated Amplifier
I just had to throw this one in here, even though it’s clearly way above $1000. If you can spare the extra $200, get this one because it produces really, really good sound. It’s nice to look at, and the sound quality will make you overlook the fact that the knobs feel like they were half-baked.
Creek Audio Evolution 50A Integrated Amplifier
Pro: Top notch audiophile setup. There is a direct audio mode, in case you want to bypass tone control to stream high-quality audio.
Con: The setup can be turned on using the button on the amp only and not with the remote. No Bluetooth.
Creek Audio has managed to hit all the right chords with the Evolution 50A and it has a wide array of controls for various inputs. The amp handles high-resolution audio with ease and is a thoroughbred audiophile equipment. The amp has an OLED screen to make operation easy as the user interacts with the system. The power output is 55 watts when used with 8 Ohm speakers and 85 watts with 4 Ohm speakers.
Marantz HD-AMP1 Digital Integrated Amplifier
The Marantz amp has USB and device connectivity. It is equipped to decode, the latest generation WAV, FLAC, ALAC and other formats at high-frequency sound qualities with ease, making it a future-proof setup. It is a vintage style amp with ample controls on board to help with the ease of use. This integrated amp is built for the audiophile purists which in itself is a commendable feat.
Roksan – K3 Integrated Amplifier
Roksan K3 is made to create some killer sound quality. A must-have feature in today’s time and era. The amp will run your 8-ohm speakers at 140 watts and 4-ohm speakers at 8 ohms, at peak performance. Brilliant figures indeed. This amp combines the visual performance with audiophile sound quality, with the convenience of Bluetooth.