People who love music or have a hobby or profession related to music want to hear it in the best way possible. 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 of 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 the 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 smartphones, iPods 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 another 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 that let 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 the future.
In the 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 classes – 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 a large amount of 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 a better stereo experience in wide spaces.
Best Integrated Amps Under $1000
Cambridge Audio CXA60 Integrated Amplifier
Pros: Deep, resonating bass and clear high tones.
Cons: Bluetooth and remote are troublesome at times.
The Cambridge Audio model integrated amp offers quality sound and versatility in use. The DacMagic chip provides excellent sound clarity and you have all the inputs needed for both digital and analog sourcing. It has a 3.5mm front input for MP3 players and Bluetooth capabilities for wireless music file sharing. It features a separate subwoofer outlet and all the power you need to create the musical environment you desire. Cambridge Audio is known for creating powerful equipment and this integrated amp does not disappoint. It is undeniably an audiophile-grade amp at an affordable price.
Olasonic NANOCOMPO Integrated Amplifier
Pros: Extremely great price-point for the quality.
Cons: It does lack power for those needing more watts output of sound.
The Olasonic is another compact stereo integrated amplifier that offers all the bells and whistles, but for an unbelievable price. It provides USB, optical, coaxial, and 3.5mm inputs. It is compatible with both Mac and standard PC hookup. The included Burr-Brown DAC and audiophile-quality chip offers complete distortion-free sound.
Yamaha A-S701SL Natural Sound Integrated Amplifier
Pros: The sound is superb, set-up is easy, and it is a great value for the price.
Cons: Clarity is questionable with some music and the bass is unimpressive.
The quality of sound that the Yamaha ToP-ART technology brings is second to none in this price range. It is an audiophile-grade amp that offers a ton of bells and whistles. You have inputs for both TV and Blu-ray disc players, digital and analog inputs, direct CD amplification, and outlets for two sets of speakers. It’s the perfect unit to create a spectacular surround sound system or setup sound in two different areas. The Yamaha A-S701SL is somewhere in-between the mid and high range of the pricing spectrum.
ADCOM GIA-275 Bluetooth Integrated Amplifier
Pros: Wide variety of features and flexible speaker.
Cons: A definite learning curve for learning the technical aspects of set-up.
The ADCOM GIA-275 features remote control accuracy and versatile power with 80 watts X 2 for 8ohms and 120 watts X 2 for 4ohms. It’s a great unit for situations that require speakers in more than one location. All of the analog-digital inputs are coupled with a coaxial output. You have access to a front-mounted 3.5mm input, headphone jack, and a USB input allowing the playback of files like DSD-DSF-DFF, FLAC, WAV, PCM, MP3, and many other 16 or 24-bit formats. The Bluetooth input gives complete wireless capabilities in playing your desired music.
Teac AX-501 Integrated Amplifier
Pros: It is an attractive, strong unit within the median price range.
Cons: It is somewhat limiting in speaker with a top-end of 4ohms.
The unique retro look of this integrated unit is eye-catching. It comes complete with a remote for distance control and all necessary analog-digital inputs to bring in music from a variety of sources. It is quiet running for a smooth sound. It is simple in the fact that it offers the basics of an amp and preamp, but also offers the balanced XLR input.
NuPrime IDA-8 Integrated Amplifier
Pros: Balanced, powerful, and professional performance.
Cons: One of the pricier amps.
Although the NuPrime IDA-8 is on the high end of the price spectrum of our sampling, it does offer Class A quality. It has true audiophile-quality sound and a wide range of input capabilities. It has Bluetooth capability, coaxial, RCA audio input, USB input, and the capability to decipher using a built-in converter. The jitter-free noise controlling features are top-notch.
The winner, hands down, is the NuPrime-IDA-8 integrated amplifier. It might be one of the higher-priced models of amps listed here, but it delivers the quality and power that many in the thousands of dollars category provide. It is as close as you can get to a professional grade under $1,000. It offers the widest variety of features and covers multiple uses for the technology of today. It is a unit you will be happy to own.