If you're looking to dig into the world of hi-fi systems that consist of a separate stereo receiver or integrated amplifier that powers a set of passive speakers — whether your passion is turntables and vinyl records, sweet CD sound, or streaming audio — then this list is the resource you need to get going.
First of all, there can be some confusion between integrated amplifiers (one that combines both a preamp and power amp) and stereo receivers (which is basically an integrated amplifier with an AM/FM radio receiver in it), but don't worry, we explain the difference in more detail in the FAQs below. We also explain what an AV receiver is and how it fits in to all of this, but because they're a whole other beast, we have an entirely separate roundup for those as well.
But back to what we're here for. Stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers contain a medley of analog and digital audio inputs and outputs, as well as features like EQ adjustments, A/B speaker switching, HDMI, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and can cost as little as $200 or upwards of $5,000. To help you decide how much (or how little) you should be investing in one of these products, we’ve put together this roundup of the best you can buy right now!
Cambridge Audio CXA81
Best overall integrated amplifier
- 80 watts-per-channel power
- Clean and dynamic volume
- Quality DAC
- Digital inputs capable of up to 24-bit/384kHz
- Bluetooth aptX HD
- No tone or bass controls
- No built-in phono preamp
If it's big power and clarity you're after, as well as a range of digital, analog, and wireless connectivity options, it's hard to beat the Cambridge Audio CXA81 integrated amplifier at its $1,000 price tag.
With its substantial 80-watts-per-channel output, the Cambridge Audio CXA81 has received accolades across the board for its ability to drive even the most demanding of speakers (4 to 8 ohms) with full, deep bass, punchy mids, and detail, and definition on the highs that keeps its cool even in the upper volume ranges.
And while it doesn't have a dedicated phono preamp (a phono stage is required), the CXA81 is the go-to integrated amplifier for Digital Trends' turntable reviewer Derek Malcolm based on its well-balanced sound for all kinds of music.
But if digital music is your thing, whether from your own high-res music files or through the various streaming services available, the CXA81 features an excellent internal DAC (digital-to-audio converter), the ESS Sabre ES9016K2M, that supports up to 24-bit 384kHz PCM (through its USB input). There are also several digital inputs at your disposal for connecting network streaming devices and other digital devices, and they include one S/SPDIF coaxial, two TOSLINK optical inputs, and the aforementioned USB. Additionally, Bluetooth aptX HD wireless connectivity means up to 24-bit/48kHz from a compatible smartphone or other device.
If analog is more your jam, the CXA81 features four RCA inputs for, well, anything you'd like to connect to it, such as turntables (with phono preamp, of course) and CD players. It also features a balanced XLR input if you must have that extra level of interference separation.
Apart from all its technical prowess, the Cambridge Audio CXA81 is handsome in its Lunar Grey finish, looks good in any media unit, and is easy to set up and use. As far as integrated amplifiers go, you just can't go wrong with the CXA81. But, if price is a sticking point and you don't need 80 watts worth of headroom, thebelow is of the same lineage, has a built-in phono preamp, and is only $400.
Best overall integrated amplifier under $1,000
- Slim design
- Plenty of analog and digital inputs
- Supports up to 24-bit/192kHz playback
- Uses HDAM3 circuitry for optimal signal transfer
- No built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
When it comes to integrated amplifiers and crucial AV components, Marantz is one of the most reliable names in the business. And while you can spend upwards of $3,000 on some of the company’s flagship offerings, we’d like to highlight the incredible Marantz PM6007 as our favorite two-channel integrated amp for under $1,000.
As far as connections go, the PM6007 truly has it all. We’re talking five analog inputs, two digital optical ports, one digital coaxial, an LFE output for a subwoofer, and two zones of audio. For the latter, you’ll be able to take advantage of 45 watts per channel for 8 -hm speakers or 60 watts for 4-ohm setups, as well as quick and easy A/B switching.
Why would you spend around $700 for an integrated amp when you could drop a third of that (or less) for something like the Yamaha R-S202BL? The simple answer is overall sound quality. From its revamped 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog audio converter to its HDAM3 analog circuitry, the PM6007 is designed to deliver rich and powerful sound that contains as little distortion as possible.
You won’t find features like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi integration on the Marantz PM6007, but the absence of these wireless connections is going to become fairly commonplace as you start looking at higher-priced stereo receivers. This isn’t exactly a drawback though, because a general rule of thumb is the less internal components (such as wireless antennas), the less signal interference and distortion your amp will have to contend with.
Best stereo receiver under $300
- Great price
- Up to 100 watts per channel
- Built-in Bluetooth input
- Includes four RCA inputs
- No phono input
- A little on the bulky side
Not every stereo receiver or amplifier has to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, if you’re looking to power a solid set of bookshelf speakers and only have one or two audio components to wire up, you should definitely take a look at the Yamaha R-S202BL. For around $200, it checks all the boxes for an entry-level setup, and throws in a few extra perks that place it a cut above the rest (at this price point).
Whether you’re looking to power two speakers for a single listening space, or you’d like to switch between two different zones of audio, the R-S202BL contains A and B stereo configurations, with each channel delivering up to 100 watts. This is perfect for small to medium-sized speakers and even some smaller tower units.
The receiver is also equipped with four analog inputs, so you’ll be able to connect everything from CD players to music-streaming devices. Do be warned that if you plan on connecting a record player, you’ll need to purchase a separate phono preamp as it does not have one built in.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the R-S202BL is its Bluetooth input -- we’re big fans of how easy it is to connect your phone, tablet, or laptop to enjoy wireless audio. True audiophiles may require more power and versatility, but if you’re new to the world of stereo hi-fi, the Yamaha R-S202BL is a great place to start.
Cambridge Audio AXA35
Best integrated amp under $500
- Minimalist design
- Plenty of analog connections
- Dedicated phono input
- No built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
- Not as powerful as other models on our list
Opting for a streamlined integrated stereo amplifier is never a bad idea, especially if you’re looking to build a small to medium-sized hi-fi listening space. For CD and vinyl enthusiasts, we think the Cambridge Audio AXA35 is one of the best stereo systems for under $500, and the minimalist aesthetic happens to be one of our favorite features.
The slim chassis and monochrome shell allow the AXA35 to blend right in with whatever A/V components are neighboring the receiver, as well as whatever home decor and furniture it lives near and within. It’s not as powerful as some of the other models on our list, but at 35 watts per channel (for 8-ohm speakers), this Cambridge Audio product is perfect for one or two sets of passive bookshelf speakers. You’ll also have the ability to connect up to five analog audio devices.
One of these inputs is intended for record players, and you’ll be glad to know that the AXA35 supports both moving magnet and moving coil cartridge players. While there’s no onboard Bluetooth connection to speak of, there is a USB port that you can connect a separate Bluetooth receiver to.
Arcam A15 integrated amplifier
Best power and great DAC under $1,000
- Class-leading onboard DAC
- Hi-res playback at up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive support
- Can also transmit Bluetooth signals
Arcam is a powerhouse brand that has been making waves in the AV space for years. There’s been a particularly strong response to the company’s Radia lineup, which consists of amplifiers with some of the best onboard DACs you’ll find in stores and online. Here, we’re going to talk about the almighty Arcam A15, a mid-tier offering from the phenomenal audio brand.
Equipped with a 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC, Arcam aims to ensure that whatever sources you’re connecting receive the best treatment possible. Whether that’s Bluetooth audio from your iPhone or a full-fledged 24-bit/192kHz album you downloaded from Tidal or Qobuz, the ESS Sabre delivers quality that aligns with the artist’s performance and listener intentions.
The A15 also supports aptX Adaptive Bluetooth, meaning you can enjoy higher-quality audio playback over Bluetooth if your sending device supports it. And it's two-way Bluetooth, meaning you can connect wireless headphones and enjoy aptX Adaptive as well, if your headphones support it.
And as far as wired pathways go, there’s plenty to talk about, including three stereo RCA inputs, a phono input, and two digital coaxial and one digital optical that support up to 24-bit/192 kHz. Thanks to AB switching, you’ll also be able to hook up two different sets of speakers, with the receiver providing up to 80 watts for two 8 ohm speakers and 120 watts for 4 ohm setups.
Excellent integrated amplifier for analog purists
- Solid performance
- Lots of analog and digital inputs
- Built-in preamp for record players
- Analog Mode made for analog sources
- No AM/FM
Who would ever want to live in a world without Denon products? One of the biggest and most established brands in the world of hi-fi, Denon’s reputation is widely praised, which is why we’re shining a light on the Denon PMA-600NE.
Much like the other A/B-switching integrated amplifiers on our list, the PMA-600NE pushes up to 45 watts per channel for 8-ohm speakers and 70 watts for 4-ohm pairings. This kind of power may not be the golden feature to write home about, but what you will be pining over in your AV diary (we all have one of these, right?) is the precision-tuned analog experience the PMA-600NE provides.
Not only do you have five sets of RCA inputs to choose from, but one of these connections is for a turntable. Thanks to an onboard phono preamp, you won’t need to provide your own power source to enjoy your vinyl collection, and the amplifier’s Analog Mode ensures you’ll get the best LP playback by cutting off all digital circuitry when you’re listening to records.
Denon even went as far to include a 24-bit/192kHz DAC and a Bluetooth input for hi-res enthusiasts and music-streaming fans.
Best entry-level, budget stereo receiver
- Built-in Bluetooth input and Bluetooth Standby
- Dedicated phono input
- Not as advanced as other models on our list
The Sony STRDH190 has been around for many years, and if you’re looking to get yourself a bare-bones stereo receiver with a few extra goodies built in, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Delivering up to 90 watts per channel and A/B switching, this receiver is perfect for wiring up two bookshelf speakers or a pair of midrange floorstanding speakers. It also includes four RCA inputs, a dedicated phono input, and Bluetooth connectivity. The STRDH190 also has a handy feature called Bluetooth Standby, which lets you wake the receiver using your smartphone.
You won’t find any digital connections, fancy DACs, or 24-bit support on this stereo receiver, but when you're spending less than $170, it’s hard to beat the power, performance, and value you’ll get with the Sony STRDH190.
Fosi Audio BT20A Pro
Best mini integrated amp with Bluetooth
- Big, clean 300-watt sound
- Compact 5-inch by 5-inch size
- Bass and treble control
- Under $100
- Single RCA input
- SBC/AAC Bluetooth sound quality
It may be small and basic in terms of connectivity, but what the Fosi Audio BT20A Pro integrated Bluetooth mini amp lacks in those departments, it more than makes up for in power.
Perfect for anyone short on shelf space or room for big receivers and amps like the others on our list, the BT20A Pro's 5-inch by 5-inch by 1-inch frame can fit just about anywhere, leaving plenty of room for bookshelf speakers or your other decorating knickknacks.
But let's be clear about something: the Fosi BT20A Pro can drive speakers a heckuva lot bigger than bookshelves. Its 300 watts per channel can drive even the most power-hungry 4-ohm speakers (150 watts per channel for 8-ohm speakers), and it's clean as the driven snow. It may not have the warmest or most original sound signature compared to other models on our list, but the bass and treble dials on the front face of the device let you get the balance you like.
Connectivity-wise, there isn't much in terms of physical inputs, but it might suit you just fine anyway. With one RCA input, you can connect whatever you like, such as a turntable (a phono preamp will be needed), CD player, or network streamer. If you did want to connect more, you could always get an RCA source switcher. There's also a pre out that can be used to connect a powered subwoofer.
But for most people, the BT20A Pro's Bluetooth 5.0 connection will suffice. It's not aptX HD or anything (it does SBC and AAC), so don't expect hi-res audio over Bluetooth from the likes of Tidal or other hi-res services. But for its $100 price (you can also find it on sale), the sound is good for such a small package.
Stereo gear can be complicated, we know. But let's break this down as simply as possible. First, the basic definition of an amplifier is a device that takes the lower voltage signals from your audio sources like turntables, CD players, and network music streamers, for example, and adds gain and volume to power a set of speakers.
All integrated amplifiers consist of two components: a preamplifier that you connect all of your stuff to and that you use to choose the device you want to listen to (input select), and a power amplifier that does the work of making things louder.
Of course, these components can be bought as separate hardware units and connected together to drive your system, but to simplify things and make them more consumer friendly (and cheaper, in some cases), they are combined in one unit called an integrated amplifier.
OK, so what's a stereo receiver, then? Simply put, it's just an integrated amplifier with an AM/FM radio in it. Yep, that's it. The radio source is selected just like any other source on the amplifier.
However, pure integrated amplifiers (such as every one on our list) tend to leave out the receiver part because it can cause sound interference or unwanted noise. As Cambridge Audio so eloquently puts it: "On a basic level, all receivers are amplifiers, but not all amplifiers are receivers."
And, lastly, where do AV receivers fit in to all of this? Well, they don't fit into this list, really — they get their own. AV receivers are a different breed altogether, as they add the all-important "V" for "Video" to the equation and are more commonly used for home theater systems for watching movies and TV. To be clear, though, the "receiver" part still just basically means that they have a radio receiver in them.
Of course, you can. Typically, stereo receivers and/or integrated amps will feature a dedicated RCA phono input for connecting a record player, but not all receivers/amps do. If not, you have a couple of options. First, you can buy a turntable that has a phono preamp built into it, like many on our best turntables list do.
If it doesn’t, you’ll need to invest in a separate external phono preamp to boost the turntable's signal before plugging it into the appropriate input on your stereo receiver or amplifier, usually through the AUX input.
Stereo receivers are experiencing a solid resurgence in the world of AV products, so everyone and their grandmother is making them these days. This also means that there’s a lot of duds sitting on digital and brick-and-mortar shelves.
Fortunately, the best brands in the business tend to receive recognition from the sources that matter most. Noteworthy names like Marantz, Denon, Yamaha, and Cambridge Audio have been producing this type of equipment for decades, and truly know what it takes to deliver the best-sounding products possible.
Yes, you can. Many of today's amps and receivers come with wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built into them. This makes it possible to connect and play music through them over Bluetooth directly from devices such as smartphones and computers, or directly from the receivers/amps themselves via Wi-Fi connectivity and while controlling playback with apps and services like Spotify Connect or Tidal connect. If it doesn't have Wi-Fi built-in, another option is to connect a dedicated network music streamer to bring Wi-Fi music to your receiver or amp.
Keep in mind, though, that if lossless or hi-res audio is important to you, Bluetooth's audio quality is still limited, so you'll want to explore ways to make sure you can access the higher-quality audio formats through your receivers or amplifier.
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