What to Look for in a Stereo Amplifier in 2022
Unlike home theater A/V receivers, stereo amplifiers are specifically tailored for music, meaning you won’t often find HDMI ports or any functionality meant for video.
Before you start shopping for an amplifier, you need to think about the speakers you’re going to use. If you already own speakers, you’ll want an amplifier with the proper wattage—enough power to drive your speakers, but not more than they can handle. Be sure to check that you’re matching impedance between the amplifier and speakers.
You also need to consider what it is you’re looking to amplify. Make sure that the amplifier has all the inputs you need, whether digital or analog. If you’re using a subwoofer, you’ll have to ensure that the amplifier has an output for it.
One special case is using a turntable for vinyl records. Turntables have a lower output volume than most other stereo components, so they require a special “phono” input meant for turntables. That said, if your amplifier doesn’t have that input, you can use a separate phono preamp.
We’ve covered connecting your wired stereo components, but if you’re planning on using music streaming services or wireless playback, you’ll need to keep that in mind. Most stereo amplifiers are wired only, but some do support Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other wireless connectivity.
It’s important to know the distinction between a stereo receiver and a stereo integrated amplifier. They’re relatively close to each other, but a receiver also features a radio built-in. This often isn’t essential these days, but it’s worth considering.
Finally, you need to think about the overall footprint of an amplifier. These tend to be on the larger side, so if the area you plan to set up your stereo is limited on space, make sure you check the amplifier’s measurements to be certain it will fit.
Now that you’ve got your amplifier needs sorted out, read on for the best ones you can purchase today.
- ✓ Great sound and feature set for the price
- ✓ Bluetooth connectivity is handy
- ✓ Built-in FM receiver
- ✗ Speaker connectors could be better
For many people looking to build out their audio setup, the jack-of-all-trades Sony STRDH190 is a great option. Wired or wireless, this A/V receiver has plenty of connectivity, and it sounds great to boot.
When it comes to wired inputs, the Sony STRDH190 only offers analog inputs—but you will get five of them. Four inputs let you plug in CD players or streaming players, while a dedicated phono input lets you play your vinyl records.
As for speakers, you get two pairs of outputs that let you switch between speakers or turn them all on at the same time. These outputs won’t fit banana plugs, and they’re not as sturdy as they should be, but that’s one of only a few downsides of this receiver.
On the other hand, this receiver does feature wireless connectivity in the form of Bluetooth. This isn’t quite as high fidelity as plugging in a high-quality source, but it’s hard to deny how convenient it can be.
As this is a receiver and not an integrated amplifier, you do get built-in radio reception. This is limited to FM only, but as this is a music-focused receiver and AM radio isn’t great for music, this isn’t a major loss.
Finally, this receiver includes a remote. You’ll actually need this, as you can’t access some functions without it, but it also lets you easily adjust volume and switch sources. Just be sure not to lose it!
Best Stereo Amplifier Overall
Sony’s STRDH190 combines just the right features with excellent sound quality and an affordable price to earn our pick as the best stereo amplifier for most people.
- ✓ Great sound for the price
- ✓ Small footprint lets it fit anywhere
- ✓ Built-in Bluetooth
- ✗ Only one analog input
The first thing you’ll notice about the Fosi Audio BT20A is its small size compared to most amplifiers. Thanks to the class D amplification this model uses, it’s capable of pumping 100 watts per stereo channel despite its small form, so you don’t need to worry about losing out on audio quality here.
To match its minimal footprint, the BT20A keeps things simple when it comes to controls. On the front of the unit you get a power switch, a status LED, and three knobs to control treble, bass, and volume.
When it comes to analog, you only get a single RCA line input. Similarly, you get a stereo speaker output, though, in spite of the size of the BT20A, these outputs accept the bigger banana plugs.
In addition to the wired connectivity, you also get Bluetooth 5.0 built-in. On the Amazon page, Fosi Audio notes that you also won’t have any pops or other audible noise when you establish a connection, which is nice to see in an amplifier in this price range.
Given its minimalist design, it’s not much of a surprise the BT20D doesn’t feature a subwoofer output. That said, if you’d like one, you can opt for the slightly bigger and pricier Fosi Audio BT30D, which has a subwoofer output with its own volume control.
Best Budget Stereo Amplifier
Fosi Audio BT20A
It may not look like it, but the Fosi Audio BT20A is a powerful amplifier in a small package. It may be barebones, but it sounds bigger than the price tag would have you expecting.
- ✓ Excellent sound quality
- ✓ Plenty of connectivity options
- ✓ Comes in multiple finishes to match your other gear
While it’s nowhere near as much as you could spend on a stereo amplifier, the Marantz PM6007 places a high focus on audio without being astronomically high-priced. This means that while this integrated amplifier lacks certain features like wireless connectivity, it sounds so good you won’t care.
The PM6007 has a slew of inputs and outputs. You get five analog audio inputs including a phono input, plus one coaxial and two optical digital inputs. The phono input uses a moving magnet preamp to do your favorite records justice.
Looking at the outputs, there are more of them than you’ll find anywhere else in this lineup. Zone A and B speaker outputs are joined by a dedicated subwoofer output and a line output to hook up an audio recorder.
All the controls you’ll need are right on the front of the unit. You get volume, bass, treble, and balance knobs, as well as a digital knob for input selection. Assuming you’d rather kick back on the couch, Marantz also includes a remote to adjust everything from afar.
Marantz offers the PM6007 in a dark color scheme called Zwart, but you can also opt for the silvery Zilver finish. Finally, if you’re in the market for a matching CD player, this amplifier fits perfectly with the Marantz CD6007.
Best High-End Stereo Amplifier
If you’re willing to sacrifice features for excellent build quality and superb sound, the Marantz PM6007 offers up sonic bliss rivaling much more expensive amplifiers.
- ✓ Bluetooth doesn’t feel like an afterthought
- ✓ Solid sound quality for the price
- ✓ Plenty of analog inputs
Bluetooth in stereo amplifiers and receivers is an odd thing. Despite Bluetooth working perfectly well with headphones and speakers, it isn’t always implemented well in receivers. Fortunately, the Yamaha R-S202BL offers solid Bluetooth connectivity on top of an already well-rounded receiver.
Similar to our high-end pick, Yamaha keeps prices reasonable for the Yamaha R-S202BL by focusing on a core set of features. That means that while it does have Bluetooth, you don’t get any of Yamaha’s MusicCast wireless multi-room capabilities.
This barebones approach applies to the inputs and outputs as well. You get three RCA inputs plus a line in/line out channel, but no wired digital inputs. The speaker connectors are also thin, plastic, and don’t work with banana connectors.
Fortunately, this minimalist feature set let Yamaha focus on the sound of this receiver, and it was worth it. Whether you’re using a CD player, Bluetooth, or listening to the radio using the built-in receiver, it all sounds rich, full, and representative of whatever you may be listening to.
Best Bluetooth Stereo Amplifier
Bluetooth isn’t always well implemented in stereo amplifiers and receivers, but the Yamaha R-S202BL fits solid Bluetooth performance and great sound into an affordable package.
- ✓ Fantastic overall sound quality
- ✓ Phono input sounds great
- ✓ USB port is a unique feature
- ✗ No built-in Bluetooth
If you take your record collection seriously, either as a collector or a listener, you’ll want an amplifier that will do your turntable justice. At 35 watts per channel, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 eschews sound quantity for sound quality, but it still gets plenty loud.
The AXA35 keeps things on the simple side, but you still get plenty of inputs and outputs. There are four analog line inputs, plus a dedicated phono input, complete with a moving magnet preamp so you don’t need a third-party preamp. You only get a single speaker output, but it’s a sturdy output that will work with banana connectors.
Interestingly, while the AXA35 doesn’t directly include any digital audio inputs or streaming capability, it does let you add your own. A USB port on the back also lets you add a Bluetooth receiver if you’d like.
There are only a few minimal controls on the front of the Cambridge Audio AXA35. For everything else, you’ll need to use the remote or dive through menus using the front panel controls and the built-in screen. It can be a little tedious, but all of the settings you need are available.
While we’re mainly focusing on the AXA35’s vinyl playback capabilities, it sounds great with any source. If you like your audio components to match, this fits perfectly with the Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player.
Best Stereo Amplifier for Vinyls
Cambridge Audio AXA35
If you value the sound of vinyl more than the collectors’ aspect, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 will ensure that you can make out every single note of your favorite music.