What to Look for in a Stereo Amplifier in 2022
Unlike home theater A/V receivers, stereo amplifiers are designed specifically for music, meaning you won’t often find HDMI ports or any features intended for video.
Before you start shopping for an amplifier, you should think about the speakers you will be using. If you already have speakers, you’ll want an amp with the right wattage—enough power to drive your speakers, but not more than they can handle. Be sure to check that you match the impedance between the amplifier and the speakers.
You should also consider what you want to enhance. Make sure the amplifier has all the inputs you need, whether digital or analog. If you are using a subwoofer, you need to make sure 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 designed for turntables. That said, if your amp doesn’t have this input, you can use a separate phono preamp.
We’ve covered connecting your wired stereo components, but there’s something to keep in mind if you plan to use music streaming services or wireless playback. Most stereo amplifiers are wired only, but some support Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other wireless connectivity.
It is important to know the difference between a stereo receiver and a stereo integrated amplifier. They are relatively close together, but the receiver also has a built-in radio. This is often not important today, but it is worth considering.
Finally, you need to think about the amplifier’s overall footprint. These tend to be on the larger side, so if the space you plan to install your stereo in is limited, be sure to check the amp’s dimensions to make sure it will fit.
Now that you’ve sorted out your amplifier needs, read on for the best ones you can buy today.
Best Stereo Amplifier: Sony STRDH190
- ✓ Great sound and feature set for the price
- ✓ Bluetooth connectivity is convenient
- ✓ Built-in FM receiver
- ✗ Dynamic connectors could be better
For many people looking to build their sound setup, the Sony STRDH190 is a great choice. Wired or wireless, this A/V receiver has plenty of connectivity and great sound to boot.
As for wired inputs, the Sony STRDH190 only offers analog inputs, but you’ll 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 the speakers, you get two pairs of outputs that allow you to switch between speakers or turn them all on at the same time. These outputs won’t fit banana plugs and they aren’t as sturdy as they should be, but that’s one of the few downsides to this receiver.
On the other hand, this receiver has wireless connectivity in the form of Bluetooth. It’s not as high fidelity as connecting to a high-quality source, but it’s hard to deny how convenient it is.
Since this is a receiver and not an integrated amplifier, you get built-in radio reception. It’s limited to FM only, but since this is a music-oriented receiver and AM radio isn’t great for music, it’s not a huge loss.
Finally, this receiver includes a remote control. You’ll actually need it because you can’t access some features without it, but it also lets you easily adjust the volume and switch sources. Just be sure not to lose!
The Best Stereo Amplifier Overall
Sony’s STRDH190 combines the right features with excellent sound quality and a reasonable price to earn our pick as the best stereo amplifier for most people.
- ✓ Great sound for the price
- ✓ The small footprint allows it to be placed 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 amplifier used by this model, it is capable of pumping 100 watts per stereo channel despite its small form factor, so you don’t have to worry about losing sound quality here.
To fit into a 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 buttons to control treble, bass, and volume.
As for analog, you only get one RCA line input. Likewise, you get a stereo speaker output, although despite the BT20A’s size, these outputs accept larger banana plugs.
Along with wired connectivity, you also get built-in Bluetooth 5.0. On its Amazon page, Fosi Audio notes that there will be no buzzing or other noise when you connect, which is nice to see in an amp in this price range.
Given its minimalist design, it’s no surprise that the BT20D lacks a subwoofer output. That said, if you prefer, you can opt for the slightly larger and more expensive Fosi Audio BT30D, which has a subwoofer output with its own volume control.
Best Budget Stereo Amplifier
Fosi Audio BT20A
It might 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 you’d expect from the price tag.
Best High-End Stereo Amplifier: Marantz PM6007
- ✓ Excellent sound quality
- ✓ Multiple connection options
- ✓ It comes in several finishes to match your other gear
While it’s not as close as you might expect to spend on a stereo amplifier, the Marantz PM6007 is highly focused on sound without being astronomically expensive. This means that even if this integrated amplifier doesn’t have certain features like wireless connectivity, it sounds so good that you won’t care.
The PM6007 has multiple 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 preamplifier to properly play your favorite records.
Judging by the results, this ranking has more than you’ll find anywhere else. Zone A and B speaker outputs are connected to a dedicated subwoofer output and a line output for connecting a recorder.
All the controls you need are right on the front of the device. You get volume, bass, treble and balance buttons, as well as a numeric keypad for input selection. Assuming you want to kick back on the couch, the Marantz also includes a remote to control everything remotely.
Marantz offers the PM6007 in a dark color scheme called Zwart, but you can also opt for a silver Zilver color. Finally, if you are looking for a suitable CD player, this amplifier is a perfect match for the Marantz CD6007.
The best high-end Stereo amplifier
If you’re willing to sacrifice features for great build quality and superior sound, the Marantz PM6007 offers sonic bliss that rivals more expensive amplifiers.
Best Bluetooth Stereo Amplifier: Yamaha R-S202BL
- ✓ Bluetooth doesn’t feel like an afterthought
- ✓ Solid sound quality for the price
- ✓ Multiple analog inputs
Bluetooth in stereo amplifiers and receivers is a strange thing. While Bluetooth works great with headphones and speakers, it doesn’t always work well with receivers. Fortunately, the Yamaha R-S202BL already offers solid Bluetooth connectivity on top of the all-round receiver.
Similar to our high-end pick, Yamaha keeps the prices for the Yamaha R-S202BL reasonable by focusing on the core feature set. This means that while it does have Bluetooth, you don’t get any of Yamaha’s MusicCast wireless multi-room capabilities.
This barebones approach also applies to inputs and outputs. You get three RCA inputs plus one line in/out channel, but no wired digital input. The speaker connectors are also thin, plastic and don’t work with banana connectors.
Fortunately, this minimalist feature set allowed Yamaha to focus on the sound of this receiver, and it was worth it. Whether you’re listening to the radio using a CD player, Bluetooth or built-in receiver, it’s all rich, full and representative of whatever you’re listening to.
Best Bluetooth Stereo Amplifier
Bluetooth isn’t always well-implemented in stereo amplifiers and receivers, but the Yamaha R-S202BL packs solid Bluetooth performance and great sound into an affordable package.
- ✓ Fantastic overall sound quality
- ✓ The phono input sounds great
- ✓ The USB port is a unique feature
- ✗ No built-in Bluetooth
If you’re serious about your record collection, either as a collector or a listener, you’ll need an amplifier that will do your turntable justice. At 35 watts per channel, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 eschews volume for sound quality, but it’s still very loud.
The AXA35 keeps things on the simple side, but you still get plenty of input and output. 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 amplifier. You only get one speaker output, but it’s a solid output that will work with banana connectors.
Interestingly, while the AXA35 doesn’t directly include any digital audio inputs or streaming capabilities, it does allow you to add your own sound. A USB port on the back allows you to add a Bluetooth receiver if desired.
There are only a few minimal controls on the front of the Cambridge Audio AXA35. For everything else, you’ll have to use the remote or navigate through the menus using the front panel controls and internal display. It can be a bit tedious, but all the settings you need are there.
While we focused mainly on the AXA35’s vinyl playback capabilities, it sounds great with any source. If you want your audio components to match, this Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player is the perfect fit.
Best Stereo Amplifier for Vinyls
Cambridge Audio AXA35
If you value the sound of vinyl more than the collector aspect, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 will ensure that you can extract every note of your favorite music.