There is a reason that most European goods stores do not offer hi-fi, and hi-fi specialists usually do not include household electronics in their range. Anyone looking for a microwave, refrigerator or washing machine certainly has a similar arbitrariness of options, but usually one where you have compared the differences on paper against the price tag and can therefore already assess them properly. The more expensive the product, the higher the quality and the more extensive the options. Let’s see what you need, and tick that list. If you are in the market for buy an amplifier, it is a bit different. The differences can be very large, both across the various price ranges and between brands and types. In addition, specific music and home entertainment setups require specific amplifiers. In this article, we’ll explain what to look out for when buying an amplifier.
How do you choose to buy an amplifier?
The amplifier, together with the speaker, is perhaps the most important part of your stereo or surround system. Of course the cables and the source are important, but with a little investment in speakers and amplifiers you are well on your way. Amplifiers come in several types. For example, the ‘traditional hi-fi’ models of amplifiers, usually in a very similar housing, intended to be able to drive one pair of speakers in stereo. In addition, you have the multichannel amplifiers, which drive surround – 5.1, 7.1, et cetera, intended to turn your listening room into a cinema. A little more about these multi-channel amplifiers below, let’s stick to two-channel stereo for now.
We can still make a distinction in that category. Integrated amplifiers or a separate front and output stage, for example. The former is a total product, sufficient as a complete link between source and speaker. Pairing a preamp and power amp that separates two elements for a more accurate process. This makes it especially interesting for the high-end user, because it quickly ends up in the papers and of course also makes your system a bit more complex.
So what is important to keep an eye on are the possibilities. A set around a CD player and a pair of speakers is quite easy to amplify. If you want to connect a record player, you will have to provide a phono input and an amplification module for the analog audio of your vinyl. And if you want streaming or a radio tuner, you have to look out for those functionalities on your amplifier.
Amplifier vs AV receiver – what are the differences?
Anyone who, in addition to stereo amplification, is primarily interested in a beautiful surround sound, comes into the domain of the AV receiver . The difference is actually not that big. They both take the signal from the source and amplify it in such a way that you can drive speakers and music comes out of those speakers, just as black and white. AV receivers have some additional functionality, such as an FM or DAB tuner or built-in streaming functions. Especially interesting if you want as little equipment as possible in your living room. In addition – the name says it all – there is a video aspect to it: connection options for your TV or projector.
The big names who are constantly bringing new models to the market to provide all kinds of functionalities and new sound formats include Pioneer, Onkyo, Yamaha, Denon and Marantz. In addition, there are renowned players such as Rotel, Cambridge Audio and Arcam, with a varying addition of new range. In any case, the result is a jungle of choices, with differences in (expansion) options, sound, operation, ease of use and you name it. It is therefore worthwhile to have an overview of what you need for your music and / or film plans.
You can find a similar jungle at the back of an AV receiver. Audio and video connections for any number of devices to be connected, and not just a number of speaker terminals such as on a stereo amplifier, but a whole series to be able to drive the same number of speakers, depending on the capabilities of the device. The choice therein also depends on the plans you have, varying from a modest music platform to a full-fledged home entertainment system with home cinema allure.
To buy an amplifier- Specifications: choices, choices
When choosing an amplifier, do not focus solely on power . That is mainly a figure that the manufacturer puts on it, and without demanding speakers (read: particularly high-end models) it is usually not an issue. In any case, a tube amplifier, for example, has a relatively low power on paper, but in practice it can easily drive a loudspeaker. It is mainly a matter of finding a good match. With the rest of your set, but also with your own wishes package.
If you want to be able to play CDs, drive that beautiful pair of loudspeakers and you do not need a home cinema circus, then you go for a decent stereo amplifier. If you like vinyl, you should include the phono aspect in your wish list. And do you want to expand to streaming and maybe even multiroom? Then you enter the world of the AV receiver: the amplifier as a hub for your home entertainment needs. Bluetooth, AirPlay, DNLA, picking up on multiroom possibilities, you name it.
If you opt for that AV receiver , then you do well to also take into account the continuous further development of image quality. For example, go for 4K and HDR or High Dynamic Range support, so that you are future-proof with regard to video playback.
Listen and compare
It’s starting to become a regular bouncer for buying tips, but for good reason. No matter how much we have come to rely on webshoppen and job creation for couriers and mail deliverers, the better audio and video solutions cannot be compared online. The experience of film and music reproduction is far too subjective, and there are many different possibilities and compositions. So feel free to do some homework on the internet and with some physical media on your lap, but always end your search in the listening chair or sofa of the specialist. Happy hunting!