Did your previous amplifier break down? Are you planning to build your home theater setup or upgrade it with the latest model? In any case, it’s important to consider the brand.
Believe it or not, the brand you choose can make or break your amplifier user experience. A reputable brand will ensure the highest quality from production to sales. Trustworthy brands are more likely to install durable components in the amplifier, maintain policy transparency, and assist you throughout the buying process.
Meanwhile, a new and unreliable brand will not do any of these things. The company might not even advertise the product features accurately. But in most cases, they will offer an attractive price.
So, before you fall victim to these greedy sellers, give this article a quick read to find the best amplifier brands!
A Little About Amplifiers
Audio amplifiers refer to devices that receive low-voltage signals from the source equipment and convert them into high-gain signals. It results in the production of high-quality audio. Your source equipment can be anything like a television, laptop, speakers, etc.
Typically, there are two types of audio amplifiers: built-in amps (internal) and standalone units (separate). The standalone amps are used to power passive speakers. These speakers do not draw power directly from an electrical outlet because they depend on the amps.
Built-in amps are found in powered speakers that connect to a power outlet. These amps do not need a separate amplifier, though you can always tweak things and upgrade.
Before diving deeper, it’s important to understand the term “gain.” Gain is the measurement of amplifier difference and is calculated by the ratio of the output signals to the input signals. In audio amplifiers, the unit is decibels.
How Does the Amplifier Work?
The amplifier’s job is to boost signals for better audio quality. The way it does this task differs from one amplifier to another. However, there’s a basic mechanism used by each one.
The amplifier requires a stable connection to the source equipment and power outlet. It draws the electrical supply from the outlet and sends it to the built-in power handling unit. Here, the amp converts the alternating current (AC power) into a direct current.
The direct current flows in one direction, whereas alternating does not. The power unit also smooths the received current to ensure an undisrupted supply. Once done, the current makes its way to the transistor.
The transistor is a small semiconductor component that amplifies, controls, and switches electrical signals. In amplifiers, the transistor acts as a valve and controls the power. It determines how much current should flow through the circuit at a specific time.
Typically, this decision depends on the size of the input signal received from the source. A large signal causes the transistor to allow more current and produces a larger amplification. Finally, the amp’s volume control determines the amount of current passed to the speakers.
While this is a very basic explanation, please note that there are several current/signal boosting stages involved in an amplifier. Also, some sound systems may break down this process between two separate amplifiers, including a pre-amplifier and the main amplifier.
The pre-amp boosts the received signals to a minimum input level that the main amp can handle. Then, the main amp enhances the signals to power the equipment. Most loudspeakers, MP3 players, and turntables follow this method.
Read more about preamps here!
A/V Receiver vs. Amplifier: What’s the Difference?
The confusion between an A/V receiver and amplifier is something that every audio enthusiast comes across. So, before we dive into brand details, let’s clarify some things.
- An amplifier refers to a device that powers an audio source and boosts audio quality by increasing the received signals so that the sound is louder, clearer, and better. You cannot use an audio source, like speakers, without an amplifier.
- Typically, an amplifier will handle one channel, which is the powered signal sent to the speaker by the amplifier. At most, a 2-channel amp can handle two channels: right and left.
- “A/V receiver” is short for audio/video receivers and is an all-in-one unit that can output audio into several channels. You will even find 11 and 13-channel receivers!
- A/V receivers can also handle video data via an HDMI connection and include additional features like Bluetooth and room correction capabilities. Plus, these units are cheaper than dedicated amplifiers.
In the simplest terms, an A/V receiver is an advanced amp that offers more channels and a range of features. It’s an excellent choice to boost audio systems without breaking the bank. However, if you’re an audiophile, you will find the dedicated amplifier’s performance unmatchable to the receiver’s.
What Are the Best Amplifier Brands?
There is a massive number of amplifier brands around the world. Going through them is impossible for any buyer, which is why we have done all the research and compiled the top 10 options on the market.
Kenwood is an unmissable name in the technology industry. From cameras to receivers, the company manufactures several different electronic devices. However, amplifiers remain one of their best-selling items.
The Kenwood Corporation is a Japanese company established in 1946. It went through a lot of name changes in the initial years. First, it was Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd. and later Trio Corporation.
In 2011, JVC Kenwood Corporation acquired it and became the parent company. The company headquarters are in Yokohama, Japan.
What Makes Kenwood Unique?
Kenwood dedicates itself to producing the highest quality audio equipment for music lovers. Its motto is to keep evolving with time and deliver the latest sound technology. You will find Kenwood amplifiers to be the most reliable and affordable.
- Budget Pick: Kenwood X502-1 eXcelon 500-Watt Amplifier
- Standard: Kenwood KACHQR1004
- Premium Buy: Kenwood eXcelon X802
Crown Audio is a pioneer in amplifier production. Its passion for knowledge and innovation has helped introduce many noteworthy amps to the market. Today, people widely use Crown Audio amps for personal and commercial purposes.
In 1947, Clarence C. Moore founded International Radio and Electronics in Indiana. The company later evolved as Crown Audio, and Harman International (current parent company) acquired it in 2000. Now, it has its headquarters in Los Angeles.
What Makes Crown Audio Unique?
The company believes in designing, building, and servicing its products as if they were the customers. This particular philosophy enables them to make top-notch amplifiers that are durable and efficient.
- Budget Pick: Crown XLi800 Two-Channel Amplifier
- Standard: Crown XLi3500 Two-Channel 1350-Watt at 4Ω Power Amplifier
- Premium Buy: Crown CDi 4000 Two-Channel Power Amplifier
Blackstar Amps is one of the few brands to receive endorsements from many popular musicians, including Ozzy Osbourne, Neal Schon, Kurt Viehdorfer, Richie Sambora, and Opeth. Their current amplifier lineup consists of digital, battery-powered, and valve amps.
The idea of Blackstar Amps came into being with the help of four talented British musicians in a pub (Bruce Keir, Paul Hayhoe, Ian Robinson, and Richard Frost). They believed that the world of amplifiers needed something robust and innovative. And so, after 3-years of extensive research, they launched Blackstar Amps in 2007.
What Makes Blackstar Amps Unique?
First, the British company has four musicians involved in its creation. This particular fact is sufficient to prove that their amplifiers won’t disappoint. Also, the long-lasting instrument amplifiers are usually compact and portable.
- Budget Pick: Blackstar Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier FLY3
- Standard: Blackstar IDCore 10 V3 Stereo Combo Amp with Effects
- Premium Buy: Blackstar IDCORE100 Guitar Amp
With vast experience, NAD Electronics is a reputable and trusted brand. It manufactures a wide range of products, varying from amplifiers to turntables. You will find their top-notch products to be affordable without compromising on quality.
NAD, also called New Acoustic Dimension, had its first headquarters in London. Dr. Martin L. Borish founded the company in 1972 to make high-quality audio equipment available at lower prices. In 1991, AudioNord (Danish Firm) acquired the company.
Later, the firm sold the brand to Lenbrook Group of Pickering in 1999. The company headquarters are now in Pickering, Ontario.
What Makes NAD Electronics Unique?
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve bought a 2-channel or 4-channel amplifier from NAD Electronics. You will notice one important quality in all their products: high value yet lower prices. All NAD amplifiers are rich in features that make them a worthy investment.
- Budget Pick: NAD PP 2e Phono Preamplifier
- Standard: NAD – D 3020 v2 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier
- Premium Buy: NAD Electronics C165BEE Stereo Preamplifier with Phono Section
Cambridge Audio is a multinational company that strives to make audio production original, clear, and loud. The brand operates worldwide and takes pride in manufacturing top amplifiers using ethical and environment-friendly methods.
In 1968, a group of highly talented fresh graduates established an R&D technology and prototyping business in Cambridge. This particular business evolved to become what we know as Cambridge Audio. The popular brand performs mass production in China before shipping the products to the UK for sale.
What Makes Cambridge Audio Unique?
Cambridge Audio’s motto is to ensure everyone listens to their favorite music at its best. And, by best, they do not mean modified. Instead, they want to deliver audio in its purest and most authentic form.
So, you can enjoy the music the way it is. The company has produced many amazing amplifiers with this motto in mind. Their amps increase the loudness and clarity of the input audio without compromising on its originality.
- Budget Pick: Cambridge Audio AXA25 25 Watt 2-Channel Integrated Stereo Amplifier
- Standard: Cambridge Audio AXR85 85 Watt Stereo Receiver
- Premium Buy: Cambridge Audio Azur 851N Stereo Digital Preamplifier
Anthem, or Anthem Electronics, is a brand for audiophiles and artists. Their product lineup includes high-end, powerful audio devices suitable for commercial purposes. However, some people might also like them for home use.
There’s little data available about the origins of Anthem Electronics. But, we do know that Scott Bagby purchased the brand along with Paradigm Electronics. Also, the company’s production facilities are in Mississauga, Ontario.
What Makes Anthem Electronics Unique?
While the brand website doesn’t speak much of history, Anthem Electronics has a big name in the market. The brand has been around for more than 20-years, constantly building iconic products for audiophiles. Their amplifiers are a result of robust testing and brilliant audio engineering experience.
- Budget Pick: Anthem MCA 225 GEN 2
- Standard: Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier
- Premium Buy: Anthem P5
When browsing amplifier brands, you won’t find Onkyo sitting on top of the list. But, let us assure you that this is a hidden gem for music lovers. The brand is great at merging technology with convenience in its audio products.
The Onkyo Corporation is a Japanese brand that started back in 1946. At the time, its name was Osaka Denki Onkyo K.K. The name later changed, and Voxx International (the current parent company) acquired it.
What Makes Onkyo Unique?
Onkyo specializes in the production of home cinema equipment, such as surround sound speakers, A/V receivers, and amplifiers. Its products feature amazing functionality to make every home theater setup brilliant. However, the prices can be premium too.
- Budget Pick: Onkyo TX-8220
- Standard: Onkyo TX-8270
- Premium Buy: Onkyo TX-NR7100
You’ve probably heard Parasound’s name spoken by world-famous personalities like Oliver Stone, Kanye West, and Gary Rystrom. The premium brand has gained the trust of thousands with its hi-fi products. Even other companies like Pixar depend on it for their audio needs.
Established in 1981, Parasound is a reputable U.S.-based company headquartered in San Francisco. All of its products are manufactured in Taiwan, whereas quality testing is done in the U.S. before the sale. Parasound equipment has a high demand in more than 60 countries.
What Makes Parasound Unique?
Parasound has been gradually building its market over the years, and the company keeps evolving to provide only the best to its customers. From designs to performance, their audio products leave users awestruck at every aspect.
- Budget Pick: Parasound Z Amp v3 Amplifier
- Standard: Parasound 2125v2 Stereo Power Amplifier
- Premium Buy: Parasound Model 2250 v.2 Power Amplifier
Rega Research is another impressive British manufacturer in the industry. Although it’s widely popular for turntables, their amplifiers are equally competitive and innovative.
Rega Research Ltd. traces its roots back to 1973. The two founders, Reiph and Gandy, came together to start an audio revolution. They used the first two letters of each other’s names to form the name: REGA.
Over the years, the company served as the original manufacturer for many companies like NAD and Rotel. Even today, it has so much demand that other companies import its products. For example, The Sound Organization imports and distributes Rega Research in the U.S.
What Makes Rega Research Unique?
Rega Research proudly claims to have an obsession with specialist materials and accuracy. The company’s name itself reveals how dedicated they are to research and knowledge-driven product manufacturing. Hence, their products never fail in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and durability.
- Budget Pick: Rega Fono MM MK III Moving Magnet Preamp
- Standard: REGA – io Integrated Amplifier
- Premium Buy: Rega Elex-R Integrated Amplifier
Mark Levinson tops the list as the most premium amplifier brand. It focuses on each and every detail of its products. So, you will get only the finest audio to enjoy.
The American brand came into existence in 1972 with the efforts of the founder, Mark Levinson. Based in Stamford, the company received massive appreciation and success for its innovative audio devices. Soon, Harman International and Madrigal Audio Laboratories acquired it to become the parent company.
What Makes Mark Levinson Unique?
As mentioned, Mark Levinson is famous for its fine-quality production. The company uses the best materials, engineering practices, and designs to formulate the perfect product. And so, their amplifier prices are worth thousands of dollars!
- Budget Pick: Mark Levinson No 5302 Amplifier
- Standard: Mark Levinson No.534 Power amplifier
- Premium Buy: Mark Levinson Nº585.5 Integrated Amplifier
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Brand Is Best for an Amplifier?
We’ve already discussed the top 10 options available on the market. However, if you still feel doubtful, we highly recommend Kenwood and Crown Audio amplifiers.
How Much Should I Spend on an Amplifier?
The amount you should spend on an amplifier depends on your particular needs. Ideally, you will find a high-quality and durable amplifier for $200 to $400. But, if you want the finest quality, choose a $500+ amplifier.
Finding the best brand to purchase an amplifier from may seem challenging. There is not only a massive variety available, but each one offers a different range of features. Plus, there are newbie sellers mixed in the good names.
To make your decision process a little easier, we dedicated this informational piece to compiling all the best amplifier brands in one place. Hopefully, this has helped make your next purchase the best one yet!