Looking to set up a sound system in your home? Trying to understand the difference between a receiver vs. amplifier?
Choosing between an amplifier and a receiver can be challenging, mainly because they seem to do the same thing. Even though these terms are usually used interchangeably, there are distinct differences.
So what is the difference between a receiver and an amplifier? An amplifier’s main job is to magnify an audio signal to help your speakers play it. On the other hand, a receiver consists of an amplifier and other audio components such as a radio, preamp, volume controls, and a tuner.
Choosing between the two depends on whether you only need a separate amplifier to complete an existing sound system or want all these components in one device.
Main Differences Between a Receiver vs Amplifier
The difference lies in their functionality. A receiver is more like the center stage of a transmission system, and its job is to receive electronic signals and distribute them to relevant components.
An amplifier usually resides as part of a speaker unit and works to improve signal quality to make the output perceivable.
Because the receiver is a central unit, no signal transmission unit can work without it. These components require receivers to generate the output needed for amplification.
On the other hand, an amplifier modulates the output signal but doesn’t handle any input production.
Another difference lies in power consumption. A receiver will use less power than an amplifier. Remember that amplifiers have different power requirements, and how much power one consumes depends on the manufacturer’s specifications.
What Is an Amplifier?
Anamplifieris anelectronic device that takes an input signal and magnifies it; for instance, an audio signal would need to be amplified to power speakers to allow it to reach a larger audience. You can easily choose the amplification level in audio, like when you reduce the volume on your speaker or earphones.
Fun fact, amplifiers can only work with passive speakers. This type of speaker draws power from the amplifier itself. Active speakers come with internal amps already connected to their internal speakers. There’s always a way to bypass a rule; you can attach extra speakers and external amplifiers to an existing sound system.
Types of Amplifiers
As the name suggests, this kind of amplifier precedes a more robust amplification. Its function involves strengthening a weak audio signal to meet the requirements necessary for power amplification. You can use a preamp to seamlessly switch sources from sound decoding to audio or video signal processing. Some devices come with internal amplifiers, and you may not need an additional one.
A power amplifier works with passive speakers mostly, and this is because these speakers need to be powered by signals from an amplifier before they produce sound. We mentioned earlier that a preamp prepares an audio signal for a power amplifier. The central role of a power amplifier is to receive these signals and magnify the amplification even more so that the loudspeakers can propagate it.
Power amps come in different sizes and for other purposes. For instance, if you have a subwoofer, a monoblock amplifier is your best bet. You can also go for multichannel amps to elevate the experience from your surround sound system.
Integrated amplifiers are for those that want to enjoy the best of both worlds, as they combine the benefits of a preamplifier and a power amplifier in one. With an integrated amplifier, you’ll have the advantage of switching sources while the power amplifier works on the signal to produce a balanced sound.
You may need multiple connection ports to cater to all components in your sound system. Ensure you have Wi-Fi connections, Bluetooth, and digital inputs to cater for wired connectivity.
Electronic Amplifier Classes
Class A Amplifier
AClass A amplifier is two-way in that both output stages are constantly on even when there’s no signal present. This amplifier has 20- 50% efficiency, considered the least among amplifier classes. These linear amplifiers require that the signal current at the output be at least equal to the maximum load current for the peak of any signal.
Class B Amplifier
A class B amplifier uses two active devices, conducting half the cycle and making a whole. This type of amplifier is also called a push-pull amplifier and has a higher efficiency level of about 78.5%. Despite the high efficiency, there is a lot of distortion coming from these devices.
Class AB Amplifier
These amplifiers combine the robust features of Class A and Class B, meaning they have higher efficiency with less distortion by ensuring that their transistors operate slightly more than half the cycle.
Class C Amplifier
Class C amplifiers have higher distortion levels because, unlike Class AB, they are designed to conduct slightly less than half a cycle. Despite the high distortion levels, these amplifiers have high efficiency levels compared to the other classes.
Class D Amplifier
Class D amplifiers works by converting an input signal into a stream of pulses. These amplifiers switch off and on depending on whether there’s an input signal passing through. Class D amplifiers are miniature because they have reduced capacitors.
· Home Audio Amplifiers
These are common in home theater systems. Popular home sound system manufacturers are Sony, LG, JBL, and Samsung, and these offer up to 1000W in power output.
· Public Address Systems
These systems are set up when there is a large audience, and conventional communication doesn’t suffice to pass a message across.
· Sensors in Photo Devices
In sensors, amplifiers help produce images, sounds, and renders. Examples of where sensors provide means for amplification are in modern-day smartphones, where optical zoom is enhanced by amplifiers that pick up little or faint light and increase their intensities digitally to produce more precise and larger images.
· Signal Boosters at Power and Substations
These raise a signal’s wavelength and amplitude to enable their transportation over long distances, minimizing data loss and distortion.
Which Amp Is Better, Separate or Integrated?
This has everything to do with your budget. If you have a stringent budget, then an integrated amplifier is what you need to go for. If you’re looking for the best sound quality, you can buy separate units, such as a preamp, a power amplifier, and good speakers.
Choosing to go for separated components is an excellent idea because they use separate power supplies, which reduces distortion. You can also decide which features you want to use at one time.
Benefits of Signal Amplification
- Purchasing a standalone amplifier means that you get to pick different components of your audio system, including preamplifiers and tuners, separately. This gives you the autonomy to choose high-quality audio devices.
- A standalone amplifier is easier to upgrade.
- You lose less energy with signal amplification while still maintaining information accuracy.
- Because of electromagnetic interference and signal noise, amplification also assures accuracy and timely arrival of the signal to its destination.
- Wi-Fi signals are amplified to improve their reach radius, thereby enabling many to connect to the internet. This is done through W-Fi boosters manufactured by many device manufacturers such as Huawei, Xiaomi, and Google. Signal cell towers also operate on the same basis.
Disadvantages of Amplifiers
- Purchasing separate components is more expensive compared to buying an all-inclusive audio system.
- Separate audio components take up more space since each device is standalone.
How to Choose a Power Amplifier
Choose the Correct Speaker
The best way to gauge the proper power amp is to pick one that produces two times the power requirements of a speaker. For instance, if an amplifier has a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a program power rating of 700 watts, then go for one that can produce at least 1400 watts per channel into 4 ohms.
Your amplifier should have some wiggle room in terms of how much power it produces; going by our 1400 watts per channel requirement, the amplifier you choose should be able to handle slightly more to prevent distortion.
This you should consider in terms of how much resistance there is. An audio amplifier can handle about 4 ohms, 8ohms, and 16 ohms, and the reading on your amplifier should match what’s on the speaker.
If the impedance reading is too low, then your speaker will get overloaded, which may damage it. If too high, then there will be less power delivered to the speakers.
What Is a Receiver?
Thiselectronic device receives electronic signals and converts them to the desired form. Radio receivers are contained in every communication device that can send signals, and examples are smartphones, laptops with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC receivers and microphones.
For instance, in an audio system, a receiver would act as a connection between remote controllers and control signal generators before supplying this signal to vital system components such as speakers, amplifiers, and screens.
This way, weak audio or electronic signals are strengthened to produce a more perceivable output.
Types of Receivers
Tuned Radio Frequency Receiver
In radiofrequency receivers, radio frequency stages provide the tuning. These receivers have multiple radio frequency amplifier stages and consist of mechanisms to extract the audio signals.
They have various transmitters that produce electromagnetic waves that create different frequencies in the antenna.
Tuned radio frequency receivers receive multiple radio frequencies, and they get to choose which frequency serves them best at a particular time using voltage amplifiers.
Once an RF signal reaches a receiving antenna, the signal is first amplified to its ideal level using a tuned RF amplifier before it can extract the audio signal.
A TRF receiver typically has three primary additives:
- Classes of tuned radio frequency: This included one of the magnification and tuning stages. The original units generally have numerous tiers, each proving a selected achievement and preference.
- Signal detector: The detector permits sound from the variable amplitude signal to be output. It uses an envelope detection method and a diode to alter the signal.
- Audio amplifier: Audio tiers that offer audio amplification are not usually continually protected.
The regen receiver was invented by Edwin Armstrong in the early 1900s and became quite popular during the 1920s because it used only a small amount of valves to improve gain levels and selectivity. Using a smaller number of valves was key to reducing battery usage, which made the receivers run longer.
A regen receiver’s circuit uses positive feedback to increase both gain and selectivity. A feedback loop amplifies the signals, which can increase gain levels by multiples of 1000.
The feedback amplifier in the RF (radio frequency) receiver increases the gain around the point of resonance, multiplying the Q (quality factor) of the coil, which then increases selectivity. This way, the circuit experiences less resistance, increasing its performance.
A regenerative receiver has “reaction control” that controls its response level and the amount of feedback introduced. The way this response is tuned enables the receiver to be used to access different transmission methods, including AM reception, Morse/CW reception, and SSB operation.
Super Regenerative Receiver
A super regenerative receiver is a simpler version of the regen receiver. This receiver is used at VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) and offers circuitry simplicity and high-performance levels.
Just like a regen receiver, any existing signal can be amplified repeatedly, which can produce signal amplifications a thousand times or more.
To understand how this receiver works, we first look at a regenerative radio. A regenerator reuses a sample of input signals from a previous output to ensure that there’s repeat amplification.
With a super regenerative receiver, the inputs and outputs don’t get screened, to allow for exponential amplification. This is because the input signals don’t interact with output signals to reduce distortion.
A super regen receiver consists of a fixed amplifier, which can be a hindrance to how much a signal can be amplified. However, its positive feedback mechanism placed at the point of oscillation makes it possible to achieve infinite gains.
In addition to increasing the gains, using positive feedback also reduces positive resistance to increase sensitivity.
This is a receiver usually found in home theater systems. It receives input signals from various sources and adds the desired sound quality to video content. The stereo receivers process signal inputs converted into the power output in the form of sound.
A/V (Audio/Video) Receivers
Lovers of the theater who need sound quality home systems realize the benefits of an A/V (audio/video) receiver. However, the A/V receiver is not just for audiophiles or the richest video viewers with complex home theater structures. A/V receivers offer blessings to each person who enjoys watching video presentations or video gambling games accompanied by excellent sound.
The receiver provides automatic benefits by amplifying sounds and acting as your machine operator. The A/V receiver picks up each output in your machine (cable, DVD, games, track, etc.), processes the output of these devices (the sound you listen to and the image you see), and extracts the result to the appropriate output.
Receivers amplify the sound and feed it to the audio system on your device. Due to your device’s TV, video, and audio conductor, the receiver allows you to select your audio and video input easily and switch your gaming device from your cable to your DVD player.
Advantages of Receivers
- Ideal home theater setups are made possible thanks to A/V receivers.
- You get all audio system components in one, which is convenient and affordable.
- Receivers take up less space than separate components.
- A theater-like sound can be achieved by A/V system receivers, like the surround-sound effect.
- You can achieve 3D effects using audio-video receivers.
- Receivers allow you to obtain high-quality sound effects, as receivers handle barriers and obstacles.
- A/V receivers enable flexibility, and one can easily switch from music to high-quality video games with an infrared remote.
Disadvantages of Receivers
- You must contend with lower-quality audio system components, especially a built-in amplifier.
- If you need to upgrade the receiver, you must upgrade the entire system, which may be costly in the long run.
Which Is Better: Receiver vs Amplifier
It all comes down to the quality and components. A receiver is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not so particular about sound quality.
But, if good music is your thing, then investing in separate audio components, including amplifiers, might be a better choice.
Amplifiers have their advantages. People attracted to good music will most likely go for an amplifier because of the excellent sound quality. An amplifier is also warranted if you are prone to changing your electronics, because you can swap one component out of your audio system without affecting the rest.
For instance, if you want to invest in a hi-fi set up and include an excellent subwoofer into the mix, then a stereo amplifier is better. If you’re looking to enjoy the surround-sound experience, then go for a receiver. You can also include additional amplifiers to your receiver for the whole experience.
You also need to consider space constraints. If you’re cramped for space, an integrated device such as a receiver is an excellent choice since every audio system component is housed in one location. If you have the space to place individual components, then go the standalone way.
Another thing to consider is the power output and amplifier class. We have discussed the four main amplifier classes and what they do. In addition, check the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) + Noise (N), Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), and crosstalk.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There a Difference Between a Preamplifier and an Amplifier?
An amplifier and preamplifier perform different functions, and an amplifier increases electrical signals where the input signal has a lower voltage than what is needed.
On the other hand, apreamplifier amplifies signals from audio equipment such as microphones to line levels connected to a power amplifier. They also ensure that the sound produced has less noise and maintains its quality. A preamplifier ensures quality by providing parameters for changing an audio file’s dynamic and tonal characteristics.
Which Device Produces Better Sound?
That depends on the quality of the devices you’ve bought. Generally, an amplifier will likely produce better sound because you can choose the quality of devices in standalone components. Because receivers are all-in-one, some components may not make high-quality sounds.
Can I Connect All My Separate Components to My TV?
You can if you have the capacity, but most TVs don’t have enough ports to handle every audio device you own. A high-quality receiver would be the best choice to connect to your TV.
Do I Need an Audio Receiver?
An audio receiver is a central unit in an audio system performing functions such as decoding audio formats and performing switches between audio and video. An audio receiver is essential, especially if you have a surround sound system.
Audio systems such as home theaters and loudspeaker systems work by receiving electrical control signals, interpreting them, and then propagating them using speakers. Both amplifiers and receivers play a vital role in sound production.
We have covered the differences between a receiver vs amplifier and the benefits each can bring you. Choosing between the two depends on the quality of sound you prefer, your space, and your budget.
If you’re looking for convenience, then getting a receiver would be your best bet because all components are included in one device. Installing all components in an audio system, especially when they are all separate, may be a tall order, especially if you’re an amateur at connecting all these devices.
Which one do you prefer?