With so many different types of amplifiers to choose from, it can be difficult to know if you’re picking the right one for your needs. Take a look at our amplifier buying guide to make sure you pick the perfect amplifier for you.
The most common type of amplifier that people purchase is for home cinema systems so our guide is based on the best amplifiers for home entertainment purposes.
In most cases amplifiers won’t come with speakers so you can choose the speakers that suit your décor, lifestyle and needs. This means you can buy speakers as you can afford them and build up your speaker system over time. When purchasing speakers start with the front speakers. You can add further speakers and a sub-woofer later.
At first glance the back of an amplifier can seem like a confusing jumble, but if you pick a high quality amplifier it should be simple to wire your home cinema up correctly as all the different sockets should be clearly labelled. These are usually colour-coded so wiring up becomes rather fool-proof.
The latest amplifiers are equipped with HD capabilities which produce a clearer and crisper sound. This means that the amplifier will work well in conjunction with a Blu-ray player for HD TV.
There are lots of well known brands selling amplifiers such as Sony and Yamaha, but there are also specialist companies that only make amplifiers and sound equipment, such as Denon and Onkyo. Some home cinema experts believe it’s better to buy your amp from a specialist company as you are likely to find more features and a better quality product.
Choosing your amplifier
When choosing an amplifier for your home cinema system the following should be taken into account:
Amplifiers are available in a huge range of prices from less than £100 to thousands of pounds, so consider how much you want to pay before you start your search. It can be a good idea to start by working out which speakers you want and then choosing an amp based on the money you have left over. If you choose bad quality speakers you will get bad sound so it’s a good idea to spend as much as you can to get the best possible speakers you can afford.
Choose an amplifier that has a similar power rating to your speakers to get the balance right. If you under or over power your speakers you won’t get the best sound and could cause damage to your equipment. In fact, under powering is the first cause of damage, and an amp pushed to the max can sometimes sound very distorted. A good amplifier, however, will not even hiss more when turned all the way up than it does on zero. Be ready to spend a few hundred pounds for that, though.
Make sure that the amp you choose has enough connections for you to be able to attach all the equipment that you want to. In particular your amplifier needs to have enough HDMI inputs if you're planning to use it for home-cinema.
The best home amplifiers
Take a look at our list of the best home amplifiers to help you choose the right one for you:
Value for money
In terms of value for money, the Sony STR-DH820 is a great choice. Costing around £300 the amplifier offers a range of features and seven channels offering 100W of power per channel. This amp is affordable and ideal for any home cinema system and a great place to start if you’re just beginning to build up a home cinema system.
You can buy this amp for under £350 and in terms of price and functionality it can’t be beaten. The amp even includes support for 3D with four HDMI input and a high speed output. It also includes a compatible USB input that can be used with ipads, iphones and MP3 players.
However, if you want to use your amp for streaming you won’t find an Ethernet input on this model, so will need to look for something slightly more expensive. However, the amp does have a full video upconversion facility and creates a clean, crisp and powerful sound that will work well for any home cinema system.
The Onkyo TX-NR515 amplifier is the ideal choice in the middle price range. The model has a high specification and produces insightful and brawny sound. However, the sound quality has not been improved since the last model but the functionality has.
You can buy the Onkyo TX-NR515 for around £500 but don’t expect too many differences between this and the equivalent model released by Onkyo last year.
Top of the range
If your home cinema system is your pride and joy and money is no object then the top of the range Pioneer SC-LX85 could be the ideal choice for you. With incredible sound quality and an exceptional specification, this model is highly useable and ideal for all types of home cinema system.
The amp provides state of the art video processing and an extensive input count, including twin outputs and seven HDMI inputs, which is probably more than your local cinema!
This model is ideal for home cinema obsessives but be prepared to pay for quality, with prices starting at £1500.
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