Building an affordable and yet high-performance hi-fi system will reward you for many years to come. Whether you are a professional or simply a fan of music, an integrated amplifier is a key stepping stone to uncover a great listening experience. They are an important link between your bookshelf or floorstanding speakers and your music source (in the form of DACs, CD players, streamers or even smartphone devices). They combine pre-amp and amplifier capabilities and can feature built-in wired and wireless input functionalities allowing efficient control and superior sound playback from your speakers.
While generally, quality comes at a price, there are budget-integrated amplifiers that will push your music game higher. In this guide, we discuss our top picks for best-integrated amplifiers under $1000.
|Cambridge Audio CXA61||18.3lbs||60W/8Ω||Yes||16.9″ x 13.4″ x 4.5″|
|Onkyo A-9110||15.4lbs||50W/4Ω||No||17.1″ x 13″ x 5″|
|NAD D3045||5.7lbs||60W/8Ω||Yes||10.4″ x 9.,3″ x 2.8″|
|Audiolab 6000A||17.2lbs||50W/8Ω||Yes||17.5″ x 13″ x 3.15″|
|Sonos Amp||4.6lbs||125W/8Ω||Yes||8.2″ x 7.3″ x 2.5″|
|Totem KIN Amp||5.3lbs||100W/8Ω||Yes||10″ x 9.25″ x 2.3″|
|Marantz PM6007||16.7lbs||45W/8Ω||Yes||17.3″ x 14.5″ x 4″|
|Rega io||6.38lbs||30W/8Ω||Yes||11.42” x 7.09” x 2.68”|
Cambridge Audio CXA61
Design And Quality
CXA61 is the direct predecessor to the CXA60. The main difference in the looks is the missing tone controls, making the front panel simple, solid and a more classy build. There is an added USB type B to top up the versatility of coaxial and optical digital inputs on the back panel.
The CXA61 features a new DAC chip ESS Sabre SE9010K2M, which handles 32-bit/384kHz PCM files to a high DSD 256 data stream exceptionally. Unlike CXA60, this amp features a highly sensitive Bluetooth aptX HD (24-bit/48kHz) receiver, with the added RS232 port and trigger inputs completing its automated system. The analog inputs remain unchanged at four line-level stereo RCA ports and a 3.5mm jack. Sadly, this classy amp lacks phono inputs.
The CXA61 delivers 60W per channel with a more transparent and playful output. There is enough power to get the best of demanding speakers like ATC SCM50 and B&W’s 606s with composure and control. The amp has a nice tonal balance between delivering well across a wide range of music genres on different speaker types, possibly to cover up for the missing tone balance knobs.
With a talented hi-fi system, the stereo imagery of CXA61 is astoundingly stable with an expansive sound field. This amp maintains its cool even after long hours of use, offering plenty of entertainment with thumping bass lines and weighty instruments.
- Excellent build and finish
- Punchy and energetic presentation
- Detailed and dynamic sound
- No built-in equalizer
- Some owners complained of an insensitive and bulky remote control
Design And Quality
The Onkyo A-9110 is an entry-level integrated amplifier with a well-laid front panel that gives it a costlier look. The master volume dominates the face, with other tone control knobs, a 6.3 mm jack, and direct mode bypass knobs completing the awesome craftsmanship. The knobs are highly sensitive, and the controls respond well to the remote control. The sturdy old school design comes in a black or silver finish.
The chassis is metallic and thicker than the A-9010 at 1.6mm, coupled with large and wide-spaced insulators to handle the unwanted resonance. There are 5 analog audio inputs and 1 output, with high-quality gold-plated banana plugs. Furthermore, this amp banks on WRAT technology to solve impedance fluctuations, while the low-NFB express the depth and expanse of analog and hi-res audio files.
Typically, dynamic music changes fluctuate the impedance, and if the power goes down, the sound quality suffers. Onkyo uses WRAT, with a high output EI transformer and huge capacitors to stabilize power for accurate and certain replication of dynamic audio passages.
The high-quality circuitry with a low-negative-feedback amplifier topology maintains the timbral warmth, fullness, and vibrancy of a recording well separated. To keep the signal above the components’ noise, Onkyo uses an Optimum Gain Volume Circuitry that requires low attenuation, leaving you a clear and deep sound at low volumes.
Direct Mode bypasses Phase Matching Bass Boost and tone circuitry to use the shortest signal route from source to speakers, keeping the recording as original as possible.
- Stunning power with great handling of even very demanding speakers
- Excellent build quality and features
- Fairly well priced
- Display is not the most intuitive
- No DAC
Design And Quality
NAD D3045 is a Class D 60W per channel amplifier which delivers more power and connections than other amps in the D-series. There is an added small screen display with an extra source selection dial. Whether you position the amp vertically or horizontally, the auto-position sensor rotates the display to the proper orientation.
The book-like curved-edged chassis design looks neat with a mini-jack port, a volume knob, and an input selector knob. However, the hard plastic finish gives the chassis a cheaper feel.
The connections options include the 2 optical and 1 coaxial digital inputs, a USB in port, several analog inputs, a phono input on the rear, an HDMI input, a subwoofer output, and a two-way 24-bit hi-res Bluetooth aptX receiver.
The D3045 is MQA-compatible, producing awesome hi-res performance in Tidal Masters streams. The hybrid digital amplifier drives 60W to each channel, bringing to life even the most stubborn speakers. The sound, though, lacks the warmth found in class A and AB amps.
The bi-directional Bluetooth receiver allows you to send or receive signals to and from the amp. At the same time, the Hybrid Digital tech lowers the distortion to output lifelike clear and precise sound. The DAC supports audio files up to 24-bit/192kHz, and the signature precision clock timer reduces jitters to let you enjoy MP3, FLAC, and WAV files smoothly.
- Balanced and detailed sound
- Awesome timing
- Versatile features and connections
- Great for small spaces
- Quick heat build-up
- The remote control has a short range
Design And Quality
The Audiolab 6000A design feels sturdy, with a metal casing and an aluminum front panel. The controls turn smoothly physically, and their responsiveness remains top-notch even when operated with the remote control. Also, the amp shares the same design and powerful digital circuitry as its 8300A siblings, and the silver and black finishes easily blend in any room.
Audiolab 6000A is a brilliant Class A/B amplifier, with a 50W/8 ohms power per channel. The pre-amp is minimalistic with great signal integrity. In complement, the layout design aims for low distortion and noise interference. Furthermore, the critical stages of the circuitry have an independent power supply, and the headphones have a dedicated amplifier running on current-feedback circuitry.
This amp has four digital inputs (2x Optical and 2x Coax) that play up to 24-bit/192KHz high-resolution audio nicely. The three line-level analog connections, MM phono stage input, and a Bluetooth connectivity feature back up the digital ports. To ensure you have more input options, a 6.3mm headphone is included on the front panel.
The analog and digital inputs present clean and crispy sounds, with every instrument note landing with a satisfying weight. The DAC built-in is of high quality, delivering punchy and composing sounds. The digital input offers three digital filters (slow, fast, and minimum roll-off phases), giving you options to pick what best suits your sound system. All in all, the 6000A offers great dynamics and plenty of energy for its price range, making it a great addition to your sound system.
- Incredible inputs versatility
- Sturdy and excellent build quality, with similar technologies with higher-end amplifiers
- Clear, refined and fluent sound
- Good spread of features
- Big and spacious presentation
- It lacks a USB port
Design And Quality
Sonos Amp is a Class D with a power output of 125W/8 ohms per channel. And, the design fits a 4.1 home theatre system with four side speakers and a subwoofer output. All the connection ports sit on the rear panel; a subwoofer output, two Ethernet sockets, two pairs of speaker terminals, an HDMI socket, and an analog stereo input. The amp connects to wireless Sonos speakers through a hub, wired speakers through cables, and can do it simultaneously.
The amp connects wirelessly through Wi-Fi. Also, the amp is compatible with Airplay 2 and Alexa, further expanding your control over it. The front panel features touch buttons for volume and play control. The physical design allows for easy stacking in a hi-fi rack system, but you may need external cooling as the densely packed inside has less space for air circulation. The amp is only available in black color.
The Sonos Amp powers a variety of speakers effortlessly with the 125W/8 ohms output. The amp maintains amazingly pure sound even with outdoor speakers. The direct digital input results in crisp, undistorted sound as the system need no analog to digital conversion.
Sonos amp supports over 100 streaming services offering a great selection for you to enjoy the ones you prefer. Flexible control enhancement is by the new APIs and partner integrations that synchronize the amp with smart home control and other smart devices like phones, to allow for keypad and voice control.
- Excellent sound quality
- Easy to set up and use
- Have a super cool design
- Great for TV use
- No optical input
- No hi-res
Totem KIN Amp
Design And Quality
Totem KIN is a Class D amplifier that features a simple, compact, and sleek design, with a punchy 100W to each channel at 8 ohms. The minimalistic front panel has a blue touch capacitance display that breathes life into it. Totem designed this amp to mainly work with its Totem monitors and tower speakers. The metallic chassis has a satin white or satin black finish.
This amp has an inbuilt aptX HD Bluetooth receiver and a range of analog and digital inputs for you to enjoy clarity and precision sounds from turntables to game consoles. These inputs include a switchable Phono/Line stereo RCA, a 3.5mm jack, Optical inputs with 24-bit / 192kHz DAC, and a subwoofer output. There is an included metal remote control.
The harmonized amplification pumps out captivating sound. With matching power speakers, you can hear every note and nuance in vivid holography.
When compared with less expensive amps like the NAD D3045 or Sonos Amp, you realize this powerful amp lacks Wi-Fi and bi-directional Bluetooth functionalities. The design also lacks versatility featured in the NAD.
- Compact, slim design
- Clean, modern touch capacitance display
- Aluminum remote
- Lacks enough features to compete well with same-priced amplifiers
Design And Quality
Marantz PM6007 is an upgrade of the 6000 series, with the design and features showing immense attention to detail to a combined class-leading performance. The front panel looks busy with many knobs for better control.
The PM6007 features similar pre-amp and power-amp designs with the PM6005, with an added optical input to the already five-line audio inputs (including an MM phono). Coupled with the onboard DAC AK4490 hi-res audio files (24 bit/192kHz) processing capability, this amp is unstoppable in digital and vinyl applications’ performance.
The extra metal casing ensures that interference between digital and analog features is at a minimum. The gold-plated speaker connections allow convenient bi-wiring, with upgraded internals such as the improved power supply for better performance. The aluminum front panel with a silver or black metal casing fits right into any hi-fi setup.
The PM6007 has improved emphasis on the mid-range, upping the clarity and conviction of vocals and instruments. The Toroidal power transformers and specialized block capacitors deliver 45 watts/8 ohms per channel. The gold-plated 5 analogue and 3 digital inputs keep the connections to this amp versatile.
This amplifier utilizes the Marantz proprietary HDAM-SA3 circuitry and huge energy reserves from high-speed Shottky Barrier Diodes to power even the most demanding speakers. The PM6007 performance is impressive for its price category.
- Versatile wired connection options
- Expressive sound
- Balanced clear sounds
- Lacks wireless connectivity options
- Missing tone controls for mid-range
Design And Quality
You have the option of buying it as a single unit or together with the Planar 1 turntable and Kyte speakers. The Rega io comes in black and silver colors, with a similar power amplifier and phono stage as the Rega Brio.
This amp has analog-only connections that include two-line level inputs, an MM phono input, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The volume dial, a smaller plastic input selector button, and a jack hole prove that Rega engineers put less effort into the amp’s aesthetics. There is, though, a simple, nicely built remote control.
The aluminum chassis is sturdy and well built, completing the low-key design that fits hi-fi traditionalists awesomely.
This amp’s performance quickly identifies it with the award-winning Brio amp. The two amps share very similar circuitry and power amps to deliver incredible rhythm and punchy dynamics. The carefully selected Sanken output transistors, linear power supply module, and the Alps volume potentiometer consistently pumps out 30 watts (8 ohms) per channel. The amplifier performs best when paired with equally powerful speakers such as Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2.
- Produces detailed and rhythmic sound
- Awesome headphone output
- No digital connectivity
Integrated Amplifiers – Buying Guide
Before spending a grand on an integrated amplifier, it is worth evaluating your immediate and future needs for your hi-fi system. For instance, the lack of a wireless connectivity option is not futuristic for an amp. Let’s discuss some major features below:
These are the links between your amplifier and the signal source. Inputs options fall under the following categories:
- Analog audio inputs
- RCA ports: Standard connections for analog components
- RCA phono ports: specialized port for connecting a turntable
- Balanced XLR ports: have balanced signal path for connecting high-end and professional audio components
- Digital audio inputs
- Optical port: mainly for TC connections
- Coaxial port: connects your signal source to the Digital-to-Analog converter.
- USB Type-A: connection for mobile devices and USB thumb drives
- USB Type B: connection for computers
- Ethernet: for network connectivity
- Wireless connectivity
- Wi-Fi: for connecting to devices in a wireless network
- Bluetooth: for connecting Bluetooth enabled devices such as smartphones and laptops
- Specialty services: allow for software synchronization such as with Apple Airplay and Chromecast
There are connections between your amplifier and the speakers. They include:
- A+B speaker connectors: allows connection of speakers in pairs to the amp, great for speakers with similar power intakes
- Pre-amp output: This is an upgrade feature that allows for the addition of another power amp to add more power for new speakers
- Subwoofer output: for sending a signal to a powered subwoofer
- Headphone jack
Read our article on Audio Outputs for more details on various input/output modalities and their functionalities.
How Much Should You Spend?
The answer to this question is personal. We agree your budget is a major consideration, but spending a few more dollars for improved power is worthy. Besides, getting the best integrated amplifier requires a balance between your audio requirements and your budget.
Prices are not always indicators for the best product, and essentially, there will be a point of diminishing returns. Besides, for home or office use, a combination of good speakers and an amplifier with at least 100 watts per channel suffice well.
Integrated Amplifier Features Explained
RMS vs. Peak Wattage
Wattage refers to the power output of the amp. Simply put, it’s a measure of the loudness of an amp, and consequently, the speakers it can power. Thus, a very important feature to know while building your sound system.
RMS wattage shows the output power the amplifier can manage over a long period, while peak wattage is the maximum output power, measured in short periods. The two are important in selecting speakers to use with your amplifier, but RMS wattage is a better indicator of the power your amp will manage daily.
Digital to Analog Converters changes the signal from machine form (zeros and ones) to electrical signals detectable by your speakers. For a powerful sound system, you need a good DAC. While most media players and smart devices have inbuilt DACs, the quality of their output may be insufficient for crispy sound output. Check to see if your preferred amp has an inbuilt DAC, or you may need to buy a separate one.
Stereo Amp classes
While shopping for a good amplifier, you’ll notice every amplifier has a class classification like Class T, Class A, tube, and others. Though it’s a handy thing to understand about amplifiers, modern integrated amplifiers have enough power to overcome any class limitations.
You can comfortably go for any amplifier class as long as it has the number of channels you need, fits in your available space, is set up nicely, and has enough input options. In brief:
- Class A: A common type with low distortions, though somehow power inefficient. Class A amplifiers keep both output stages on always.
- Class B: Only one output stage is on at a time, hence have better power efficiency than Class A. The downside is sometimes there are high distortions at frequency crossover points.
- Class A/B: This is a hybrid between Class A and B, leading to a reasonably power-efficient circuitry with limited distortions.
- Class D: This class contains highly efficient active transistor switches; thus, they are usually more compact than other classes. Also, they are lighter and emit less heat. Class T is a variation of Class D, made by Tripath.
- Monoblock: This class is usually for pricey models with one amplifier powering a single channel, unlike other amplifiers where both channels get power from the same amplifier. The result is more power and better sound.
- Tube (valves): Tubes are tiny glass cylinders common in headphone amps that produce soft and warm sound typical with tube amplifiers. They rarely appear in stereo amps.
A channel refers to a single audio output of sound on the amplifier. For instance, a 2-channel amplifier has two audio outputs for speakers. The more the channels, the more the speakers you can connect to and maintain good sound quality. But it doesn’t mean you can’t connect more than one speaker in a single channel, it’s possible, but the sound quality won’t be that great.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
THD, sometimes with an N for noise, measures the difference between the sound signal entering the amplifier and the exits’ signal. In other words, it measures how much the amplifier alters the input signal. Essentially, this number should be very low, or else the input signal will greatly differ from the output. THD is almost negligible in modern amps, so you have nothing to worry about unless the THD gets over 1%.
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)
Like any other electric appliance, an amplifier makes some noise as the electrical components run. SNR measures how loud the electrical components are in relation to the sound output of the amp. Essentially, manufacturers’ aims to make this noise unperceivable so that you hear more music. The larger the number (in decibels), the better the amplifier.
This is a measure of how well an amplifier separates the sounds from the inputs to the channels. In short, it measures the “leak” between channels. Crosstalk ratings are in decibels with a negative sign on them. The larger the negative number, the lower the leakage. This measure is more important than SNR and THD+N as if the separation is bad the sound output becomes muzzy.
Integrated amp weight
Good amplifiers have great power management, and the power management equipment is often heavy. Therefore, an easy indicator of a good amp is its physical weight. Though modern power management components are lighter, and hence the weight rule is not hard and fast.
It is clear that there are excellent contenders for integrated amplifiers in the sub $1000 space. Whether it is budget, power, features or aesthetics, this guide should help you narrow down the best amplifier for your personal tastes in your aim for a hi-fi set up. Integrated amplifiers not only improve your sound playback from speakers but also enhance convenience with the various connectivity and control options available. Designed to seamless integrate into any hi-fi listening set-up, integrated amps will serve you for many years to come.
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