Best Budget Integrated Stereo Amplifiers [Under $500]
With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the best truly budget integrated amps and the best of what you can get for under $500 so you can get an integrated stereo amp that best suits your needs within your budget.
What we like: Great detail, Wide soundstage, Source direct function
Not so much: No mid-range tone control
Watts RMS Per Channel: 40w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – No, Wifi – No Inputs: 4x Line level RCA, 2x Record RCA input,1x Flasher, 1x External remote control input Outputs: 2x Switchable speaker terminal sets, 2 Record RCA out, 1x ¼” Headphone Jack
The Marantz PM5005 is the most affordable Marantz integrated amplifier but that doesn’t mean that you will miss out on the signature warm tone you can expect from a more expensive Marantz amplifier.
The soundstage is also immersive through its breadth and width. The overall sound you will get out of the box is pleasing but if you would like to tweak the sound of the PM5005 there are built-in controls for the bass and treble frequencies on the face of the unit.
A fantastic feature about this under $500 integrated amplifier is that it has switchable speaker outputs as well as direct through and a loudness button so you can achieve the perfect sound for any listening occasion.
For example, you may have a set of speakers that are more suited for listening to low volumes so you could switch to those speakers and press the loudness switch for when you’re listening alone and switch back to your more powerful speakers when entertaining guests.
What we like:Punchy Tone, Fluent mids, Confident sound
Not so much:Finicky remote, Lacking built-in Bluetooth functionality
Watts RMS Per Channel – 35w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – No, WiFi – No Inputs: 4x Line level RCA, 1x Phono RCA, 3.5mm AUX Outputs: 1x Speaker terminal sets, 1x Line level RCA, 1x USB out
If you’re after a budget stereo amplifier with an honest, neutral tonal balance than the Cambridge Audio AXA35 could be the one for you. Couple that tone with a bold dynamic presentation and you’re in for a quality listening experience. The AXA35 really delivers on sound and is perfectly suited for pairing with speakers that are sold at a similar price point.
The build is a little interesting with a tapered base that gives the face a slightly ‘floaty’ appearance. You will get control of your volume and your input selection easily from the front of the unit as well as a single menu button to control other parameters.
The front of the unit also has access to the headphone output and the auxiliary input. The AXA 35 also comes with a remote which feels a little cheap and needs to be pointed directly at the unit to work properly but is still a nice bonus given the extremely cheap price (under $500) of this integrated amp.
What we like:Eager presentation, Good amount of detail, Compact design
Not so much:Needs more clarity in dynamics, RCA and AUX inputs only
Watts RMS Per Channel: 40w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – No, Wifi – No Inputs: 6x Line level RCA, 3.5mm AUX Outputs: 1x Line level RCA, 1x Speaker terminal set
This budget stereo amplifier is presented in a simple yet compact package that still manages to include controls for bass, treble, balance, and volume on the front of the unit with LED markers and buttons for input selection. The face of the unit also has the AUX input and headphone output. At the back of the unit, you will find 5 line-level RCA inputs and one RCA in/out loop. This is enough inputs but we would like to have seen more variety for input types such as a digital input, USB, or Bluetooth.
The sound from the C316BEE is of good quality with decent detail but is lacking clear dynamics and the broad soundstage experienced from our top pick. However, it is hard to ignore the upfront, confident sound you will get from this amplifier that is matched by an enthusiastic tonal balance. The 40w power stage is decent enough to drive most similarly priced speakers to a decent volume while maintaining the clarity produced by the amplifier.
What we like: Powerful, Balanced sound, Sharp looks
Not so much: Narrow soundstage, Poor dynamics
Watts RMS Per Channel: 40w @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – Yes, Wifi – No Inputs: 2x Line level RCA, 2x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x USB, Bluetooth Outputs: 1x Speaker terminal set, 1x Subwoofer out, 1x ¼” Headphone jack
It is great that the EA101EQ-G fits so many inputs into such a small stereo amp and powers them to 40w when paired with 8ohm speakers. It comes with a sleek minimalist remote control to match the design of the unit itself. No worries if you lose the remote either as you can download an app for your Apple or Android device to control this budget stereo amplifier. The front of the unit has a bright display that is easy to read so there is no confusion when changing inputs from a distance.
In terms of sound quality, the ELAC EA101EQ-G produces a neutral balanced tone that can easily be manipulated through the accompanying app but the soundstage feels a little narrow compared to the competition with some laggy dynamics. However, you will find some weighty bass tones and this amp won’t have any strain when pushing for a thick balanced wall of sound. All of the digital wired connections produce a relatively similar sound quality but you will lose a bit of the oomph with the analog or Bluetooth connections.
What we like: Classic styling, Refined dynamics, full-bodied sound
Not so much:Imprecise rhythm, Boosted mids by default
Watts RMS Per Channel: 22w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – Yes, Wifi – No Inputs: 2x Line level RCA, 1x Coaxial, 1x Optical, 1x USB, Bluetooth Outputs: 1x Speaker terminal set, 1x Subwoofer out 1x ¼” Headphone Jack
This entry-level integrated amp looks like it’s straight out of the 70’s so it would aesthetically suit any retro audio equipment you may be using and it is available in silver or black. It is reasonably small so it can be placed inconspicuously and comes with a small yet workable remote control. The front of the unit comes with volume control and a source input button which is indicated by LEDs. It is also happy being paired with a range of speakers and sounds appealing through a myriad of combinations.
The soundstage experience from the AI-301DA is a wide yet extremely smooth one, which means it’s also not the most transparent but it sure does make for easy listening. The mids are the most noticeably presented which may suit some listeners but we prefer a more neutral out of the box EQ. The Bluetooth input does not sound as hefty as the other inputs but is a nice touch for occasional listening.
What we like: Beefy presentation, Many features, Delicate balance
Not so much: No Bluetooth, Cold tone when compared to other Yamaha amps, No Bluetooth
Watts RMS Per Channel: 60w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth- No, WiFi- No Inputs: 7x Line Level RCA, 1x Phono RCA 1x S/PDIF Coaxial, 1x Toslink Optical, Outputs: 2x Speaker terminal sets, 1x Subwoofer, 1x Headphone Jack
The A-S301 is the cheapest in the line of Yamaha integrated amplifiers but you can expect the same great build quality as its more expensive units. This amplifier boasts a whopping 10 inputs including a phono input for turntables with magnet-magnet cartridges.
The sound you get from this integrated amp is of stellar quality, although it is a little less warm in its tone than the more expensive Yamaha amps, you still get a refined balance with a hefty presentation. The soundstage provided is both wide and deep creating an immersive atmosphere for the listener.
The A-S301 comes with many control knobs including input/output selection, treble, bass, volume, balance, and loudness. These parameters can also be controlled by the included remote. All of these features are an unexpected but welcome addition to a budget stereo amplifier.
Bluetooth needs to be added through a separate module but even with the official Yamaha Bluetooth add-on, the total cost would still be less than $500. Alternatively, you could use a cheaper Bluetooth extension to drive the cost down.
What we like: Sturdy sound, Compact design, Many inputs/outputs
Not so much: Lacks dynamic punch, Lethargic, Low power stage
Watts RMS Per Channel: 37w RMS @8Ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth- Yes, WiFi- No Inputs: 1x phono RCA, 3x line-level RCA, 2x Toslink optical, 1x S/PDIF coaxial RCA, Bluetooth (aptX), 1x USB Audio,1x 3.5mm Outputs: 1x Speaker terminal set, 1x 3.5mm, 1x 6.3mm
This cheap integrated amp has built-in Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in high-resolution DAC which are awesome features to have in a budget amplifier. The sound you will get from the MaiA is also of high quality with clear detail accompanied by the warm vocal presence and a surprisingly solid presence. You may find the dynamics provided to be a little less lively than a more expensive amp but the Pro-Ject MaiA definitely provides great bang for your buck.
In terms of build quality, this amp is quite plain-looking but does not need much space and strikes an interesting middle zone between modern and retro styling with a single knob, a few buttons, and a 6.3mm headphone jack at the front of the unit. All of this quality is wrapped up in a small package that will fit neatly into your home hi-fi setup.
What we like: Value, Impressive sound quality, Direct through
Not so much:No DAC, No digital inputs, Low power
Watts RMS Per Channel: 30w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – No, WiFi- No Inputs: 4x RCA line level, 1x Phono RCA, Outputs: 1x Sub out, 1x Speaker terminal set, 1x RCA line out, 6.3mm jack, 3.5mm jack
The Onkyo A9110 is lacking in features when compared to some of the other budget integrated amplifiers in our top picks such as a built-in DAC or digital inputs, however, it makes up for that with impressive sound quality. This option is a great choice for those of us looking for an amplifier to match with our turntables or other analog signals. That is not to say you can’t also get a digital signal running through the amplifier, you could always hook up a laptop, computer standalone DAC, etc in through the RCA inputs.
This amplifier provides a clean powerful sound considering its 30w rating at 8ohms. This is due to its high quality integrated circuits and high voltage compatibility. It is an under $500 integrated amplifier that is happy being blasted or for quiet listing due to the included phase-matching bass control switch maintaining a nice even balance between the frequencies at lower volumes.
What we like:Nice build quality, Sparkling highs, Feature-rich
Not so much:No Bluetooth, Picky with paired equipment
Watts RMS Per Channel: 60w RMS @8ohms Digital Music Features: Bluetooth – No, Wifi – No Inputs: 4x Line level RCA, 1x 3.5mm AUX, 1x Coaxial, 2x Optical Outputs: 2x Switchable speaker terminal sets, 1x Pre-amp out, 1x Subwoofer out, 3.5mm Headphone Jack
This amplifier has the most impressive power stage in this top list and is also one of the most feature-rich with a built-in DAC, switchable speaker terminals, and a multitude of ins/outs. To accompany these features this offering from Cambridge Audio also has one of the most extensive remote controls. It looks like a television remote with the number of controls it has which would perfectly suit someone who likes complete control over their listening experience The CXA60 is lacking a built-in Bluetooth feature but can be added to the system for a little extra.
When paired with the right speakers you can achieve an incredibly refined sound with deep, thundering bass and present sparkling highs. The soundstage comes with plenty of breathing room which allows for decaying notes to bleed out as they were intended by the composer. This amp is at the very top end of budget integrated amplifiers with the Bluetooth add-on driving its price out of the <$500 zone it may be worth the little extra spend if you can afford it.
What can I expect from budget stereo amps?
Integrated amps are an expensive bit of kit for your hi-fi system. Even at the budget end of the spectrum, you would be lucky to find anything below or close to $250 if you wanted a quality unit. That being said, you can find some high quality integrated amplifiers for less than $500.
You can expect to have a less robust power stage from cheaper units and for them to be lacking certain features such as Wi-Fi connectivity or Bluetooth although some of our picks do have Bluetooth connectivity built-in or the option to purchase a Bluetooth add-on.
It definitely is still possible to find great sounding and feature-rich units on a budget. There is a range of brands out there that are consistently products across the whole price spectrum as well as some utter garbage and everything in between. Buying Hi-Fi equipment online can be a minefield in terms of making a wrong purchase and the amount of information available.
Last update on 2021-10-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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