Best Stereo Amplifiers for 2015

Best Stereo Amplifiers for 2015

The heart and soul of a home audio system, receivers and amplifiers that will rock the house.

In part two of building a new ultimate HD digital home stereo system we will cover some of the best stereo amplifiers available today that won't require a 2nd mortgage on your home. Amplifier technology really has not changed all that much since the period of heavy innovation which occurred during the 70's and 80's. 

While music formats have changed to digital downloads and internet streaming, this has had a much greater impact on pre-amp and integrated receiver designs. Most new stereo receivers and pre-amps available today now have USB inputs, places to plug in your iPod and some can even stream content from WiFI directly from internet radio and music websites.

While today's big box stores are filled with 7 channel or more home theater receivers, we are focusing on building a simple home stereo system that will bring out the very best in high-resolution digital music.

If you missed part one, be sure to read: 5 Best Digital Network Music Players for 2015

Amplifier/Pre-Amp Vs Integrated Amplifier

Top of the line Yamaha A-S3000SL Integrated Amplifier

A separate amplifier pre-amp still offers the best and ultimate sound quality for a home stereo system. The sound quality from high quality separate components and a good set of speakers will still send chills down your spine. Fortunately there are still some companies left that make high quality separate amplifiers and pre-amps yet also offer good a value for your money. While one could easily spend many thousands of dollars on a high end tube amp, there are still some very good amplifiers available in the $800 to $2,000 dollar range. Above that price range the margin for improvement gets smaller and smaller the more you spend.

Integrated stereo amplifiers also have some distinct advantages like taking up less space, less wires and often include an integrated Digital Audio Converter (DAC). This is required to convert your digital signals to analog. While integrated receivers can often be bought for much less than separate components, don't expect to get the same sound quality unless you are prepared to spend some serious cash.

One such example is the top of the line Yamaha A-S3000SL Natural Sound Integrated Amplifier. It's offers a sound quality that can rival many top notch separate component amps and pre-amps. Unfortunately it comes with a price tag to match.

If you are still reeling from sticker shock after seeing the price tag on the receiver listed above. Take a look at the:

Yamaha R-S700BL Natural Sound Stereo Receiver

 This Yamaha receiver offers a great bang for the buck at a price that's sure to please.

Amplifier Power Factor - How much is enough?

Efficiency and Distortion are two things to consider when purchasing a new amplifier.  Look for the most power going to your music at the minimum level of distortion.

When driving a high quality set of stereo speakers, it's important to get an amplifier that offers enough power. 200 Watts RMS per channel at 8 Ohms is a good benchmark to aim for when selecting an amplifier. While you can drive your speakers with a much lower power amp like 80 to 100 watts, chances are it will not sound nearly as good or clear due to clipping and distortion.

A good high power amplifier using top quality electronic capacitors, transformer and other components will be heavy. Some of the better ones can weigh nearly 70lbs. This is a lot of weight to be lugging around and you will want to make sure your entertainment furniture can adequately support your amp properly.

Top Amplifiers that won't cost you a Second Mortgage on Your Home!

Adcom has been building high quality amplifiers and made a name for themselves in 1985 when they released their popular GFA-555. They established their reputation as an entry level Audiophile brand. Their amps were well built and have a long history of good performance. While you can find Adcom amps often used on eBay, be aware that buying an older amp can cost you some very expensive repair costs if capacitors have dried out or other electronics components need to be replaced. Adcom currently still build some really decent powerful amplifiers, although today production is no longer in the USA and they are built overseas.

The Adcom Model GFA-555MS puts out 125 watts per channel with excellent sound staging. Music imaging and separation of individual instruments is excellent. With plenty of headroom and punch, these amplifiers can easily compete with stereo amplifiers costing many times more.

The Adcom GFA-555SE offers the same great performance and ups the power to 200 watts per channel at 8 Ohms.

Emotive XPA-2 High Power at an Affordable Price

Many consider the Emotive XPA-2 stereo power amplifier a step up from Adcom. When you consider the XPA-2 weighs 70lbs compared to the 35lb Adcom, plus the higher output at 300 watts per channel. How about a price that matches the Adcom 125 watt model? If that still is not enough to convince you what a great amp this is, just read the glowing XPA-2 reviews

Emotive created a real winner with the XPA-2. It delivers quality and value far beyond it's price class.

Emotive XPA-2 Specs:
  • Number of channels: 2 (stereo mode), 1 (monoblock mode)
  • Topology: fully discrete, highly optimized dual differential, high current, short signal path Class A/B with premium components throughout
  • Power output (all channels driven): 
    1000 watts RMS @ 8 ohm (Mono-Block mode)
    500 watts RMS per channel @ 4 ohm (0.12% THD)
    300 watts RMS per channel @ 8 ohm (0.07% THD)
  • Rated power bandwidth: 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.07dB
  • Broadband frequency response: : 5Hz to 100kHz, +0 -3dB
  • Amplifier gain: 29 dB
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: 
    1 watt: > 97 dB
    Full power: > 121 dB
  • Input impedance: 
    unbalanced: 23.5kohms
    balanced: 33 kohms
  • XLR Outputs
  • Power supply: 1,200VA toroidal transformer with 45,000uF low ESR storage capacitance
  • Size: 
  • unboxed: 17” wide x 7 3/4” high x 19” deep
  • boxed: 23 1/2" wide x 12" high x 24 3/4" deep
  • Weight: 72.6 lbs (83.5 lbs boxed)
Audiohollics Says: "The Emotiva XPA-2 is a two-channel amplifier and one of the most powerful, highest value amplifiers we've reviewed to date. "

Andrew Robinson Online Says: "The Emotiva XPA-2 offers a sound quality that, overall, seemed to prefer three-dimensions versus two."

High Fidelity Reviews Says: "The Emotiva XPA-2 amp grabs hold of the music and throws it at you like a pie in the face, and you’re just standing there mesmerized, licking your lips, and clowning for more."

Click here to get the Emotive XPA-2 for a great price at Amazon.

Peachtree Audio nova220 SE Integrated Amplifier with Built-in DAC

When only the best will do! Step up to the high end Audio Nova 220 SE.

At a massive 220 watts true RMS per channel at 8 Ohms this Peachtree amp delivers the sound. With a smooth 24-bit/192kHz DAC and USB input it's ready to plug in your favorite HD digital audio player.

Learn more about this high end stereo amplifier by clicking here »

What about 5.2,  7.2, 9.2 and 11.2 Amps

Don't be fooled by marketing hype into believing that these new multi channel amps are better than a high end premium 2 channel stereo amplifier. They may have all kinds of cool knobs and fancy lights. In  the end you are stuffing a lot electrical components into a limited box and often it's the transformer and capacitors that are valued engineered to save on profit margin.

One easy way to tell you are getting a quality piece of hardware is weight. High end amps will be extremely heavy and is this is often in direct relation to the high quality sound they are capable of reproducing.

While these multi channel amps have their proper place in a home theater setup. For a true music lover, a nice old school style, heavy two channel amp is still the best way to go.

Up Next: In our quest to build the best sounding high quality HD digital home stereo system, be sure to read: Best HD Audio Preamplifiers for 2015