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Best integrated amplifiers for 2022

How to choose the right integrated amp for your stereo system

In this article: I’ll provide shopping tips to help you find an integrated amplifier with plenty of power and connections for your stereo system.

And I’ll recommend seven of the best integrated amplifiers I’ve tried...

  1. Best value — Cambridge CXA81
  2. Best for audiophiles — McIntosh MA5300
  3. Best for wireless streaming — HiFi Rose RS201E
  4. Best desktop amp — NAD D 3020 V2
  5. Best for vinyl lovers — Marantz Model 30
  6. Best for playing high-res music files — Primare I35 Prisma

... with budget alternatives and links to hundreds of customer reviews.

T

here are many convenient ways to listen to music these days: portable Bluetooth speakers and earbuds offer quick and easy ways to stream music from a phone or tablet. You can even stream music through the sound bar you use for TV watching.

I'm not knocking those handy options, but if you're like me — a music lover who really prioritizes sound quality — you may want to make an integrated amplifier the centerpiece of your primary sound system. The one you turn to when you settle into a comfy chair for a couple of hours of serious listening.

An integrated amp is the right choice if you want all to connect all of your music sources to a dedicated two-channel amplifier using one component. And most of them can accomodate wireless music streaming, too. We'll go over everything these versatile amps can do, and help you narrow down your choices until you find the perfect one for your sound system.

What is an integrated amplifier?

An integrated amplifier is actually two components in one:

  1. A power amplifier, which generates the wattage needed to drive your loudspeakers
  2. A preamplifier that accepts the inputs from all of your music source components

The preamp lets you switch between wired and wireless sources and control the volume. The preamp may also include balance and tone controls. The built-in power amp lets you drive one or two pairs of bookshelf or floor-standing speakers.

Integrated amp vs. receiver

So what makes an integrated amp different from a stereo receiver, then? The answer is in the name of the latter component. A receiver has an AM/FM tuner built in that "receives" conventional radio signals. If you're like me, and only listen to the radio while driving, you may prefer the streamlined functions of an integrated amp.

Integrated amp vs. preamp/power amp

Many music fans prefer a system with a separate preamp and power amp. The benefits of this approach are cleaner sound — because power can introduce noise into preamp circuitry — and more flexibility in building and upgrading a high-end system.

The drawbacks, naturally, are the higher cost of purchasing two components instead of one, and the necessity of finding space in your entertainment center for two large components. It's worth noting that most integrated amps offer a preamp output that lets you send audio signals to a separate power amp and only use the integrated for source switching, so you can reconfigure your system in the future if you want more power.

There's no wrong way to build a system — your unique situation will dictate whether you choose a stereo receiver, home theater receiver, separate components, or an integrated amp. If you've read this far and the integrated amp still sounds like your cup of tea, let's dig into features and specs so you can zero in on the perfect one for your living space.

Integrated amp features

Consider the number and types of connections an integrated amp provides. You'll want to be certain that it can accommodate the components you currently have, or may want to add in the future.

Cambridge Audio Azur 851A integrated amplifier

The Cambridge Audio Azur 851A integrated amplifier includes plenty of analog RCA audio inputs. It also includes two pairs of balanced XLR jacks for connecting high-end gear.

Analog audio inputs

Back in the day, analog inputs were the only inputs. Modern integrated amplifiers have made room for digital inputs and wireless connection hardware, but analog features will likely never go away.

As a vinyl lover, I absolutely require a phono input, for instance. And additional RCA inputs come in handy for adding a standalone DAC, a cassette deck, or the analog output of a CD player. If you prefer to use an outboard phono preamp, you'll need to plug it into your integrated amp via a standard RCA input, too.

Some high-end sound systems use balanced XLR connections that offer superior noise rejection. If any of your other components offer XLR inputs and outputs, you can connect them using high-quality XLR cables.

If you're an analog purist, many integrated amps offer an analog mode that shuts down all digital circuits. And some integrated amps — the NAD C316BEE, for example — go old-school and offer only analog connections.

Yamaha A-S801 stereo integrated amplifier

This Primare I15 provides analog and digital audio inputs, plus a USB connection for your computer.

Digital audio inputs

Some integrated amplifiers include a built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that turns digital signals into analog sound your speakers can reproduce. There are a few common types of digital audio inputs:

  • If your integrated amp has a DAC, you can connect the digital output of your CD player to a coaxial digital input
  • An optical digital (Toslink) input offers slightly lower resolution for connecting a CD player or the output of a TV or Blu-ray player
  • Music lovers who have high-resolution music files stored on their computers will need a USB Type B connection
  • If you use your mobile device or USB thumb drive to store files, look for USB Type A, but make sure it's an active input and not just a service port for firmware updates
  • An Ethernet port is crucial for accessing files hosted on the internet or stored on a network-connected computer or hard drive

In very rare cases, an HDMI input may be present for connecting a compatible TV or Blu-ray player.

Wireless connectivity

It's hard to beat the convenience of wireless streaming when it comes to music listening. A number of integrated amplifiers support wireless music streaming — you can’t beat it for convenience. And some let you add compatible speakers and components to create an expandable wireless whole-home audio system.

For instance:

  • Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to connect to your home's wireless network and access popular streaming services like Spotify, TIDAL, and Amazon HD, plus online internet radio
  • Bluetooth lets you stream music wirelessly from apps on your smartphone, tablet, or computer
  • Apple AirPlay 2 is designed to work specifically with an iOS device like an iPhone® or iPad®
  • Some integrated amps feature built-in multi-room streaming platforms like HEOS, BluOS or DTS Play-Fi that allow you to create a whole-home audio system by wirelessly connecting to compatible sound bars and speakers

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to listen to music, and you should look for an integrated amp that can give you access to all of your favorite sources.

Outputs

Inputs are crucial to getting what you need out of your integrated amp, but don't overlook the output possibilities, either:

  • A headphone jack (1/4-inch or 3.5mm) provides a great way to enjoy your music without disturbing others
  • A subwoofer output lets you connect an optional powered sub to supplement your system's bass output
  • A stereo preamp output gives you an easy way to add a new power amp to your system. This is handy if you move your system to a larger room or buy new speakers that need more power
  • A + B speaker connectors offer an easy way to connect two pairs of speakers, or bi-wire a single compatible pair

Now that we know what to look for, we can single out some of the best integrated amps for specific applications. In each category, I list my favorite, plus a lower-priced runner-up to give you even more options.

Our top picks for 2022

779CXA81G-cambridge-integrated-amp

Best value — Cambridge CXA81

Crutchfield customers love this rock-solid integrated amp. The Cambridge CXA81 offers plenty of power — 80 watts per channel — plus the detail you want when listening to your favorite tracks. Those watts are generated by a power supply that employs an audiophile-grade toroidal transformer for plenty of steady, low-noise current. And it has analog and digital inputs for connecting your favorite sources, including balanced XLR connections.

The amp's built-in high-performance ESS Sabre SE9016K2M DAC ensures that sound from connected digital sources is clean and accurate. It offers convenient Bluetooth connectivity, too. And I've always liked that Cambridge favors the classy brushed-aluminum front plate, which looks super-sharp in an entertainment center or equipment rack.

Details

  • 80 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (120 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms)
  • 4-ohm capability allows use with a wide range of speakers
  • toroidal power transformer for low noise and high-current output
  • Bluetooth with aptX® HD encoding provides high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
  • coaxial digital, USB Type-B, and dual optical digital inputs
  • balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs

Budget-friendly alternative

My runner-up in this category is another of our top-sellers: the Yamaha A-S501. It's got good power and adds a dedicated phono stage that the Cambridge doesn't have. Bluetooth is optional, and requires an additional adapter, and there are no XLR inputs, but it's a rugged, rock-solid choice that won't empty your wallet.

What our customers say about the CXA-81:

958MA5300-mcintosh-integrated-amplifier

Best for Audiophiles — McIntosh MA5300

This isn't the first time the words "best," "audiophile," and "McIntosh" have appeared together, and it surely won't be the last. This venerable American company has been making exquisite hi-fi equipment since 1949, and the MA5300 is one of their finest efforts. It's versatile, sophisticated, powerful, and elegant.

It works smart as well as hard. The amp's large power transformer uses multiple filter capacitors for plenty of energy reserves to help deliver lightning-fast transient response and explosive dynamics, so music sounds crisp and detailed.

Digital sources benefit from the high-performance 8-channel 32-bit DAC built into McIntosh's DA1 Digital Audio Module. And the entire DA1 module can be removed and replaced in the highly likely event that McIntosh comes up with something even better in the future.

Most integrated amps are designed solely for use in a two-channel system, but the MA5300 has a handy Home Theater Pass Through feature that lets you use it in a home theater system. The right and left front channels from a surround sound preamp/processor can pass through the amplifier's analog inputs, allowing you to use its 100-watt-per-channel power output on your main front speakers.

Details

  • 100 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (160 watts x 2 into 4 ohms)
  • 8-channel, 32-bit/192kHz Quad Balanced DAC
  • large power transformer with multiple filter capacitors and regulated power supply
  • 2 optical and 2 coaxial digital inputs (up to 32-bit/96kHz resolution)
  • USB Type B input (PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD files up to 11.2 MHz, and DXD files)
  • 1 set of balanced stereo XLR inputs
  • 4 stereo RCA audio inputs
  • dedicated phono input for turntable with moving magnet (MM) cartridge

Budget-friendly alternative

Obviously, in this category, "budget" has a different meaning, but the Rotel RA-1572 MkII performs amazingly well for a fraction of the cost of the McIntosh listed above. I had an opportunity to try it out in my own home for a couple of weeks, and it made music sound crisp and clear, whether the source was analog or digital. I give credit to the Rotel signature: a custom-made toroidal transformer inside that provides 120 watts of clean power to drive just about any speakers you choose to hook up.

What our customers say about the MA5300:

642PM7000N-marantz-integrated-amplifier

Best for wireless streaming — HiFi Rose RS201E

I'm not going to pretend this was an easy choice to make — integrated amp manufacturers are packing most amps with streaming goodies these days. But just look at this thing. The big, convenient touchscreen on the HiFi Rose RS201E makes it so user-friendly, and it has a muscular six-core ARM® 64-bit processor and a 32-bit/384kHz Sabre DAC inside for pristine, lag-free file playback.

And it's just so versatile when it comes to sources. Streaming-wise, it supports Apple AirPlay, DLNA, Roon, and MQA, plus all of the major third-party streaming platforms. And pick any of the alphabet-soup high-res file formats — WAV, FLAC, AIFF, etc. — and you can count on this amp to play it flawlessly. As for wired connections and compatibility with external storage devices, it's got you pretty well covered there, too.

Details

  • 50 watts x 2 into 4 ohms
  • 8.8-inch-wide high-def touchscreen LCD display
  • built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • customized Android operating system
  • Apple AirPlay 2 lets you stream directly from an iPhone® or iPad® and ask Siri to play Apple Music
  • supports TIDAL, Spotify, Qobuz, RoseTube (YouTube), internet radio stations, and RosePodcast (subscription required for some services)
  • 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converter supports PCM files up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD files up to 5.6MHz
  • Toslink optical, USB-C and USB 3.0, and RCA inputs
  • HDMI video output with up to 4K resolution
  • microSD card slot and enclosed bay for optional 7mm SSD (solid-state drive) up to 4TB
  • Ethernet port for connection to your home network

Budget-friendly alternative

I like the Marantz PM7000N here for a couple of reasons. For starters, the HEOS operating system gives you access to popular streaming services, and gives you the functionality to set up a multi-room wireless sound system with the addition of HEOS-compatible speakers. Its built-in DAC supports high-resolution audio files, and Marantz's Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module (HDAM) technology offers very precise control over the drivers of connected speakers.

What our expert says about the HiFi Rose RS201E:

745D3020V2-nad-integrated-amplifier

Best desktop amp — NAD D 3020 V2

Since more of us are working from home these days, it makes sense to improve your desktop system, and this is an excellent way to do so. Most integrated amps are designed to lie horizontally on a shelf in an entertainment center, so the NAD D 3020 V2 stands out immediately in that regard.

It's amazing how much functionality NAD has packed into this space-saving chassis. There's a phono input as well as an unassigned RCA input pair. There are individual optical and coaxial inputs for digital sources. And wireless streaming via Bluetooth, of course.

Design-wise, I must say, I like the gentle curve at the top corner of the chassis, and the large, easy-to-grip manual volume knob.

Details

  • 30 watts x 2 into 8 ohms
  • compact, low-profile design allows vertical or horizontal orientation
  • built-in 24-bit/96kHz digital-to-analog converter
  • Bluetooth with aptX® encoding provides high-quality music streaming from compatible devices
  • 1 pair of analog stereo (RCA) inputs
  • 1 optical digital and 1 coaxial digital input
  • phono input for connecting a turntable with a moving magnet (MM) cartridge
  • built-in headphone amplifier with 3.5mm minijack output

Budget-friendly alternative

The Audioengine N22 is a super-affordable compact desktop amp. It has the headphone amplifier I consider so crucial for a desktop system, and I can connect a space-saving pair of desktop speakers like the Cambridge Audio Minx Mini for near-field listening that won't disturb family or co-workers.

What our customers say about the NAD D 3020 V2:

642MDL30B

Best for vinyl lovers — Marantz Model 30

I've seen a few integrated amps with the ability to accommodate turntables with moving magnet or moving coil cartridges, but the phono stage built into the Marantz Model 30 goes the extra mile. They included a front-panel knob that allows you to adjust impedance to match a low-, medium-, or high-output cartridge, which gives you a lot of versatility without having to add an outboard phono preamp.

It delivers 100 watts per channel into an 8-ohm load, and it's 4-ohm stable, thanks to a high-current double-shielded toroidal power transformer. Marantz's Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module (HDAM® SA3) delivers pinpoint accuracy and control under high-drive conditions. And to really gild the lily, Marantz's Sound Master spent hours testing and tuning the Model 30's output to ensure that it reveals exquisite detail and musicality.

Details

  • 100 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (200 watts x 2 into 4 ohms)
  • separate phono input with high-grade RCA terminals for turntables with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges
  • adjustable impedance for low-, medium-, and high-output MC cartridges
  • Source Direct mode bypasses tone control circuits for cleaner sound
  • high-current double-shielded toroidal power transformer for smooth handling of demanding speaker loads
  • Sound Master tuning reveals exquisite detail and musicality
  • 4 standard stereo RCA audio inputs
  • dedicated CD input with high-grade RCA terminals
  • front-panel full-size 1/4" headphone jack

Budget-friendly alternative

If you have a treasure trove of favorite records, and like to have flexibility in what type of cartridge you use on your turntable, the Denon PMA-800NE is a great choice. Its built-in phono preamplifier is compatible with moving coil and moving magnet cartridges, which is rare at this price point.

The amp does have a nice DAC in it, and connections for digital sources, plus a Pure Analog setting that disables its digital circuitry. Stop Mode deactivates the microprocessor when it's not in use for a lower noise floor.

What our customers say about the Model 30:

244I35PRTI-PRIMARE-integrated-amplifier

Best for playing hi-res audio files — Primare I35 Prisma

I'm differentiating this from our streaming champ above — I'm choosing the Primare I25 Prisma for its facility with high-resolution audio files downloaded to a computer or external hard drive, or encoded on a compact disc.

It has multiple digital inputs, which benefit from the built-in high-performance AKM AK4497EQ DAC. It's compatible with all of the file formats audiophiles favor, and it can absolutely do justice to your analog and streaming sources, too.

Details

  • 150 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (300 watts x 2 into 4 ohms)
  • premium AKM AK4497EQ DAC (PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz; DSD up to 11.2MHz)
  • compatible file types: WAV, LPCM, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, MP4 (AAC), WMA, OGG, and DSD
  • built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Apple AirPlay and Chromecast built-in
  • 4 Toslink optical and 2 coaxial digital inputs
  • USB Type-A and Type B inputs for digital sources like thumb drives, NAS drives, and computers
  • 2 stereo balanced XLR analog inputs
  • 3 stereo unbalanced RCA analog inputs
  • dual Ethernet ports for connecting to a home network

Budget-friendly alternative

This may sound funny, but if you can get by without the sheer power of the I35 Prisma and fewer inputs, the Primare I15 Prisma offers the same high level of performance, and the USB connections I find indispensible for listening to high-resolution music files. It's a one-box solution for most people's digital music needs.

Our expert's take on the Primare I35 Prisma:

Need help deciding?

Our friendly, knowledgeable Advisors can help you narrow down your choices to find the perfect integrated amplifier for your unique circumstances. Contact us today.

And don't forget, free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 10/26/2021
  • Barry Murphy from Huntingdon TN

    Posted on 6/12/2021

    I just picked up a pair of Klipsch R-41m. My room is 14x20. My main purpose is adding this speakers to my TV for music videos on my DVD. I need your suggestion for an amp/receiver. Thanks

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 6/15/2021

    Barry - The Klipsch speakers are pretty efficient, and you're not trying to fill a huge room, so you have lots of options. Seems to me that the ability to connect the TV is the most important feature, and I'm going to assume you need one with HDMI inputs for that purpose. Any of the three listed in that link would be a great choice. Thanks for asking!
  • Suroosh

    Posted on 4/19/2021

    Hi Eric, I just bought a pair of B&W 606 S2s and looking to get an amp to pair! I'm debating between the Arcam SA10 and the Rotel A12. Possibly also the Marantz pm7007. What do you recommend? I'll be using a bluesound node to stream and routing my TV through optical. Thanks!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 4/20/2021

    Suroosh - You would probably be happy with any of these, but I give the edge to Rotel. I've been impressed with how they build their components, and since we've had them on the site, customers who have used them at home seem to agree. That's my choice! Hope you enjoy, thanks for getting in touch.
  • Bruce McLeod

    Posted on 4/16/2021

    I see this is several months old, and I didn't dig into each spec, but why don't there seem to be any Class D integrated amps. There are plenty of good D power amps, why haven't they made inroads into the integrated market? Seems to be a perfect fit for a smaller size package with less heat and lower power consumption.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 4/19/2021

    Bruce - I can only speculate as to why specific manufacturers make the choices they do, but in general I get the sense that the amp designers prefer A and AB, and they get the final say on the pieces they design. Recently we started carrying Rotel, and they make a very compelling case for using A and AB together in their components. But when it comes right down to it, it's their call as to what they think best balances sound quality/size/heat concerns.
  • Jeffrey truman from Windsor, on

    Posted on 2/28/2021

    I found your article very informative. Im going to reread it again to better understand your opinions. I'm currently wanting to purchase a high end integrated amp. 10-15 thousand or more if there's a logical reason. And I also want to upgrade my speakers. In your opinion, if I were to spend ten thousand on an integrated amp, how much should I spend on speakers? I'm thinking 15 thousand. Currently I own a marantz sr5004 receiver, paradigm monitor 9 s.7 speakers and a mackie hrs 120 subwoofer. I know they aren't anything special but they've done a great job. I use decent cables and wires for everything and I know I'll have to upgrade them too. I'm thinking of not using a subwoofer with my next stereo because I think my next set of speakers should be at a level where a subwoofer isn't needed. On a side note I'm not a fan of surround sound. My two fronts and subwoofer is all I need for movies and I listen to music through them more than I use them for movies/tv. I have a b&w center speaker and b&w rears but don't use them. I still have my b&w dm603 fronts but in a different room for my wife's stereo in her reading/relaxing room...lol. Sorry for the long winded comment but I don't have any friends that have the knowledge needed for this.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/1/2021

    Jeffrey - Your budget certainly sounds sensible, because I think the speakers are where "the rubber meets the road" in that they produce what your ears are hearing when you listen. If I could recommend one speaker we carry that I think will do exactly what you want, it's the MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9. I may be biased, because I grew up in the town where MartinLogan is headquartered, but I've been listening to them for decades as they evolve, and I'm always blown away. I also like that they have 8" woofers built-in, which fits with your desire to avoid adding a separate subwoofer. Think it over, and if you have further questions, one of our Advisors would be more than happy to talk it over via phone or chat. Thanks for the interesting question!
  • Dale

    Posted on 1/31/2021

    I always see an ARCAM product on your page but never hear much about them from you, why is that?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 2/1/2021

    Dale - There are always a number of great components to choose from in a "best of" article, and the ultimate choice is naturally somewhat subjective. I think very highly of Arcam products and we explore their virtues when we write the individual product pages. Suffice to say we hold Arcam in very high esteem around here.
  • Stewart Pinkerton

    Posted on 1/12/2021

    No Yamaha? Bwahahahaha

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 1/13/2021

    Stewart - This is a valid point, because I love the Yamaha integrated amps. This has been a weird year, with COVID disrupting the supply chain, and most of them are on backorder right now, so I didn't want to raise expectations and then say "sorry, you can't have it!" But yes, they're dynamite.
  • Robert Hoffman from San Diego California

    Posted on 1/2/2021

    Guy's! This is crap..Don't you have anything above 100watts? At least 250 per channel or I'm not buying.

  • Dylan Hunt

    Posted on 12/24/2020

    No Sprout 100, no value.

  • Steve from Cleveland

    Posted on 12/23/2020

    Why is there always an Arcam at the start of your page but you never talk about how great they are? What is this a bait and switch article?

  • GarageRat from NYC

    Posted on 11/20/2020

    Hard No on the Denon..