UPDATE 2021 MAY: The following article has been edited to further adhere to the standards of the word “budget”. We’ve gone ahead and compiled a new line-up of products so that this guide appeals to those who are looking for a realistic budget stereo amplifier, not just the audiophiles but everyone else.
Back in the day, if you had a lot of gear lying around it’s easy to tell that you are an audiophile. However, technology is all about making things more accessible and removing clutter. People owned a powerful pair of speakers/headphones, a stereo receiver, a pre-amp that let them choose inputs/change volume, and a power amplifier that drives the audio device.
Fortunately, you do not need all of that to enjoy a good listening experience today. A great pair of speakers or headphones and a stereo amplifier is all most people will ever want. Modern home stereo amplifiers replace the purpose of all of the things we mentioned in the previous paragraph. However, these products can get expensive, as is common in the realm of high-quality audio gear.
A stereo amplifier adds detail and loudness to low power sources. This is a must-have if you are using headphones or speakers with your blu-ray player, turntable, desktop setup, etc. It allows you to drive headphones and speakers with better and louder sound.
Our Recommendations For The Best Budget Stereo Amplifiers In 2021
So, while buying a stereo amplifier isn’t exactly easy (especially on a budget), we’ve tried to make the process easier for you. After a lot of extensive research, below are some of the best budget stereo amplifiers worth buying in 2021.
Marantz is not a new name, in fact, it has cemented itself time and time again in the audio world. The PM6xxx series has been very popular when it comes to budget stereo amplifiers. While this one is more expensive than its predecessors, that is for a good reason. This is perhaps the most well-rounded stereo amplifier the company has put out yet.
As you can guess, the PM6006 is the successor to the well-received PM6005. It retains most of the same internals as the pre-amp and power-amp components. No circuits interrupt the path of the signal, and that’s what makes the components discrete. Marantz did a lot of fine-tuning with this amp, and you can definitely notice the subtle changes in audio with most tracks. It is smoother, more detailed, and in a sense, more refined.
Other than that, the PM6006 is a modest upgrade to its predecessor. It gets a second optical input this time around as well. The feet at the bottom are better, as they help in reducing unwanted vibrations. Furthermore, it features an improved power supply and extra metal housing. This limits the impact of the digital stage on the analog signal, something purists will appreciate.
Of course, the sound quality will vary depending on what headphones/speakers you use with it. To our ears, this stereo amplifier sounds charming and elegant. It’s not afraid to boast its clean representation of music, with some refined details added into the mix. It will sound great to both newcomers and veterans of the audio world. No complaints in terms of sound. You can revel in the nuances of whatever track you are playing through this.
It also has a bevy of I/O, which is essential for any good stereo amplifier. The build quality is solid, and it doesn’t take all that much space. The only problem is that it lacks Bluetooth connectivity. Other than that, we have little to no complaints with the PM6006.
NAD Electronics is a Canadian audio company with headquarters near Toronto. They have a team of enthusiastic audio engineers that are trying to make Hi-Fi audio equipment accessible to more people. The brand is renowned for its cost-friendly and dependable audio gear. All of their products focus on quality rather than quantity. The NAD C 316BEE is a prime example of that purpose.
One look at this stereo amplifier and you know that it means business. It has that sort of all-business and no-nonsense look to it. The company took a pragmatic approach with the design, and we know a lot of folks are going to love it. The industrial look means that this amplifier is sleek and stealthy. It’s also quite slim, which is unlike other stereo amplifiers. There is no display here either, so it’s really going for a minimal approach.
The latest version also includes a phono preamp built inside. Connectivity options include five level inputs, all of which are powered by what NAD calls their PowerDrive power amplifier. It also includes a headphone jack for people who prefer to get their audio through a good pair of headphones. The main volume knob is large and feels excellent.
You also get a remote with this entire package too. This happens to be one of the best-sounding amps under $500. It can drive any speakers or headphones with ease and really brings them to life in the process. Don’t let the RMS power fall you, this thing can get quite loud if need be. In fact, it outperforms other amps that are louder on paper. It also sounds cleaner than some of those options.
Overall, this is a great choice to go for if you don’t want to break the bank. The best part is that you might not even need to upgrade for a good period of time. The only thing missing here is Bluetooth, which means you’ll need to buy a separate Bluetooth receiver.
This is by far one of the most popular stereo amplifiers out there. It is also the most well-rounded on this list. While the above two options are excellent, we think this one will appeal to the general population more. This is because of the good sound quality, Bluetooth support, and appealing price tag. It also helps that Yamaha is a name that everyone recognizes.
This Yamaha receiver/amplifier combo is going to appeal to the masses. Why? Because it has a lot of modern features that a lot of other audio brands don’t focus on. This means it supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Amazon Alexa, and more. It also works directly with streaming services thank a separate app that you can download. It also has a lot of inputs and has a lot of power.
The sound quality is quite good for the price. It’s not going to replace your tube amps or thousand-dollar equipment, but it’s not trying to. The people buying a stereo amplifier at this price won’t care either. The audio is clean, well-balanced, and pleasant to the ears. You can’t ask for more at this price point. Build quality is also quite solid, and it’s good that it has Phono as well as optical inputs.
So, what’s the catch? Well, there are two reasons why some of the enthusiast-grade audio gear does not support modern features. The first reason is sound quality, as purists always want to play their own local files. Things like Bluetooth might not better to them as much as pure performance.
The second reason is that this stuff can be difficult to set up. For this amplifier, you need to download an app called MusicCast to take advantage of streaming features. Setting up Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is not exactly easy either. However, that’s a price worth paying for someone who needs good sound and all the features in a budget stereo amplifier.
Sony has sold a lot of units of this solid stereo receiver. The STRDH190 is a great example of what happens when you nail the basics. While it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the pricier competitors, it just so happens that it’s more appealing to someone who just needs a solid unit all-around. It also helps that the unit comes in at a very appealing price point.
It needs to be said that this stereo amplifier is not aiming at or marketing to audiophiles. That’s not who this product is for. It’s more so for families that want a decent audio setup in their living room. The STRDH190 is perfect for that purpose. The sound quality is rich and warm, with plenty of bass and treble. For average living rooms, it’s quite powerful.
Just don’t go expecting this unit to pair well with extremely high-end speakers. It will get the job done, but won’t be able to really bring them to life. It’s for the person that wants to pair their iPhone with Bluetooth and wireless stream music from their devices. Needless to say, that person isn’t exactly a raging audio enthusiast.
Other than that, it is a solid unit for the price. If you are looking for subwoofer outputs, DTS processing, or digital inputs, then you’re looking at the wrong product. If all you want is a decent-sounding stereo amplifier that won’t break the bank and is reliable, this is one most people should go for.
Our last pick is for the folks who want to spend the least amount of money they can, while still getting a clean signal from their source. Fortunately, Fosi Audio comes to the rescue in this situation. The tiny BT20A Stereo Amplifier doesn’t look like all that much, but it packs clean and pleasant audio inside. For this price, that’s more than what we could ask for.
Fosi Audio is really trying to appeal to the masses with this product. They know most people will prefer the convenience of Bluetooth over a wired connection. This is why this tiny amplifier supports Bluetooth 5.0 and has a rock-solid connection as well. It also packs quite the punch for such a tiny stereo amplifier. It’s great for a small living room or even for a desktop setup.
With all of that said, just remember to adjust your expectations accordingly with the price. This is quite a cheap stereo amplifier after all. Drawbacks include the lack of extra inputs and the fact that there is a bit of distortion at higher volumes. If you don’t max out volume all the time, this should not be too much of an issue.
Budget Stereo Amplifiers- FAQs
When choosing a stereo amplifier you need to consider budget, performance, sound quality, and the number of inputs. When you’re on a budget, you have to pick your battles. For example, one amplifier might have a lot of inputs but it may be lacking in sound quality. You need to know what features and aspects are more important to your use case.
There is no real objective answer to this one. Generally, when the price goes up in the audio world, it is because of better internals that cost more money. This is what makes a real difference when it comes to sound quality. While higher-end amplifiers will sound better at times, it depends on factors such as the components used, the fine-tuning, and the sound signature. Brand image and recognition also come into play here. You do not want to underpower your equipment, which is a mistake newcomers often make. So, you want to spend a good bit on speakers, but buy an amp that fits your budget and can provide plenty of oomph to your gear.
Here’s the thing: there’s no magic ratio when it comes to spending money on an amp and speakers. Generally, you want to spend the most you can afford on speakers. They will make the biggest impact on sound quality. As for the amp, it’s important to get something that can easily power your gear.
This is something many newcomers ask themselves. The simple answer is yes, amplifiers improve sound quality and the difference can be massive. This is because it increases the power headroom of the audio system. A good amp will allow you to listen to tracks at higher volumes without distortion. This is what people usually mean when they say amps improve sound quality. Depending on the unit, some can even change the sound signature.