An amplifier is the powerhouse of your hi-fi system, and whether you want a stripped-out minimalist design or one with all the bells and whistles, here's our current list of favourites

It's the heart of your hi-fi system; the engine that drives your music from source to speakers, and amplifies the signal so it sounds loud and proud.

Hi-fi stereo amplifiers were unchanged for decades, their analogue connections favouring music played on CD players and turntables. But with laptops, smartphones and streaming services gaining ground as music sources, the stereo amp has had to evolve, with built-in DACs (digital-to-analogue converters), USB connections and wireless streaming capability now becoming increasingly important.

Don't become obsessed by power figures when buying an amplifier – more power doesn't necessarily mean better sound. A relatively low-powered amp can still sound sweet with the right speakers, and unless you intend to play your system at party levels all the time, it's important to pay just as much attention to attributes such as timing, dynamics, precision, control and the amp's ability to handle music well across the entire frequency range.

Up to £400
Marantz PM6005
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Our new budget amp Best Buy, the £300 Marantz sets the bar even higher than its illustrious PM6004 predecessor, and it's equipped for the digital age too.

£500-£800
Arcam FMJ A19
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Product of the Year, Awards 2013. With the correct partners, this is a wonderfully talented amplifier.

£800-£1500
Naim Nait 5si
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Best stereo amplifier £800-£1500, Awards 2013. An assured performer, which offers detail, precision and energy by the bucketload.

£1500+
Roksan Caspian M2
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Best stereo amp £1500+, Awards 2013. It's had a re-design, but Roksan's Caspian M2 is still a formidable amplifier, and we like this latest version.