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Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best stereo amplifiers you can buy in 2020.

Stereo amplifiers aren't as simple and stripped back as they used to be. The days of equipping them with just analogue inputs and outputs, and a pair of speaker terminals, is now no longer the norm.

With laptops, smartphones and streaming services becoming ever-more popular music sources, the stereo amplifier has moved with the times. Many now contain built-in digital-to-analogue converters (DACs), phono stages for turntables, USB connections and Bluetooth streaming functionality. Some even have network streaming integrated.

We've rounded up a wide selection of the best stereo amplifiers on the market, offering a vast selection of features across a range of prices. We're confident there should be something to suit all budgets and requirements, and get your music system singing.

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Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

1. Cambridge Audio CXA81

One of the best stereo amplifiers you can buy right now.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 80W per channel | Remote control: No | Phono stage: n/a | Digital inputs: S/PDIF coaxial, Toslink | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: aptX HD receiver built-in | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 11.5 x 4.3 x 34.1cm

Reasons to Buy

Strong presentation
Great timing
Awesome detail

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this price

Despite some minor cosmetic tweaks, the CXA81 might look a lot like its predecessor, the CXA80, but all the improvements are where it counts: on the inside. 

Cambridge Audio's engineers have upgraded the signal path, as well as the capacitors in both the preamp and power amp sections. Also on board is a new DAC and an improved USB input that supports hi-res audio. 

What does this all mean? It means there's a world of difference when it comes to performance. It's as punchy as anything, with a bold, powerful sound. Yet detail is never sacrificed, and it's lean and agile enough to handle anything you can throw at it. 

Add in the addition of aptX Bluetooth for wireless playback, and you've got the best stereo amplifier around at this price and a very worthy 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award-winner. It sets a new standard for amps in this price bracket - one we can't see being surpassed any time soon.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXA81

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

2. Marantz PM6006 UK Edition

An outstanding and affordable Marantz stereo amplifier.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 45W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 10.5 x 44 x 37cm

Reasons to Buy

Smooth and insightful delivery
Dynamically expressive
Decent set of digital connections

Reasons to Avoid

No USB input
No Bluetooth

Marantz has managed to take a standard PM6006 and make some small but telling improvements. That's not to say the original had any major faults, but this UK Edition brings even more focus and detail to the party. 

It sounds noticeably cleaner and crisper than its predecessor, with the improvements in the midrange particularly striking - it's a lot more solid, helping the sound hang together as a more cohesive whole.

It matches its predecessor’s legacy connections, with four line-level inputs, a phono stage, 6.3mm headphone port and tape loop for recording. Also present and correct are the same 24-bit/192kHz support and its predecessor’s single coaxial input. Bluetooth and USB are, however, conspicuous by their absence. Still, it all helps keep the price down. And you can connect a laptop to its coaxial inputs using an adaptor, if you really need it.

The lack of Bluetooth or a USB input might be important to some, but this amp should slot effortlessly into any decent budget hi-fi set-up. It's another 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award winner.

Read the full review: Marantz PM6006 UK Edition

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Naim)

3. Naim Nait XS 3

This third-generation Naim stereo amp is better than ever.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 70W | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: n/a | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 7 x 43 x 40cm

Reasons to Buy

Dynamic sound
Decent MM phono stage
Able to be upgraded

Reasons to Avoid

Bettered for features

This is the third-generation instalment of a model first introduced in 2008. The XS 3 adds a moving magnet phono stage and better responsiveness, and that's about it. If that sounds negative, it shouldn't – the XS 3 is a killer stereo amp, earning a well-deserved five stars, and picking up a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award for its trouble. 

Why? Attention. To. Detail. Open it up and you'll see what we mean - there's immaculately assembled audio circuitry, with fantastic care shown in reducing the degrading effect of outside interference and unwanted interactions between components.

And it shows. The sound is much crisper and more agile than its forebears, thanks in no small part to this exacting eye for detail (it even goes as far as the shape of the connecting wiring and the exact number and placement of tie clips holding it in place). It might not be enough of a difference to justify upgrading from its predecessor, but it still makes for an awesome amp nonetheless.

So not a massive change, as we say. But if it ain't broke...

Read the full review: Naim Nait XS 3

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

4. Cambridge Audio CXA61

The CXA81's younger sibling is very impressive indeed.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 60W per channel | Remote control: No | Phono stage: n/a | Digital inputs: S/PDIF coaxial, Toslink | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: aptX HD receiver built-in | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 11.5 x 4.3 x 34.1cm

Reasons to Buy

Detailed, dynamic audio
Stacked feature set
Great build quality

Reasons to Avoid

Pricier than the previous model

The CXA61 is the lower-specced stablemate to the CXA81 at the top of this list, and successor to the CXA60, a winner of multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards. So it's in good company. 

Thankfully, it doesn't let the side down: it has the same digital inputs and Bluetooth capabilities as the CXA81, but only outputs at 60W per channel instead of 80W, giving you less power. But for most listening scenarios, that won't be a deal breaker. 

What's more important is the sound quality. And we're happy to report it's a real step on from the CXA60, being more transparent and fun, but always staying composed even when the music gets frantic. It's a presentation style that works well across a wide range of musical genres and speakers, and should please all but the most demanding of listeners. If that's you, you'll have to spend a little more to satisfy your audio taste buds.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXA61

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

5. Rega Brio

A talented amplifier, with bags of detail, precision and dynamics.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 50W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: No | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 7.8 x 21.6 x 34.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Detail and dynamics to die for
Agile and rhythmic presentation
Good headphone output

Reasons to Avoid

No digital inputs

If it's heritage you want, the Rega Brio has it in abundance. The original Brio launched in 1991, when Bryan Adams was topping the charts with (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. And it wears its heritage on its sleeve, with a redesign that harks back to those earlier models.

It's now in its sixth generation, and we had to wait six long years for this model to touch down. Thankfully, it was worth it.

It takes audio performance to a whole new level at the money, making it the kind of amplifier we want to leave on and play our entire music collection through. Again and again. 

Yes, your main inputs are limited to standard RCA sockets and a moving magnet phono stage, but we're willing to overlook this, given the amp's amazing sense of musicality. It sounds terrifically fluid with precision and scale in spades. In fact, almost anything you play on it will sound amazing. Even Bryan Adams.

Read the full review: Rega Brio

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

6. Onkyo A-9010

One of the best stereo amplifiers for a tight budget.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 44W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: No | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 12.9 x 43.5 x 33.2cm

Reasons to Buy

Entertaining sound
Excellent timing and dynamics
Articulate and expressive midrange

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this price

Onkyo is best known for its AV receivers, but this two-channel musical maestro arrived as one of the strongest performers in its product portfolio. 

The company chose to tune the A-9010 in the UK, which turned out to be a shrewd move. Because inside its rather plain-looking exterior is a plethora of smart design decisions, chief among them the lack of a DAC. Instead, Onkyo focused on improving other elements of the innards.

It paid off handsomely. This is a captivating and musical performance, a nicely balanced sound, with strong dynamics and superb timing. Whatever you listen to will sweep you away.

Admittedly the lack of a DAC does limit its feature set somewhat. But it does help keep the price down. Brilliant budget amplifiers are few and far between, but the Onkyo A-9010 really sticks out as one of the best we've heard in recent years. 

There's a reason it's won three successive What Hi-Fi? Awards since its debut in 2015. Fire it up and you'll hear what we mean.

Read the full review: Onkyo A-9010

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Naim)

7. Naim Supernait 3

A brilliant premium integrated amplifier.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 80W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: No | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 8.7 x 43 x 31.4cm

Reasons to Buy

Punchy and dynamic sound
Excellent rhythmic drive
Sonic authority
Upgrade potential

Reasons to Avoid

No digital inputs

This is another amp with some serious pedigree. This third-gen model doesn't break any moulds, but then it doesn't have to. A slight improvement on its predecessor would be enough to make it one of the best around in its category.

And that's exactly what we have here. Changes over the previous version are limited to the addition of a (good quality) moving magnet phono stage and a tweak in the power amplifier section. It makes the Supernait a little more useful and a little bit better. But such was the quality of its predecessor that that's enough to keep the Supernait at the cutting edge at this level.

Some may baulk at the lack of digital inputs, but these can harshen the analogue performance. And they never sound as good as a dedicated outboard unit like a Chord Mojo. So we support Naim's decision to keep it strictly analogue.

It certainly shows when it comes to sound quality. In fact, we can't think of a more talented alternative when it comes to punch, dynamics and rhythmic drive.

Read the full review: Naim Supernait 3

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

8. Cambridge AXA35

Cambridge Audio's latest budget amplifier strikes gold.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 35W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: No | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 8.3 x 43 x 33.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Punchy, precise sound
Good detail resolution
Expressive midrange

Reasons to Avoid

Remote struggles off-axis
No Bluetooth

Let's be honest, the world of budget stereo amplifiers isn’t exactly brimming with superstar products. So when we come across something as talented as Cambridge’s AXA35 we’re especially pleased.

This is a well-built, cleanly styled product that packs all the essentials. True, we’d like to see Bluetooth as well as a couple of physical digital inputs, but we’re willing to overlook such things when the amplifier is as sonically capable as this. And if you have a budget turntable, you can take advantage of its built-in moving magnet phono stage.

The AXA35 delivers a bold and composed sound that practically overflows with detail. It’s an even-handed performer that’s as happy playing a large-scale Mahler symphony as it is Jay-Z’s latest, along with everything in between. And when it comes to rhythmic drive and dynamic expression, few alternatives do better. 

At this price, you really can't ask for more.

Read the full review: Cambridge AXA35

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

9. NAD D3020 V2

It’s difficult not to love this spruced-up version of a classic NAD amplifier.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 60W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: No | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 18.6 x 5.8 x 21.9cm

Reasons to Buy

Full-bodied performance
Fine timing and dynamics
Phono stage

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing really at this price

If you want an interesting alternative to the Marantz mentioned above, then we suggest the NAD D 3020 V2. It has a smaller design, and the fact it can stand upright means it's more versatile with positioning. 

The NAD is also packed with useful features. There's Bluetooth for offline streaming and a moving magnet phono stage for connecting a turntable. Which give you far more options when it comes to audio sources. Plus you get optical, coaxial and RCA connections, along with a subwoofer out for adding lashings of bass.

And if this wasn't enough, it's an enjoyable listen too. Dynamics and timing are up there with the best, while detail levels are impressive for this class. Even if the Marantz does pip it for all-round sound quality, this NAD more than makes up for it in terms of features and ease of use. Definitely one for your shortlist.

Read the full review: NAD D 3020 V2

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

10. Audiolab 6000A

A hugely capable stereo amplifier for the money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 100W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: No | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 6.5 x 44.5 x 30cm

Reasons to Buy

Clear, refined and articulate sound
Big, spacious presentation
Good spread of features

Reasons to Avoid

Fierce competition

Arguably, this is the only stereo amplifier at this price capable of troubling the Rega Brio (at no.6). So needless to say the Audiolab 6000A is a very accomplished performer. 

It's well-equipped on the connections front - four digital inputs, three analogue inputs, and a pair of moving magnet phono inputs. Add Bluetooth and a headphone output to the equation and you've got a list of options the Rega simply can't match. 

So how does it sound? Very good indeed. Though considering it uses technology derived from the top-of-the-range 8300A series, and the same DAC chip as the Award-winning Audiolab M-DAC, its prestige audio quality comes as no surprise. 

The 6000A's open and airy presentation gives music plenty of room to breathe and there's bags of refinement on offer too. It's clean and articulate, with a gorgeous sense of clarity and an absolute tonne of detail to get your teeth into. Take it from us, the 6000A doesn't disappoint.

Read the full review: Audiolab 6000A

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

11. Copland CTA408

A classy-looking, valve-powered amplifier with the sound to match.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 150W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM/MC | Digital inputs: No | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 22 x 43.5 x 46cm

Reasons to Buy

Expertly balanced, detailed sound
Sensational dynamics
Impressive build

Reasons to Avoid

Needs care in speaker matching
Hefty unit

If you're looking for a solid piece of hi-fi kit, you've just found it. The CTA408 is a chunky (25kg) integrated valve amplifier with distinctive control dials that have a satisfyingly crisp action. Everything about it screams quality.

Connectivity includes four pairs of analogue inputs, a choice of speaker outputs (4ohms and 8ohms) and there's even a headphone output, which is unusual to see in a valve amp. The CTA408 can also accommodate moving coil and moving magnet cartridges. 

That's not to say it's without its faults. There are no digital inputs to play with, nor is there any wireless connectivity. Which could curtail your sonic ambitions somewhat.

Sonically, the Copland delivers across the board and takes a lovely balanced approach to music. It's a fluid and dynamic listen with instruments and vocals all blessed with texture and detail. You'll need to take some care when it comes to system matching, but this is still one seriously talented stereo amp.

Read the full review: Copland CTA408

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

12. Rega Elex-R

At double the price, the Rega Elex-R would still impress.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 72W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 10.5 x 44 x 37cm

Reasons to Buy

Agile and articulate performer
Fine rhythmic ability
Good phono stage

Reasons to Avoid

Remote control could be classier

This is another amazing (and multi-Award-winning) stereo amplifier from Rega. 

The Elex-R builds on the strengths of the excellent Brio (see earlier in this article), doubling down in areas such as detail, dynamics and timing. Think of the Brio on steroids, and you're pretty much there.

The build quality is as solid as we would expect from Rega, and while the casework is functional rather than luxurious, it’s finished neatly and everything feels like it will last for years. In fact, our unit has been beavering away in our test room for three years and counting, and we're yet to encounter any issues.

We'd avoid sources and speakers that err too far towards brightness or harshness, but otherwise this amp can't fail to shine. The power output of 72W isn’t enough to make the floor shake in really large rooms, but most set-ups should benefit from this amp's many abilities. A great addition to almost any system.

Read the full review: Rega Elex-R

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

13. Moon 240i

Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy - as a famous man once sang.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 50W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 3.5 x 42.9 x 36.6cm

Reasons to Buy

Smooth, subtle and dynamic
Rhythmically cohesive
Agile, precise timing

Reasons to Avoid

Not the most muscular sound

If it's smoothness, subtlety and sophistication that you're after in a stereo amp, then the Moon 240i has you covered. It's Moon's entry-level integrated amp, though that certainly doesn't mean it comes cheap – Moon is one of those high-end audio brands whose cheapest products are still out of the reach of many. But it's a credit to itself that it looks and behaves like something pricier still.

The curvy silver edges and two-tone effect give the amp serious presence, while the OLED screen is crisp and clear. It sounds like a serious piece of kit, too. Bass notes have a level of detail often missed even by pricier amps, but the 240i doesn't feel the need to shout about it. It's an understated, yet terrifically talented, amplifier - one that puts subtlety and dynamism to the fore.

The Moon also boasts an asynchronous DAC, which supports hi-res files up to an impressive 32-bit/384kHz as well as DSD256 files.

Read the full review: Moon 240i

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

14. Roksan Blak integrated amplifier

A true stereo amp all-rounder and a worthy investment.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 150W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: USB | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 14 x 44 x 30.9cm

Reasons to Buy

Big, powerful and enjoyable sound
Insight and refinement
Solid feature list

Reasons to Avoid

Some eccentricities in use
No coax or optical inputs

Great product, annoying name. But let's overlook the deliberate misspelling and focus on this amp's positive points. It's a fully-featured all-rounder that works superbly with a wide range of systems and across all types of musical genres. 

There's plenty of connectivity, too, with balanced XLRs, single-ended line-level inputs, a moving magnet phono stage for traditionalists and a USB Type B that can cope with all manner of high-res music files. There's even aptX HD Bluetooth on board. That means you can connect it to your computer, smartphone, turntable and headphones, which is certainly a lot more versatile than some amps.

Design-wise, it's a world away from minimalist. But when it comes to audio quality, the Roksan boasts impressive muscularity and enthusiasm, with plenty of scale and a lovely soundstage. It’s a stable presentation, the instruments staying locked in place even as complexity rises. Superbly judged, with a powerful and energetic sound.

Read the full review: Roksan Blak integrated amplifier

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

15. Musical Fidelity M2si

Short on features but still a superb stereo amplifier.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 60W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: None | Digital inputs: None | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: No | Dimensions (hwd): 10 x 44 x 40cm

Reasons to Buy

Expansive and fluid sound
Impressive dynamics
Refined yet muscular performance

Reasons to Avoid

Line level unit only
No headphone out

Let's start with the negatives. The Musical Fidelity M2si doesn't have the features list of most rivals – there are no digital connections, no phono stage and no wireless connectivity. In fact, it's one of the most stripped-back amplifiers we've ever tested. But that means every penny you spend on it goes straight to making a great-sounding amplifier. 

So what do you get for your money? There's a remote control, six line level inputs, including a tape loop and a home cinema bypass option to help integration into a surround system. It feels better built than many rivals, too, while the simple, clean cut design will appeal to many. 

Sound-wise, its performance is massively refined and pleasantly entertaining, and leaves plenty of scope for upgrades. It's a large-scale sound, packed with authority and substance. It images very well, and dynamic expression is another strong point.

In short, a superb all-rounder. Whatever you throw at it, it never disappoints.

Read the full review: Musical Fidelity M2si

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

16. NAD D 3045

A feature-packed stereo amp with an enjoyable easy-going sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 80W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 23.5 x 7 x 26.5cm

Reasons to Buy

Nicely balanced sound
Good timing
Versatile design and features

Reasons to Avoid

Lacks a little energy

If the D 3045 looks a little familiar, it could be due to the fact its sibling, the D3020 V2 features higher up this list (at spot no.9). Besides its eye-catching vertical orientation, the 3045 boasts a virtually identical set of features, including the use of NAD's D-series hybrid digital amplifiers, an Asynchronous USB input and Bluetooth aptX.

So what's different? There's double the power of its predecessor (2 x 60W), housed in a slightly more premium package. But other than that, you'll be glad to hear not much has changed.

It's a fine-sounding amp. It has a charming and likeable sonic character aided by excellent timing and a fine sense of weight. The balance is smooth, with plenty of detail across the frequency range, and despite its wealth of connections - both wired and wireless - no compromises are immediately evident.

Admittedly we'd like a little more excitement, but the NAD is still a solid buy for the money.

Read the full review: NAD D 3045

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

17. Luxman L-509X

It's got the build. Better, it's got the VU meters. Best, it sounds superb.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 120W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM/MC | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: No | Bluetooth: No | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 19.3 x 44 x 46.3cm

Reasons to Buy

Detailed, cohesive and powerful
Excellent build and finish
Generous range of features

Reasons to Avoid

Headphone output could be better

This might be an integrated amplifier, but it really is more like a separate pre- and power amplifier in a single box rather than a compromised electrical design. Build quality is excellent. Thanks to its impressive power amp circuitry, this is an amplifier that will have no trouble driving difficult speakers to high volume levels. In other words, it's right up our alley.

It might take a while to fully appreciate its understated presentation. But give it time, and come to appreciate it you will. This is a neutral, balanced delivery, served up with a stunning sense of purity and transparency. And we’re particularly impressed with the way this amplifier can deliver deep bass with such texture, agility and power. Those difficult speakers we mentioned? They'll shake the room when pushed to high volumes.

If you’re looking for a one-stop amplification solution for a high-end stereo system, this Luxman is an excellent place to start.

Read the full review: Luxman L-509X

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Mark Levinson)

18. Mark Levinson No.5805

A premium stereo amplifier with a mature sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 250W | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: Yes | Digital inputs: x2 optical, coaxial, 2x USB | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: Yes | Dimensions (hwd): 15 x 44 x 51cm

Reasons to Buy

Crisp, refined and articulate sound
Well specified
aptX HD Bluetooth
Pleasing build

Reasons to Avoid

Faces tough competition

Mark Levinson is one of the most prestigious brands in the high-end amplification space. The firm helped establish the era of high-end hi-fi in the 1970s, and is still one of its leading proponents.

So the No.5805 has quite some legacy to live up to. It's the company's entry-level model (not that you'd know it, from the price tag), and is pretty well equipped on both the analogue and digital front: you get three analogue line-level inputs, including a balanced XLR, alongside a quartet of physical digital connections. There’s a choice of USB, coax and a pair of opticals and a nod to wireless modernity in the form of aptX HD Bluetooth.

Its sound doesn’t grab the attention as firmly or as quickly as some rivals in this list, but over time you can't help but fall for its many charms. The amp's presentation is refined, insightful and dynamic, while the feature set is admirably broad and useful. If you’re in the market for a premium integrated amplifier then the No.5805 is definitely one to consider.

Read the full review: Mark Levinson No.5805

Best stereo amplifiers 2020: budget and premium

(Image credit: Krell)

19. Krell K-300i

A hugely talented - and hugely pricey - integrated amp.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 900W | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: n/a | Digital inputs: optical, coaxial, 2x HDMI, 2x USB | USB: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Headphone output: No | Dimensions (hwd): 10 x 44 x 46cm

Reasons to Buy

Brilliantly punchy
Loud
Fantastic range of inputs

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more ergonomic

Clean, brutal, clinical... one look at this amp and you know it's a Krell. 

A peek around the back will also put a smile on your face - there's a huge range of inputs, both digital and analogue, including USB, coaxial, optical and HDMI if you want to use it for your TV's sound. And it supports all major streaming services, such as Spotify and Tidal. So while it might be pricey, we can't think of a similarly-priced rival that's as well equipped.

It's not without its niggles. The tiny button controls could be more ergonomic, and not require a PhD to work out, but the remote control solves that. And you're far more likely to use that anyway.

The Krell is superbly built, and sounds fantastic, able to quickly organise an immense amount of information and present it with class-leading stability and control. Rarely have we come across an integrated amplifier that sounds so composed, regardless of the complexity of the recording.

If you've got the money, you should go for it, no questions asked. Just don't lose the remote.

Read the full review: Krell K-300i

  • davidf
    Massive lack of Hegel amps (particularly as one reviewer rated the H390 above two more expensive amps on that list), as well as YBA and Norma Audio which would easily compete with most on that list.
    Reply
  • Dadas
    davidf said:
    Massive lack of Hegel amps (particularly as one reviewer rated the H390 above two more expensive amps on that list), as well as YBA and Norma Audio which would easily compete with most on that list.

    Davidf,

    I wanted to thank you very much for your post. Thanks to it, I did some research on Hegel and now I am a very happy owner of Hegel H390 to match with my B&W 804 D3s. That is a match made in heaven and it would not have happened hadn't I read your post. :)

    Having done all my research and demo sessions, I am indeed surprised this amp is not on What HiFi list.

    Adam
    Reply
  • davidf
    Dadas said:
    Davidf,

    I wanted to thank you very much for your post. Thanks to it, I did some research on Hegel and now I am a very happy owner of Hegel H390 to match with my B&W 804 D3s. That is a match made in heaven and it would not have happened if I didn't read your post. :)

    Having done all my research and demo sessions, I am indeed surprised this amp is not on What HiFi list.

    Adam
    No problem Adam. One of my regulars is about to add one to his LS50s.

    I don’t know if Hegel have been supplying to WHF for reviews, but they certainly should be on everyone’s shortlist, even if the onboard DAC isn’t going to get any use! The new H120 (replaced the Rost) is a corker for the money.
    Reply
  • Dadas
    The DACs in both H590 and H390 get a lot of praise in reviews. I tried it with Qobuz and Tidal. It is a bit of a hassle to get it connected to get the full resolution, one needs to use USB connection, but once you do, it works really well. I also have a Chromecast Audio and this supports MQA and FLAC up to 96kHz, which is fine for some convenient music consumption when I do not want to get my laptop connected.
    Not only this Hegel sounds good, it is also compact and elegant. I really recommend it.
    Reply
  • Kestutis
    To correct a mistake (I was very disappointed to find out it is a mistake): the NAD D3020 V2 should not be described as "USB: Yes", as it is not an USB input, just a service port to update the firmware. I would go for it in a heartbeat should it have an USB input, and the NAD D 3045 is not as recommended. Sad.

    Reply
  • bobdupuy
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    If you want great sound from a separates hi-fi system, you need to choose a top quality stereo amplifier.

    Best stereo amplifiers 2019: budget and premium : Read moreI was also surprised that the IOTAVX SA3 amp was not mentioned. It has received rave reviews in the US and Canada and it is made in ENGLAND.
    Reply
  • OldHand
    The Norma Audio 70 amp has had some fantastic reviews recently
    Reply
  • -pekr-
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    If you want great sound from a separates hi-fi system, you need to choose a top quality stereo amplifier.

    Best stereo amplifiers 2019: budget and premium : Read more

    Denon fan here :-) On one of the local top audio sites in CZ, Denon pma-800ne won its category. I would say, that something like Denon pma-600be ticks many boxes - gets great reviews, has digital inputs, phono stage, sub-out, bluetooth streaming support ...

    Cheers,
    /Petr
    Reply
  • Riri
    What Hi-Fi? Am really surprised you don’t mention the Rega Aethos here, given you give it best in group test against the Roksan and Naim Supernait3... ? Also isn’t included in your best buys?.....
    Reply