Best stereo amplifiers 2018: budget and premium musical maestros

Stereo amplifiers aren't as simple as they used to be. The days of equipping them with just analogue inputs and outputs and a pair of speaker terminals are long gone. With laptops, smartphones and streaming services becoming ever-more popular music sources, the stereo amp has moved with the times.

Many now contain built-in digital-to-analogue converters, phono stages, USB connections and wireless streaming skills as standard.

We've rounded up a wide selection of models, offering a wide range of features across a range of price points, so there should be something to suit all budgets and feature requirements, and get your hi-fi system singing.

Under £250

Best stereo amplifier under £250

Onkyo A-9010

Your best bet 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 rhythmic drive and dynamics
Articulate and expressive midrange
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

Today's best Onkyo A-9010 deals

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£199
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The A-9010 has been tuned in the UK and it's a decision that's paid off handsomely. Its feature count might be limited, but the Onkyo produces a captivating and musical performance. It's a nicely balanced sound too, with strong dynamics and superb timing.

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. That's right, the brand that's best known for it's AV receivers has this two-channel gem in its product portfolio.

Under £400

Best stereo amplifier under £400

Marantz PM6006 UK Edition

Another outstanding and affordable Marantz amp.

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

Today's best Marantz PM6006 deals

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£369
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£369
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£659

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. 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.

Under £700

Best stereo amplifier under £700

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 34.5mm

Reasons to Buy
Detail and dynamics to die for
Agile and rhythmic presentation
Good headphone output
Reasons to Avoid
No digital inputs

Today's best Rega Brio deals

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£599
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Now in its sixth generation (the original Brio first launched in 1991), the latest Rega Brio takes audio performance to a whole new level at the money. It's 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 RCAs and a moving magnet phono stage, but we're willing to overlook this, given the amps amazing sense of musicality. It sounds terrifically fluid with precision and scale in spades.

Under £1500

Best stereo amplifier under £1500

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

Today's best Rega Elex-R deals

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£949
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Another amazing (and Award-winning) stereo amplifier from Rega. The Elex-R builds on the strengths of the Brio, doubling down in areas such as detail, dynamics and timing. 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.

Under £2500

Best stereo amplifier under £2500

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

Today's best Moon 240i deals

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If it's smoothness, subtlety and sophistication that you're after in a stereo amp, then the Moon 240i has you covered. Combined with its impressive appearance and build quality the Moon gives the impression of a much pricier product. The curvy silver edges and two-tone effect give the amp serious presence, while the OLED screen is crisp and clear. The Moon also boasts an asynchronous DAC, which supports hi-res files up to an impressive 32-bit/384kHz as well as DSD256 files.

Under £3500

Best stereo amplifier under £3500

Roksan Blak integrated amplifier

A true all-rounder and a worthy investment.

SPECIFICATIONS

Power: 150W (8 Ohms) | Remote control: Yes | Phono stage: MM | Digital inputs: optical/coaxial | USB: Yes | 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

Today's best Roksan Blak integrated amplifier deals

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£2799
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£2799
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The Blak is 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 with balanced XLRs, single-ended line-level inputs and a moving magnet phono stage for traditionalists and a USB Type B that can cope with all manner of high-res music files. When it comes to audio quality, the Roksan boasts impressive muscularity and enthusiasm, with plenty of scale and a lovely soundstage.

Money-no-object

Best money-no-object stereo amplifier

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

Today's best Luxman L-509X deals

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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.

It has an understated presentation it takes a while to appreciate. But, give it time and  come to appreciate its neutral and balanced sound. There's a stunning sense of purity and transparency to the sound. And, we’re particularly impressed with the way this amplifier can deliver deep bass with such texture, agility and power.

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