The four best stereo amplifiers of the year

Onkyo, Cambridge and Rega are responsible for our favourite performance-per-pound stereo amplifiers this year - and you may notice a striking similarity to last year's winners.

The Onkyo A-9010 (£229) is our entry-level winner, and takes that accolade for the second year in a row. It may not set the world alight in terms of design, and it keeps things simple when it comes to features, but for audio quality, it's a winner.

The A-9010 is versatile in terms of partnering kit and music styles, delivering impressive scale and good insight regardless, without ever sounding too bright or too heavy in the bass. If you want to build a great budget system, this is a fine place to start.

Move up a price-point and you arrive at our Product of the Year, the Cambridge CXA60 (£500). Something of a contrast to the Onkyo, it cuts a more stylish profile and also packs-in the functionality, including digital inputs, hi-res audio support and the option to add a Bluetooth dongle for wireless streaming.

Sonically it's always entertaining, helped in part by a slightly forward balance but driven home by a sound that offers big dynamics and plenty of detail. Its closest rival, the Arcam A19, may offer more refinement but it's more expensive and doesn’t have digital inputs. At £500, the CXA60 offers a more exciting and competitive package.

Completing our line-up of this year's best amps are two models from Rega.

On the right side of £1000 is the Rega Elex-R (£900), making it three years on the bounce. Seeing off fresh competition from the Audiolab M-One and Cyrus One, the Elex-R marries its trademark narrow form with terrific function and performance.

There's also the bonus of a good phono stage, and while there are no digital inputs, it's really all about the sound. Rega's familiar fast and agile delivery makes for a lively and authoritative listen. It will be hard to beat.

As will its Award-winning sibling, the Rega Elicit-R (£1600). Again, features and connections are kept to a minimum, with only analogue inputs and a phono stage on board, but the sound quality is without caveats.

Timing is impeccable, the level of transparency unarguable, and detail retrieval is unrivalled at this price. A simple but extremely effective stereo amplifier, it's a fine way to round off our Awards category.

Same again next year? We shall see.

MORE: Awards 2016: Best stereo amplifiers

See all our What Hi-Fi? Awards 2016 winners

Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is the Content Director for What Hi-Fi? and Future’s Product Testing, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for almost 20 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).