Best stereo amplifiers 2023: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best stereo amplifiers you can buy in 2023.
A stereo amplifier is the engine of any hi-fi system – its driving force, its beating heart. Which is why it's vitally important that you find the best and most suitable one for your system. That's something this carefully curated list of the best stereo amps we have tested can help with. Whether you are building a home stereo system from scratch or upgrading an existing amplifier, you'll find our tried-and-tested pick of the best stereo amps available in the States below.
There are many different models to choose from, but all of them share one thing in common: they are integrated stereo amps, meaning they house both amplifier components – a power amp to drive the speakers and a preamp to control the volume and your sources – in one box. Neat, tidy and efficient. Plug a source (such as a CD player or music streamer) and a pair of speakers into it, and you're away.
What connections you require need to be considered, of course, but it's sound quality that sets the best stereo amplifiers apart from the crowd. Each of the integrated amps on this page has been thoroughly tested by our dedicated team of in-house experts, so you can expect spellbinding sonics whichever one you settle on.
How to choose the best stereo amplifier for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
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 are now no longer the norm.
With laptops, smartphones and music streaming services becoming ever-more popular music sources, the integrated amplifier has indeed moved with the times.
Many amps boast digital and/or wireless connections alongside traditional analogue inputs and outputs. Whether it's Bluetooth or optical or USB inputs, these features will make it easy to stream high-quality music from your mobile devices or computer to your hi-fi.
The vinyl revival has seen many integrate phono stages for turntables again, too. Remember, a phono stage is crucial for vinyl playback, so if your turntable doesn't have one built in, your amplifier needs to – unless, of course, you're happy to add an external phono stage box in the middle of the two.
Some stereo amplifiers even feature network streaming, making them a fully-fledged, just-add-speakers system (and for the best of those, you'll want to head on over to our best hi-fi systems Best Buy). So what you require will depend on your needs and the connectivity of any existing equipment you have.
You should also consider your amp's partnership with your speakers. The speaker/amp relationship not only comes down to an amp’s power output but also the speaker's impedance characteristics and sensitivity. So if you need clarification on system matching, you should head over to our thorough how to choose and set up a stereo amp advice page.
- The best stereo speakers to go with your new amp
The Marantz PM6007 takes the winning formula of the Marantz PM6006 UK Edition, (a former What Hi-Fi? Award winner) and manages to squeeze even more performance out of it.
There's no USB input or Bluetooth connectivity, which some users might demand, but apart from this, the PM6007 is pretty much faultless. Which is why it's a multiple What Hi-Fi? Award winner at the budget end of the market.
The PM6007 boasts trademark Marantz styling and is a solidly built, nicely-finished integrated amplifier with traditional hi-fi appeal.
Improvements include a new DAC and new filters, which can be switched between when you're using the amp's digital inputs, plus new components in the power amp and phono stages. The latter also gets upgraded circuitry.
And the results speak for themselves. The sound is smooth, full-bodied and balanced, with a pleasing spaciousness. Another quality hi-fi amplifier from Marantz. You can't go wrong here if you're building a modestly priced stereo system.
Read the full review: Marantz PM6007
Got a slightly higher budget? This What Hi-Fi? Award-winner is our MVP, and the best stereo amp you can buy for around $1500. Its elegant Lunar Grey chassis may bear a passing resemblance to its predecessor, the CXA80, but like a Thanksgiving turkey, the CX81 is stuffed with fresh internals.
The signal path has been improved, there's a superior DAC and the USB port now supports hi-res audio up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 quality. You even get an aptX HD Bluetooth receiver that delivers better-than-CD-quality wireless playback.
The result of these upgrades? A sound that is rich, confident, full-bodied and bursting with detail. Whether it's hammering out a frenetic mid-range melody or a staccato bass line, the CX81 has the agility and energy to handle whatever comes its way.
Clarity is stunning given the (very reasonable) sticker price. Those sweet sonics, plus the high feature count, mean the CX81 sets the benchmark at this price.
Put simply, this is one awesome amp.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXA81
The successor to our multiple-Award winning Rega Elex-R, one of our favourite amplifiers of the last decade, is thankfully far from a disappointing sequel.
Revealing and faithful, it’s capable in ways far beyond our expectations at this mid-tier price point. The elegant, confident way it delivers music is something that’s very rare at this level. The addition of digital inputs (at last!) and a headphone port is a great step in the right direction too, giving customers more flexibility in how they listen to this terrific amp.
If you take the time to partner it carefully (we’d avoid any bright or forward-sounding kit as a rule; pairing it with speakers with more richness to the tone – like the KEF LS50 Meta or Wharfedale Linton – will give the sound more body and weight), this stereo amplifier will work wonders.
Read our full Rega Elex Mk4 review
The lower-specced sibling of the CX81 (above), the CX61 makes do with a touch less power (60W vs 80W). But at under $1000, it delivers exceptional chime for your dime.
The CX61 had big boots to fill. Its predecessor, the CX60, scored five stars in our tests and picked up a coveted What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year Award. Thankfully, the CX61 builds on that heritage with a classy design, impressive connections, high-resolution audio support and a sturdy remote. The result? Another Award winner!
Its sound is fluid, entertaining and energetic, but that's not to say this integrated amp is constantly in party mode. It's serious about detail, dynamics and rhythmic precision, and knows just when to tone down the enthusiasm.
It does lack a USB port – you'll need to splash out on CX81 if that's a deal-breaker – but the CX61 is a fine bit of kit that pairs well with almost any musical genre.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXA61
A great entry point into Rega's superb line of amplifiers. This excellent budget integrated amp borrows the power amp and moving magnet phono stage from its elder sibling, the Rega Brio, which you'll find just below. And it's quite obvious when you power up the io that it is a descendant of this excellent, more premium amp. It showcases a fantastic sense of rhythm, impressive dynamics, and heaps of detail for an amplifier at this budget level. It's a whole lot of fun to listen to.
One slight drawback is that in order to reach this level of audio quality, Rega has made the decision to stick purely with analogue inputs. The lack of any digital connectivity might be a hindrance to some, but it doesn't dampen our enthusiasm for what is one of the best stereo amplifiers we've heard at this level.
Read the full review: Rega io
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, having earned a well-deserved five stars and multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards 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 our full review: Naim Nait XS 3
Rega launched the original Brio amp back in 1991, but this sixth-generation model continues to pay homage to its illustrious forebears.
While those retro looks may divide opinion, few would dispute that the Rega Brio takes sound to new heights at this price point. Again, like many of Rega amplifiers, this is an analogue-only amp, so there's no built-in DAC. But it sounds terrific. From the incredible sense of scale to the punchy dynamics, this is certainly Rega's best-ever Brio.
Build quality is typically solid and the hefty 5kg aluminium case has a reassuring, tank-like quality to it. In terms of features, Rega hasn't added much since 1991. You do get a phono stage but forget about Bluetooth streaming or digital inputs.
If you can overlook the lack of wireless connections, the back-to-basics Brio delivers stellar performance value and is worth every cent.
Read the full review: Rega Brio
If you're looking for the best stereo amplifier at a cheaper price point than the Marantz PM6007 and Rega io sit at, this $399 Cambridge model is a great option.
It's big on value, big on sound and built to last. The sleek, 8cm-high case is equipped with a built-in moving magnet photo stage (worth using if you have a budget turntable), a 6.35mm headphone output and 3.5mm auxiliary input. The lack of Bluetooth and USB port is entirely forgivable given the bargain sticker price.
As for sound, the AXA35 puts on a killer performance for the money. It throws plenty of power and weight behind every track, providing a spacious and spirited sound without any harshness. If you're happy to live with the relatively simple specs, this great budget amp serves up superb sonics.
Read the full review: Cambridge AXA35
As you may have noticed by now, Rega products tend to be pretty purist affairs that prioritise performance and solid engineering above all else. They rarely excel on the features front. But that approach changed with the Elicit MK5, which was the first Rega amplifier to include digital connectivity (the Elex Mk4 above followed soon after). There's digital optical and coaxial (though sadly not USB) inputs alongside the usual analogue connections you'll find on other Rega amps.
Just over 30 years on from the original, the Elicit integrated remains an excellent choice for those that prioritise sonic performance – one that's taut, punchy, clear and simply one of the most musical at this level. Recommended? You bet.
Read the full review: Rega Elicit MK5
British brand Chord Electronics has proven to have quite some talent in finding new market niches. And the diminutive Anni desktop integrated amplifier is a perfect example of that.
Make no mistake, this really is a proper Chord amplifier in miniature, using as it does the Ultima dual feed-forward circuitry seen in the latest generation of the brand’s high-end power amplification. However, this little box is only the size of the Chord Qutest digital-to-analogue converter – for the uninitiated, think smaller than a pair of coasters laid end-on – and it’s intended to be an ideal partner for that DAC and the company’s Huei phono stage.
The important thing to note is that it’s designed for desktop use with either headphones or suitable speakers. And it's one of the most capable headphone amplifiers we’ve heard.
Use it as a desktop amplifier as intended and it shines. Sure, there are operational quirks – something that’s proving to be a Chord trait – but when the Anni sounds this good we can forgive a lot.
Read the full Chord Anni review
As far as flagship stereo amplifiers go, the Edge A is a stunning piece of kit. The casework looks slick thanks to its curved corners, while the knurled input selector ring works with wonderful precision. It even comes with a classy remote handset. Features include an array of digital and analogue inputs including balanced XLRs and USB (type A), plus Bluetooth aptX HD, and even an HDMI ARC socket to help your TV sound better.
And the Cambridge sounds like a truly complete amplifier for the money. It generates a huge sense of authority and scale, with amazing dynamic reach. The amp also has a fantastic grasp of low-level details, thanks to a display of clarity and control you'll struggle to beat at the price.
If you're looking for a fit-and-forget hi-fi amplifier, we can't think of anything better at this level.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Edge A
You might be struck by this budget amp's quirky design, but things get a whole lot more interesting under the hood. The D 3020 V2 is packed with high-tech features including, Class D amplification, Bluetooth for music streaming and a moving magnet phono stage for connecting a turntable.
Assuming you appreciate the curvature of its neat, upright case, this accomplished NAD amp is easy to love. It combines an impeccable sense of timing with superb dynamics to great effect, making it an enjoyable and engaging listen. Presentation is tonally-even but there's the option of a tasteful 'bass boost' via a button on the remote control.
Detail levels are superb for the money, although the Marantz PM6007 at the top of this list offers more insight for not much more money. Still, if you want a fully-featured digital amp at a great price, the NAD 3020 V2 is a fantastic shout. Be sure to add it to your shortlist.
Read the full review: NAD D 3020 V2
The five-star Audiolab 6000A is a competitive mid-range amp that shares a DAC chip with the Award-winning Audiolab M-DAC, giving it instant appeal.
The solid, high-quality case and volume dial are well-crafted, while connections are plentiful. You get four digital inputs, three analogue inputs, and a pair of moving magnet phono inputs, plus Bluetooth. It couldn't be better specced at this price really.
The sound is wonderfully-crisp, with ample detail and plenty of clarity. Vocals are cut with emotion and subtlety. We find that the best amplifiers breathe new life into well-worn tracks, and this model does just that.
While the Rega Brio and Cambridge Audio CXA61 offer greater insight, the nimble Audiolab 6000A delivers an articulate and refined sound that deserves an audience. A great amp for this money.
Read the full review: Audiolab 6000A
There’s no two ways about it, Musical Fidelity’s M8xi is something of a monster. The integrated amplifier dwarfs most rivals when it comes to size and weighs in at a vertebrae-crushing 46kg. Perhaps the most impressive number is that it has a huge claimed power output of 550 watts per channel in 8 ohms, which then rises to a dizzying 870 watts as the speaker impedance halves.
The M8xi is a poke in the eye for anyone that considers an integrated amp a compromised alternative to a pre/power combination. Inside the Musical Fidelity’s huge frame – 16 x 44 x 40cm (hwd), in case you were wondering – is very much a modular design with DAC, preamp and two monobloc power amplifiers separated as much as possible with the casework.
The M8xi has power to burn and that shines through in its muscular and authoritative nature. You can throw pretty much anything at this amplifier and it’ll never seem out of its depth, yet beneath all that muscle is a product that has enough emotional stretch to satisfy across a wide range of musical genres. The Musical Fidelity M8xi definitely belongs on the shortlist.
Read the full Musical Fidelity M8xi review
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
How we test stereo amplifiers
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test every bit of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we listen to every stereo amplifier we test against the current leader in its class to gauge how it compares to the competition. We keep What Hi-Fi? Award-winning products in our stockrooms so we can always pit new products against ones we know and love. We do our best to review as many new models in as many markets as possible, ensuring our contextual knowledge is the best it can be. And we encounter even more during our What Hi-Fi? Awards judging, where we listen to every amplifier manufacturers submit.
We are always impartial in our testing and ensure we hear every product – including stereo amps – at their optimum. So we'll use different partnering products – those in our high-end reference system as well as more price-comparable ones – as well as try plenty of different types of music. Naturally, we give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in) too.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.
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.
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.
Not only this Hegel sounds good, it is also compact and elegant. I really recommend it.
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 ...