Best Integrated Amplifiers for the Modern Audiophile

Written By: 
Ian White
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

A selection of the best integrated amplifiers currently available from Rega, Yamaha, Cambridge Audio, Audiolab, NAD, and Iota.

For this installment of “Best Right Now,” eCoustics Ian White sat down with Tarun: A British Audiophile to discuss some of the best budget integrated amplifiers between $350 and $1,000 USD.

Between the two of them, they’ve listened to at least 20 new integrated amplifiers over the past 2 years and think they make sense for a lot of consumers in 2022.

Overview

Integrated amplifiers have become very popular again with audiophiles for a few reasons and we think it’s fair to say that expensive separates are becoming less relevant.

Most integrated amplifiers being introduced today combine a power amplifierpre-amplifierphono sectionheadphone amplifier, and in some cases a DAC or internal streaming capabilities.

It’s probably more accurate to refer to amplifiers that include network connectivity; either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet as Streaming Amplifiers or Network Amplifiers. If you scroll through the features of most of these amplifiers, you’ll notice that many offer support for TIDAL Connect, Spotify Connect, RoonQobuz, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, and different Bluetooth codecs.

What features should you look for when selecting a new integrated amplifier or network amplifier?

A subwoofer output to conveniently connect a powered subwoofer. This output may or may not include a low-pass crossover or bass management settings.

Digital Inputs such as USB, Optical Toslink or Coaxial enable enable connectivity to external music sources such as CD players or digital music streamers. Such inputs mean the amplifier has an internal DAC.

A USB input to access digital music locally from USB stick, hard drive, laptop, tablet or computer.

A headphone output generally means the amp includes a special amplifier just for headphones, mainly audiophile headphones with high impedance requirements. Ideally it makes headphone listening sound better.

A remote control is usually included, but not always.

Design Considerations

Build quality matters. Circuit design does too. And most importantly, equipment matching to speakers and other devices matters more than one would think.

Do not be seduced or turned off by power ratings. Some loudspeakers only require a few watts into an 8 ohm load, while others require an amplifier that can double its output into 4 ohms and is stable at that impedance. You are more likely to damage a loudspeaker with less power than more.

Should you go with a tube or solid-state integrated amplifier? Tube amplifiers certainly require more hands-on maintenance and it is incorrect to state that all tube amplifiers have a “warm” or “rich” sound. Not all solid-state amplifiers are neutral sounding; we can think of more than a few that are darker or warmer sounding than some tube amplifiers.

Remember to budget accordingly when building your stereo system. This guide should provide a great starting point for building your first stereo system or upgrading an existing one.

Whether you’re looking for a purist integrated stereo amplifier or one packed with features, we think these are some of the best to buy right now for the money.

Best Budget Integrated Amps

Iota VX SA3 ($552)

Learn moreA British Audiophile Review

Iota VX SA3 Integrated Amplifier Front
Iota VX SA3 Integrated Amplifier Rear

NAD C316BEE V2 ($479)

Learn moreSee our full review

NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Front View
NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Rear View
  • Reason to buy: Solid phono stage, more power than ratings would suggest, warm tonal balance, good built quality
  • Reason to pass: No wireless capabilities, bottom end could have more impact
  • Where to buyFind your local NAD dealer

Cambridge Audio AXA35 ($399)

Learn moreSee our full review.

Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier Front
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier Front Rear
  • Reason to buy: Solid build quality, above average phono stage, warm tonal balance, excellent choice for 2-way bookshelf loudspeakers under $500
  • Reason to pass: Bottom end can be slightly loose sounding, not a lot of detail on top
  • Where to buy:$399 at Cambridge Audio

Rega IO ($725)

Learn moreSee our Rega IO Audiophile System Builder

Rega io Integrated Amplifier Front
Rega io Integrated Amplifier Rear
  • Reason to buy: Minimalist design, solid build quality, above average MM phono stage, tonal balance is perfect for more neutral sounding loudspeakers
  • Reason to pass: Limited power, no DAC or streaming capabilities
  • Where to buy: Find your local Rega Dealer

Rotel A11 Tribute ($799)

Rotel A11 Tribute Integrated Amplifier Front
Rotel A11 Tribute Integrated Amplifier - Back
  • Reason to buy: Minimalist design, very solid MM phono stage, above average power for the price point, clean and transparent sounding, Ken Ishiwata magic
  • Reason to pass: No DAC, power might not be enough for some larger bookshelf speakers or mid-range floor standing loudspeakers
  • Where to buyShop online or find your local Rotel dealer

Audiolab 6000A ($995)

Learn moreSee our full reviewSee Tarun’s video review.

Audiolab 6000A Integrate Amplifier Front Black
Audiolab 6000A
Audiolab 6000A Integrate Amplifier Rear Black
  • Reason to buy: Powerful, excellent transparency, detail, pacing, can be used as an integrated amplifier, pre-amplifier, or power amplifier
  • Reason to pass: No USB digital input, rather lean tonal balance require careful system matching
  • Where to buyFind your local Audiolab dealer

Rega Brio ($1100)

Rega Brio Integrated Amplifier Front
Rega Brio Integrated Amplifier Rear
  • Reason to buy: Powerful presentation, excellent MM phono stage, warm tonal balance, punchy
  • Reason to pass: Bottom and top end are rolled off, no DAC or wireless streaming capabilities
  • Where to buy: Find your local Rega Dealer 

Best Budget Streaming Integrated Amps

Bluesound Powernode

Learn more about the Powernode.

Bluesound POWERNODE Amplified Music Streamer Front
Bluesound POWERNODE Music Streamer White Back
  • Reason to buy: BluOS, Roon-Ready, powerful, very easy to use, excellent Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming capabilities
  • Reason to pass: No Chromecast, limited connection options
  • Where to buy$949 at Bluesound

Yamaha WXA50

Yamaha WXA-50 Integrated Amplifier Front
Yamaha WXA-50 Integrated Amplifier Rear
  • Reason to buy: Power, connectivity options, excellent value for the money
  • Reason to pass: Discontinued
  • Where to buy$595.95 at Yamaha

This article originally appeared at ecoustics.com and has been published here with permission.


In Sheep’s Clothing is powered by its patrons. Become a supporter today and get access to exclusive playlists, events, merch, and vinyl via our Patreon page. Thank you for your continued support. 

Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
All Genre
Altec
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
Audiovisual
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Avent-Garde
Balearic
Bali
Ballad
Bargain Bin
Baroque
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bass
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Ark Studios
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Bollywood
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Budget Audiophiler
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Canterbury
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Chamber Music
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Chillout
Choral
Christmas
City Pop
Classic Album Sundays
Classical
Classics
Clothing
Coctueau Twins
Coffee
Commercial
Community
Compass Point
Compilation
Concept Album
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep House
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Diasporic Disco
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dowtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dual
Dub
Dub Poetry
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
Easy Listening
EBM
ECM
ecoustic
ecoustics
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
EOY
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listen
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Festival
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fingetracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Frippertronics
Fundraiser
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Gamelan
Garage Rock
Garrard
Gems from the Dollar Bin
George Martin
Gifts
Gilberto Gil
Glam Rock
Gogo
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Grateful Dead
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harp
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
Ibiza
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
Impulse!
In Conversation
India
Indian
Indian Classical
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
Installation
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italo Disco
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japan
Japananese
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
Jungle
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Lagniappe Sessions
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
mbaqanga
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mixtape
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Modern Soul
Modular Synthesis
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
New York
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Non-Profit
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
NYC
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Opera
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Podcast
Political
Pop
Pop not Slop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Post-Rock
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Producer
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Proto-techno
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
Quiet Storm
R&B
Radio
Raga
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Fair
Record Label
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reggaeton
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Religious
Remix
Retrospective
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Roller Skate
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Rudy Van Gelder
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sacred
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
share
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Sound Installation
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South Africa
South African
South America
Space Rock
Speaker
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stevie Wonder
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Stories
Streaming
Street Soul
Studio One
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
Swamp Rock
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Loft
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Theater
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Tribal
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tuareg
Tube
Turntable
TV
UK
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vandersteen
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Wrecking Crew
Yacht Rock
Yamaha
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00