On this site I have looked at record players, pre-amps, speakers, and more, but none of that matters if you can’t make any audible sound come from your speaker cabinets.
In order to take the signal from a record and make it loud enough for everyone to hear, you need a proper amplifier. You want an amplifier that adds little noise to the signal it receives and sends it stronger to the speaker units.
Amplifiers can come in many different shapes and sizes. Not to mention many different price points.
I’m not a super technical guy, but I believe in matching an amp with the level of the audio gear it’s paired with. If you have to choose, spend the money on upstream gear first. Amps can be upgraded later if needed.
On this page I’ve picked some of the most promising amps I could find online. The ones that I think are best I’ve put first, and the rest aren’t ranked.
Top Pick: Marantz PM6006
The PM6005 was my component amp of choice in the past, but that wonderful machine is now no longer available. If you can find old stock or a used one for a good price, it’s still worth getting. However, Marantz have topped their award-winning amplifier with this latest model.
The amp has been reworked to make a more refined sound possible, of course depending on what other gear you pair it with.
You get two 45W channels, which is enough to provide strong, clear sound in the average-sized room. There’s oodles of inputs, both digital and analogue. You can connect vintage and modern sound sources with equal ease.
As I have come to expect from Marantz. The front panel of the PM6006 is very nice to look at. Quality materials and minimalist design. It evokes the classic audio equipment era, but improves on what has often been a cluttered mess.
From user reviews we can see that Marantz have created an amp with strong, clean audio. There is virtually no interference, thanks to the extended shielding and component isolation on offer here. The components are top-notch and for less than a $1000 I don’t know of anything better on the market today.
Top Mid-range Pick:
Yamaha A-S301BL Natural Sound Integrated Stereo Amplifier
This is Yamaha’s bread and butter. These guys have been making audio gear since 1922 when they released their first hand-cranked phonograph. They’ve always been a good choice at the mid range as well, usually offering you more for your money than the competition.
This A-S301BL amplifier is very much mid-range based on its price, but what is Yamaha offering?
You get two 60W output channels and several digital systems dedicated to coloring your input signal as little as possible.
You can also hook up two separate sets of speakers for multi-room listening. There’s a dedicated subwoofer output, and in addition to all the digital inputs it has a phono input for MM cartridge turntables, which means you don’t need to bother with a preamp.
Owners of this beautiful amp are unanimous in how clear and strong the sound is. There is no detectable distortion to be found.
It’s not an “audiophile” amplifier, but it’s more than good enough for 99% of us; for the semi-serious vinyl fan this amp comes highly recommended.
Best Mini Amp: SMSL Q5 Pro
I really like the look of the Q5. Instead of a million buttons, lights, and knobs we have a simple box with a single dial on the front.
This outputs a more than adequate 50W of power but, more importantly, it does so with a wide frequency response and a great signal-to-noise ratio.
The price of the Q5 is very attractive and people who have bought this find it to be a great partner for the sorts of bookshelf speakers you’d typically use with a turntable.
The inputs and outputs are adequate for our purposes and the sound is, by all accounts, strong and clean. The Q5 is just a no-nonsense choice that will get the job done and save you a heap of space at the same time.
Douk Audio G5 100W Bluetooth 5.0 2 Channel Amplifier
When most people think about standalone amplifiers, they imagine a big chunky box that can be stacked as part of a large AV setup. However, if you put up a set of small bookshelf speakers in your study ro bedroom, you don’t need or necessarily want a huge amp. Standalone amps can be very small and still put out a decent amount of power at acceptable qualities. The Douk G5 is one example of an excellent small amp that gives you just enough power for mainstream scenarios.
You only have two input options. Either a 3.5mm stereo jack input or via the built-in Bluetooth receiver. For modern users, the Bluetooth reception function is quite possibly the most interesting aspect of the amp. If you have your music on your phone or tablet, the G5 makes it easy to pump that music through the two 50W channels and whatever quality speakers you’ve paired it with.
The price is very reasonable and sets you free from sticking with predetermined speakers and internal amp combos. This is the mini amp to get in my opinion.
Pyle’s a brand I hear of every now and then but I was surprised, looking at the amp market again for the first time in a while, that they rank so high in popularity. Personally, I feel this unit looks a little cheesy. At first glance I thought it was a head unit for a car stereo. You know – those cheap and nasty ones you get in wannabe street-racer cars.
There are way too many knobs, lights, and dials for my taste. That’s a personal preference though, so the ball’s in your court on that count. Even the remote looks like a cheap piece of junk and, honestly, I’m very put off by it all.
The price is right down there, which may explain why not much attention is given to non-core aspects of the product.
So what do you get that’s more than skin deep? There are all the input options you could want, specifically the RCA connectors you’d most likely use for a turntable. Still, you can hook up USB or SD cards with MP3s as well as a quarter-inch TRS and the smaller headphone version too. There’s FM radio too, in case you run out of records.
The frequency response is decent for the price, but there are quite a few problems people have reported with this model. One issue is the short range of the Bluetooth radio, which sort of defeats the point. The remote is not remote at all, which is ironic. It too has poor range.
Many people report build-quality issues – a badly designed interface and other problems make this a big no-no. Just skip it and spend a little more.
Vinyl Vintage Audio System Reviews
If you’re completely new to the world of vinyl and vintage audio, I’d recommend to start with the reviews on Turntables, Phone Preamps, Record Cleaners and Speakers. Once you’ve got this covered, make sure to check the menu for more of my reviews.