Buying an Integrated Amplifier
Hammer out a budget and be prepared to be flexible and spend up to $300-$500 more – or less.
Entry level amplifiers that give you more than a taste of very expensive amplifiers will cost between $599-$1199. Spend $1200-$2500 and you’ll get twice the sound quality of the entry level amplifier as well as twice the build quality. Amplifiers above $3000 are usually as well finished as a Swiss watch, sing as well as a world-class tenor or soprano and are usually also objects of desire.
All amplifiers have ample connections for many other pieces of audio equipment such as a CD player and digital radio. But please note most do not have the built-in technology called a ”phono stage”to cater for a turntable. A few do. But the good news is that all amplifiers have a connection you can use to add on an outboard ”phono stage”.
Some amplifiers will run two pairs of loudspeakers. One pair can be wired to another living room. You can choose to have the same music played back in two rooms or parts of your house at the same time. Or you may wish to send music to outdoor speakers on your patio.
More features do not make an amplifier sound better., The very best sounding amplifiers have all the money spent on vital parts such as the power supply. They are minimalist models that don’t even have tone controls.
Listen to amplifiers that cost less and some that cost more than your budget. That gives you a unique scale of excellence that shows how well you’ve spent your hard-earned.
Don’t be surprised that some cheaper models seem to have more fun factor than the expensive models which are short on thrills but low on long term listening fatigue. Remember you’re buying an amplifier for the long haul.
Take your favourite CDs or music stored on your iPod to audition amplifiers. But make sure you take tracks featuring female vocal and acoustic instruments as well. Pick the amplifier which is the easiest to listen to.
When you’ve narrowed down the amplifier you think you’d like ask the store to let you hear it at home with the rest of your system.
You’ll need at least a whole weekend to settle in and audition the new amplifier.
Turn the volume to half way and assess if that provides more than adequate listening levels with your existing speakers. If it doesn’t it means it isn’t a good match with your speakers.