This article outlines the best stereo amplifiers on the market today. With so many stereo amps to choose from, it can be hard to know what is best for your situation. This guide explains a range of elements to consider when choosing a stereo amp and highlights some of the best choices.
Because amplifiers come at such a wide range of prices, we are looking at amps under $500. This is a good limit because the amps you find in this range are extremely good quality, and offer a bunch of great features, but don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money.
Most of the amps in this list are touching on audiophile quality, and offer a superior sound over many cheaper models. If you’re looking for a high-quality stereo amplifier, with a decent sound, solid connectivity, and useful features, read this list!
Table of Content
- Yamaha A-S701SL
- Cambridge Audio DacMagic
- Fosi Audio T20
- AIYIMA A07 TPA3255
- Reisong A10 EL34 Hi-Fi Audio Stereo
- Dayton Audio HTA100BT Hybrid Stereo
- INFI Audio Tube Amplifier
- LOCKIE A30 Desktop Stereo
What is a Stereo Amplifier?
A stereo amplifier is an electronic device used to amplify audio signals and transmit them to speakers for projection. Stereo amplifiers are used as installed devices and are attached to passive speakers.
Why Use a Stereo Amplifier?
Stereo amps provide a better listening experience for audio enthusiasts. They provide a greater amount of volume and dynamic range, and they let you color and customize the tone of your speakers. Some are also useful for switching between different audio sources like tape machines, record players, and mobile phones.
Using one can give you more control over your sound, and makes your speakers sound their best.
8 Best Stereo Amp under $500
The Yamaha A-S701 is a pristine stereo amplifier from one of the leaders of the audio scene. Yamaha is known for making high-quality equipment, and this stereo amp exceeds any expectation.
The A-S701 could be the center of your home cinema or listening room. This amp has all the connections you need and can handle multiple inputs at once. It comes with a variety of switchable modes to tweak the performance of the device to work better for certain input types.
For example, the CD Direct mode matches the level of CD input signals, creating less noise and promoting a perfect signal-to-noise ratio. It also automatically manages the amps to gain balance.
You can also change the way the circuitry is running, and bypass certain components to tune the sound even more. The pure direct mode offers an extremely high-quality, clean signal that is noticeably fantastic.
Besides a standard volume control, this features a Continuously variable loudness control, which modifies the highs and lows, and dynamic range, to compensate for the inaccuracies of the human ear when volumes change. This is a unique feature and makes these amps one of the smartest on the market.
This amp also has a huge range of inputs and outputs. A really neat feature is the ability to switch between two sets of speakers (A or B). You can also use both pairs at the same time for a fuller sound. This lets you use multiple speakers with the amp, and switch between them as you choose.
This amp feels really well made, the chassis and control knobs feel refined and polished, there are no noticeable issues with this amp at all! (Although we would like to see a Bluetooth input).
- 2 x120 Watt outputs
- Digital outputs – Coaxial and Optical
- CVLC (Continuously variable loudness control)
- Power Management
- Extra Subwoofer Output Connection
- 3 Band Equalizer / Tone shaping
- Many Connections – 3 Line inputs, CD, Radio, Phono
- Headphone Output
- Switchable Speakers (A, B or A+B)
- Wireless remote control
Pros and Cons
- Pristine audio quality
- Highly configurable and tunable
- Many inputs and outputs
- Switchable speakers
- Unique CVLC features
- Lacks wireless connection
Overall the Yamaha A-S701 is a fantastic high quality integrated stereo amplifier. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything with more features or a better sound in this price range. This amp nearly does it all. It sounds absolutely stunning, you can tune it to your needs, and it accepts a wide range of ins and outs. There really isn’t much to fault. If you can afford it and you’re in the market for a top-end stereo amp, this is a brilliant choice.
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This is a digital to analog converter, so it’s slightly different from your typical amplifiers. Whilst it doesn’t feature all the inputs you typically need, if you have a digital system, this amp is top of the range.
It has absolutely uncompromising audio quality. No expense has been spared here. The sound of this thing is beautiful, with one of the lowest noise floors we’ve seen. This device can play MQA files, which are a special type of insanely high-quality digital audio file.
There are several ways to connect this device. The most useful input is probably the USB, which lets you pipe audio in from a computer or any other USB-enabled device. This unit does not offer any analog inputs like RCA or phono, but that’s not what it’s designed for. It’s better for digital sessions.
Besides the balanced XLR outputs, it also features a pristine headphone output and is compatible with Bluetooth devices. You can change the sample rate from the humble 44.1, all the way up to the magnificent 768! Hardly any devices offer this range. It gives this amp the potential to be the best sound on this list, accepting the highest quality sources possible.
- Digital amp up to 24 Bit 768kHz
- Many digital inputs – USB, Coaxial, CD, consoles, laptops, TV.
- Wireless Bluetooth connection
- 10Hz to 50kHz Frequency Response
- 115dB Signal to noise ratio
- XLR Balanced Outputs
- Unbalanced RCA Outputs
Pros and Cons
- Pristine Digital amplification
- Super high sample rate
- Bluetooth and USB Connections
- No analog inputs
The Cambridge Dac200M is probably the best digital amp around in this price range. If you’re a fan of high-quality digital audio formats, this is a fantastic choice. It won’t accept the same sources as most typical amps, but it works with Bluetooth and USB, so what more do you need?
If you’re on the hunt for a stellar DAC converter, this is a prime choice. It’s made by Cambridge audio so you know it’s going to be good… Although the design of this won’t be for everybody, particularly those who listen to a lot of analog formats like vinyl or tape.
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The Fosi T20 is a budget-friendly stereo tube amp. Whilst not offering a huge range of features, this amp is very affordable, portable, and sounds good for the price. These are some of the more accessible tube amps and make for a great entry into the world of vacuum tube technology. You can even swap and replace the tubes with upgrades at a later date.
In terms of connections, the Fosi T20 is basic but has everything you need for a simple setup. It only has one analog input, an unbalanced RCA, although it features a Bluetooth connection, so you can connect any wireless-enabled devices like smartphones, laptops, and modern record players.
It offers two 50 watt speaker outputs, so you can power passive speakers with ease, or you can plug headphones into the ¼: headphone out.
For the price, you’d be surprised how good this thing sounds. It actually has a pretty decent tone, probably thanks to the vacuum tubes. It’s warm with a nice hint of saturation, although clean enough to have a low noise floor. It also boasts individual controls for bass and treble, which can be used to cut or boost frequencies. This is useful because it lets you tweak the sound a little to account for acoustics or speaker inefficiencies.
- Bass and Treble control
- 2x 6J4 Vacuum Tubes (can be swapped)
- 3.5mm Headphone Output
- Bluetooth Input Connection
- RCA Input
- 20Hz – 20kHz Frequency Range
- Stereo Speaker Output
- 2 x 50 Watt output power
Pros and Cons
- Small and affordable
- Bluetooth Input
- Replaceable vacuum tubes
- Built-in EQ with bass and treble
- Lacking inputs and outputs
- Average sound quality compared to premium amps.
The Fosi T20 is a decent starter amp. It isn’t going to blow your mind, nor will it break the bank. It still sounds pretty good and is a great way for budding audiophiles to begin to experiment with tube amplification. The Bluetooth connection is a nifty feature and enables this device to be the centerpiece of a decent audio setup.
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The Altima A07 is a decent affordable stereo amplifier. This unit is very minimalist, with a stripped back design and basic features, although it sounds pretty good, and works reliably.
This amp offers two channels at 300watts, so it can power pretty hefty speakers. It has standard passive speaker outputs which can be wired to most types of loudspeakers.
It only features two basic inputs – a small aux cable and a stereo RCA. There’s a switch on the back of the unit for selecting the input. The aux is useful and makes it easy to plug-in devices like phones and laptops.
This amp sounds good for the price. It is relatively limited, especially compared to the more expensive amps, but it won’t let you down for the cost. It only features one volume control and a power switch, so there isn’t any way to tweak or customize your sound from the amp.
- Clean NE5532 op-amp circuit
- 2 x 300 watt outputs
- Two Inputs (3.5mm Aux, or stereo unbalanced RCA)
- Passive Speaker outputs
- Single volume controls
Pros and Cons
- Basic and easy to set up
- Decent sound for the price
- Limited features
- Limited inputs and outputs
- Relatively weak sound
This small amp from Ayima is a good call for those on a tight budget. It literally only offers the bare necessities, but if that’s all you need then this is a pretty good choice. There isn’t much to say about this one. If you need a super basic amp, this will do. But for audiophiles or listeners who expect some customization and high sound quality, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
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The Reisong A10 is a high-quality stereo tube amplifier. This beast looks as cool as it sounds, thanks to the exposed vacuum tubes and protective cage.
I think this is a great amp to use with turntables and record players. The outputs are decent, offering two channels, each with a variable selection of impedances ( 8, 4, or 0 Ohms).
This thing sounds great, although there aren’t any controls for tweaking the sound like EQs. That being said, the standard sound is decent enough for most situations.
- 5 x tubes
- 2 x EL34
- 2 x 6N2J
- 1 x 5Z4PJ
- Protective tube cages
- High-end output transformer
- High-grade aluminum chassis
- Two RCA Input connections (CD and AUX)
- Multi Ohm Stereo speaker outputs
- AC Input
Pros and Cons
- Vacuum Sound
- Multiple tube types
- Aux and CD in
- Lacks power, maybe too low for some speakers
- Limited input connections
- Needs adapters for phones\
The Reisong A10 is a fantastic mid-range stereo tube amp. Whilst it has relatively limited features, controls, and inputs, the sound of this thing is excellent, and is the main selling point.
I’d recommend this for anybody who wants a nice, but simple tube amplifier, and anybody who cares about sound quality more than functionality. Sure, you might need some adapters to connect it to certain sources, but the sound quality is super high, and this thing looks awesome.
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Despite being about half the price of the Reisong above, this tube amp packs a huge amount of features and functionality and sounds pretty decent too.
This is an authentic tube amp that creates beautiful warmth, depth, and character in the sources it plays. It offers 50 watts of power per channel, so it is compatible with a range of speakers.
The sound quality of the Dayton is very nice and beats a lot of the cheaper amps on this list. It even competes with some of the more expensive models.
It also offers a fantastic amount of convenience and connectivity, and has more inputs than you would expect at this price. The best features are Bluetooth and USB, which make it really easy to connect to digital equipment like phones, computers, and consoles.
This amp has a solid level of connectivity, and even offers an additional subwoofer out to maximize your bass. It has two RCA inputs, and a stereo speaker output. You can even use this with coaxial and optical gear.
You get a bass and treble control for tweaking the tone, playback controls for skipping, playing, and pausing songs on the Bluetooth or USB connected devices, and some authentic looking VU meters to finish it off.
- Vacuum Tubes
- 2 x 50-watt output channels
- Mono Subwoofer output
- Phono Preamp for record players
- Retro VU Meters
- Many Inputs
- Stereo RCA
- Built-in cooling fan
Pros and Cons
- Decent tube sound
- Full range of inputs
- Tuneable EQ
- Playback controls
- Modern features, vintage look
- Low power output, lacks for some speakers
I really like this amp. It offers a huge range of features and connections and comes at a very competitive price. This thing sounds excellent for the price and can be used with basically any input source. It uses vacuum tubes, so it has that analog sound, and it even has a subwoofer connection. This is well designed, sounds good, and doesn’t cost the earth. Highly recommended for anybody.
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This is another decent small format tube amplifier. This uses 4 vacuum tubes and offers two channels of 35-watt speaker powering.
It provides a pretty good range of input and output connections. The inputs include an RCA aux input, with additional optical and coaxial inputs. This also features a USB connection and Bluetooth.
The outputs include two 4Ohm speaker outputs that are ideal for powering a pair of passive bookshelf speakers. The front panel has volume controls, source selection, treble and bass, and even a nice little VU meter.
This amp sounds pretty decent too and has a warm, saturated analog sound which is surprisingly clean.
- 2 x 25 water outputs
- 4 x Vacuum Tubes
- Treble and bass controls
- Multi Inputs
- CD/DVD RCA input
- USB In
- VU Meter
- Controls for USB and Bluetooth playback
Pros and Cons
- Wide range of input sources
- Clean, tube-based sound
- Tunable sound with EQ
- USB and other digital inputs
- Low power, limited outputs
The Infi Tube amp is a good affordable choice for someone looking for a tube amp with a good range of inputs and features. This can connect to most things, and it offers excellent digital sources like USB and Bluetooth. This is a vintage-sounding amp for the modern listener.
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The Lockie A30 is a well-made modern amplifier, with good connections, Bluetooth, and a few sound-shaping possibilities. It has a few input types, including Bluetooth, coax, and optical, and even supports USB input.
This is a discrete amp, rather than a tube, so it has a much cleaner signal than most on this list.
It features a high-quality headphone output and can power two speakers with up to 80 watts of energy draw. A cool feature of this amp is the 7 digital EQ presets, which change the sound to suit a range of sources and scenarios.
- High-quality digital amplification
- HD USB Audio Input
- Wireless Bluetooth connection
- Headphone Output
- Built-in digital EQ with 7 presets
- Small, sturdy aluminum case
- 2x 80watt speaker outputs
Pros and Cons
- Clean digital amplifier
- Good connections, with Bluetooth and USB
- Digital display with EQ presets
- Lacks character compared to tube amps
If you’re looking for something a bit cleaner and more modern, the Lockie A30 is highly recommended. This is a fantastic stereo amp and has features that make it easy to use. It also sounds pretty good too, although analog fans might find it too clean.
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Things to consider while buying a stereo amplifier under $500
Follow these tips to help you choose the best stereo amplifier for your needs.
One thing to consider is the type of inputs you need in your amplifier. Amps can come with an assortment of inputs. Make sure you choose an amp that has the inputs you need for the devices you plan to plug into it.
Many come with RCA inputs (the red and white split). These are suitable for connecting to a wide range of audio gear like turntables, tape machines, and radios. You’ll probably want some kind of aux input for connecting a phone or laptop. In this case, keep an eye out for ⅛” (3.5mm) aux inputs.
You can also find several amps with wireless connectivity. This can be super helpful and enables you to build a cleaner-looking system with less cluttered wires. Many amps have Bluetooth, so you can wireless connect your phone and other devices.
The outputs of the amp are also important, and personal to your setup. Do you plan on using a speaker, and/or headphones? Moreover, what kind of speakers are you using? Are they active or passive? Because not all amps are compatible with both.
Typically, all amps should be compatible with active speakers because they have their own power source. Most amps should be able to power passive speakers, although check before buying if this is the kind of setup you are using. You can also find some amps with a wireless or Bluetooth output, this can be great for connecting to wireless speakers or headphones.
Just double-check the connection type before you buy. Not all amps will have the connections you need, so you might need to buy adapters, or look at a different model.
Because amps can be used in such a wide range of situations, you will find a huge range of features across amp models. Most amps include features that are most useful for the type of usage they are expected to undergo. Some amps feature equalizers and other controls for tweaking the sound of your setup, which may be desirable for some users.
Sound Quality and Type
Amps also come in a huge range of sound qualities. Some sound absolutely terrible, whereas others sound so nice you won’t want to turn it off.
The sound quality is generally linked to the price, with more expensive models generally sounding better.
There is also another important consideration over the circuit type. You can either choose discrete or tube circuits. Discrete circuits use modern components, and have a much cleaner, more stable sound, although offer less in terms of coloration, saturation, and warmth.
Tube amplifiers have a completely different sound. These use vacuum tubes, which are old-school pieces of analog gear. The result is a much warmer, saturated, rich sound. Audiophiles tend to favor tube amps for their unique sound. The only issue with tubes is that it takes a while for them to heat up – and they need to be warm to sound their best.
However, some people find tube amps too saturated and feel it interferes with the original quality of the music, so they may favor a cleaner discrete amp. Ultimately the choice is yours and comes down to personal tastes.
In terms of powering, there are two things to consider. How will the amp be powered, and what will the amp be powering. In short, you need to choose an amp that has a large enough output wattage to power the kind of speakers you plan to use with it. If the amp is too weak, the speakers will either be really quiet or have no sound at all. If you use an amp with too much power you risk blowing your speakers. Always check the wattage rating of your speakers before buying and plugin in an amp.
Thanks for reading. You should now have a good idea of the best stereo amps on the marketplace. For more audio-related content, check out this post –