Contrary to popular belief, powerful speakers aren’t enough to enjoy high quality sound: you also need to have a good amp. Until recently, only a fortunate few could afford access to this type of equipment.

Luckily, we can now find manufacturers who offer very good quality products at affordable prices. Hi-fi has therefore become much more accessible to the general public. That being said, choosing the right amplifier isn’t necessarily a walk in the mark, and we’ve designed this comprehensive guide to make your job easier.

Key Facts

  • Amps have two main functions: to increase and adjust the audio signal. This is why a good amplifier will allow you to enjoy a more powerful audio signal with a much better sound quality.
  • The difference in performance between amplifiers depends on a number of factors that go beyond their technical specifications. While this difference can be minimal with some speakers, it can also be huge with other models. Similarly, the same device can provide better performance with one playback source or another.
  • Don’t let the power of an amp guid you in your purchase. You should take several technical aspects into account. In addition, remember that the wattage is always referred to a value of electrical load or resistance, the latter being measured in ohms.

Ranking: The best amps on the Australian market

The following section is our very own ranking of the five best amps that you’ll find currently on the Australian market. We’ve opted for products offering great sound quality, while also considering the value for money of each model.

No. 1: SMSL AD18 Hi-Fi Amplifier

[amazon box=”B071JN7GXN” description_items=”0″]

S.M.S.L. is a Chinese company founded in 2009 that specialises in providing quality amplifiers at an affordable price, so it’s no wonder their AD18 model has become Amazon’s Choice in the category. It belongs to the new Class D amplifiers, which offer superb sound quality while providing significant energy savings. It features a wattage of 80 per channel for a load of 4 ohms.

The connectivity options are 4.2 Bluetooth and a USB port for wired connection. The DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology allows you to control the bass, treble and equalisations. This elegantly designed amplifier also presents a digital display. The remote control included allows you to manage your amp from anywhere in the room. This product offers incredible bang for your buck.

No. 2: Nobsound Full Frequency Amplifier

[amazon box=”B071GL4C9V” description_items=”0″]

Nobsound is a brand of Chinese company Douk Audio, designing hi-fi products accessible to everyone. And this little subwoofer has become a fan favourite, reaching the status of Amazon Best Seller in the category. This isn’t surprising, considering the different features offered by this affordable product – the cheapest of our ranking.

Available in black or grey, it offers 100 watts of power. That’s quite fantastic considering the size of this amplifier, which is potentially its most appealing feature. It could almost literally fit in your back pocket, which makes it ideal for tour travelling needs. One downside of its extremely affordable price is that is does not feature wireless connection.

No. 3: Yamaha Audio & Video Receiver

[amazon box=”B07D2CDQNC” description_items=”0″]

Yamaha is a Japanese manufacturer of all kinds of electronic products, and they are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to audio equipment. This model isn’t just your usual amplifier: it is a full-on AV receiver for all your home theatre needs. It features a powerful surround sound and 5 channels for you to set the mood you want in each of your rooms.

The Bluetooth technology built in allows you to effortlessly connect all your electronic devices, and the DSP technology supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. According to past customers, this quality product is easy to use and its sound-perfecting characteristics are particularly appealing. This product is unfortunately quite expensive.

No. 4: Pioneer SX-10AE

[amazon box=”B075RFR1R7″ description_items=”0″]

Pioneer is a key player in the digital entertainment products, and the Japanese company now has over 80 years of experience in the industry. This means that you’re making a great bet on quality opting for this stereo amplifier. Elegantly designed to perfectly blend in your home decor, it features 2 channels with 100 watts per channel.

Its 4.2 Bluetooth technology lets you easily stream music from all your devices, and you can switch to the radio when you want with the remote control. The auto standby feature is great to save energy and care for the planet while enjoying your favourite artists. This product comes with a 12-month warranty.

No. 5: SMSL SA-98E

[amazon box=”B01N19ZHVV” description_items=”0″]

Last but not least, the SA-98E is another amplifier from SMSL, proving the importance of the Chinese brand on the Australian market. More affordable than the model topping our ranking, the most attractive feature of this amp is the power it packs for its tiny size, barely weighing one kilo in total.

This is actually what past customers have been most pleased with, some stating that it could “push some serious power”. It’s not surprising, with a total of 160 watts of power split over the to speakers. Its no-frills design will be very attractive to you if you don’t like to fiddle with too many buttons and sliders. This will be a great choice if you want powerful sound in a small package.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about amps

There are certain number of key aspects that you’ll have to take into account when the it’s time for you to buy a new amplifier. Remember that you’ll find many different models on the market, each specific product being designed for a certain type of use. For this reason, we’ve designed the following section to answer the most frequently asked questions by past customers.

Amp Family

Music players send digital signals that must be decoded and transformed into acoustic signals for the speakers to play them.
(Source: Kzenon: 116960765/ 123rf.com)

What is an amp exactly?

This electronic device was created to centralise all the inputs and outputs – whether audio or video – to offer a much better performance than traditional sound bars or home theatre systems.

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Amps provide a more powerful and better quality sound for you to enjoy.

What is an amp’s function?

As mentioned earlier, amplifiers have two main functions: increasing and correcting the sound signal. By acting as a “middle man” between the audio player and the speakers, they allow you to enjoy a more powerful sound while eliminating possible distortions. They also let you control the music volume.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of amps?

We have already mentioned some advantages, but amplifiers offer many others. You’ll be able to reap all the benefits from your long forgotten loudspeakers tucked away in a corner since your old sound system broke down. The audio inputs and outputs being centralised in a single unit will also make your life easier.

Advantages Disadvantages
They allow you to enjoy a much better quality sound. The most advanced models can require a significant investment.
They amplify the signal for your speakers to have a much more powerful signal. It’s another piece of equipment added to your home, which may already be very full.
The audio inputs and outputs are centralised in a single device.
You’ll enjoy surround sound.
The speakers you had discarded in a corner of your home will come back to life with new amplifiers.

Are amps really worth it?

While most sound devices feature their own internal amp, these tend to be quite basic. Your best bet to improve the sound quality of your business or home is therefore to buy a good amp. We encourage you not to hesitate if you can afford it, as it does make a significant difference.

Amp Headphones

Remember that wattage always refers to an electrical load or resistance.
(Source: Viktor Gmyria: 13027160/ 123rf.com)

For whom are amps recommended?

These devices are for you if you need or want to enjoy more sound power and quality. This may be the case if you’re installing a home theatre system in your living room or if you simply love music, or if you want to set up a powerful sound system in your business.

What types of amps are available out there?

We currently identify two main types of amps: tube amplifiers and transistor amplifiers. Nowadays, the majority of the products available in big businesses are transistors. That being said, you can still find tube models on the market, but note that these are mainly aimed at true audiophiles.

Transistor Tube
Price Significantly cheaper They require a bigger investment
Weight Lighter and much more resistant Heavier and more delicate at the same time
Performance They work at full capacity from the moment you turn them on. They need to warm up before operating at full capacity.
Maintenance They require little maintenance. They require maintenance due to valve wear.
Sound quality While the quality is inferior to tube models, it is still very good. You won’t need to turn the volume up to enjoy all their advantages. High volume is required for them to show their true potential.

What care do amps require?

Like other electronic devices, amps need to be well taken care of. For starters, your amplifier should always be the last device of your stereo system that you turn on and off. Don’t forget to lower its volume if you detect any distortion signal in the sound.

How do I get the most out of my amp?

The first thing you should do is naturally read the manufacturer’s instruction manual carefully. It is also recommended to connect the amplifier directly to a power socket rather than a multi-socket adaptor. In the same vein, you’ll have a better performance if the connecting cables to the speakers are shorter.

Moreover, it is strongly encouraged to have all speaker cables on the same extension, even if one is closer to the amp.

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Your amp isn’t the only device you need to take care of; good maintenance on all the parts of your sound system is very important.

Shopping Criteria

As you now know, there are several key aspects that you’ll have to take into account when choosing your very own amp. We want to make this decision easier for you, so we’ve detailed the most important of these shopping criteria in the next section. We hope that they will guide you in your purchase and help you glean the wheat from the chaff!

  • Your use of the amp
  • Power
  • Number of A/V receiver channels
  • Audio zones
  • Sound processing
  • Support for surround sound standards
  • Connectivity

Your use of the amp

This is undoubtedly the very first thing you’ll need to ask yourself when the time comes to choose an amp. How you use the device should be the greatest determining factor in your purchase. You won’t need the same product to process audio or play music in streaming, or simply to enjoy surround sound or several sound zones.

Audio Gear

It is recommended to connect your amplifier to a direct current source.
(Source: Alefat: 73345697/ 123rf.com)

Power

This aspect is naturally one of the first you’ll consider when buying your amp. As we mentioned before, it is important for you to remember that wattage always refers to an electrical load or resistance. Called impedance, this electrical resistance is measured in ohms.

It is quite common for manufacturers to only indicate the wattage per channel of the amp, omitting the impedance to which this value is linked. This may become a problem if the amplifier is then connected to speakers that present a higher impedance. Either way, keep in mind that 100 watts per channel is generally sufficient for a medium sized room.

Number of A/V receiver channels

The number of channels integrated in the amp determines how immersive the sound experience will be. In that regard, it is recommended to know exactly how many and what kind of speakers will be connected to the product you opt for. Currently, you shouldn’t settle for any amplifier that isn’t at least compatible with 5.1 sound.

Audio zones

One of the reasons you might want an amp is to have the possibility to set up different audio zones in your home. You’ll naturally require top-quality, advanced equipment for this. These systems feature amp channels that can be divided into zones to cover the different needs of each space of your home, office or business.

In this regard, you’ll want to look for an amplifier that presents as many channels as possible. For instance, a 9.1 receiver will offer you many more possibilities and greater flexibility. The most modern devices even allow you to control the way in which the sound is reproduced in each room.

Amp Car

The equipment you need will be determined by your use of the amplifier.
(Source: Сергей Сергеев: 100368964/123rf.com)

Sound processing

Music players send digital signals that must be decoded and transformed into acoustic signals for speakers to be able to play them. This is the reason why you’ll need to check which Digital to Acoustic Converter (DAC) your amp integrates. Recommended models work at 384 kHz/32 bits.

Additionally, the most modern devices feature acoustic correction systems that can alter the output signal of the sound depending on the characteristics of the room it is located in. This allows to eliminate all potential distortions. To achieve this, the amps integrate a series of microphones that capture how the sound is reproduced in the room.

Aldous HuxleyBritish Writer and Philosopher

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Support for surround sound standards

The compatibility with the major surround sound standards currently available on the Australian market is also something you’ll want to look into if you don’t want to be left stranded with an unusable product. The most popular are currently the following: Dolby Tru HD, DTS-Master audio, Ultra HD, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

The latter two allow you to mix 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1 channels, even with dynamic objects which can be placed anywhere in the room and will considerably improve your immersive experience. Keep in mind that reaping the benefits of the kind of high-level feature will need you have a much higher budget.

Connectivity

The connection options of the amp you’re looking at are necessarily a critical aspect to consider. In that regard, wireless connectivity – in particular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – will be your best bets. You’ll be able to play content from your smartphone or tablet without having to connect them through an input jack.

It may also be useful to to choose an amp that supports 3D signals and 4K images. In that case, the model should include at least one HDMI 1.4 input, although it is much better to have HDMI 2.0 ports or higher. This will prevent your amplifier to become outdated in a couple of years, and you’ll be able to use it for years to come.

Amp Sliders

Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instruction manual carefully.
(Source: Jan Mikš: 12608446/ 123rf.com)

Summary

Quality speakers simply aren’t enough to enjoy high fidelity sound. Having an amp will strengthen your signal and eliminate potential distortions. Luckily for you, the market now has equipment that offer good performance at affordable prices.

Generally speaking, it is always better to try a sound system for yourself before buying it. However, you won’t always be able to do so, and you may have to let yourself be guided by its technical specs. Buying online also offers other advantages, such as the ability to browse through a wide variety of products with the click of a button.

If you found our guide helpful in your decision, we’d be very grateful if you could share it on your social media. Feel free to also leave us a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Chattrawutt Hanjukkam: 58036711/ 123rf.com)

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