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simple and inexpensive stereo amplifiers

The test was conducted in the United States and was originally published in English on the Wirecutter website. You can read the original version here.

After reviewing 10 models and conducting more than 70 hours of testing, we believe Sony's STR-DH190 is the best stereo amplifier for less than 200 euros. This is a great way to discover "vinyl sound" and a simple solution to get great stereo sound. This model has its limitations, but with Bluetooth and a built-in phono-plug (as well as 100 watts per channel), it's a whole lot.

Our listening panel found the sound of Sony's STR-DH190 at least as good as that of all tested stereo amplifiers. This model also offers features that we think are most important to most users: Bluetooth, phono emblem and lots of power. However, there are some disadvantages: its cable speaker connectors are quite fragile, its antenna-specific FM antenna connector is irritating because it forces you to use the cheap antenna provided by Sony, and it lacks an AM tuner. In our tests, the performances of our two choices were almost identical. If you don't need Bluetooth and prefer slightly more secure connectors and AM radios, check out our second choice.

In terms of performance, TX-8020 from Onkyo playing in the same yard as the Sony STR-DH190. The two amplifiers differ mainly in their characteristics. Onkyo does not have wireless Bluetooth connectivity, but uses threaded terminals that provide more secure cable connections for speakers than Sony's spring terminals. It has an output subwoofer, which allows you to connect it slightly with the subwoofer. Since it includes a standard FM antenna connector, you can connect it to the FM antenna of your choice. It also includes an AM receiver, unlike Sony.

Note: our dashboard found that the sound differences between the different amplifiers we tested were negligible, and the testers failed to assign a favorite. The choice of entry level stereo amplifier is a particular matter of price and features.

Everything we recommend

Complete test

Why believe in us

Why buy a stereo amplifier

Our method of choice

Our method of assessment

Our favorite stereo amplifier: Sony STR-DH190

Non-crippled defects

Our second choice: Onico TX-8020 stereo amplifier




Why believe in us

I've written professional reviews of audio material since 1990. I am currently writing for the SoundStage Web site and have made reviews for various magazines and websites such as Sound & Vision, Home Theater Review, Lifewire and Home Theater. . I have of course conducted more blind component audio tests than any other journalist in the world, and I have a room in my home dedicated to listening (where we did the tests for this guide) and a fully equipped test bench, as well as the hardware I purchased or mounted specifically for comparative testing such as this one.

As part of this guide, my listening panel consisted of two seasoned sound professionals. Laurel Dragan, a writer on Cutting Wire Headphones, is a graduate of Ithaca College in both music performance and audio production, and has rated high-quality audio material for publications such as Home Entertainment, Home Cinema and Sound Vision. Freelance writer for Wirecutter, Offie Morrison has written for CNET, Forbes.com, Home Cinema, Home Entertainment and Sound & Vision. They both took part in dozens of blind tests I conducted for Wireless and other publications.

Why buy a stereo amplifier

In principle, an amplifier is considered a device that combines a power amplifier (which delivers the power of your speakers), a preamp (for source selection, volume control and frequent high-frequency adjustment), and sometimes radio receiver. All of these components are available separately, but most users prefer an amplifier because it is cheaper. And since it's a single, all-in-one component, it requires less cables / connections and takes up less space.

We imagine two types of buyers who would be interested in a stereo amplifier: those who want to listen to vinyl records and those who want to gain sound quality as opposed to an all-in-one wireless speaker.

While audio tapes and all-in-one wireless speakers are now more successful than conventional stereo systems, they do not match the audio quality of a good stereo amplifier with equivalent speaker prices..

Vinyl records have gained popularity among listeners, young and old alike. While some newer phono phones include phono preamp and even Bluetooth wireless connectivity, most quality models do not. It is difficult, if not impossible, to connect them to wireless speakers. Most stereo amplifiers have a phono-preamp, which allows you to connect a connector and get good quality sound without adding any additional components.

Although all-in-one sound and wireless speakers are now more successful than conventional stereo systems, only very expensive models outperformed the audio quality of a good stereo amplifier with speakers as speakers. first choice of our guide Best Bookshelf Speakers. For about 600 euros all, stereo amplifier and accurate speakers will easily outperform the all-in-one system for an equivalent price. Because we can separate the speakers, we get real stereo sound and the exciting feeling that musicians are playing next. While wireless speakers can deliver great sound, almost none of them can play as loud or clear as an amplifier with high quality conventional speakers.

All our test choices The best AV amplifier (in English) offers many more features than a stereo amplifier, such as the ability to connect to a surround system and trace video signals to a TV or projector. However, as we know, AV amplifiers are expensive, difficult to connect and configure. With stereo amplifiers, the process is very simple: connect the speakers, connect the sources you want to use (deck, computer, wireless streaming adapter, old CD player or cassette player …), then turn on the amplifier and turn it on volume. Almost nothing to configure. Those looking for a simple and understandable way to listen to music will gladly have less control (and no on-screen menu).

Our method of choice

I began my investigation of the best stereo amplifiers by visiting Amazon, Best Buy and other online selling platforms. I quickly noticed that the vast majority of basic stereo amplifiers were sold for less than 200 euros. Sure, there are many more expensive models for music lovers, but their value for money seems less favorable. They usually offer more power and functionality than most users need and do not emphasize sound quality substantially to justify such a price gap. We didn't consider them.

We also did not rate stereo amplifiers with integrated network and bandwidth technology, such as Apple AirPlay and Yamaha MusicCast. These technologies are worth a look if you want to create a multiroom audio system or audio stream from a network storage device (NAS), but they cost up to twice as much as a conventional stereo amplifier while locking the user into brand-specific ecosystems. We found that the discussion, necessarily lengthy, and that the evaluation of these systems was not a topic, in the article that was to present material accepted for its simplicity.

Note, all the amps we tested, including our favorite, have outputs for zones A and B, allowing you to play the same source in two different rooms. However, be careful when you start playing two pieces at a time as this doubles the amplifier load. Do this only if your speakers have an 8-ohm impedance and do not increase the volume too much.

Top to bottom: Yamaha R-S202, Pioneer SX-10SR and Onkyo TX-8020. From top to bottom, right: NAD C316BEE, Sony STR-DH190 and Onkyo TX-8220.
Top to bottom: Yamaha R-S202, Pioneer SX-10SR and Onkyo TX-8020. From top to bottom, right: NAD C316BEE, Sony STR-DH190 and Onkyo TX-8220. Wire Maker / Brent Butterworth

The only feature we considered compulsory for amplifiers? Radio tuner, whatever. Of the tested models, all but one have a phono input for the turntable and all but one are equipped with Bluetooth. For others, their functionality is similar, although some models have one or two additional entries.

Power was not an important factor in this test. The less powerful amplifiers we found have 45 watts per 8-channel speaker channel, which is enough to push the speaker well beyond 100 decibels – and make your neighbors want to call the police. On this type of device, power differences of 10 or 20 watts are not significant. It takes twice as much power to enjoy the extra 3 dB, which is a barely noticeable difference: it's like turning the volume up very easily. The 100 watts amplifier per channel therefore seldom plays much louder than the 50 watts channel amplifier.

We ended up with 12 models that met our criteria. I turned off all the amps that got very high quality reviews on Amazon, and generally didn't look for a similar model to another in the same lineup, but with one or two features less. In the end, I only had five models left to test.

For a better overview of how these amplifiers work, I also asked for a copy of C 316BEE from above to compare. The C 316BEE is an integrated amplifier, stereo amplifier and amplifier in the same chassis, but without a radio tuner. For decades music lovers have enjoyed NAD's built-in amplifiers for their audio quality and simple design. Although the C 316BEE is a NAD input model, it is far from being the best NAD amplifier, but it is a good quality model, which costs about twice as much as most of the amps we tested. We wanted to hear if spending twice as much would improve sound quality.

Our method of assessment

In a blind test, Officer Morrison auditioned for amplifiers through the Revel Performa3 F206 speakers.
In a blind test, Officer Morrison auditioned for amplifiers through the Revel Performa3 F206 speakers. Wire Maker / Brent Butterworth

We compared stereo amplifiers in the only valid way: by using a switch, identifying the amplifiers by number and changing their order randomly to each listener. The listeners had no way of knowing which model they were listening to. To achieve this, I used a custom, single-relay switch, 5 cm long cables, and several bananas and banana jacks between amplifiers and speakers.

I also struggled so that the volume level was the same from one amplifier to another, imposing a high degree of accuracy: less than 0.1 dB, a difference too small to detect from the human ear. This is essential for a fair test, as it is enough that the amplifier is slightly stronger than others, so it is preferred by listeners. I remembered that when I tried to equalize the amplifier levels only with the volume buttons operating in 1 dB steps; although I was able to respond to levels with an accuracy of 0.4 dB this, this gave the amplifier a clear advantage over the higher volume. By adding a distribution amplifier to the Behringer DS8000, which allowed me to equalize volumes to the accuracy of 0.03 dB, the playing field was pretty fair, so no model was favored.

Listeners can choose their own music, stream from their phone or laptop to the V90-DAC Digital Fidelity to Analog Converter. If the amps did not have exactly the same sound, our preference for one or the other was not constant; it depended on who was listening and what music was being played. None of the listeners found that one of the amplifiers or the integrated NAD amplifier we added for comparison has a systematic advantage over the others.

After testing, I looked at amplifier ergonomics and features using them for many nights of informal listening to digital music, vinyl recordings and Blu-ray discs, either connected to my Revel's Performa3 F206, or KEF's Q150, a top choice from our guide for the best speakers in the library (in English).

I concluded by taking measurements in the lab of the various models and the integrated amplifier, just to make sure that they were not a technical malfunction that went unnoticed during our listening tests. This was the case for two: Onyo's TX-8220 and Pioneer's SX-10AE (coming from the same parent company and therefore likely having similar internal circuits) produced enough distortion for me to be able to hear during my listening tests when I started the 1km test tone to achieve a steady volume. I removed my measurements that confirmed the problem from the race. Even if the listeners did not notice the distortion while listening to their music, it is a defect that I have never encountered on an amplifier, and which is likely to be heard in some music recordings. The onkyo TX-8020, which is much older, does not have this problem.

This chart shows the curvature of each amplifier at a different output level and the maximum power each amplifier can provide with an 8 ohm load, the two channels being set at 1 kg. Onico's TX-8220 (red line) and Pioneer's SX-10AE (green line) have relatively high distortion levels even at low volume levels. Onyx's TX-8020 (blue line) and Yamaha's R-S202 (orange line) have a moderate level of distortion, while Sony's STR-DH190 (purple line) produces lower distortion and increases power. the upper output NAD C 316BEE (brown line) shows the lowest distortion but also the lowest power output.
This chart shows the curvature of each amplifier at a different output level and the maximum power each amplifier can provide with an 8 ohm load, the two channels being set at 1 kg. Onico's TX-8220 (red line) and Pioneer's SX-10AE (green line) have relatively high distortion levels even at low volume levels. Onyx's TX-8020 (blue line) and Yamaha's R-S202 (orange line) have a moderate level of distortion, while Sony's STR-DH190 (purple line) produces lower distortion and increases power. the upper output NAD C 316BEE (brown line) shows the lowest distortion but also the lowest power output. Wirecutter

Our favorite stereo amplifier: Sony STR-DH190

According to our tests, the Sony STR-DH190 is the best cheap stereo amplifier.
According to our tests, the Sony STR-DH190 is the best cheap stereo amplifier. Wire Rider / Rosette Rago

For us, Sony's STR-DH190 is the best stereo amplifier because it offers the best balance between useful features and sound quality. With Bluetooth and a built-in phono front-end, as well as a front port for portable devices, the STR-DH190 is a good choice whether you look to the future or love the retro style. Its sound quality is identical to that of the best models we tested, including the NAD built-in amplifier; on our blind tests, I chose it as a favorite and no other tester complained about the sound. Our measurements confirm that its output power is the highest of the selection: 112 watts per channel (wpc) with 8 ohms impedance, 150 wpc at 4 ohms (at 1 kHz, 0.5% total harmonic distortion, powered by both channels) . This means that the STR-DH190 has enough power to power virtually any speaker in very large quantities.

The Bluetooth function of the STR-DH190 offers significant benefits. It is AAC compatible, which means that sound quality can be slightly better when used with an Apple iPhone or iPad via the Apple Music service (or any other streaming service using the AAC format). Additionally, the amplifier automatically turns on when you select it in the menu of your Bluetooth source.

Wire Rider / Rosette Rago
Wire Rider / Rosette Rago

The menu system, controlled via the front panel, provides access to smaller features such as the ability to rename inputs, enable or disable automatic Bluetooth launch and adjust the input level. background, so that it is equivalent to the level of other inputs. At the rear there are four additional analog inputs, as well as an output for connecting a cassette player or other recording device and connectors for speakers in zone A and B. The front panel has 1/4 headphone jacks & # 39; & # 39; The remote is small but intuitive.

onThe STR-DH190 is a good choice whether you look to the future or love the retro style.

I did not find the professional review of STR-DH190. The last time I checked on Amazon, its rating was only 3.8 out of 5, but the complaints were either because of its brand-specific FM connector (and we agree), or allegedly insufficient power, which is wrong in our tests. .

Non-crippled defects

You don't have to wait long to see where Sony saves money to offer the low-cost STR-DH190. Конекторите за каблите за звучниците се мали терминали што се вградени во изворот, што значи дека треба да се користат каблите на звучникот со максимален дијаметар од 1,63 mm (14 AWG). Покрај тоа, можете лесно да го исклучите кабелот со поврзување и исклучување на други уреди. Покрај тоа, нема AM радио. Не познавам никој околу мене кој користи конвенционален стерео систем за да ја слуша AM фреквенцијата; но ако тоа е нешто што размислувате да го направите, наместо тоа, обратете се на нашиот втор избор. Нема излез на субвуферот, така што оние што користат сабвуфер треба да го приклучат со дополнителен сет на кабли за звучници, наместо со помалку зафатена и сигурна врска на ниво на линија.

Што најмногу н b вознемирува? FM-антената е специфичен бренд-конектор што работи само со кревката антена на 1,5 метри од Sony. Треба да биде доволно за да се фати повеќето урбани станици, но луѓето што живеат на село веројатно ќе имаат потреба од подобра антена. Можно е директно да се поврзете антена со висок квалитет директно на антената на Sony. Како и да е, ако FM радиото е приоритет за вас и живеете во област во која се соочуваат со проблеми со приемот, нашиот втор избор треба да биде подобар за вас.

Нашиот втор избор наСтерео засилувач: Онико е TX-8020

Wireичач / Розет Раго

on TX-8020 од Онкио беше прилично многу омилен. За разлика од многу скапи засилувачи, тој има цврсти терминали со навој за поврзување на кабли за звучници, што, според нашето искуство, обезбедува многу посигурна врска од нашите омилени терминали за пролет. Овој модел има единечен излез на субвуферот на едно ниво, што го олеснува и чисти поврзувањето на засилениот субвуфер. Вклучува FM приемници за FM и AM и користи стандардни конектори за обете, овозможувајќи ви да ја поврзете антената по ваш избор.

Откривме дека TX-8020 на Онкио произведе малку поинаков звук од нашиот прв избор, но не до тој степен што постојано да биде повисок или понизок од оној на неговите конкуренти. Offеф го рангираше на првото место на нашите слепи тестови. Ние ја измеривме неговата излезна моќност на 80 вати на канал (wpc) за товар од 8 оми, 116 wpc за 4 оми (на 1 kHz, вкупно хармонично изобличување од 0,5%, со напојување на двата канали). Подобро е од рејтингот на Онко; според построгите критериуми на Онкио, измеривме 57 вати за 8 оми.

Wireичач / Розет Раго
Wireичач / Розет Раго

Единствениот вистински недостаток на TX-8020? Нема вграден Bluetooth, карактеристика што тимот на techie Wirecutter ја смета за суштинска. Секако дека можеме да додадеме адаптер за Bluetooth (околу 30 евра), но сепак е уште еден додаток за управување. Со пет аналогни влезови на задниот дел (и еден излез за плеер за касети или друг рекордер), TX-8020 нема недостаток на влезови за додавање на адаптер за Bluetooth, како и четири други уреди, а има и фоно-влез. Исто така, има jack "џек за слушалки на предниот дел.

Стив Гутенберг од CNET е обожавател на TX-8020 и објаснува дека тој „Нуди одличен квалитет по многу разумна цена. " Освен оваа критика и мојата сопствена проценка датирана пред неколку години на Lifewire (на која моите лабораториски мерења за жал се отстранети), не успеав да најдам други професионални прегледи на TX- 8020. На Амазон е успешен, со рејтинг од 4,2 од 5 за 573 прегледи.


Онкијо TX: овој засилувач се чинеше идеален бидејќи ги комбинира најдобрите карактеристики на нашите први два избори, но не можевме да го направиме омилен заради неговото изненадувачки големо (и звучно) нарушување.

Пионерот SX-10AE: овој засилувач, исто така, имаше изненадувачки голема дисторзија (и звучен) што го спречи да го достигне подиумот.

PDA6 BU на Пиле: овој оригинален засилувач има висок рејтинг на моќност и неколку необични карактеристики, но имало премногу поплаки за квалитетот во прегледите на Amazon, така што можеме да го препорачаме со доверба.

PT265BT од Пајл: уште еднаш, премногу жалби за квалитет го дисквалификуваа од конкуренцијата.

Шервуд RX-4508: овој оригинален засилувач има висок рејтинг на моќност, но е предмет на премногу поплаки за неговиот квалитет на Amazon.

Шервуд RX-5502: овој засилувач може да вреди да се погледне ако барате ефтин модел што може безбедно да им помогнам на два пара звучници во големи количини, но ние сме воздржани од поплаки за неговиот квалитет на Amazon.

STR-DH130 од Sony: овој засилувач нема phono влез или Bluetooth, но обично се нуди по цена еднаква или поголема од нашиот прв избор.

На Yamaha R-S202BL: овој засилувач има Bluetooth, но нема phono влез и не нуди подобар звук од нашите омилени (дури и ако некој од нашите тестери се рангира меѓу најдобрите).


Иако стерео звукот има еден вид преродба, особено заради успехот на винил-записите, малиот број засилувачи што успеавме да ги собереме покажува дека активност сè уште не е полна во оваа категорија. Ако производителот нè изненади со тоа што наскоро ќе објавиме нов достапен стерео засилувач, нема да успееме да го испитаме.


1. Стив Гутенберг, Дали е стерео испратен приемник за вас ?, CNET, 13 септември 2013 година

2. Брент Батерворт, Преглед: Стерео ресивер Онкио TX-8020, Лифајвер, 2 април 2018 година

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