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Best Affordable Amplifier for Turntables

In this guide, we’re looking at affordable stereo amplifiers that perfectly match the sound and spirit of vinyl records.

Vinyl records and turntables are loved for their ability to reproduce warm, smooth and rich sound. When we pick an amplifier to use with our turntable, it is ideal to look for these qualities in the amplifier as well.

The recommendations in this guide are amplifiers that are designed with a strong focus on high-fidelity sound.

They are carefully picked for vinyl enthusiasts.

How to choose an amplifier for your turntable?

There are essentially two routes we can take when we choose an amplifier for our turntable.

The first option is to choose an amplifier that is made for music enthusiasts and designed with a strong focus on sonic performance.

An amplifier that put analog sound quality over flashy digital features.

An amplifier where the star of the show is 2 channels of high quality amplification. Not a list of features.

I will call this a stereo Hi-Fi amplifier.

Stereo Hi-Fi Amplifier for Denon

The other option is to choose a receiver that is designed with a much broader focus and emphasis features over sound quality.

An example of this is an affordable 5.1 surround receiver that support every music and video format you can think of.

That includes every digital feature known to man.

Plus a gazillion channels of (cheap) amplification circuitry that can drive a gazillion speakers.

I will call this a multi-channel audio/video (A/V) receiver.

Multi-Channel A/V Receiver from Denon

The quality of the 2-channel amplification circuitry will be many times higher in a stereo Hi-Fi amplifier compared to a A/V receiver.

So will the level of clean power and sonic nuances that comes out of a stereo Hi-Fi amplifier.

Why?

The engineers can use much higher-quality (and more expensive) components in key areas of the design when the design is simpler.

If you don’t have strong reasons to choose an A/V receiver, I would recommend that you focus in on stereo Hi-Fi amplifiers. For the best sound and for the most enjoyable vinyl listening experience.

Which features to look for?

Now that we have (hopefully) agreed on a stereo Hi-Fi amplifier over an A/V receiver, let’s have a brief talk about features.

Fewer features and fewer channels is preferable because it enables the engineers to put more money into higher quality parts in key areas of the design.

There are, however, a few features that are nice to have. Even for vinyl spinners.

A great amplifier for vinyl should have a built-in preamp and a phono input for versatility. This makes it possible to connect turntables without a preamp built in without the need of a separate preamp.

Wireless Bluetooth is also a great feature to include. So we can stream music from a mobile phone or PC. Even vinyl enthusiasts gets tired of spinning vinyl sometimes. An alternative option is to buy a separate Bluetooth receiver that connects to the amplifier.

Digital inputs and a quality DAC is also nice to have so that we can connect digital sources through a cable for high-quality digital sound.

An alternative is to buy a separate DAC that handles all the digital stuff.

Tone Control is also nice to have in my opinion. Personally, I like to bump the bass a notch when I listen to guitar rock and so forth.

A source direct or pure direct option is something to look for too. It let us bypass tone controls and shots down digital circuitry for the purest listening experience.

Budget

A healthy budget for an affordable stereo Hi-Fi amplifier that will last for decades is $300-$500.

The traditional home stereo manufacturers place their entry-level “audiophile” amplifiers in the $300 – $500 price range. So this is a perfect budget to start with.

If you are looking for extraordinary audiophile sound quality, then you might up the budget from $500. But that won’t be necessary for the general vinyl spinner.

Recommended Amplifiers

Here are the amplifiers I strongly believe are the two best buys today.

Both come with a few handy features, but the star of the show is 2 channels of high-quality amplification for beautiful sound.

Denon PMA-600NE (Top pick)

Denon has an audiophile heritage that’s run almost 100 years back.

And with their PMA amplifier series, they blend traditional amplifier design with state-of-the-art technology in a way that might be unmatched in the industry today.

Their most budget friendly model in their Hi-Fi amplifier range is the Denon PMA-600NE.

When Steve Guttenberg (Audiophile legend) tested the PMA-600NE, he was very impressed with it straight away. Even though he first thought it was much more expensive than it actually is.

You can watch his review on YouTube here: The almost too good to be true Denon PMA-600NE.

The sound of the Denon PMA-600NE is warm and muscular. Which has been the character for Denon amplifiers as long as I can remember. They stay true to their heritage.

It also have a perfect list of features in my opinion.

I use the PMA-600NE’s bigger brother, the critically acclaimed Denon PMA-1600NE, for my daily vinyl spinning.

It is awesome.

And when Denon later brings this slimmed-down model to the market, for a fraction of the money, we need to pay attention.

The PMA-600NE is a fantastic amplifier for the price.

Power2 x 70W
Analog Inputs4
Digital Inputs3
Phono Input
(Preamp)
Yes
BluetoothYes
Tone ControlYes
Headphone outputYes

PROS
– Great value for money
– Bluetooth
– Awesome sound
– Traditional Hi-Fi design
– Elegant look
– Source direct option for the purest signal path

CONS
– No USB digital input

The Denon PMA-600NE is my top recommendation for an affordable amplifier for turntables.

Click here to check price on Amazon

Yamaha A-S301BL (Runner-up)

To stay true to their audiophile heritage, Yamaha also have a line of natural sounding traditional Hi-Fi amplifiers.

The Yamaha A-S301BL is the entry-level model from the line and another great option for an affordable amplifier for vinyl.

It essentially has the same specs and features as the Denon PM-600NE, except for built-in wireless Bluetooth. So you will need an external Bluetooth streamer for this one. Which might be fine as many Hi-Fi enthusiasts like to keep their wireless and digital stuff separate.

The benefit of keeping the digital and wireless stuff separate is that you won’t need to replace the whole amplifier when the digital protocols get outdated and are replaced with next generation technology.

The Yamaha A-S301BL has received great reviews and is a respected amplifier for those that fancy great powerful sound.

Power2 x 60W
Analog Inputs5
Digital Inputs2
Phono Input
(Preamp)
Yes
BluetoothNo
Tone ControlYes
Headphone outputYes

PROS
– Great value for money
– Great reviews
– Awesome sound
– Traditional Hi-Fi design
– Pure Direct mode for greater sound purity

CONS
– No Bluetooth
– Needs Bluetooth adapter for wireless steaming

The Yamaha A-S301BL is my runner-up in this review of great amplifiers for turntables.

Click here to check price on Amazon

Conclusion

The two amplifiers reviewed above are two great and quite similar amplifiers. Both are awesome options to hook up to a turntable.

They tick more or less all the boxes for a dream affordable amplifier for vinyl and analog music lovers.

For my money, I would go with the Denon. The built-in Bluetooth is convenient, and I generally like the design and sound character of Denon better than Yamaha.

But the choice is hugely down to personal preference. You won’t go wrong with either of these.

If the amplifiers recommended in this guide is are too expensive for your budget, there are cheaper options worth checking out as well.

The Sony STRDH190 seems to be the best and most popular pick in the $100 – $200 price range.

Related Questions

What is the difference between an amplifier and an integrated amplifier?

Amplifier (Wikipedia) is a general term for electronic gear that increase the size and strength of a signal.

And integrated amplifier is an home stereo amplifier that combines a pre-amplifier and a power-amplifier into one unit. When we say amplifier in the context of home stereo we usually mean integrated amplifier.

In some high-end stereo systems the amplifier is split in two units. A pre-amplifier that take care of the volume control and source selector. And a power-amplifier that boost the signal so that it can drive speakers.

What is the difference between an amplifier and receiver?

Originally, receiver usually meant amplifier with a radio tuner built-in.

Nowadays, we usually call a 2-channel stereo amplifier for amplifier, and a multi-channel surround amplifier for a receiver.

So an amplifier is primarily for music listening. And a receiver is primarily for watching films with surround sound.

A stereo amplifier is sometimes called receiver as well so this is a bit confusing. The terms are somewhat used interchangeably.

What is best? Denon, Onkyo, Sony, Yamaha or Pioneer?

These are all great brands that have made very good products for many many years. The key is not to choose a particular manufacturer, but to choose the specific product that best fits your needs.

Do expensive amplifiers sound better?

You usually have to pay more for better sounding amplifiers. There can be best buys within a certain price-point, but if we want to upgrade to significantly better sound it will usually need a bigger budget.

The increase in sonic performance will, however, be smaller and smaller for every extra dollar we spend as we approach higher and higher price points.

Can I use 5.1 , 7.1 and 9.1 surround receivers with only 2 speakers?

A surround receiver will play stereo music and work perfectly fine with only two speakers connected.

But if you are going to use only two speakers, you will get more value for money if you buy a 2-channel stereo amplifier rather than a surround receiver.

  • Tom
  • November 17, 2019