So you’ve decided to set up your own home theatre system, and now you’ve come to a bump in the road. “Do I need an amplifier or a receiver? Aren’t they the same thing?”
It’s not a surprise that this is a confusing topic, as these terms are thrown around pretty interchangeably. But there is a difference between them, so before you make the choice for your own entertainment system, you should probably know the basics at least.
So is a receiver the same as an amplifier? An amplifier is just a device that takes an audio signal and amplifies it so that your speakers can use it to play the audio. A receiver has an amplifier in it, but has extra functionalities such as a tuner, preamp, radio, input selection, volume controls, and more.
When you talk about amps vs receivers, you’re really talking about whether you should buy a system where all of the components(the amp, the preamp, the tuner, etc) are separate and self-contained, usually called separates, or if you want a receiver which keeps all of the components together in one device.
So a receiver is pretty much just an amplifier that comes with more functions? So why shouldn’t you just buy a receiver instead of an amplifier?
Though a receiver is definitely more convenient, there are benefits to using an amplifier. Not only that, but there are multiple types of receivers to choose from as well.
An amplifier is just a device that takes a small signal, and amplifies it, or creates a larger replica of it, and then outputs it. This is necessary because, without an amplified signal, you won’t get enough power to make your speakers work.
But when asking the question of amplifiers vs receivers, you’re not just asking if you should buy an amplifier or a receiver, because you’re going to need more than just an amplifier to make your setup work.
When you use a standalone amplifier, it isn’t really standalone. You’re going to need a preamp/processor, the amplifier itself, and the speakers to make the system work (more answers to preamp questions in our article). So the question of amplifiers vs receivers is really separates vs receivers.
It may seem like a no-brainer to pick the receiver, there’s actually more factors you should consider before making your final choice!
Receivers vs Amplifiers (Separates)
The more convenient and full package is a receiver since it comes with more functions than an amplifier, and all the other components are already built-in, right? Well, that’s true in some cases, there are cases where an amplifier might be the better choice for you.
If you’re just looking to set up a home theater system and want to connect your TV, speakers, consoles, and more all into one spot, then a receiver is probably the right choice. But if you’re a hardcore audiophile, or just want to use your setup for music, then you probably want to make your music sound as good as possible, in which case an amplifier might be better.
I would say about 95% of people will only need an A/V receiver for reasons we’ve explored before in our article about pre-outs on receivers. Standalone amplifiers are usually only needed for more complex audio setups. If you aren’t sure what type of receiver to purchase, then check out my recommended receivers page! I go over a few different high-quality receivers at various price points.
Pros and Cons of Receivers
Pros of Receivers
- All-in-one Unit – When you get a receiver, you’re getting almost everything you need for your home theatre’s audio setup all in one neat package. This includes multiple inputs for audio and video, volume/input controls and added functionalities like, the preamp, amplifier, and possibly a tuner.
- Conserve Space – A Receiver is going to take up much less space than a separates system will.
- Cheaper Option – Receiver setups are generally going to cost you less than going with separate components
Cons of Receivers
A receiver is definitely the more convenient choice of the two, but that doesn’t mean that it comes without any downsides.
- Usually a Lower Quality Amplifier – Though the quality of receiver amps is definitely increasing, you still don’t have a completely dedicated amp with a receiver. Since it has to share the space with all of the other components there’s not enough room for one. This means that if you have a large set of speakers, it might not be able to put out enough power to make them work.
- Must Replace the Entire Unit when Upgrading – Upgrading a receiver is not very cost-efficient; there isn’t really a way to upgrade individual parts, so you have to purchase a completely new unit.
Pros and Cons of Amplifiers (Separates)
Pros of Amplifiers
- You’re going to have much more control of what goes into your system with separates. The pre-amps, amplifier, tuner, etc. all get picked by you. You don’t have to go with a pre-built unit that doesn’t include certain components you don’t want.
- Upgrading a separate system is much easier, if you need a better amp, you can upgrade just your amp, you’re not going to have to get a whole new system just because one component isn’t up to par anymore.
Cons of Amplifiers
- More Expensive Option – Price is going to be a big factor with amplifiers or separates. You’re going to have to invest a bit more money into your system if you want to have all of your components separated.
- Takes Up More Space – With an amplifier and separates you are going to need a bit more space to completely set up the full system. Since each component is self contained, the system as a whole takes up much more space than an all-in-one setup with a receiver.
Should you use a Receiver or an Amplifier?
So which one should you choose for your setup? Well if you’re putting your theatre system in a room that isn’t too large, doesn’t need huge speakers, you’re only a casual movie watcher/music listener, or you just want the convenient choice, then definitely go with a receiver!
Different Types of Receivers
With receivers, you have a few choices, depending on your system’s needs. The main two types of receivers are stereo receivers and A/V receivers, both of which can handle a Bluetooth connection via an adapter. Here is our list of recommended receivers!
Stereo receivers are purely for audio, they usually have functions like radios, input selectors for picking different audio sources, and volume controls, but they usually won’t come with any support for video sources.
These are for people who aren’t interested in a home theater but just want a convenient setup for them to listen to their music. And it’s still a great cost-efficient option to power your speakers for casually listening to music!
A/V (Audio/Video) Receivers
A/V receivers or audio-video receivers are a bit different from stereo receivers. They contain support for audio and video, hence the A/V. A/V receivers usually have spaces for multiple inputs so you can connect things like media streaming devices, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and others to your speakers and TV.
This is great for someone who wants an easy way to consolidate all the components of their home theatre without too much hassle. If you’re someone who wants a convenient way to set up their home theatre, this is probably the route you want to take!
Do you need a receiver and amplifier? Typically, no. An A/V receiver has a built-in amplifier. An A/V receiver is able to receive an audio signal, process it, amplify the signal to the speakers, and allow video to pass-through to a TV or projector. While an amplifier is only able to receive and audio signal, process it, and amplify the signal to different speakers. Most all setups will only need an A/V receiver or an amplifier, never both.
What is the difference between a preamplifier and an amplifier? A preamplifier provides a small amount of power to a boost a weaker signal to line level. An amplifier uses much more power to boost the power of a line level signal to a level in which it can be used by speakers.
Isn’t the audio going to be worse in an all-in-one system like a receiver? This isn’t necessarily true because now-a-days audio quality of receivers is very comparable to an amplifier’s. The difference, though, is a receiver setup won’t be as personalized as one where you pick each component separately. Though for most consumers it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Can you just connect all the components to my TV? Many TV’s won’t have enough input slots to accommodate all of your devices, and if they do, you probably won’t get the same audio quality through your TV as you would with speakers and a receiver
The Distinction Audio range of integrated amplifiers for sale online
The Omnia and 6000A Play Integrated Streaming Amplifier blurs the barriers between hi-fi and lifestyle, bringing all of the legacy that makes audiolab equipment the preferred choice of connoisseurs all in one package.
No matter what your budget is, Cambridge Audio will give you the best sound at the best price. The new CXA61 and CXA81 integrated amplifiers build on what the CXA60 and CXA80 did, but they do so in a fresh and forward-looking way.
Amplifiers made by Copland are designed and built in Denmark. The CSA-150 is the most powerful amplifier in the CSA series, which also includes the CSA-70 and the CSA-100. The CSA-70 is the least powerful of the three.
Dan D’Agostino’s name is synonymous with high-end audio amplifiers. The Dan D’Agostino Momentum preamplifier and the Momentum stereo amplifier were put together to make the new Momentum integrated amplifier. Both have been called two of the best pieces of audio equipment ever made.
Nearly a decade ago, the Gryphon Diablo gave the modest integrated amplifier a new lease on life. The Gryphon Diablo is being replaced with the Gryphon Diablo 300, which builds on the amplifier’s award-winning innovations and components. Each Gryphon product is designed solely to preserve the integrity of the input signal, with no subtractive or additive colourations. When it comes to determining the ultimate sound quality, the input signal must always be the only factor.
Magnat has a long history of combining tube and transistor technology. German engineering at its finest, it offers a perfect balance of sound and performance.
Experience intense, enveloping sound from the Italian masters of sound, with great control and finesse with the Mastersound Dueventi Integrated Power Amplifier. While being true to Italy’s long-standing custom of producing goods by hand, the company’s end goal is to make tube amplifiers of the highest possible quality that can be found on the market.
Since its inception in the 1950s, Rotel, a Japanese family business, has been designing, manufacturing, and shipping high-end audio equipment that is unmatched in terms of both performance and value. When it comes to performance, passion and value, Rotel’s 60 years of Japanese tradition are reflected in the Diamond Series integrated amplifiers RA-6000 Integrated Amplifier. The Michi X3 Integrated Amplifier has excellent sound quality and is easy to use. It has an elegant industrial design.
Yamaha’s design philosophy is based on the idea that your Hi-Fi equipment should be able to convey the emotions of the artists. The A-S1200 uses an impressive array of the newest technology to make a pure musical sound.
Why buy your integrated amplifier from Distinction Audio
If you’ve decided to go with an integrated amplifier because it’s easier, more convenient, and takes up less space, Distinction Audio has made a name for itself as the place to go for integrated amplifiers in the home. Distinction Audio offers reasonably priced, high-quality audio equipment that is not only amazing in its functionality but also in its visually striking design.