Best Amplifiers for Turntables [Buyer’s Guide] – 2021

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best amplifiers for turntables

Buyer’s Guide: Best Amplifiers for Turntables – 2021

If you’re just getting started with vinyl and on the market for an amplifier to accompany your turntables, you might find that choosing the best amplifiers for turntables is a daunting task.

Looking at spec sheets and getting hit with a laundry list of terms like decibel, gain, watts, impedance, frequency response, THD, dampening factor, etc. is a disorienting experience.

On top of that, trying to make sense of amplifier brands, what their designations mean, and why one might cost a few hundred bucks while another can cost three times as much can be frustrating.

But don’t worry! We’ve rounded up some of the best amplifiers for turntables at every price point for you to consider.

What should you look for when buying an amplifier?

  • Power output and impedance – you should look for power output per channel to at least match what is required by your speakers, but we recommend building in some head room. If your speakers need 10W, go for 40-50W at least. Impedance is measured in ohms and should match the impedance of your speakers exactly. Typically, this is 8 ohms.
  • Frequency response and variance – frequency response is critical to audio quality. You’ll want 20Hz – 20kHz +/-1dB.
  • Total harmonic distortion and noise – Generally the lower the distortion, the better the amplifier.
  • Signal to noise ratio – Higher signal to noise ratio means that you’ll hear less background noise compared to the audio that you are outputting.
  • Number of channels – The right number of channels is highly personal. Choose the number of channels to match the number of output devices you intend to use.
  • Number of input connectors – Like number of channels, pick an amplifier with enough input connectors to support the number of input devices you have.
  • Phono encoding support is absolutely a deal breaker – in order to work with turntables, the amplifier should have a built in preamp with phono support to convert the analog signal from your turntables into one that can be output from your speakers. 

 

best amplifiers for turntables phono input

How much should you expect to spend on an amplifier?

If you’re just getting into vinyl or building your very first audio system from scratch and you’re unsure how your needs will evolve over time, we recommend starting on the lower end.

If you’ve only ever used full-featured receivers and this is a new hobby, we recommend looking for receivers with phono support, where you’ll find more budget options like the excellent Sony STRDH190 or Onkyo TX-8220.

If you’re looking for a richer audio experience, you’ll find that dedicated amps with phono support tend to fall in the midrange of $300-$700 USD, which might be a hefty investment if you’re just getting started.

For the aspiring or experienced vinyl collector who has a good idea of what they want their audio system to eventually look like, it may make sense to invest in a higher-end amplifier upfront. 

A good amplifier tends to last quite a long time and it means that in the long run instead of having to upgrade your amp, you can put your money towards better speakers or new records instead of having to upgrade your amp.

Taking all of these things into consideration, we’ve assembled our picks for the best amplifiers for turntables in 2021.

Our Picks for the Best Amplifiers for Turntables

Yamaha A-S501 – Our Top Pick

Our absolute favorite integrated preamp and power amplifier for turntables is the Yamaha A-S501. It offers two channels at 85W per channel at 8 ohms, which will work with pretty much any kind of high end consumer-oriented speaker.

The sound quality of the Yamaha A-S501 is top notch. With a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.5dB, 0.03% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) on phono inputs, and a signal to noise ratio of ≥ 82 dB on phono inputs,  the amplified audio output is sure to be rich, vibrant, and closely resemble the original vinyl recording.

At channel separation of ≥ 65 dB at 5.1kOhm / 1 kHz and ≥ 50 dB at 5.1kOhm / 10 kHz, cross talk is very minimal.  

You’ll also find that the Yamaha A-S501 works well for all kinds of inputs, so if you find yourself wanting to use this amplifier for other inputs in addition to turntables, it will serve you well.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is no wifi or bluetooth so this is really a purists’ device. For modern connectivity, check out the Denon PMA-600NE

Pros

  • Produces excellent amplified output that accurately captures original input sound
  • Power output is high enough to support a wide range of devices
  • Simple but powerful user interface

Cons

  • Not necessarily a con, but you’ll need separate devices to support wifi and bluetooth
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09/28/2021 02:32 am GMT

Check out this review from one of our favorite reviewers:

Yamaha A-S301BL – Best under $400

Our best under $400 pick is the Yamaha A-S301BL. Its offers many of the same benefits as the A-S501, but with slightly less power output.

It offers two channels at 60W per channel at 8 ohms, the ability to switch between two pairs of outputs so that you can switch between speakers in different rooms, and frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz ±0.5 dB.

At ≥ 210 damping factor , 0.03% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) on phono inputs, and a signal to noise ratio of ≥ 82 dB on phono inputs, you’ll find that the amplified sound quality is almost as good as the A-S501 at a great price. Headphone support is also top notch.

Pros

  • Produces excellent amplified output that accurately captures original input sound with very little noise
  • Ability to switch between two pairs of outputs so you can switch between different sets of speakers

Cons

  • Not necessarily a con, but you’ll need separate devices to support wifi and bluetooth
  • May not have enough headroom as you upgrade to the highest end speakers
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09/28/2021 02:32 am GMT

Cambridge Audio AXA35 – Best for Beginners

If you’re just getting started, the Cambridge Audio AXA35 is a great entry point. Its great for beginners who are pairing their turntables with a pair of entry level speakers as well. That being said, if you’ve already cultivated a deep interest in analog audio and plan to use the best speakers possible, you may quickly outgrow this one.

The Cambridge Audio AXA35  offers 35 W at 8 Ohms per channel with two channels of outputs. It features a frequency response of 5 Hz to 50 kHz +0/-3 dB.  The audible range for most adults is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, so while this range for consistent signal output is impressive, it may be unnecessary unless you like to “feel” your bass, which lives in the under 50 Hz frequency. 

While the variation in frequency response is a bit high for a dedicated amplifier, the < 0.15% THD at 80% power and > 82 dB signal to noise ratio means that you’ll still have a great listening experience.

Pros

  • Really good audio quality for the price

Cons

  • Not necessarily a con, but you’ll need separate devices to support wifi and bluetooth
  • May not have enough headroom as you upgrade to the highest end speakers
  • Users have reported variance in build quality of the hardware across units
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09/28/2021 02:34 am GMT

Denon PMA-600NE – Best for Streaming

For an amplifier with all the modern features you’re used to in your audio devices, the Denon PMA-600NE is a great choice to pair with your turntables. What stands out about the Denon PMA-600NE is that it offers bluetooth connectivity to headphones and speakers, and its really easy to get connected! 

The Denon PMA-600NE can output 45 W at 8 Ohms per channel with two output channels, 0.01% THD, and 105 dB signal to noise ratio. It slightly edges out the Cambridge Audio AXA35 and is comparable to the Yamaha A-S301BL. The premium you’re paying with the Denon PMA-600NE is the slightly higher audio and the ease of connectivity.

Pros

  • Produces excellent amplified output that accurately captures original input sound with very little noise
  • Supports bluetooth connectivity to all your smart devices

Cons

  • May not have enough headroom as you upgrade to the highest end speakers
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09/28/2021 02:33 am GMT

NAD C 316BEE – Best Hidden Gem

By the numbers, the NAD C 316BEE is an amazing amplifier for turntables – and it proves out in the listening experience as well.

At 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.3 dB frequency response, the NAD C 316BEE offers the smallest variation in amplified output of all the amplifiers on this list. While its important to consider that 1 dB is considered the smallest unit of change that most people can reliably detect, 0.3 dB is still a great technical feat. 

With >100 dB signal to noise ratio (>75 dB for phono), <0.03 % THD, and a damping factor >200, the sound quality and fidelity to the vinyl are unmatched.

Pros

  • Minimal variation in frequency response
  • High signal to noise ratio
  • Produces some of the best amplified output quality available at this price point

Cons

  • May not have enough headroom as you upgrade to the highest end speakers
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09/28/2021 02:33 am GMT

Yamaha A-S801 – Best Investment

 The Yamaha A-S801 is one of the best integrated, two-channel amplifiers on the market and can support any kind of high-quality consumer-oriented speakers on the market and offers a ton of room to grow with your audio setup and is sure to meet your needs well into the future. The Yamaha A-S801 features all the best aspects of the A-S501 with greater power output and greater DAC range.

It offers 100 W at 8 Ohms with two channels, 20 Hz to 20 kHz ±0.5 dB frequency response, ≥ 240 damping, up to 384 kHz DAC, and ≥ 82 dB signal to noise ratio. All of this means that the power output and overall audio output quality and fidelity are excellent and the A-S801 is sure to be a worthwhile investment.

If you have a good idea of what you want your audio setup to look like and two channels is satisfactory for your audio needs, the Yamaha A-S801 may be the best overall value for your money over a time horizon on the order of years.

Once you outgrow the other options on this list, you’ll most likely look to upgrade, and that means buying a more expensive option like the A-S801. So if you’re fairly certain that you will want to upgrade and you can afford the hefty price tag up front, it may pay off in the long run. 

Pros

  • Produces excellent amplified output that accurately captures original input sound
  • Power output is high enough to support a wide range of devices
  • Simple but powerful user interface

Cons

  • Not necessarily a con, but you’ll need separate devices to support wifi and bluetooth
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/28/2021 02:33 am GMT

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an amplifier and a receiver?

The main difference between an amplifier and a receiver is that a receiver has built-in radio, and in 2021, other conveniences like built-in wifi and bluetooth, making it an all-in-one system.

You might be wondering why you would choose an amplifier over a receiver if the receiver has more features. 

Amplifiers do two things really well – switch inputs and supply gain to output channels, so when you pay for a dedicated amplifier, all of your dollars go towards those two functions. 

This works in your favor in two ways – you can either spend less and get equivalent amplifier quality compared to a receiver or spend the same amount as you would for a receiver and get better amplifier quality. 

So if you don’t care about radio or wifi, and you’re looking only for the most power output, the smallest variance in frequency range, and the highest signal to noise ratio at a given price point, buying an amplifier means all of your dollars are going towards the features you care about. 

That being said, if you see yourself moving beyond just turntables at some point, or you like the flexibility of an all-in-one, full-featured audio system, then it may make sense to spend a bit more to include the additional radio hardware, wifi, bluetooth, and app functionality found in modern receivers. 

If this sounds like you, check out this article we wrote about the best receivers for turntables.

Integrated Amp vs. separate preamp and power amp?

All of the options we’ve listed above are integrated amplifiers which means they serve both as preamps and power amps, mainly for convenience and ease. 

Preamps are used to convert weak electrical signals into ones suitable for downstream processing. Typically they are required for analog inputs, like turntables or microphones. Without a preamp, the resulting sound in your speakers would sound noisy and frayed.

Power amps are used to provide gain to electrical signals generated by your inputs so that the level is high enough for your speakers pr speakers to pick up on.  

You may find that as you go deeper into configuring your audio system, that separate preamp and power amps provide better quality out of your turntable setup at the cost of a more intricate setup.

What is a decibel?

So you may have noticed that some of the technical specifications mentioned in this article are stated in dB or decibels. 

Human hearing is measured on a logarithmic scale, meaning that in order to produce a sound that is twice as loud, you would need to increase gain by ten times its current value.

For this reason, audio equipment specs for gain and voltage are often quoted in dB, which is the log of these values because the linear scale values can get quite large. 

Will this amplifier work with my setup?

To determine whether an amplifier will work with your audio system, you need to consider the wattage, impedance, and number of channels required by the outputs that you plug into the amplifier. 

If the impedance on your speaker is 8 ohms, then you should look for an amplifier that supplies 8 ohms of impedance per channel. 

Similarly, if your speaker requires 10W of power, you’ll want to choose an amplifier that supplies at least 10W-100W of gain per channel.

The number of channels you’ll want is based on the number of output devices you’re looking to support. If you’re looking for surround sound, at minimum you’ll need 5 channels for speakers and 1 channel for a subwoofer. These days, there are tons of 7.1 surround sound speakers. We rated some of the best ones here.

Wrapping Up

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so to wrap up our discussion of the best amplifiers for turntables, look for amplifiers that support phono analog inputs. 

If you’re looking for a dedicated amplifier that supports turntables, you’ll most likely find yourself in the midrange, and in our evaluation, we found that the Yamaha S-series A-S501 offered the best audio quality, support for inputs and outputs, and plenty of power output for a turntable and dual speaker setup.

Red
Hi, I'm Red, the Chief Editor of Red Diamond Audio.