If you think your home theater sounds fantastic now, wait until you hear what it sounds like after you install a home audio amplifier. Connecting an audio amplifier to your home theater or music system, will dramatically improve your audio quality. Choosing the right audio amplifier for your home can make a world of a difference in experiencing exceptional sound quality and you don’t need to spend a fortune to accomplish it.
Amps are a vital link between your source, a DVD player, turntable or Blu-Ray player for example, and your speakers. A quality amp will convert weak audio signals to signals that are strong enough to drive your speakers, and produce quality sound.
Depending on the type of application you’re using, you may decide to use an integrated amplifier, or a combination of a preamplifier and power amplifier which have the key features required to complement your speaker system and customize your sound output.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of amplifiers in the market and what to consider when buying one:
What is an amplifier?
Simply put, an amplifier enlarges or “amplifies” a weak electric signal. A preamplifier or preamp amplifies a signal enough to be received by a power amplifier. The power amplifier’s job is to amplify it enough to power your speakers.
In terms of functionality, the amplifier first receives an input signal from a “source.” A source can be anything — A DVD or Blu-ray player, CD player, turntable, laptop or even your smart phone. Once the signal is received the amplifier creates an enlarged copy of the weaker signal. It gets the power required to do this from a 110-volt wall socket.
So, an amplifier primarily contains three connections: a source input, an output, and a source of power.
Different types of amplifiers
A preamplifier of preamp takes a low-level or weak audio signal and prepares it to be accepted for the next level of amplification. Depending on your application certain devices such as network players come with a built-in preamp so you don’t need to add one externally to your setup.
Preamps can be used to switch from one source to another, audio/video signal processing, sound decoding, and to supply an output signal to a power amplifier.
You cannot attach your speakers directly to your preamp (unless they are self-powered), as most preamplifiers do not come with speaker connection terminals.
For that you’ll need a power amplifier to supply the signal and power needed to the speakers to actually produce sound.
So, the primary function of a power amplifier is to accept the prepared signal from the preamp and amplify it even more to be heard through the loudspeakers.
You can choose a power amp depending on the needs of your application. For example, you might consider hi-fi stereo amps to enjoy exceptional performance from your stereo music system, or one-channel monoblock amps to drive your subwoofer. For your surround sound system you can opt for multi-channel amps that can bring your surround sound to life and have enough channels to drive all your speakers.
Like the name suggests, an integrated amplifier “integrates” both the preamp and the power amp in one unit.
The way an integrated app works is that the preamp receives the inputs from all of your sources, lets you switch sources, controls the volume and can also provide audio toning and balancing. The power amp generates the power (or watts) needed to drive your speakers to produce sound.
When choosing an integrated amp, it’s important to make sure the unit has all the connection terminals to integrate all of your components (and others you might need in the future).
These may include analog inputs (RCA, XLR), digital inputs (USB, Ethernet, Optical, Coaxial), wireless connections like built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and various outputs (headphone jack, subwoofer, speakers etc.)
Separate or integrated?
Now, you might be wondering, which is a better choice — choosing separates or going for an integrated solution?
If you’re working on a budget, or need a compact unit, an integrated amplifier can be a convenient choice.
However, it’s important to remember that when it comes to getting the best sound quality, splitting each stage of sound reproduction into separate units (preamp, power amplifier, pro audio speakers) will give you better results than integrated units (integrated amplifier, speakers).
One reason for this is that the separate units don’t share the same power supply, which gives you less noise and more power. Also, you get full control over how you want to build your system, to get the cleanest, most amazing sound possible.
Integrated or receiver?
If an integrated amplifier also includes a radio tuner (Satellite/Internet Radio, AM/FM), then it is called a “receiver.”
If radio is not your thing, an integration amplifier might be the better option. Sure, a home theater receiver is an excellent choice for movie watching, but if you’re looking for the highest quality sound, that will literally give you goose-bumps, integrated or separate amplifier units are the way to go.
Other things to consider…
You’ll also need to consider other factors such as power output and amplifier class. In the case of power, more wattage is not always better. So, if you have a small room, you don’t need to invest in a massive amp.
You will probably also come across what is known as an amplifier “class” which is a technical distinction in relation to the quality of sound. Classes include, A, B, A/B and D.
There are also other factors to consider such as THD + N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise), SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio), and crosstalk.
If you’re not sure of what you might need, it’s best to consult with an expert who can recommend the best setup for your needs.
Our ProAV experts at Pacrad, know amplifiers in and out and can recommend the best audio amplifier for home use for your needs. Ready to take your music and entertainment to new heights?
Give us a call today!