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The best amplifiers you can buy: Sony, Yamaha, and more

The best amplifiers allow for a better quality sound experience when watching movies or listening to music.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Gabriela Jordan

If you constantly find yourself maxing out the sound volume when watching movies or listening to music, an amplifier is what you need to give you the surround sound experience you yearn for. 

Amplifiers take an input signal from a source, such as a laptop or TV, and magnify that audio signal's power, resulting in a louder and higher-quality sound. While you could play your music through a portable Bluetooth speaker to increase sound, once you have a dedicated home setup with both speakers and an amplifier, you'll never go back -- believe me, I tried. 

Also: The best sound systems

Our top amplifier pick is the Sony STR-AN1000, due to its Dolby Atmos integration and spatial sound mapping. If you are looking for something less expensive, we also included options from Yamaha, Cambridge Audio, and more to upgrade your sound system.

The best amplifiers of 2023

Pros & Cons
  • Great quality sound
  • Easy set up
  • Feature rich with lots of compatibilities
  • Complaints about remote
More Details

Sony STR-AN1000 tech specs: Channels: 7 | Ports: 6 | Inputs: HDMI and RCA | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Power: 240W

This Sony amplifier is praised for its space-filling sounds thanks to Dolby Atmos integration and spatial sound mapping. It can pair with a 4K or even 8K TV because of its 120Hz HDMI connectivity. Watching movies will feel like you're in a movie theatre, and listening to music will feel like you're at a concert.

This amplifier is also compatible with Sonos, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay, and Spotify Connect, making it an amplifier anyone can use. It is easy to set up and has a minimal design, making it ideal for any space. 

Pros & Cons
  • Affordable
  • Phono input
  • Great Bluetooth connection
  • No AM radio
  • Speaker connectors are a bit small
More Details

Sony STRDH190 tech specs: Channels: 2 | Ports: 4 | Inputs: Phono and RCA | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Power: 100W

Looking for something a little less expensive? This amplifier is also from Sony but only costs about $150. While this amplifier doesn't have features like Dolby Atmos or spatial sound mapping, it still allows for the basics: You can adjust the volume, bass, and treble, store 30 FM preset channels, access Bluetooth, and numerous other features from the remote. 

While this amplifier won't vibrate your walls with bass, it produces a clear and quality sound that other speakers at this price point won't deliver. Plus, it has a phono input if you want to use it with your turntable setup.

Pros & Cons
  • Control features via app or smart home devices
  • Versatile and detailed sound for movies, music, gaming, etc.
  • Plenty of EQ options
  • Pricey
  • Lots of firmware updates for fixes
More Details

Yamaha RX-V6A tech specs: Channels: 7.2 | Ports: 8 | Inputs: HDMI | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Power: 100W

This Yamaha amplifier easily works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri (via Apple Airplay 2), so you can use voice commands to play music. Plus, Yamaha's MuiscCast app allows you to play around with the amplifier's tone, volume, and sound settings for further customization and individual acoustics, depending on what you're watching/listening to.

As far as the sound goes, it produces a clear tone, balanced sound, and even has Dolby Atmos surround sound. And while you can customize your sound settings, the amplifier has various built-in EQ options, including minimalistic frequency-based EQ.

Pros & Cons
  • Slim and stylish design
  • Great for a new or vintage turntable
  • Good entry-level amplifier
  • No digital inputs
More Details

Cambridge Audio AXA35 tech specs: Channels: 2 | Ports: 5 | Inputs: RCA, phono, AUX | Frequency response: 5Hz - 50kHz | Power: 35W

An amplifier for turntables will need a phono output, and this one from Cambridge Audio has both RCA and phono connectors so that you can play your vinyl collection easily. Plus, its moving magnet (MM) compatibility means this amplifier works with various turntables – including that vintage turntable your parents passed down. 

Also: Everything you need for a vinyl setup

For sound, you can expect a lively yet refined and detailed sound with plenty of gain. 

Pros & Cons
  • Bass boost feature
  • Great value for the money
  • Loud and clear sound quality
  • Volume level is poorly marked
More Details

Onkyo A-9110 tech specs: Channels: 2 | Ports: 5 | Inputs: RCA and phono | Frequency response: 10Hz-100kHz | Power: 50W

Looking for something to really turn up the bass? This Onkyo amplifier has phase matching bass boost to eliminate phase shift between low- and mid-range frequencies, meaning enhanced bass in your music and movies without compromising any vocals. It is especially noticeable if you have a subwoofer. This amplifier also has something called Optimum Gain Volume Circuitry, in which the signal never approaches the noise floor, meaning you can get super clear sound even at lower volumes.

All this means you'll get a deep bass sound with warm tuning and lively dynamics. The bass and treble controls are finely calibrated, so you can find that perfect sound for whatever you're listening to.

What is the best amplifier?

Based on our research, the best amplifier is the Sony STR-AN1000 7.2 CH Surround Sound Home Theater 8K A/V Receiver because it packs a punch at 240W and has special features like built-in Chromecast and 8K and 4K compatibility.





Sony STR-AN1000     




Sony STRDH190     



Phono and RCA

Yamaha RX-V6A




Cambridge Audio AXA35     



RCA, phono, AUX

Onkyo A-9110     



RCA and phono

Which amplifier is right for you?

The best amplifier for you will really depend on your needs and your home's theater/music setup—not to mention the size of the room it'll be in, how loud you want the volume to be, and what kind of speakers you have, We included a variety of amplifiers that can work with both new and older devices—take a look at how we break each pick down below. 

Choose this amplifier...

If you want...

Sony STR-AN1000     

The best overall option. It has Dolby Atmos integration and 8K and 4K capabilities.

Sony STRDH190     

A budget-friendly amplifier. Even though it's $148, this amplifier still packs a punch at 100W.

Yamaha RX-V6A

An amplifier for your smart home setup. It works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri (via Apple Airplay 2), so you can use voice commands to play music.

Cambridge Audio AXA35     

An amplifier to use with your turntable. It has a built-in phono input and is MM compatible to use with most turntables.

Onkyo A-9110     

An amplifier that increases your bass. You can expect a deep bass sound without compromising vocals. 

How did we choose these amplifiers?

ZDNET chose these amplifiers after careful consideration and research into the market. We considered brand reputation, customer reviews (both good and bad), and price points for different budgets. As someone with an established vinyl setup with a receiver, I also considered my experiences with sound setups and what I would recommend to family and friends.

Ultimately, it came down to the following factors:

  • Inputs: An amplifier's inputs will determine what sources it can connect to. We made sure to include amplifiers with different inputs like RCA, phono, HDMI, and more so there is something for every setup.
  • Power: Power will ultimately determine how loud an amplifier can get. Our top picks range in power from 35W all the way to 240W.
  • Sound quality: An amplifier is useless if the sound quality isn't top-tier. We paid attention to amplifiers that were praised for their sound quality, with the ability to make music and movies sound even better.
  • Price: Amplifiers vary in price—our top picks range from $150 to $750. We included different price points for different budgets.

Why do you need an amplifier?

An amplifier will allow you to experience movies or music with much better (and much louder) sound quality. If you are looking to build out your home's sound system or upgrade it, an amplifier is a great addition. 

How does an amplifier work?

An amplifier takes the audio signal from output devices (such as a turntable or a TV) and amplifies or increases the volume of that signal before sending it to your speakers.

Are there alternative amplifiers worth considering?

Aside from these top picks, there are plenty of other amplifiers on the market. Here are a few alternatives we think are worth considering for your home setup:

Silver Cambridge Audio amplifier with a remote next to it

Best alternative for Bluetooth

Cambridge Audio CXA81

This amplifier from Cambridge is perfect for those looking for a Bluetooth option, since it lets you stream from smartphones, tablets, and computers with enhances audio quality.

View at Amazon
Black amplifier

Best splurge alternative

Marantz PM8006

For those looking for a high-end amplifier that's worth the splurge, this option is known for its audio purity and detailed sound, as well as its heavy and sleek build. 

View at Amazon
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