How to Choose a Home Audio Amplifier

When putting up a home audio system, you will likely spend a lot more time thinking about the speakers and the receiver unit. It is time that you started paying heed to the amplification unit. The power amplifier (called an amp in short form) helps to improve your home theater system by unlocking the potential of the loudspeakers.

What is an amplifier?

The amp is a device that uses electrical power to increase the strength of acoustic signals coming from an audio device. The output energy can go up by more than 10 times the input.

How do I choose from the available options?

  • Channels - The types of amplifiers used in home entertainment systems can fall into mono, stereo, and multichannel categories. Mono amps have only one channel, which is usually used to power a single subwoofer. Stereo amps have two channels, for powering a pair of left and right speakers. Multi-channel amplifiers can have four or more channels that power several speakers depending on the impedance. A five-channel device handles 5.1 surround speakers, while an eight-channel expands from eight going upwards.
  • Power - There two kinds of measures used to check the ratings on amplifiers, the peak and RMS power. Since the RMS follows the amps continuous output, it is the most important measure compared to the peak power, which concentrates on short periods of high output. When going through the RMS power (given in watts), make sure that you have speakers that have a matching level of resistance/impedance (given in ohms).
  • Inputs - Check whether the input ports on the amplifier can allow you to connect the devices that you plan to use. Most amplifiers have RCA connection ports and a 3.5mm port for iPods and other devices that connect with a similar jack. Digitally enabled units include an HDMI port, a USB connection, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

What else can I check?

  • Background noise - Many electrical devices produce a humming sound in the background while running. The signal to noise ratio (SNR) gives a measure of how the power amplifier muffles the background noise. A higher SNR translates to less humming sounds.
  • Sound filters - They pick up different audio frequencies passing through the amplifier and boost them to your liking. High-pass filters favor the high-frequency sounds over low-frequency audio. Low-pass filters remove the high-frequencies and boost the low frequencies.
  • Design quality - A sturdier design can help in canceling the background noises. A well-manufactured amp pulls at every stop to make the exterior part as good as the interior.
  • Space - You should look at where you are going to fit the power amplifier. Choose whether you want to spend on a smaller unit or a new piece of furniture to place the amp.
  • Personal preference - Are you a loud music head, a complete audiophile or a casual listener? You do not need a powerful amp for the latter.
  • Budget - Everything boils down to the money. Make sure that what you get is within your budget.