Stereo receiver vs integrated amplifier: which one is the best?

Usually you will be told to choose amplifier if you want a sound as close to what was played and recorded as possible and receiver if you are building your own home theater system. But nowadays it’s not always the case and mostly depends on personal preferences and here’s why.

The stereo amplifier and receiver are two devices that are often part of the home stereo system. The most basic stereo systems are based on a receiver, while component systems include a power amplifier and a preamplifier.

The receiver is part of the amplifier and houses the electronics in a single box rather than separate components.

Stereo vs. integrated amplifier

Receivers vs Amplifiers! Everything you need to know!

What is an integrated amplifier, preamplifier, power amp and receiver. Basic terms.

A stereo amplifier (or power amp) is designed to carry an audio line level signal produced by audio source components such as CD player and increase the signal strength while maintaining frequency.

The strongest signal produced by the power amplifier is capable of driving the speakers and producing sound, something that a line-level sign cannot do.

There is also a preamplifier or preamp which function is to enhance audio signal so that it could be processed by amplifier, for example microphone signal is much lower than signals of instruments and preamp enhances all these signals to the same level, it also removes background noise as much as possible. Power amplifier then enhances all these audio signals so that they could be played by acoustic system.

When preamp and power amp are in one box of audio equipment it is cold a stereo integrated amplifier (integrated amp).

AV receiver is a stereo component that combines an amplifier, a preamplifier, and a radio tuner. It is a less expensive means of acquiring all the major components needed in a stereo system.

Stereo receiver vs. integrated amplifier Pros and cons

Purchasing integrated amps is generally considered to provide the best performance and sound quality because:

  • the actual power of av receiver is much lower than declared because it is distributed over many channels, therefore, all other equal, audio amplifiers are more powerful than av receiver.
  • AV receivers use many additional audio signal processing schemes, such as digital-to-analog conversions, which lower audio quality. While stereo amplifiers use a short signal path that minimizes distortion of music sound.
  • Separate components (as preamp and power amp) also offer more flexibility in the repair and enhancement of specific aspects of the stereo.
  • In av receivers electronic volume and tone controls are used, and in stereo amp – analog signal potentiometers, that is, with zero distortion.

If you study in more detail arguments made above, you may find out that:

  • it is true that when the power of av receiver is declared to be 5x100w DIN, the power of each channel is 100w. It depends on the supply voltage of the integrated amp and with simultaneous continuous load of all five channels the real power will be from 30 to 60w.
  • In the separate audio amplifier there are two channels and even if they both got loaded, the power remain 100w. But in real life there are practically no chances that all five channels would be used when watching films. If you are listening to the music using all five channels, then given the low acoustic frequencies the major part of the power would go to the front AC and only small part (about 30%) would go to the center and surround audio signals. So in real life actual power of receiver would not be significantly different from the power of amp.
  • If you are listening to the music in stereo mode of receiver the power will be the same as of amplifier.
  • Indeed the audio processing system of the receiver (AD-converter-DCP-DAC) changes the sound by definition. But you could easily turn it off by pressing Pure Direct button on most of the receivers. This will move audio to analog signal without any processing or distortion.
  • On the other hand modern sound processing systems in the receivers allow you to take advantage of their huge functionality including surround sound, equalizers, real life effects, voice control etc.
  • Electronic volume and tone controls are more reliable than analog ones over time – do not rustle and crack which is possible with analog controls.
  • Purchasing separate components (pre amp and amp) is also often more expensive and requires more space.
  • Designing a stereo around a receiver is a less expensive option and makes it easier to set up. However, if one part of the receiver fails, it is necessary to repair the entire unit. The sound may not be as high quality as what you experience with the components.


To sum up everything above: modern amplifiers often allows you to switch video signal and have output to subwoofers which stipulates the use of it for both – audio and video. And most part of the modern receivers have Pure Direct button (direct analog signal) which allow to use it to hi-fi stereo.

So if you are a real fan of classic stereo and could distinguish the smallest sound details than you buy an amplifier, in all other cases I would say go for a receiver. It will give you the opportunity to experiment with a sound and different settings, use your home theater to the maximum make it your concert hall, club or cinema. And if you want classic stereo mode without and audio processing you can always press Pure Direct button to turn all effects off.

Stereo receiver vs. integrated amplifier other considerations


The term components often refer only to the equipment mentioned above, but to give a complete picture, we will include the speakers in the mix. The speakers are the most visible and audible part of the stereo system. Most commonly, they use an electromagnetic driver or multiple conductors to convert the electrical signal sent from the amplifier into audible sound waves.


Subwoofers increase the low-frequency capabilities of your speakers. Most speakers don’t provide the deepest bass, and subwoofers have large drivers specifically for this purpose. Subwoofers can be powered or passive.

The main difference between stereo receiver vs integrated amplifier

A stereo receiver is an integral component that includes not only a preamplifier and amplifier packaged in a housing but also a radio tuner for radio reception. Integrated amps include both an amplifier and preamp but not a tuner.

The receiver will have a radio tuner, and the power amplifier will work more similarly as if you were using a power stage to mount the equipment in several modules, choose the receiver since from this with the control you will be able to manage the volume because If you catch the ample, the volume will have to be controlled from the source you connect to it or manually.

Common questions