|Combo Amp: $40-$300||Stereo Amp: $100-$3,000||Home Theater Amp: $3,000-$10,000+|
For stereo components, home theater setups and musical equipment, an amplifier (otherwise known as an amp) is the source of audio power, increasing the signal from the instrument or source components to the speakers. While amplifiers are often built into speakers, subwoofers and audio-visual (A/V) receivers, they are also available as separate components. As a rough guide, an amplifier with higher wattage will often produce louder sound, although this is limited by the maximum output of the speakers.
Related articles: Stereo Receiver, Speakers, Microphone, Electric Guitar
- Most amateur-use electric guitar amplifiers include a built-in speaker (called a combo amp). Expect a 15 to 40 watt output with an 8- to 12-inch speaker, suitable as a practice amp or for performing in small venues such as a bar or coffee shop. These types of amps typically cost $40 to $200. The Line 6 Spider IV 15 , for example, costs about $100 and features a 15-watt output with 8-inch speaker.
- Combo amps for bass guitarists typically require more power than an electric guitar amp and cost $80 to $300. Expect 20 to 100 watts output with a 10- to 15-inch speaker, again sufficient for practice or most small venues. The Behringer BXL450 costs about $150 and features a 45-watt output and 10-inch speaker.
- Most keyboard combo amps include full size XLR microphone inputs so they can also be used for public address (PA) systems. Expect an amp with multiple channels to accommodate two or more instruments with 15 to 60 watts output. These types of amplifiers cost $70 to $300. The Roland CM-30 Cube Monitor , for example, costs about $175 and features two channels and 45-watts of power.
- Amplifiers for semi-professional DJs or karaoke providers cost $80 to $400 or more. Expect a rugged device with cooling fan, styled to slot into a component rack. An amp's volume output depends a lot on the speakers used so they should be matched carefully. The PylePro PZR6XA power amplifier costs about $130 and features two channels of 1100 watts.
- Stereo amplifiers power two speakers in a home audio system. Many are built into stereo receivers (see How Much Does a Stereo Receiver Cost for more details). Alternately, amplifiers can be separated in one of two ways. An integrated stereo amplifier includes a pre-amplifier (or pre-amp, sometimes called a processor) as well as the power amplifier that drives the speakers. These typically cost $100 to $1,000 or more. An example is the Onkyo A-5VL which costs $600. In high-end stereo systems, the pre-amp and power amp are separated into individual components, costing $500 to $3,000 each. An example is the Cambridge Audio Azur 840, which incorporates the 840E pre-amplifier and 840W power amplifier for a combined cost of about $4,000.
- Many home theater customers opt for an amplifier integrated with an A/V receiver (see How Much Does a Home Theater Cost). Using a separate preamp/processor and power amplifier can offer greater expandability to a home theater system as well as higher performance. Look for a multi-channel amplifier to accommodate 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound and expect to pay $3,000 to $10,000 or more for the two units. The Marantz AV8003 is a 7.1-channel A/V preamp/processor that costs about $2,600 and the Marantz MM8003 is an 8-channel power amplifier that costs about $2,400 and delivers 140-watts per channel.
What should be included:|
- AC power cord.
- Amplifiers should include at least a one year limited warranty.
- Most combo amps will include a metal grill cover to protect the speaker.
- Musician's amp stands cost $20 to $50.
- Amp covers or carry bags cost $15 to $60.
- Hard cases for transport cost $40 to $200.
- Amp pedals or footswitches cost $20 to $200.
- Professional installation adds to the total cost. The Geek Squad offers installation of home audio and video equipment for $150 to $800, depending on the number of components.
Shopping for an amplifier:
- Sales and specials are common at electronics discount stores. One-generation-old models may be sold at a substantial discount compared to the latest model amplifiers.
- B&H offers used audio equipment at a discount.
- Sweetwater's Trading Post offers customers the opportunity to buy and sell used music and audio equipment, including amplifiers.
- An amplifier to be used as part of a home entertainment system is best matched to the speakers. See How Much Do Speakers Cost.
- AVGuide.com offers a buying guide for home theater amplifiers.
- Sweetwater.com offers buying guides for guitar amps , bass amps and keyboard amps .
- Compare online prices from retailers such as B&H and Amazon .
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