In the world of the audiophile, there are three types of amplifiers. There is the preamplifier, the power amplifier, and the integrated amplifier. Until recently, the integrated amplifier was looked down upon by many as a less powerful version of the preamplifier and the power amplifier. As technology advanced, it was soon realised that the integrated amplifier could be a cost-effective way for a person to obtain amplified sound without having to spend additional money on another component. The integrated amplifier also saves space, since it is built into a receiver.
As with any electrical component, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the integrated amplifier. Many of the integrated amplifiers offer the same power, individual output, and sound of their separate component cousins. Integrated amplifiers can be purchased from electronics shops and online auctions, such as eBay. Not all integrated amplifiers are equal. To get the best sound out of a stereo or home theatre system, consumers must be informed about the basics and benefits of the integrated amplifier, the features of an integrated amplifier, and to what the amplifier can be connected.
The Basics of an Integrated Amplifier
An integrated amplifier is an all-in-one device. It combines a preamplifier with a power amplifier, and sometimes, with a receiver. The basic purpose of an integrated amplifier is to work with the other components to produce a richer, more vibrant sound without creating distortion. This configuration allows someone to mix sound without having to balance two different systems. The preamplifier and the amplifier are adjusted at the same time. The integrated amplifier also negates the need to make sure that a preamplifier and a separate amplifier work together to produce the right sound, which can be a major problem if the two are separate and not compatible. Many brands and types of preamplifiers do not work well with many of brands and types of power amplifiers. By having the two integrated already, it is certain that they work well together to produce high-quality sound.
An integrated amplifier is similar to a receiver in the way that it combines different components. Normally, the integrated amplifier has a multi-channel amplifier combined with a preamplifier, also called a control amplifier. This allows the amplifier to select the controls of a specific device and control the tone of the device. Depending on the brand, some integrated amplifiers have more features, and either more or less control over the other stereo components. Although the integrated amplifier works like a receiver, it does not have an AM and FM band receiver built into it, unless it is an integrated amplifier that has an inbuilt integrated receiver. The combination tends to be very expensive, even though it saves space.
There are two basic disadvantages of the integrated amplifier. The first is that an integrated amplifier offers less power than a separate power amplifier and preamplifier. The second is that, until recently, it was impossible to upgrade the integrated amplifier, which made the integrated amplifier less desirable to true audio enthusiasts. Both of these disadvantages are slowly disappearing. Many companies that design integrated amplifiers are offering those that can be upgraded for a higher power output and better sound quality. Some companies have already made this change, such as the maker of the NAD model C 356BEE, and the Aron 1.a. Each of these integrated amplifiers offer full upgrade capability, as well as a higher power amplifier output. The newer, more upgradable integrated amplifiers can be costly, even more expensive than purchasing components separately, but many believe that the convenience outweighs the cost.
Benefits of an Integrated Amplifier
The majority of the benefits of having an integrated amplifier are in its size and the convenience of having both the preamplifier and the power amplifier on one set of controls. By combining them to one control, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of having to tune both the preamplifier and the power amplifier, so that it sounds great with a speaker system. If a low-end speaker system is purchased, the integrated amplifier can be tuned to make it sound better than it would without an amplifier. Since the integrated amplifier is relatively new compared to the separate preamplifier and power amplifier, they are still working out some of the problems with power and control.
Another benefit to having an integrated amplifier is the cost factor. A person can get both a preamplifier and a power amplifier in one unit, rather than having to shell out the money for each separate unit. Some integrated amplifiers are deemed expensive, but once the specifications are in check, it becomes clear why they are costly. If an integrated amplifier has both an excellent preamplifier and an integrated power amplifier to match, then the cost can be justified.
The last major benefit of purchasing an integrated amplifier, instead of two separate units, is the fact that it saves space. If an audio system is in a small apartment or room, having one large integrated amplifier is ultimately smaller than having a large preamplifier and a large power amplifier. It is a space saver. One thing to be aware of when purchasing and placing an integrated amplifier is that all amplifiers can become hot very quickly. They need adequate ventilation, which means that an integrated amplifier is more likely to have the ventilation it needs in a smaller space than would a separated system.
Features of an Integrated Amplifier
Now that integrated amplifiers have almost caught up with preamplifier and power amplifier technology, they come with many of the same features of the separate systems. Almost any stereo component can be plugged into an integrated amplifier. Many of the integrated boxes have 7.1 to 9.1 channel speaker outputs, RCA jacks, USB ports, and HDMI ports, just to name a few. The integrated amplifier combines all of the inputs and outputs that a separate system has on a preamplifier with the inputs and outputs of a power amplifier. Previously, this was not the case, which limited the integrated amplifier to only half to three-quarters of the inputs and outputs of a separate system.
Single system tuning is another feature that the majority of the integrated amplifiers have that is not found in separate systems. With an integrated amplifier, adjustments can be made to both the preamplifier and the power amplifier at the same time, which helps to keep one system from harming the other by being tuned too high. Since both are being controlled at once, the preamplifier is much less likely to blow a circuit on one of the other system components or on the power amplifier. The same is true for the power amplifier; it cannot be turned up past the point where the other system components cannot handle the load, which helps to avoid costly mistakes when tuning an amplifier.
Buying an Integrated Amplifier on eBay
In order to help with both comparison shopping and purchasing an integrated amplifier, it is a good idea to take a look at the auction website, eBay. By entering some keywords for an integrated amplifier that you want and hitting the search button, you receive a listing of all of the available amplifiers on eBay that match your criteria. Browse through the list and select which integrated amplifier suits your purpose the best. Once you have done this, click on the listing to view a description of the integrated amplifier that you chose.
Read the description carefully. Make sure that the integrated amplifier has all of the specifications that you desire. If there is something missing, feel free to use the "ask the seller a question" option. Most sellers are happy to resolve any questions that you may have about their product. While you are on the listing page, also take a look at the shipping and return policies.
Another item on the listing page to take a look at is the seller’s feedback and feedback rating. These ratings contain valuable information about the seller and his practices. A high feedback rating usually means fewer problems when ordering.
As technology is becoming more capable of building smaller components that rival their larger counterparts in power and versatility, it would not be surprising to see more stereo components follow the integrated amplifiers lead. Already on the market are integrated amplifiers and receivers, as well as integrated amplifiers and small speaker systems, like the systems made by Bose.
When purchasing an integrated amplifier, first examine the stereo system that is desired. Look at how much power output the system truly needs and compare that to the integrated amplifiers on the market. Also, look at the space and features that are required to build the system that is desired. Once this is done, compare each integrated amplifier against both its competitors and the same power and features of a separate amplifier and preamplifier. Be sure to compare the costs of each model. Once this is done and an integrated amplifier is decided upon, go to the eBay website and find the brand and type that you have selected. By taking the time to compare each of the integrated amplifiers and the separate systems, you can be sure to find the perfect integrated amplifier for your audio system.