Which Integrated Amplifier Should I Buy: Digital or Analogue?

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Which Integrated Amplifier Should I Buy: Digital or Analogue?

An integrated amplifier is a device that contains the preamplifier and the stereo power amplifier in the same box. Having these two items combined means the amplifier more than likely runs hotter than other amplifiers. An integrated amplifier can be an extremely useful tool for music, but it can be hazardous if it is not used with the appropriate care. An integrated amplifier had the reputation of being the component that no serious audiophile would purchase, but it has made a comeback over the last few years. Cost plays a big part in the resurgence of this component, but it is not the only reason for the comeback. Separate preamps and power amps can be purchased for roughly the same price as an integrated amp, but with the simplicity of the integrated amp being contained in one box, consumers are heading back to the integrated amplifier.

Furthermore, consumers do not require as many cables or as much space. This is another reason why people are turning back to these components. Typically, the integrated amplifiers do not come with an AM and FM radio tuner. If a consumer wants the AM and FM radio tuner, it has to be a separate purchase. With two choices of integrated amplifier, digital and analogue, consumers need to have a full understanding of their differences as well as what they expect the integrated amplifier to do before they make a purchase.

Benefits of an Integrated Amplifier

One of the main benefits to an integrated amplifier is the ease at which it can be used. It is flexible when it comes to working with other electronic devices. Some integrated amplifiers require some construction, whilst others come fully assembled. If purchasing one that requires some assembly, always read the manual, especially before attempting to plug in any wires. Never assemble one where sparks could fall into water or set other objects on fire. One of the main disadvantages of an integrated amplifier is the limited options to upgrade. In some cases, upgrading or downgrading speakers can result in a consumer having to purchase a whole new amplifier set-up.

Digital Integrated Amplifiers

Digital integrated amplifiers are a relative newcomer to the market. A lot of people assume the digital integrated amplifier is superior to the analogue integrated amplifier. This is because digital seems to be the way of the future because the circuitry of the digital integrated amplifier is far more complex than that of the analogue. The internal components of a digital integrated amplifier are generally cheaper than analogue ones, which makes spare parts and maintenance of a digital integrated amplifier cheaper than that of an analogue.

There are some digital integrated amplifiers that are designed to produce the analogue sound, the experienced audiophile has in the past found this to be less than satisfactory, but with the improvements of technology, this is only getting better. Overall, a digital integrated amplifier provides the consumer with a high-tech, low cost means of meeting their audio needs.

Analogue Integrated Amplifiers

Analogue integrated amplifiers provide a more vintage sound. The circuitry in these amplifiers is fairly simple, and they are fairly easy to repair. Unfortunately, the analogue integrated amplifier is usually more expensive than its digital rival. This is because the manufacturing process of an analogue integrated amplifier is more complex. The analogue integrated amplifier has been known to overheat and malfunction at times of excessive use or high temperatures.

With the constraints put in place due to economics of company fuses, tubes, and other components, replacement parts for these amplifiers usually have to be brought in from overseas. Whilst the analogue integrated amplifier can be more expensive and maintain, many experts choose these amplifiers for their adjustable, distinct equalisation abilities and the fact that they sound great in any situation.

Differences Between the Two

Both the digital and analogue integrated amplifiers have their pros and cons. The analogue integrated amplifier produces a better sound quality, but it is more expensive to purchase, maintain, and fix. However, the digital integrated amplifier is cheaper to purchase, fix, and maintain but does not always provide the same quality of sound as the analogue.

How to Choose an Amplifier

Amplifiers come with a whole lot of specifications most consumers do not even understand. Output, power, size, weight, and distortion are all pieces of information given to the consumer, when really the only two that matter are the number of inputs and maybe size. A consumer needs to consider how many components, e.g., DVD Player, TV, Stereo, Blu-ray, and so on that they want to connect to the amp now and in the future in order to make the proper purchase.

What to Avoid When Choosing an Amplifier

It is best if the consumer ignores the power and distortion ratings on integrated amplifiers. More power means the amplifier can play louder, but the differences between brands is not enough to warrant paying more money for more power. Whilst it might have twice as many watts as a different brand, it will only be slightly louder.

A common myth that can land the consumer in trouble is the myth that the power rating on the amplifier needs to be the same as that on the speakers. This is untrue. Speaker ratings are based on maximum nominal power and have absolutely nothing to do with everyday use. Distortion figures are also fairly misleading when it comes to integrated amplifiers. Many integrated amplifier models lack a dedicated "phono" input, which means that if a consumer wants to play LPs, they have to buy another box.

Choosing on a Budget

Most consumers have an idea of a budget before they set out to purchase an integrated amplifier. If the loudspeakers and other components to be used with the amplifier have already been purchased, this may make a difference in the choice of integrated amplifier. In general, integrated amplifiers are usually compatible with any components. The only time there may be a problem is if the speakers need a certain type of integrated amplifier.

Limited Budget

Cheaper integrated amplifiers are a fairly basic, black or silver box with some knobs on the front. Usually, bigger named companies like Sony manufacture them. This does not mean the consumer has bought a lesser brand as the standard of budget integrated amplifiers is very high. Some of the so-called "budget" integrated amplifiers even come with a remote control, half a dozen inputs, tone controls, decent sound, and look fairly decent.

Larger Budget

The difference with more expensive models is basically the appearance. These models have nice, solid, metal front panels and a few other luxuries as well. In general, a consumer can expect subtle yet better sound quality. The improved sound results in a more crisply defined bass and stereo imaging.

Finding Integrated Amplifiers on eBay

Once you have decided on either an analogue integrated amplifier or a digital integrated amplifier, eBay is the place to look. The first step in finding the right integrated amplifier on eBay is to perform a keyword search. This search can be along the lines of "analogue integrated amplifier" or "digital integrated amplifier", and you can even search by brand.

Once you have compiled a list of the amplifiers you are interested in, you need to read each advert carefully so you know the exact condition of the amplifier. If possible, contact the seller and ask for photographs of the amplifier and ask for a sound test to be sent through. This way you know what sound the amp provides and what condition it is in. Once you have chosen an amplifier, before making the purchase, read through the seller’s feedback and see what other customers have had to say about their buying experience.

Check to see if the seller has a return policy. This ensures that you get what you pay for. If the amplifier arrives damaged or in worse condition then you were led to believe, or if the sound is not similar to the sample, you can return the item for a refund. Once you are satisfied with all the information you have gathered, then you should make the purchase.


Integrated amplifiers are cheap and easy to use and are either digital or analogue. Digital amplifiers are generally cheaper and easier to fix, but the sound they produce is not as good as the sound from an analogue integrated amplifier. Both the digital and integrated amplifiers are a great purchase if the consumer knows exactly what they are looking for. If money is tight, then digital is the best option. Many integrated amplifiers require a separate AM and FM tuner to be purchased as well as another box to play things like LPs as they do not usually come with a "phono" input.

Consumers often get caught up with all the specifications of an integrated amplifier. This can lead them to make a purchase that is not necessary and can end up costing them more money. If consumers understand their needs and budget and conducts thorough research, they are well on their way to purchasing the right integrated amplifier for them. eBay is a great place for a consumer to start the hunt for an integrated amplifier with many brands on offer for sale.

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