We are reader-supported. Links on our site may earn us a commission. More about us

The 5 best budget integrated amplifiers and receivers under $500

If you just entered the world of high-fidelity sound, chances are you’re reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on a high-end audio system.

Luckily, an integrated amplifier is not just a convenient solution to simplify your sound system setup; it’s also a budget-friendly way to enrich your listening experience. It adds character to your music and allows for adjustments to create your ideal sound.

Quick recommendations

After testing and comparing various models, I found that the NAD D 3020 V2 is the best you can get at $500.

Feature-rich, with a sound that’s incredibly dynamic and detailed, it’s the perfect companion for anyone who wants the best sound without breaking the bank.

An even cheaper option that doesn’t compromise on sound quality is the Yamaha A-S301.

While nowhere near as exceptional as the NAD, the A-S301 offers an immersive sonic experience embellished by cutting-edge sound technology and a plethora of audio customization options, all for $350.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, writer at Higher Hz

I’m a musician, audio engineer, and audiophile. Over the years, I developed a critical ear that helps me identify the characteristics of audio gear and whether it can be used for professional use, pleasant listening sessions, or both.

I fell in love with integrated amplifiers because they’re versatile and beginner-friendly without sacrificing sound quality, so they’re a great option for those who want to get a taste of audio fidelity without the time investment this passion often requires.

In this article, I shared my views on my favorite models, so that you can make a conscious decision for your upgraded hi-fi system.

How I chose and tested

For this list, I chose integrated amplifiers that deliver a great sonic experience despite being budget-friendly.

Although multiple connectivity options and a built-in phono stage are important (and some of the products below do offer these options), my main focus was on audio performance across different genres and with different speakers.

In short, here are the key points I considered:

  • Superb audio performance above all else.
  • Versatility and high fidelity regardless of the music genre reproduced.
  • Wide compatibility with different audio systems.
  • Good signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and low total harmonic distortion (THD).
  • Easy to use and have a user-friendly interface.

This article is part of a series dedicated to the best stereo amplifiers in 2024. If you’re looking to upgrade your existing gear or are willing to spend more than $500, check out my updated pick of the best integrated amplifiers.

Finally, in this 2024 update, I decided to include an AV receiver, for those interested in a high-quality home theatre sound, and a stereo amplifier slightly above $500, to offer a “best upgrade” option to those who read this article last year and wanted to take the next step in their audiophile journey.

Here are all the budget integrated amplifiers and receivers I recommend in the $300 to $500 range:

Also, be sure to check out the Honorable mentions for amplifiers that didn’t quite make my top list but are still worth your attention. Some of these options are even more affordable, providing great sound quality for those looking to spend around $100 or $200.

Best super-affordable: Yamaha A-S301

  • Power: 60 W per channel
  • Digital I/O: optical, coaxial
  • Analog I/O: speaker terminals, RCA, 1/4″ (6.35 mm) jack
  • Phono stage: Yes, MM
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Streaming: No
Yamaha A-S301 integrated amplifier in a setup
A-S301 integrated amplifier in a budget setup | Image: Yamaha

The A-S301 is an excellent all-in-one solution for music enthusiasts and those looking for an integrated amp for their home entertainment system.

It comes with plenty of digital and analog connectivity options, a phono input for your turntable, and a remote control to adjust your sound from a distance.

Yamaha is well known for constantly pushing the technological boundaries further, and even the budget-friendly A-S301 features some cutting-edge innovations.

The ToP-ART (Total Purity Audio Reproduction Technology) mitigates signal interference by combining a symmetrical amp layout with an anti-resonance design.

Furthermore, the A-S301’s Pure Direct mode shortens the signal path by removing unnecessary circuits from the process, enhancing the clarity and fluidity of audio reproduction.

For the price, the Yamaha A-S301 offers exceptional audio quality and plenty of customization and connectivity options to enjoy music at its finest.

What I like

  • Transparent sound.
  • Advanced sound technology.
  • Multiple connectivity options.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing for this price.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best receiver: Cambridge Audio AXR85

  • Power: 85 W per channel
  • Digital I/O: None
  • Analog I/O: speaker terminals, RCA, AUX, 1/4″ (6.35 mm) jack
  • Phono stage: Yes, MM
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Streaming: No
Cambridge Audio AXR85 stereo receiver
AXR85 stereo receiver | Image: Cambridge Audio

You can’t go wrong when you buy a unit designed by Cambridge Audio, and the AXR85 is the embodiment of the quality provided by the iconic British manufacturer.

I’ve loved Cambridge Audio’s sonic signature for years, and the AXR85 does not disappoint: the sound reproduction is sublime, with a balanced transient and a warm sound that makes it ideal for both audiophiles and casual listeners.

As opposed to the other integrated amplifiers on this list, the AXR85 is a stereo receiver, meaning it also comes with an FM/AM tuner that’ll surely intrigue radio enthusiasts.

If you want to find out more about the differences between receivers and amplifiers, check out my recent article on the matter.

Four analog RCA inputs, a built-in phono stage, and seamless Bluetooth connectivity make the AXR85 the perfect option for the modern music listener who wants to explore digital and physical sound libraries.

Finally, the intuitive tonal controls offer endless customization options to create the perfect sound in your listening room.

What I like

  • Effortless sound customization.
  • Built-in phono stage.
  • High-quality Bluetooth connectivity.

What I don’t like

  • Quite bulky.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best under $500: NAD D 3020 V2

  • Power: 30 W per channel
  • Digital I/O: optical, coaxial
  • Analog I/O: speaker terminals, RCA, 1/8″ (3.5 mm) jack
  • Phono stage: Yes, MM
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Streaming: No
NAD D 3020 V2 in a record player setup
D 3020 V2 in a record player setup | Image: NAD

The minimalist, unconventional design with a brushed aluminum faceplate and single control knob makes the NAD D 3020 V2 a one-of-a-kind integrated amplifier.

However, behind its apparent simplicity, this amp has a lot to offer to both audiophiles and casual listeners.

Bluetooth and multiple digital connectivity options, a phono input, and a pair of analog stereo RCA inputs should give you everything you need to enjoy your music library across various media.

However, it’s the sound quality that left me speechless: thanks to the patented hybrid amplification technology, the D 3020 V2 delivers a unique sound signature, transparent yet so dynamic that it’ll galvanize your listening sessions.

What I like

  • Best sound you can get under $500.
  • Refined look.
  • Built to last.

What I don’t like

  • Ultra-minimalist design might not be everyone’s preference.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best analog sound: Denon PMA-600NE

  • Power: 45 W per channel
  • Digital I/O: optical, coaxial
  • Analog I/O: speaker terminals, RCA, 1/4″ (6.3 mm) jack
  • Phono stage: Yes, MM
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Streaming: No
Denon PMA-600NE with DCD-600NE
PMA-600NE in a stack with a CD player | Image: Denon

NE stands for New Era, and this new series by the renowned brand Denon is a testament to their commitment to creating the perfect audio gear for a new generation of audiophiles.

Whether you want to listen to music on vinyl, CD, or streaming services, the PMA-600NE has everything to take your listening experience to the next level.

What impressed me the most about the PMA-600NE is the attention to detail Denon put into every aspect of this integrated amp.

The pure analog setting (Analog Mode) ensures vinyl lovers can feel the warmth and analog vibe of their records by disabling digital circuitry.

Plus, Denon’s Advanced High Current circuit magnifies the vibrancy of the soundscape, creating the dynamic and energetic sound Denon is renowned for.

What I like

  • Great vintage sound.
  • Plenty of connectivity options.
  • Top-notch sound technology.

What I don’t like

  • Not so transparent.
See current price at: AmazonCrutchfield

Best AV receiver: Onkyo TX-SR393

  • Power: 80 W per channel
  • Digital I/O: optical, coaxial, HDMI
  • Analog I/O: speaker terminals, RCA, 1/4″ (6.3 mm) jack
  • Phono stage: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Streaming: No
Onkyo TX-SR393 AV receiver
TX-SR393 5.2-channel AV receiver | Image: Onkyo

For those looking for an all-in-one solution for their home entertainment, the Onkyo TX-SR393 is a great and affordable option.

The TX-SR393 delivers way more than expected for the price, with 5.2 channels, Dolby Atmos compatibility, and a sound that’s as immersive as it is accurate.

The only downside is it doesn’t come with a phono input, meaning analog purists should look elsewhere.

The TX-SR393 features an AccuEQ room calibration feature with three equalizers for treble and bass, so you can customize the sound to fill any small to medium-sized room.

The sonic output is dynamic and clear, and despite the lack of phono input, the TX-SR393 seems to me like a bargain for anyone who wants an all-encompassing receiver for their home.

What I like

  • Great performance for the price.
  • All in one solution for home entertainment.

What I don’t like

  • No phono input.
See current price at: AmazonB&H

Honorable mentions

While the five options listed above are undoubtedly my top budget choices, here are a few additional recommendations that are also worth considering.

  • Fosi Audio BT30D Pro. The BT30D Pro is a compact and modern integrated amp that offers transparent reproduction and intuitive tonal controls, which make it an excellent option for those who want to explore the world of sonic accuracy spending just $100. The output power is nowhere near the advertised 165 W, but it’s certainly enough to fill a small room or office with pristine background music.
  • Audioengine N22 Gen 2. This is perhaps the perfect epitome of a minimalist approach to high-fidelity sound. A single knob for power and volume, speaker terminals, and a pair of RCA analog inputs: that’s all this amplifier offers, and sometimes that’s just all we need to get the most out of our listening sessions.
  • Cambridge Audio AXA35. With 35 watts of power per channel and a built-in phono stage, the AXA35 is a great option if you want to bring to life your hi-fi system. The amp is powerful enough for small and medium-size rooms and comes with another four stereo RCA inputs to enjoy your music collection fully. Its warm and detailed sound signature, combined with the minimalist design, makes it the perfect companion for immersive listening sessions.
  • Marantz PM6007. If you’re willing to invest a little over $500 to get an exceptional sound, look no further than the PM6007. The sound coming out of this unit has very little to envy to higher-end integrated amps, with a pristine, smooth imaging that’s hard to beat at this price.

Recent updates

  • May 20, 2024: I’ve also added the Marantz PM6007 to the Honorable mention, which I believe offers the “Best upgrade” option for those willing to spend a bit more. The NAD D 3020 V2 is still my “Best budget” pick.
  • May 16, 2024: I’ve added a Quick recommendations section and moved the Fosi Audio and Audioengine amplifiers to the Honorable mentions. I’ve also added an AV receiver to the main list to offer you more options.
  • May 14, 2024: I’ve updated the structure to the latest standard and explained the picking criteria in more detail. I’ve also expanded the top features list for every pick.
  • January 1, 2024: I’ve updated the text for clarity and accuracy, made minor improvements, and fixed inconsistencies.
  • May 26, 2023: I published the original selection of the best budget amplifiers based on my experience and product comparisons.

Final thoughts

And that’s all you need to know about the best integrated amplifiers and receivers under $500. Choosing your first amp can be a daunting task, but remember that there’s no golden rule when it comes to achieving the perfect sound.

Choose an amplifier within your set budget and compatible with your existing gear, and over time, you’ll be able to learn more about what you need from your hi-fi system and upgrade accordingly.

Happy listening!

Share
Discussions