A great home theater system is nothing without the right amplifier. Unfortunately, things aren’t always cut and dry within the amp world. Manufacturers often place false claims on amplifier boxes, and sales people tend to lead uneducated consumers in the wrong direction.
Selecting a great amplifier is all about the size of the amp that you choose. The bottom line is that a small and lightweight amp simply can’t produce the same sound that a large amp can. This fact is based purely upon science and logic.
The False Wattage Factor
Ignore the wattage number listed on the outside of an amp box. These numbers mean very little when it comes to selecting an amp. While wattage is important, there isn’t any standard when it comes to labeling power capabilities. Thus, a manufacturer can stick any set of numbers on any box, and you may not end up getting the system you bargained for.
Inside of every amplifier is a transformer. Without a powerful transformer, your amp will not live up to your expectations. How do you know how big a transformer is? Consider the size of the amp. A small amp that doesn’t weigh a lot can’t possible house a very large transformer. Weight and size are the best ways to judge a quality amplifier.
No matter how powerful an amplifier is, high distortion levels can ruin sound quickly. Any amp that delivers distorted sound isn’t worth purchasing. Sound distortion is hard to discern. You can read the information listed on the side of a box (look for 0.1%), but this may not always be reliable.
A better way to discern distortion levels is to listen. If you have the opportunity to listen to a set-up amplifier inside of an audio store, this is the best way to find out about distortion levels. Turn the sound up and down while listening carefully. If some noises sound distorted, it’s best to look for a different amplifier.
Connectivity is important. If you plan on hooking up various gaming systems, a Blu-ray player, and other devices to your surround sound, you’ll need an amp that will provide an adequate amount of connectivity.
You’ll find that most mid-range amps come with quite a few connectivity options. However, iPod connectivity may be reserved for higher-end amps. If you want additional connectivity options, you’ll have to purchase an amplifier that costs more than $500.
Amplifiers tend to range in price from $200 to more than $1000. If you’re looking for a 5.1 system, you may be able to find a powerful amp with low distortion for less than $300. If you want to build a nice 7.1 system, you’ll need to spend more than $400. Amplifiers that are more than $500 tend to have excellent bass and some additional setup options.
Optimally, it’s a good idea to aim for an amp that will allow you to build a 7.1 system. The great thing about creating your own surround sound system is that you can start with purchasing just an amplifier. As time goes on, you can add onto your system slowly. If there’s one part of a home theater setup that you don’t want to skimp on, it’s an amplifier.