What is the difference between Amplifier and Receiver?

It happens frequently that the words amplifier and receiver are used synonymously. However, there is quite a difference between what an amplifier does and what a receiver can do. In short, receivers and amplifiers are both power sources for speakers, but while an amplifier does solely function as a power source, a receiver has features to manage and control the audio signal, i.e. by switching the source or controlling the volume.

How to find the difference between Amplifier and Receiver?
If you see an amplifier in a store for display, simply check for the features that differentiate the amplifier from the receiver. How does the front look? Does it have many switches and controls? Yes? Than it is probably a receiver. An amplifier is pretty plain from the front. Now check the back, does it have many inputs and outputs for hifi-components at the back? No? Than you have an amplifier in front of you and will need to add a pre-amp to switch between Hifi-components.

How to use a receiver or amplifier?
To use a receiver, you simply plug each device in one of the inputs of the receiver and switch between your hifi-components with a switch on the receiver´s display. If you own an amplifier and want to use different hifi components, you will have to use a pre-amplifier. A pre-amplifier has a ll those functions a receiver does, but instead of amplifying an audio signal directly to the speakers, it simply sends the signal to the amplifier. Therefore, an amplifier with a pre-amplifier has all the options a receiver does. Or in other words, a receiver is an amplifier with additional features.

Should I choose an amp and pre-amp or a receiver?
Most people prefer to buy a receiver over an amplifier, as it takes less space and includes all the needed features in one box. Also, receivers frequently have additional features, such as a tuner. Not only does this save space, but is often the more cost-effective choice. You should also not forget the visual aspect. A receiver has usually a nice looking equalizer and many buttons and knobs. The amplifier is a plain box and for many a rather unattractive object.
On the other hand, if people are looking for high-end HiFi-equipment, the difference in audio quality might lead them to choose a pre-amplifier and an amplifier over a receiver. It is assumed that dedicated components for each task will lead to a better sound quality than one box that does it all. Possible drawbacks are that one has to choose each component wisely and usually pay more. Aiming for “best sound quality” is also fairly subjective and can vary a lot on one´s ears and the individual needs.


  1. In "Domestic Hi-Fi" Terms…I.e.1box items.
    Amplifier=Intergrated Amp(Pre&Power Amp's)
    Hope this helps anyone unsure ?

  2. Integrateds are going strong in today's market and easily compete with seperates (pre and power amp in two different boxes). As for vintage equipment, integrateds receive less attention and one can make a great deal soundwise by getting an integrated instead of a receiver. To my taste, Yamaha integrateds (ca-X00 or ca-X10) look and sound especially great. Much more than, let's say, a Pioneer Sa-9100 which has a killer sound (and look) but suffer from it's great age (multiple repairs were requiered on mine, when my Yamaha ca-810 simply needed a good cleaning). Can't comment much on 70's Kenwood sound, but from what I heard they're an interesting option. Integrateds are also great for vinyl lovers, because they tend to offer more in terms of phono stage (it's not an absolute, though).

    So, to keep it short, keep your eyes peeled for a good integrated. For vintage equipment, look for the bigger models and try to don't spend too much. Try to buy locally, since there's so many things you might check before buying an old amp, eBay is now too expensive and is often a hit or miss.

  3. I have bought and am having restored a Sherwood 9010. In the meanwhile I'm using a Sony 6046A receiver which has also been restored.

    Before buying a vintage receiver I did quite a bit of research during which, amongst other things, I discovered to my surprise how I grew up during a golden age of stereo receivers. Starting about 1968/69 and extending until the early 1980's there was fierce competition amongst American and Japanese Electronics. Each year the companies would try to outdo each other and into the 1980's this included very high standards on quality.

    There is simply no comparison between, e.g., a Pioneer or Kenwood made in the mid 70's versus today's products. Almost everything now is made in China or perhaps Malaysia, and quality is nowhere near a classic Pioneer. The specs such as power ratings (watts/channel) are for real on older receivers. Admittedly, there are now features such as subwoofer ports, etc., but there are several ways to work around any problems. The easiest solution is to buy an older high-end receiver since the ports & connections required were all pretty much there in one form or another.

    Because of space limitations, aesthetics and personal preference I opted for a receiver over an amp/pre-amp. My completely restored Sony 6046 puts out 40-45 watts and can be found on eBay for $200-$300. If you do your research you will discover several sellers with excellent reputations.

  4. …I am pretty sure Americans and Japanese competed a lot back in days durring the the audio era, but Germans simply outperformed both of them in every aspect except their look was very ugly, but inside is the real deal(components wise)……Companies as Telefunken, Graetz, Grundig, Uher and Dual smashed totaly the Japanese and Yankees…well there are always exceptions of course as we say SANSUI and some other famous brands which prooved themselves with high-end models like AKAI and PIONEER for example. I was a big fan of US and J maschines unless I heard a Telefunken and Grundig and totaly changed my point of view!

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