Receivers, Integrated Amplifiers and Separate Audio Components
A receiver is a combination of an amplifier and an AM/FM tuner. A receiver is the center of the system, where all audio and video components and speakers will be connected and controlled. A receiver amplifies the sound, receives AM/FM stations, selects a source for listening/viewing (CD, DVD, Tape, etc.) and adjusts tone quality and other listening factors. There are many receivers to choose from, though most are multichannel or surround sound receivers. A few manufacturers still offer stereo or two-channel receivers. Your decision should be based on how you will use the receiver, which will determine the features you need. For example, if you enjoy listening to music more than watching movies, you won’t need a lot of video features. You may prefer a stereo receiver, a CD or DVD player and two speakers.
An integrated amp is like a receiver without the AM/FM tuner. It combines a two-channel amplifier with a source selector for selecting audio components.
Separate Pre-amplifier/Power Amplifier
Some receivers cost almost as much as separate components (pre-amp/amplifier) so why would you consider separates? Because separate components generally provide the best audio performance and each is optimized for its specific function. In addition, because they are separate components, there is less possibility of interference between the pre-amp and the higher current stages of a power amp. There is also the issue of servicing, should it become necessary. If one part of an a/v receiver needs repair, the entire component must be taken to a service center, which is not true of separates. It is easier to upgrade separate components. If you like the pre-amplifier/processor, but want more amplifier power you can purchase a better amp without replacing the pre-amp.
A pre-amplifier is also known as a control amplifier because it’s where all components are connected and controlled. A pre-amp provides a small amount of amplification, only enough to send the signal to the power amplifier, which increases output to power your speakers. Most audiophiles and serious music enthusiasts prefer separates because of their higher audio performance. Receivers are excellent, but if you want the best, no-compromise performance, consider separate components. It’s a wise investment.