Analog Versus Digital Amplifiers: In Search of the Best Sound

Your home audio setup should reflect your personality and preferences, supported by the features needed to get the best sound quality possible. Selecting the right amplifier can make a huge difference in your results, so carefully consider what model suits your needs. One key factor in your choice is also a long-running source of debate among audiophiles: Do you favor analog or digital amplification?

The pristine enjoyment of analog

The heart of an analog amplifier is a straightforward interaction between two circuits. The input circuit receives a very weak audio signal. The output circuit then modulates its own signal to reproduce the characteristics of the input with far greater power.

For some, analog components are always the right choice, maintaining traditional simplicity and preserving the full character of recordings. To send sound to speakers from a digital source, such as CDs or MP3s, these amplifiers must be equipped with the additional circuitry of a digital-to-analog converter.

How amplifiers function based on their class affect clarity and efficiency. In a class-A amplifier, current flows continuously through the output circuits. The result is low-distortion sound, which is considered the highest standard for many audiophiles, but it also uses more power.

Class-B amplifiers have transistors that switch the output circuits on as necessary, bringing about greater efficiency, but also more distortion. Class A/B amplifiers are a compromise solution that keep less power flowing than class-A amplifiers, without causing the switching distortion of class-B designs.

The versatile power of digital

Digital receivers commonly use a class-D amplifier, though the "D" does not stand for "digital." The way its amplification functions can be easily mistaken for digital since it uses an analog audio signal to modulate a stream of high-frequency pulses. One of the advantages of Class-D amplifiers is their greater efficiency compared to other models with similar sound quality, while not requiring a DAC to handle digital sound.

Audio enthusiasts interested in the best class-D amplifier should consider the Marantz HD-AMP1. The digital section of this integrated amplifier supports a variety of lossless digital audio formats and works with a broad range of setups, sending 35 watts-per-channel at 8 ohms and 70 watts-per-channel at 4 ohms.

Ultimately, whether it's analog or digital, a good amplifier is one that provides the necessary boost in power with minimal distortion and allows you to enjoy music to the fullest. Selecting between various models is a matter of accounting for your system's power requirements and your individual taste, so listen to a few possibilities and choose wisely.

Marantz specializes in building amplifiers and receivers with the highest quality construction. Whether you're an analog purist or ready to embrace the latest technology, explore the full selection and choose components that surpass the demands of your home audio system, immersing you in great music for years to come.