Home Cinema Amplifier Buyers Guide

If you want the ultimate quality and flexibility for your home cinema system, then a separate home cinema amplifier or receiver is the way to go.

A home cinema amplifier enables your home cinema system to be able to grow and adapt to your changing requirements and to advances in technology much more easily than an all in one system. You can choose your own speakers, and the connectivity options are also far greater enabling you to plug in more equipment and so get the full benefit of surround sound from your games consoles and iPod as well as your DVD or Blu-ray player. For this reason the amplifier can really become the hub of your system, and with most amplifiers also having a built in radio (known as home cinema receivers) you’ll have everything you’ll need.

We’ve listed our top five reasons why you should choose a home cinema amplifier:

  1. Speakers – A separate amplifier will not come with speakers (unless you get some as part of a package deal) so you have the complete freedom to be able to choose the speakers that suit your listening style, your decor, the available space in your room or your budget. This also means that you can also progress in stages by getting the all important front 3 speakers first, and the other speakers and sub woofer later. Read more about speakers
  2. Connectivity – If you are new to the world of home cinema separates, then a quick look at the back of an amplifier can be quite an eye opener! With a multitude of connection options, and an initially confusing array of sockets the rear of the amplifier really shows how flexible they can be. With all the sockets clearly labelled, connecting everything is actually more simple than people first think, and with the auto set up systems that many of the latest amplifiers have, you can have them up and running in no time. See our section on home cinema amplifiers and receivers for more.
  3. High definition sound – the latest amplifiers are fully capable of decoding, or accepting high definition sound over an HDMI cable. This means you can get the full HD benefit from your Blu-ray player with the very latest high quality audio.
  4. Brands – Many familiar brands like Sony, Pioneer and Yamaha produce very high quality home cinema amplifiers, but there are also numerous specialist brands like Onkyo, Denon and Arcam to choose from. The quality of choice means you will easily be able to find something that ticks all the right boxes.
  5. Value – There are numerous home cinema units available from as little as £150, sometimes even less, and when you think of how long an amplifier will last, and the flexibility it offers, we think that represents very good value for money.

When you’ve worked out if a home cinema amplifer is the right choice (it almost always is!) then you can set about choosing your amplifier – the fun part!

There are 4 main areas to consider when choosing your amplifier:

  1. Budget – The first thing to consider is how much you want to spend. Many people start by deciding on speakers and working out what money they have available for the amp and cables after. This is often a good method because bad speakers mean bad sound – no matter how good your amp – so you’ll want to get the speakers that can do the job.
  2. Power – Have a look at your speakers power rating and select amplifiers with a similar power rating – basically, you don’t want to under power or over power your speakers – you want to get the balance right.
  3. Connectivity – work out what equipment you have, and what you want to connect now or in the near future, and make sure the amp has enough connections to cope, especially the number of HDMI inputs available.
  4. Then if you still have more than one amp on your shortlist, buy the one that has the features you want, or gets the best reviews, or even looks the best! The choice is completely yours!

If you need more information about an amplifier, search our site for the latest reviews, and feel free to post a question – someone will be along to help. Also make sure you look up the best prices for the amplifier you’ve chosen before you buy!


  1. I’m looking to upgrade my system to take advantage of new tech and HDMI functionality. I currently have a 5.1 set up but have noticed that most amps today come with 7.1.
    My question is, do I need to install the additional 2 speakers when replacing the amp, or can I retain the speaker set up I have without a degradation in sound quality from the 7.1 amp?
    Many thanks in advance.

    1. Neil, you can leave the system as 5.1 if you wish – there will be no degradation in sound quality at all. In fact with something like the popular Onkyo 607 you can use the additional outputs on a 7.1 amplifier to bi-amp your front speakers to give you an improved sound quality.

  2. Derek Bryan says:

    Hi,my current set up is as follows;panasonic TX-P42G10B,onkyo TX-SR705,pioneer BDP51FD,Sky HD Box,Monitor Audio Silver 8 spks, Qed hdmi leads.I would like to upgrade my amp but i’m not sure which way to go ,do i upgrade the amp to one of pioneers sc /vsx series to match the bdp51 or change amp and dvd for perhaps the vsx 52 amp and the bdp52 dvd.Iam open to suggestions to improve my current sound and vision,my budget is £1800 and my room is 12x18ft.Thanks for any advice.

  3. Mick says:

    Hi, I have an ageing Sony 5.1 system with purely Scart lead connections.
    I have a 18month old Sony LCD TV with HDMI but not optical input.
    I also have Sky+HD which has one HDMI and one optical output.
    I would like to change my 5.1 system to get the full benefit from my HD+, but i am confused as to what 5.1 amp I would need and how I would get my video signal into my tv from my HD box and get the audio into my 5.1 system.
    Can you help please

    1. You need to connect your Sky+ HD box to the television using HDMI for the video, and connect an optical cable to a new amp or all in one system for the sound. You can either go for a more flexible separate amplifier like the good value Onkyo TX-SR308 (you would have to get speakers also) or you could stick with an all in one system such as the Sony BDV-E370 Blu-ray system.

  4. rich says:

    Hi, I have 2yr old samsung lcd tv and my old all in one surround sound has packed in. I also have sky HD and ps3 I would like to go for new amp possibly the Onkyo SR608. With view to possible 3D tv in a year or 2. Is this a good systen to go for and what speakers would suit best. I have total budget of £800 for full system.

  5. phil adlington says:

    hi i’m looking for a home cinema amp for around £500.
    i want to connect my ps3 and hd tv also my v-box.
    i maybe going 3d next year so is it worth buying 3d able amp?

    1. An amplifier is one of themore expensive items of home cinema kit, so it’s best to get something that will last. So, yes I would be buying one that is HDMI 1.4 and 3D ready

  6. Marie says:

    Hi we have an LG HT805SH dvd home cinema system, can we change the dvd player for a blu-ray unit…. Any help would be appreciated.


    1. Yes, but most suitable home cinema systems would come with the speakers so you are probably better off moving your current system to a bedroom, and buying a new system.
      You could always go for a separate amplifier and Blu-ray player, but you would have to make sure the speakers would connect to the back okay – without knowing what speaker connections they are, it would be difficult to say.

  7. Ray Penney says:

    Will I have to buy a 3D Capable Amplifier to play 3D movies on my yet to be purchased 3D TV, or will I still be able to use my present amplifier which is 3 -4 years old?

    1. If you want to pass through a 3D video signal, then you will need a HDMI 1.4 compatible amplifier.

  8. Ollie says:


    I’ve got a Samsung HT-X200 2.1 system but the amp is broken. I’m a bit of a novice and I’d be keen to upgrade and get a better amp – I assume I can keep the speakers and woofer and just get a new amp? I’ve noticed that Samsung Blu-Ray/DVD players don’t have the connections for the speakers so I assume I have to buy a Samsung Home Cinema amp on its own. Where can I buy them separately and what are my options?



    1. Samsung don’t sell separate amplifiers in the UK, so you would have to use another manufacturers. Whether you can use the speakers depends on what connections they have on the ends – sometimes they are specific plugs the manufacturer has designed. You can cut the plugs off the end though and then try connecting to a new amp if you really want to try them, but they are likely to be a little bit low on power for a separate home cinema amplifier.

  9. Selwyn Bullock says:

    Hope you can help with a very basic question, as I’m getting so confused I think my brain is starting to hurt! I have a Panasonic Plasma TV and Panasonic Blu-ray player purchased earlier this year. Although we don’t watch a lot of films, the intention was to add speakers at a later date (i.e. this Christmas) to make up a home cinema system. However, the retail outlets I have spoken with tell me I can’t do this and need to buy an amplifier into which I can plug the Bluray player as well as my Virgin +box and games console. I was hoping not to spend £300 on an amplifier and wonder if there is a cheaper way to get home cinema sound on my Blu-ray player.

    1. If you want to add surround sound, you’ll need an amplifier and speakers. The Onkyo TX-SR308 is under £200, and you could get the Jamo A102 HCS5 speakers – but thats takes you nearer £400.

      You could also add on a soundbar such as the Samsung HW-C470 which would give you a virtual surround sound effect.

      Alternatively, you could use your Blu-ray player in another room and buy something like the Panasonic SC-BT230 home cinema system which has everything you need in one box?

  10. Grant Dalzell says:

    I want to upgrade my system to be able to use HDMI technology. I currently have a Sony STR-DB790 amp with a Sony SA-VE356T speaker package. I will need to connect a Bluray player, Xbox, Sky HD, etc. What amp would you recomend to be able to use my exixting speakers or would you upgrade everything. My budget for the amp alone is around £500.


    1. If you want to stick with Sony, the STR-DN610 is good value and has a similar power rating (7 x 100W rather than 6 x 90W). You might find that your speakers are a little underpowered though, but see how you get on with them and perhaps upgrade later?

  11. Grant Dalzell says:

    Thanks for the quick response. Is the benefit of a Sony STR-DA3600ES over the Sony STR-DN610 worth the extra money and what speakers would you suggest to run for this amp? I ask because I also have a Sony PS-212 direct drive turntable I would hook up and the STR-DN610 doesn’t have a phono input.

    1. The Sony STR-DA3600ES is a superior amp than the STR-DN610, but at 4 times the price it should be! With system of this cost you should really be getting some speakers that are of equal quality, and at this end of the market I could only really advise you head off to your local hi-fi store and sound test a few.

  12. Mark Burns says:

    I am in the processof up grading my home surround sound system and have firstly purchased a seperate Sony Blu Ray player Sony BDP-S570B 3D; I’m looking now to upgrade the the amp to a ONKYO TX-SR309B 2011, for the time being I will keep the Samsung surround sound speakers and update to the Boston Accoustics pack when I can slide it past the wife. My issue is with how do I connect the Sky HD, PS3 and new bluray player with the new amp via HDMI? If I connect the Sky HD to the TV via HDMI then I have to connect the HD box to the amp via Digital audio. Will it therefore require a certain amount of synching with the picture/audio? The amp has 4 HDMI ports so how do I take full advantge of these? For instance will the bluray player connect to the tv and the amp via HDMI?

  13. Johnny says:


    I am in the process/considering buying a Jamo A102 hsc 6 speaker package and a Pioneer vsx s500 rec. My intention is to run a 3.1 set up on my samsung led. Is this possible and can I pre amp the front speakers ie use the rear speaker connections intothe front along with the designated front connectors. Also willi need banana connectors ?
    Many thanks

  14. Cameron says:

    I’m just starting out on the av journey and am wondering whether I should be looking to spend more on my av receiver or more on the speakers. I want to make sure I get the balance right. I assume poor input to good speakers or quality input to poor speakers will end in the same result ??? Any advice greatly appreciated.

  15. Hey; I’m thinking about buying the Onkyo TX-NR616 and Tannoy HTS101s as my first AV system.. What do you reckon to this set up; I’m trying to keep to a budget of course and am able to get the two for just under £500… the question is, should I?! Appreciate your thoguhts/comments!

    1. That’s a really good system. It’s also worth considering the less expensive TX-NR515. But, definitely go for it!

  16. Chris says:

    I have an lg HB965TZ home cinema system. The base unit has packed up and is not economically repairable. There isn’t an issue with the speakers and I was debating weather or not to get a completely new all in one system like the Sony BDV N590 or to get a stand alone receiver like the Yamaha RXV673.
    Will the LG speakers connect to and perform well with something like the Yamaha with the potential of upgrading the speakers in the not so near future? I may not get the chance to upgrade for a while so don’t want to waste money on a receiver that is wasted on the speakers I already have. Equally I don’t want to waste a set of speakers that are in good working order if they will do a good job with something like the Yamaha.
    I have a separate blu ray player and a ps3 so having an in built blu ray player in my new purchase isn’t essential as long as it has plenty of hdmi inputs which I know the Sony and Yamaha both have.
    Your thoughts/advice would be most welcome.

  17. I have a pioneer basic 5.1 cinema set up, my friend is Selling his Bose speakers, Would they go ok with my pioneer amp or do I need a better amp to go with them?

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