Receiver VS Amplifier: What’s The Difference?

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If it’s your first time setting up a home studio, the task may be a bit daunting. One important thing to know is the difference between a receiver and an amplifier, because all too often the terms are used interchangeably.

The truth is, the two devices are somewhat one in the same, because a receiver has an amplifier included inside of it. In this article, we will fully define what both amplifiers and receivers are. After which, we will provide some additional information to help you fully understand the difference between receivers and amplifiers.  

What is an Amplifier?

An amplifier is “an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal.”  In an audio setup, an amplifier is used to bring the sound signal to a level that is powerful enough to play through your speakers.

Of course, there are many, more components that are necessary in order to fully deliver the sound. Standalone amplifiers are complemented by preamps and speakers in order to create a single-source audio system.  

What is a Receiver?

A receiver (also known as an A/V receiver, audio/visual receiver, or simply an AVR) is an important part of a home or theatre or music studio. A receiver is designed to “to receive audio and video signals from a number of sources, and to process them and provide power amplifiers to drive loudspeakers.” 

As mentioned above, amplifiers are built into AVRs. Receivers also typically have a large number of inputs and outputs (including audio, video, USB, and HDMI), separate channels, decoders, and occasionally a radio.  

The Two Most Common Kinds of Receivers  

Depending on what you are assembling, you will likely be using one of two types of receiver.  For audio only, you can use a stereo receiver. If you are putting together a home theatre system, then you will need an audio/visual receiver.  

Stereo Receivers

For musicians, stereo receivers are common in home production studios. If you need to hook up a set (or multiple sets) of speakers to an audio source, then a stereo receiver will be able to receive the signal and distribute it as desired.  

Generally, due to their limited capabilities, stereo receivers are much more affordable than A/V receivers.  

Audio/Visual Receivers

As is pretty obvious from their namesake, Audio/Visual receivers can be used for both video and sound. If you own a television, gaming system, Blu-ray player and a nice set of speakers, the easiest way to control your home theater is with an A/V receiver.  

Typically, an A/V receiver has the capacity to plug in many different audio and video inputs with the option to send to multiple output locations such as televisions and speakers.    

Using a Receiver vs a Standalone Amplifier

Now that you know the difference between a receiver and an amplifier, you will have to choose which setup you will want to use in your home system. 

Usually, standalone amplifiers paired with separate components are generally seen as the premium option reserved for serious audiophiles. Conversely, receivers are the most popular and easiest way to hook up a large number of audio inputs and outputs. 

Pros of Using a Receiver

  • Convenient all-in-one package for audio, TV, computer, etc. 
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Saves space and can be easily disconnected and moved
  • Usually cheaper than the total cost of its components 

Cons of Using A Receiver

  • If one component breaks, the entire unit cannot function properly
  • Not the highest sound quality possible

Pros of Using a Standalone Amplifier 

  • Separate components can be upgraded as desired
  • Faulty parts of the system can be easily identified and replaced
  • High end amplifiers can deliver the best possible sound quality

Cons of Using A Standalone Amplifier  

  • Generally, a system built around a standalone amplifier will be more expensive
  • A bit more challenging to set up and use
  • Separate components will occupy more of your studio space


We hope that this article was helpful in clearing up the differences between a receiver and an amplifier. Below, we will answer some of the most commonly asked questions that surround this particular subject matter.  

Do I need a receiver OR an amplifier? 

The real answer to this question is that you will always need an amplifier, and most of the time, that is found within a receiver. 

To run audio through any set of speakers, the sound needs to be amplified. Therefore an amplifier is always a necessary component. For most, this is built into the receiver, however, systems with standalone amplifiers can be built using separate, extra components in place of the receiver.  

Do I need a receiver AND an amplifier? 

No. If you are using a receiver, you will likely not need a separate amplifier if you already have a receiver.  

Can you use a receiver as an amplifier?

Yes. Most receivers have amplifiers built into their system. Therefore, you can use a receiver as an amplifier (in addition to its other components).

What is a preamp or a preamplifier? 

A preamplifier, sometimes known simply as a preamp, is an important component of any audio system. Preamps are generally found in receivers but need to be purchased separately when using a standalone power amp. A preamplifier is used to increase the gain from a weak signal, getting it up to a line-level signal. 

As you might imagine, the preamp is placed just before the regular amplifier. In an audio system, the order of the components can be simplified to simply: 

  1. Input (The Source of Sound) 
  2. Preamp 
  3. Amplifier
  4. Output (Speakers) 
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