A preamplifier is a device that allows you to connect multiple audio or audio/video (A/V) sources to a single audio output signal.
The preamp is used to connect multiple source components such as a CD player, DVD player, and Blu-ray player to a single output that can be controlled through an amplifier. (We’ll talk more about the differences between a preamp and an amp later.) When you use a preamp for this, it allows you to seamlessly switch between each of the source’s components, without having to unplug one device to use the other.
What is the difference between preamplifier and amplifier?
As stated above, the preamplifier converts multiple input signals into a single output that is sent to the amplifier. The amplifier, in turn, then sends this signal, as well as the necessary power to reproduce sound, to your speakers.
It should be noted that both the preamplifier and amplifier will require their own power supplies. These are separate and distinct devices that often require the use of another to produce rich and quality sound. Thus, if you are choosing a preamplifier system, it is important that your amplifier works with the preamp you have chosen.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t Use a Preamp with a Home Theater System
Now that you understand what a preamp and amplifier are for in your home theater system, you may be asking yourself why you should or shouldn’t invest in one. Let’s take a look.
Why you should use preamplifier
If you want a completely unique and personalized home theater system that you have complete control over, then a pre/amp combo is the best choice for you. Why? When choosing a preamp setup, you will need to select each component to use in your home theater system. From preamplifier and amplifier to speakers and subwoofer, every aspect of a home theater system must be carefully chosen.
For those looking to go beyond the standard 2.1 and 5.1 home theater experience, the preamp offers so much more. In fact, depending on the device you buy, you can expect even an 11-channel setup to produce crystal clear sound consistently. Some preamps also allow you to connect a subwoofer, making those deep tones even richer as your amplifier pushes the sound through the surrounding speakers.
With some of the best preamps, you can also stream your music. Wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, as well as HDMI, are becoming more common in preamps.
Why you shouldn’t use preamplifier
If you’re not entirely confident in your ability to build a working custom home theater, the preamp option may be too big. An A/V receiver is an electronic device that combines several functions in one device. Audio processing, video switching, and amplification are some of the standard features of today’s AV receivers.
Modern technology has also made the A/V receiver more versatile, expanding its input jacks to support multiple source types, including RCA, HDMI, and sometimes even USB devices. While it’s not quite an all-in-one home theater, it’s much easier to get an A/V receiver instead of a preamp combo.
Pros and cons of using a preamp over an AV receiver
If you choose to use a preamp, you will likely need to purchase each home theater component separately. However, there are a number of pros and cons to consider before making such a decision.
Pros of using a preamp over an A/V receiver
- By choosing a preamplifier, you have more control over every aspect of your home theater system.
- The quality of the sound produced by the preamp/amplifier combination is often much better than that of an AV receiver.
- A choice of preamp expands your home theater experience from 5 to 7, 8 or 11 channels, depending on which model you purchase. This means that in large rooms it will be very useful to use a preamp/amp combination. It also means you have room to expand your home theater system over the years, although before you do, make sure you choose a room with proper lighting because it will save you a lot of time and energy.
- Manufacturers of preamps and amplifier systems are often more clear and direct in their marketing of their products, resulting in fewer frustrations. The power supplies for these types of devices are usually well designed and provide constant, stable power for each channel.
Cons of using a preamp on top of an AV receiver
- Since you need to purchase several components to use with the preamp, an AV receiver is often the cheaper option.
- A/V receiver is more convenient; just plug in your device and enjoy. In comparison, the preamplifier is much more complex.
- The AV receiver often takes up less space due to its multi-functionality.
- If you’re looking to buy used ones, older preamp standards might not be as good as comparable A/V receivers. The newer models, however, do an excellent job of keeping up with current industry standards, including HDMI capabilities.
Most preamps don’t have speaker terminals because they don’t output power. If you’re serious about connecting your speakers directly to your preamp, you’ll need to purchase self-powered speakers with RCA input jacks.
No. In the electronics industry, preamplifiers are known by various names. Driving amplifiers, audio/video processors, audio/video preamps, and preamp processors are all varieties of preamplifiers.
It’s more of a matter of personal taste. Small rooms can be well supported through the use of an audio/video receiver. However, as space increases, the preamp/amp combination will provide much cleaner sound quality. Does this mean that the preamp is too much for a small space? Not necessary. For those with hearing problems, a preamp can be useful even in a smaller area. For those with excellent hearing, a preamp may seem redundant.