What Is a Pre-Amp?

Home theatre systems often include multiple components, including an amplifier/receiver for connecting equipment to a set of speakers. One component that many people overlook is a pre-amp.

So, what is a pre-amp, and do you need one for your home theatre system?

Preamplifiers are responsible for amplifying an audio signal before it is sent to the main amplifier, receiver, or audio mixer. Using a preamp may help improve sound quality, allow more connections, or provide an alternative method for switching between devices.

Here is a closer look at the use of pre-amps for home audio systems.

What is a Pre-Amp for Home Audio?

rotel rc-1572 preampA pre-amp is a common piece of equipment for musicians. Microphones, guitars, and other instruments often connect to a preamplifier, which boosts the signal and sends it to a mixer or powered speaker.

A preamplifier performs the same function for your home audio setup. It amplifies the signal from an audio input before sending it to the amplifier. However, standard AV receivers also contain amplifiers.

An AV receiver is used for home theatre systems and often includes an FM tuner, multiple inputs, a preamp, and an amplifier. In an AV receiver, the preamp controls the inputs and boosts the signal before sending it to the amplifier that drives the speakers.

A dedicated preamp may deliver better sound, depending on the quality of your existing setup. The two main types of preamps for home audio include stereo Hi-Fi preamps and A/V preamps.

Stereo Hi-Fi preamps, or phono preamps, are often used when connecting turntables to a receiver or a computer without phono inputs. A standard phono preamp often includes a single phono input. However, you can find standalone preamps with multiple inputs and options with built-in processors.

power amplifier yamaha
A power amplifier will typically have fewer controls.

Pre-Amplifier vs. Amplifier

Instead of relying on the amplifier in a receiver, you may want to consider using a standalone pre-amplifier. Here are a few reasons to consider adding a preamp to your home audio configuration:

  • Cleaner sound
  • Greater control of audio inputs
  • Upgrade your sound system

The typical home theatre system includes an audio/video (AV) receiver. Most receivers include an integrated amplifier and multiple inputs for connecting your TV, record player, game systems, and other devices. While a preamp is not an essential piece of equipment for the typical setup, it can enhance the quality of your audio.

Preamps May Help Deliver Cleaner Sound

A high-quality preamp should include a digital-to-analogue (DAC) converter for ensuring that your digital audio sources sound great. For example, the Rotel RC-1572 preamp uses a premium AKM DAC for greater precision when connecting a PC, phone, tablet, or MP3 player.

A preamp such as the RC-1572 is also designed specifically for switching between inputs and increasing the signal sent to your amplifier. This allows the preamp to ensure that your digital and analogue sources sound as good as possible.

Preamps Provide Control for Multiple Inputs

Preamps often include multiple inputs, allowing you to easily switch between different devices. As with an AV receiver, you can connect the audio from your TV, turntable, CD player, and game systems.

The RC-1572 preamp and other high-end options also include remote control via a handheld remote or a mobile app. For example, with the Rotel App, you can switch inputs and adjust the volume.

Preamps Allow You to Upgrade Older AV Receivers

If you have an outdated AV receiver with an inferior DAC or not enough inputs, a preamp may offer a convenient way to upgrade your home theatre system. Instead of getting a new receiver, you can add the preamp to take advantage of the latest audio technologies.

For those with a set of active speakers, a preamp may even allow you to ditch your old receiver. You can connect the preamp to an active speaker, which includes a built-in amplifier for powering the speaker drivers.


A preamp is often necessary when connecting a turntable to an audio system that lacks a built-in phono preamp. However, using a preamp may also improve the audio from your TV and other devices. It boosts and processes the audio signal before sending it to the receiver or active speakers.

While a preamp is not a requirement for a home theatre system, it can enhance the quality of the sound. You can connect multiple devices and may avoid the need to upgrade an outdated receiver.

Not sure which type of preamp or receiver is right for your system? Contact us, we are happy to help!


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