What is a preamplifier and do I need one?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by G_Courtney_A_A, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. G_Courtney_A_A

    G_Courtney_A_A Auditioning

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    ...I know I know, SEARCH ! ! !

    I did and I couldn't find anything so I'm moving on to something more interesting and leaving you with this question.

    My goal is to have a killer 7.1 system with a couple 15" powered subs. I was thinking a single integrated amp would do the job of the 7 speakers. What would a pre-amp add, and under what circumstances?
     
  2. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    To answer your question, yes you need a preamplifier, especially for any A/V 5.1 channel audio. Historically, a preamp controlls switching sources as well as volume control and/or possible tonal effects, i.e. a bass level, treble level. A preamp will allow you to select say your CD player audio source, or a tuner. A more modern and an A/V preamp will select say your DVD player/recorder etc. etc. A preamp will have outputs for your speakers, be that 2-channel stereo or 7.1 DTS EX setup.

    To further answer your question, an integrated amp is actually an amplifier combined with a preamplifier so if you get an integrated amp, you don't need to buy a separate preamplifier but you still need a preamp. A receiver is basically a tuner/preamplifier/amplifier/processor*

    Having said that, for strictly audio purposes, a preamp isn't necessary. Many old style CD players or tuners had variable outputs which means a variable voltage was outputed right from the unit itself so you could hook up the tuner/CD player directly to an amplifier and then the amplifier to your speakers and therefore bypass a preamplifier. But that typically doesn't ever happen in anything other than 2 channel because DVD players don't typically include their own DD/DTS processor and neither will they have 7.1 outputs!

    The tuner/CD player to amplifier route is typically die hard audiophiles anyway and many preamp makers will have an audio bypass mode which typically means it'll bypass all the tonal controls (except for volume perhaps) for 2-channel audio.

    *Sometimes people consider for an A/V preamplifier that the Doldy Digital or DTS processor part of the preamp, however, I like to think of them as separate, since you can buy a preamp and then a processor separately

    Jay
     
  3. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...282#post512282


    Usually it's a pre/pro, that is a preamp/processor. Then you buy separate amplifiers. Buying these separate components would be opposed to buying a single reciever which has all that in one.

    If the pre-amplifier and the amplifiers are combined (together with a processor and a radio-tuner as well), it's called a receiver. This is the most common solution in a HT. Therefore, if the power-amplifiers are not all inside a receiver, but apart, that's called separates.

    In the old days, when multi-channel audio (except stereo) wasn't common (at least not the "coded" form), there already were integrated amplifiers - of course they still exist, there are many audio freaks around - meaning the pre-amp and the power-amp were together, and generally two of them to form an audio stereo combination. [/quote]
     
    LD-Crazer likes this.
  4. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Oops, thanks for the correction, I meant that! [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  5. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Courtney,

    First, welcome to the Forum!

    You got some good information there from Jay. To perhaps streamline a little, the pre amp is what all the components connect to, the “brains” of the system. As Jay noted, it’s also the section with the volume and tone controls and often the processor as well.

    So yes, unless you’re talking about a minimalist audiophile system like Jay described, you need a pre amp. Not to worry, they come built-in to receivers and integrated amps (which are actually rare for home theater systems).

    If you’re considering a system with separates – i.e., not everything together in the same chassis as you get with a receiver, they are typically the more expensive route. Added to that, separate pre-amps, or pre-amp/processors (pre-pros) are typically not on the cutting edge of technology. This is because they don’t sell nearly as well, so manufactures usually keep a particular model in the line up for a few years to recoup their investment. By contrast, receivers, with their economies of scale, typically offer the latest technology at the lowest prices, although the lower end models probably don’t sound as good as separates.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  6. JeremyErwin

    JeremyErwin Producer

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