When it comes to setting up a great home theater system in your home, the electronics world can appear overwhelming. If you are like me, all the various technical components and specifications can become confusing. In my search for the best home theater system, I repeatedly came across the word “preamplifier”, or “preamp” for short. If you find yourself as lost as I was on the topic, then you’re in luck. This article is all about the preamp and whether you need it for your home theater.
So, do you need a preamp for your home theater? Based on the many different home theater systems available today, the need for a preamp is dependent on three main factors. The first applies to
When I first began setting up my own home theater, I found myself constantly trying to figure out what pieces I needed and what worked together best. Depending on your desired usage and outcomes, as well as your space requirements and personal taste, a preamplifier may be a necessary piece of equipment for your home theater system.
A preamplifier is a device that allows you to connect multiple audio or audio/video (A/V) sources to a single audio output signal. But what does that really mean to you?
A preamp is used to connect multiple source components, such as an A/V receiver (our guide), your compact disc player, DVD player, and Blu-ray player to a single output signal that can be controlled through an amplifier. (We will talk more about the differences between the preamp and the amplifier later.) When you use a preamp to do this, it allows you to switch between each of the source components seamlessly, with no need to disconnect one device to use another.
As stated above and in our article comparing the WXA-50 and the WXC-50, the preamplifier turns 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 produce sound, to your speakers.
It should be noted that both the preamp and amplifier will need their own power sources. They are separate and distinct devices that often require the use of the other to produce a rich, quality sound. As such, if you opt for a preamp system, it is essential that your amplifier works with your selected preamp.
Now that you understand what the purpose of a preamp and amplifier are for your home theater system, you may be asking yourself why you should or should not invest in one. Let’s take a look.
If you want a fully unique and custom home theater system that you control in its entirety, then a preamp/amplifier combination is the best choice for you. Why? By opting for a preamplifier set up, you will need to pick and choose each component for use in your home theater system. From the preamp and amplifier to the speakers and subwoofer – every aspect of a home theater system will need to be carefully selected.
For those looking to go beyond the standard 2.1 and 5.1 channel home theaters, the preamp solution offers much more. In fact, depending on the device you buy, you can expect even an 11-channel set up to produce crystal clear sound steadily. Certain preamps will also allow you to connect a subwoofer, making those deep tones even richer as your amplifier pushes sound through your surrounding speakers.
With some of the top of the line preamps, you may also be able to stream music. Wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, as well as HDMI, are all becoming more prevalent in preamps.
If you are not quite confident in your ability to establish a working custom home theater, the preamp option may be a bit much. An A/V receiver is an electronic device that combines multiple functions in one box. M
If you opt for using a preamplifier, you will likely need to purchase each component of your home theater separately. In doing so, there are a number of pros and cons you should considered before making this decision.
Can I Hook My Speakers Directly to My Preamp? Most preamps do not come with speaker connection terminals because they do not output any power. If you are serious about connecting your speakers directly to your preamp, you need to make sure you purchase speakers that are self-powered and include RCA input terminals.
I Keep Hearing About a Control Amplifier; Is This Different from A Preamplifier? No. Preamplifiers go by many names in the electronics industry. Control amplifiers, A/V processors, A/V preamps, and preamp processors are all variations on the preamp.
Can A Preamp/Amplifier Combination Be Too Much for A Room? This is more of a personal taste question. Small rooms can be well supported through the use of an A/V receiver. However, as the space increases, the preamp/amplifier combination will provide a much cleaner sound quality. Does that mean a preamp is too much for a small space? Not necessarily. For those with auditory problems, the preamp may be beneficial even in a smaller area. For those who hear perfectly well, the preamp may be a bit overkill.
In all, choosing to use a preamp with an amplifier over an A/V receiver is a personal preference type of thing. Both systems will work well, it just depends on the level of control you wish to maintain when it comes to choosing the different components. Check out our article on A/V Receivers vs Amplifiers. This article will give you a better idea about the key differences between these two powerful devices.