Preamp vs Receiver: Use Case Analysis

Preamp, amplifier, and receiver are some of the common terms that you may stumble upon while building your own home theater. Preamp vs receiver, which one is best for you? In majority of cases, a receiver is best for you because some receivers have amplifier and preamp built-in into it.

The decision entirely depends on the user’s use case. If you are picky and want to alter settings, EQ, volume as per your taste, a preamp along with an amplifier might be good for you. Speakers that require too much power will produce better audio with a dedicated amplifier with a preamp.

Receivers are the ultimate solution if you don’t want several devices or if space is an issue for you. If you spend well on a high-end receiver, then you can rely on it for enhanced audio quality. receivers often come with room correction software, advanced features like Dolby Atmos or DTS support.

Preamp vs receiver: Major differences

 PreampReceiver
Acts asPreampHas preamp and amp built-in
ConnectionFewMany
DeviceMostly to amplifiersSeveral (speaker, TV, turntable, CD, DVD, etc)
ControlsManySeveral (more than preamp)
PriceExpensive (including an amp)Less expensive
  • Connection: comparing preamp vs receiver, a preamp allows you to connect it to an amplifier and then to loudspeakers. Receivers are more versatile as it allows to connect several devices and output to multiple devices as well.
  • Device: Preamp mostly connects only to an amplifier. It takes weak signals from media players, recording microphones, instruments or small preamp-free receivers. AV receivers allow wide range of devices to connect. Comparing preamp vs receiver, the preamp doesn’t permit connection to gaming consoles, TV, projectors, etc. Some receivers can also connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • Settings: Preamp vs receiver, which has more controls? Receivers offer more functions and controls compared to preamp. Preamps have basic controls like: gain, the low and high pass filters, volume, impedance, loading controls, and etc. Receivers have source switches, volume, equalizers, track/file switches, bass, frequency range, etc.
  • Cost: Preamplifiers are affordable and often costs less than the receiver. However, you can’t use the preamp alone, you need an amplifier so the overall cost increases although the preamp itself is cheap.

Preamp: what is it and why do you need one?

Preamp takes weak signal mostly from microphone then boosts them or make them ready so pass into amplifiers. These amplifiers will boost up the signal. These weak signals are prepared to be as line-level signal so that amplifiers can amplify them.

You can easily build a home theater without a preamp, then when and why do you need one? Preamp is needed in scenarios where the audio source signals are weak and can’t be given as input directly to an amplifier.

In specific cases like if you are involved in things like karaoke, recording/mixing studio. Another reason to use preamp is where you want to use a preamp with an amplifier instead of a receiver.

This is for audiophile grade users, who understand the details of each device in the system and want to tweak their setting to get the louder and cleaner sound. The preamp can’t be used without an amplifier. The reason to use a preamp with an amplifier is because it will improve audio quality.

Preamp make systems versatile where you can connect several speakers easily. In home theaters, receiver or amplifier is the common term rather than a preamp. The device is mostly used in recording systems.

While choosing a preamp, make sure the amp and preamp has similar power ratings. This is to eliminate any introduction of signal distortion. Comparing amplifier vs preamp, the preamp works with audio processing to minimize background noise.

Who needs a preamp?

As mentioned above, preamp is used along with amplifier in recording scenario. Other audio enthusiasts who want to tweak every settings and consider themselves professional with enough knowledge can easily include a preamp in their system.

Receiver: What is it and why do you need one?

In majority of cases, a receiver is an all-in-one solution in home theaters. Amplifiers are widely used as well. The reason for this is, even if you want to get a preamp, you can easily find in inside an integrated amplifier or in many receivers as shown in the diagram below. Receiver is all-in-one because you get both an amplifier and preamp in it.

amplifier and preamp

Receiver can be considered as the brain of the home theater system. It is mostly needed if you have several devices to connect or have a 5.1 or 7.1 home theater system. You can connect speakers, subwoofers, TV as output devices to the receiver. A gaming console, CD player, DVD player may act as input. It will automatically switch between devices.

If you spend well and choose a famous brand like Denon, Marantz or Yamaha, the sound quality will be impressive. It also works as ‘main control’ so you can adjust volume or EQ settings from the receiver. The reason you need a receiver is because you have more than one input and automatically input switching is much easier.

Also, the receiver with an amplifier in it will boost up the signals easily. Having a single receiver instead of an amplifier and preamp will save you money. They have several things inside including: power amplifier, video/audio inputs and outputs, preamps, and signal processors.

Comparing preamp vs amplifier vs receiver, the amplifier only amplifies the input signal and send it to speakers. it can be of two types: power and integrated amps. You can also use an amp instead of a receiver.

Preamp vs receiver: Why do you need a preamp over receiver?

If receiver has both amplifier and preamp, then why do you need a preamp? A preamp has more impact on the sound quality than other devices. The preamp comes before an amplifier. So, the signal goes as input into the preamp which goes through signal processing.

Preamps along with amplifiers are better when there is chance that you may use large power-seeking speakers. a dedicated amplifier will be able to handle them much better than a receiver.

Benefits of using receiver over preamp:

Preamps need to be with amplifiers which are called separates.

  • Receiver is less costly than the separates.
  • Receivers has all functions needed
  • Supports multiple inputs
  • Easily fits in racks or tight spaces
  • Damage in any parts will lead to replacing the whole unit

Preamp vs receiver: Product comparison

Adcom GFP-815 Stereo Preamplifier

Specifications:

  • Frequency response:10Hz-100kHz High Level.

20 Hz-80KHz Phono.

  • Input Impedance: 130,000 ohms
  • Tone Controls: ± 8dB Bass (100Hz)

± 9dB Treble (10kHz)

  • THD+ Noise: 0.005% High Level
  • SNR (80k filter JIS-A): ≥98dB High Level
  • Dimension: 3.5” x 17” x 15.5”

The Adcom GFP-815 has 7 source audio inputs. Along with other functions, it has built-in decoder which can be used for phono connectivity. It can work with CX noise-reduction encoding records, MM and MC configuration vinyl records.

It has a stainless steel chassis with several controls including: IR Sensor, Source Selection, Tone button, Bass/Treble knob, Balance knob, etc. this home theater preamp can easily work with turntables or MP3 players. You can use this with Adcom power amp even if it an old unit like Adcom GFA-545 II Power Amplifier

Designed for high-resolution audio, it can work with DVD Audio and SACD formats. It comes with a user-friendly remote control. Also, this unit doesn’t get heated up with use. for extra precaution, it is recommended to have some space around the preamp to allow ventilation.

To get the best performance out of this preamp, it is suggested to use ‘high quality, low-loss, low capacitance’ cables. The device has RCA inputs/outputs but not XLRs. If you want to connect amplifiers with balanced XLRs, then you can use RCA to XLR interconnects.

You can connect Bluetooth audio receiver to it as well. While most preamplifiers are expensive, the Adcom GFP-815 is one of the best mid-range preamp with impressive performance. The sound quality it decent with it. It is best for audiophiles seeking to build their system with preamp and amp.

OSD Audio Pre-1 High Definition Preamplifier

Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30kHz +0 -3dB
  • Output Level/Impedance: Tape Rec 150mV/100k Ohms

Pre Output 500mV/47k Ohms

  • SNR: Mic more than 50dB

Phono more than 70dB

  • Dimensions: 18.9″ x 2.36″ x 8.25

This OSD preamp includes phono input, Aux input 1/ 2, CD/DVD input, Tape play, Tape record, Output and etc. the input selector on the front panel makes it easy to switch from one device to another. The front panel has several other controls including: Mic Level, Bass, Midrange, Treble knobs and Master Volume.

In case you want to take out one record and put another, then you can use the Mute button which will reduce the volume by 20dB. There is also one Balance control which helps to adjust volume between left and right speaker.

Based on the versatile inputs and control options, it is one of the best affordable preamp which you can get without compromising quality. This surround sound preamp has one Output where you can connect a graphic equalizer or amplifier.

If you have powered speakers, then you can connect it directly to the preamp Output because, the Outputs are standard stereo line level ports. So if your speakers support RCA, you can easily connect it. Other control functions include Power Switch, Tape Loop, Mono/Stereo, and Low Filter.

The preamp supports wide range of devices: you can connect Bluetooth/Wi-Fi receivers or set top box in Aux 1 input, CD, DVD, Blu-ray DVD into CD/DVD port, and Tape Loop Monitors in Tape Play or Record ports. In terms of audio quality, it allows users to listen to minute details and improves the overall sound.

Pyle P3201BT Pro Audio Multi-Channel Stereo Pre-Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Power Output: 3000 Watt MAX
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz-15kHz, +/-2dB
  • S/N Ratio: >76dB
  • H.D.: <1%
  • Bluetooth version 5
  • Dimensions: 18.89″ x 12.04″ x 3.14″

This is a hybrid preamplifier that also acts as pro audio receiver. Unlike other receivers, it also has Bluetooth function. The Digital LCD display shows the name of music playing along with other information like audio format, time, FM radio, etc.

This preamplifier has many ports including: Aux Input Jack, Headphone Jack, 1/4’’RCA (L/R) Audio Input/ Output, Subwoofer Output, Screw-Type Speaker Terminal Binding Posts, 1/4’’ Microphone Inputs. With two USB charging ports, you can use this device to charge your mobile phone.

The front panel has several controls: EQ (Hall, Live, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Normal), Master Volume, Input selector, Bass/Treble, Sub out volume, and Echo control. Since this is a hybrid receiver, it works with all kinds of devices like Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, Computers.

amplifier and preamp

It can easily handle 2-8 ohms’ impedance in speakers. also, active subwoofers can be connected via RCA-to-RCA cable. Instead of getting up from the couch, you can also use the remote control to adjust settings like EQ, Source Input Volume, Mode, Scan and etc.

The preamp has RMS power of around 1500W. it is a four speakers channel. Speakers with 750W per channel will be compatible with the preamp. With a 4-ohm load, speakers with 375W channel will work. The Bluetooth makes it much easier to connect wireless devices like smartphones which can also be connected using 3.5mm cable.

The preamp price is also very reasonable. With several functions, it makes a decent device instead of outstanding or ‘audiophile grade’ performance.

Best receivers:

NAD – T 758 v3 Surround Receiver

Specifications:

  • Power output Stereo Mode110W (8Ω within rated distortion)
  • Damping Factor, 8 ohms>60
  • Input Sensitivity and Impedance750mV/50 kilohms
  • Frequency Response: ±0.8dB (ref. 1kHz, 20Hz-20kHz)
  • SNR >100dB (ref. rated power at 8 Ohms, A-Weighted)

>90dB (ref. 1W at 8 Ohms, A-Weighted

  • Dimension: 17 1/8 x 6 13/16 x 15 11/16”

This receiver uses NAD’s propriety Most Distinctive Feature which allows it to work with future upgrades. NAD-T 758 v3 receiver uses Dirac room correction system which analyzes the surrounding to achieve the best sound possible without any tweaking.

The multi-core DSP works with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Master Audio. It also supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), UltraHD video, 4:4:4 color gamut and HDR. The surround sound receiver has built-in BluOS wireless streaming technology which helps in lossless music streaming.

Connect the TV into the HDMI port and speakers into the back/front speaker ports. You can connect 2, 5 or 7 speakers to create a 5.1 or 7.1 home theater system. Connect the subwoofer on the SUBW port of the receiver and LFE port of the sub.

The front side has basic controls like: Navigation, listening modes, source, volume, etc. there is also a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) shows information on it. It is one of the best receiver to use as preamp because it as Audio PRE-OUT through which the T 758 receiver will act like preamp when connected to active speakers.

The performance and versatile inputs makes it one of the best high-end receiver. With Dirac, the sound quality of the home theater along with dialogues will improve. The audio has dynamics and details to it. It is best for large home theaters; it permits to assign two speakers for second room which can also be used as height channel (5.1.2).

The receiver has remote control, mobile app and supports Alexa. Although the cost is high, it is packed with numerous features. It gives realistic and multi-dimensional sound. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support allows it to work with any source or device.

Outlaw RR 2160MkII Retro Stereo Receiver 

Specifications

  • Continuous Average Power: 110 watts/channel (8­. 20Hz to 20kHz, <0.05% THD
  • Frequency Response @ 1W 20Hz to 20kHz (+ 0dB/-0.5dB)
  • S/N Ratio: 96dB
  • Input Sensitivity/Impedance: High Level 200mV/37k­

MM Phono 3.3mV/47k­

MC Phono 0.6mV/47kΩ

  • Dimensions:17.1 x 5.75 x 15.0 inches

The Outlaw RR 2160MkII receiver has Class A/B amplifier and Burr Brown DAC. This is an audiophile grade equipment with ports including: USB Input, Ethernet, coaxial inputs, IR input/output, phono input, Analog 1,2,3,4, Preamp output, subwoofer output, Record Output jack, etc.

Similar to other receivers, it has Tone control, Bass control, Treble control, Headphone level control, Tuning up/down, etc. the backlit remote control with several options makes it easy to control. You can connect two subwoofers and if you are not using the subwoofer, you can use the Speaker EQ bass boost feature to get punchier bass.

It also has headphone amp which brings out the dynamics and details of headphones. The Phono cartridge sensitivity selector switch lets you switch between moving magnet or moving coil. Connect your turntables to the L/R Phono inputs.

If you speakers require additional power, you can include an amplifier into the Preamp Out port. If you have serious knowledge about tweaking and customizing, you can include equalizer or surround processor into External Loop. Any recording device or encoder need to be connected to Record Output jacks. The image below gives a rough outline of connected devices.

amplifier and preamp

The receiver can play four speakers at a time. The audio quality is satisfying. It produces a warm and neutral sound profile. You will get clean, lifelike and natural sound when you use this home theater receiver. The functions and features make it one of the best receiver under $100.

Pioneer VSX-534 Home Audio Smart AV Receiver

Specifications

  • Power: 135 W/ch (6 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 1.0 %, 1ch Driven)
  • Digital Quad-Core 32-bit DSP
  • Bluetooth: v 4.2 + LE, Profile: A2DP 1.2/AVRCP 1.3, Codec: SBC/AAC
  • 3D Ready, works with Blu-ray Disc™, Broadcast, Games
  • Dimensions: 435 x 148 x 321 mm

If you are not using height speakers or surround speakers, the Dolby Atmos Height Virtualizer along with DTS Virtual: X allow you to get virtual 3D surround effect. it supports Ultra HD, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. You can enjoy a 3.1.2 surround sound with it.

Along with audio, the receiver performs really well in picture quality. it supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision which are needed to crisp and clear image. The HDMI works with 4K (60p/4:4:4/24-bit) and HDCP 2.3. it also supports Wide Colour Gamut(BT.2020) which means colors will be vibrant.

The Pioneer VSX-534 uses MCACC which determines and analyzes speaker distance, seating position, and SPL. After calibration, SPL, frequency response is equalized and audio quality improves. You can save three presets as per your requirement, like a low volume at night and high during day.

The user manual makes it easy as it demonstrates different types of home theater configuration. This 5.2 receiver has Dialog Enhancement feature with which you can alter the midrange. It is quite slim which you can easily place in your rack.

Even if you are using older CD records, the audio will be crisp and clear. The remote control makes it easier to control it.

How to match preamp with an amplifier?

Since you are going to match the preamp with the amplifier:

  • make sure the preamp and amp has similar power level.
  • Compare preamp volume control and output impedance with the amplifier.
  • Compare the preamp and amp sensitivity

Parting words:

Receivers are quite flexible. In some units, you will see a preamp output where you can include an additional amplifier in case you think you have powerful speakers and need extra power. If there is a weak signal, then without a preamp, the amplifier will produce poor audio quality which will be noisy and distorted.

Preamps are ideal for you if you want to use it in recording world. Preamps are quite affordable and if you think your home theater has low-voltage signal then pairing it with a good quality amplifier will dramatically improve sound quality.

Receivers or amplifier can be used without any preamp. Receivers give you flexibility to connect several devices, both wired or wireless. A decent receiver will amplify sound as required. If you are new, you will need help to setup the receiver and in most cases user manuals will help.

FAQ

This parting gift is to serve your concern regarding receiver and preamp. Let’s find out more!

How to use old receiver as preamp?

Follow these steps to connect a receiver as a preamp:

  • Use a stereo cable
  • Insert white and red ends to L and R of Tape 1 IN port of receiver.
  • Complete the connection with your desired source component (turntable)
  • Check for Tape 2 Out or Tape Monitor Out on the receiver
  • Insert stereo cable into the ports
  • Insert the end of the cable to the Aux port of receiver
  • Plug in the receiver to the power supply and turn on

How to connect Bluetooth device to Pyle preamp?

To connect Bluetooth or wireless device to Pyle preamp:

  • Push the Mode button to enable Wireless BT mode
  • Scan on your wireless device and select the Pyle Pro name
  • Complete the pairing
  • The preamp display will show ‘Bluetooth connected’