Pre & Power Amplifiers

What is a Pre Amplifier?

A pre amplifier for either music or home theatre refers to a device that controls audio input switching (sources such as CD player, tuner, network streamers or turntables) and has a volume control to vary the signal level sent to a power amplifier which delivers the current to power speakers in your audio system.  It should be noted that this type of pre amplifier is different to a phono (turntable) pre amplifier that raises the signal level of a turntable to normal line level and adds RIAA frequency equalisation, which can then be delivered to a power amplifier.  There are three main types of pre amplifiers: Solid state (transistor based), Valve pre amplifiers and Hybrid pre amplifiers.

What is a Power Amplifier?

 A power amplifier takes the line level signal from the pre amplifier and amplifies the current to a level high enough to power loudspeakers.  Power amplifiers range in power and quality, and the choice depends on the speakers being driven.  There are two main types of power amplifiers: Stereo power amplifiers and mono block power amplifiers.  A more uncommon version is the multi channel power amplifier that is frequently used in home theatre setups.

Why buy a pre/power amplifier?

 There are many benefits to buying a pre/power amplifier combo.  Firstly, they each have their own dedicated power.  This allows the delicate signal of the pre amplifier to have much better shielding against the huge power transformers of the power amp.  It also allows for much bigger power amp stages.

Another benefit is you can use mono block amplifier that have completely separate amplification for your left and right channels to eliminate crosstalk.  You can also use separate stereo power amplifiers to separate tweeter/midrange speakers with the more power hungry bass drivers.

A great thing about pre/power amp combinations is the ability to upgrade components as you need.  If you buy a quality pre amplifier and a low powered power amp (e.g. for bookshelf speakers) and them decide you want to upgrade to floor standing speaker, you can keep the pre amplifier and simply buy a more powerful power amplifier.

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