Preamplifier Basics For Home Theater

Marantz AV7702mkII AV Preamp/Processor
Marantz AV7702mkII AV Preamp/Processor. Images provided by D&M Holdings

What is a Preamplifier?

A Preamplifier (preamp) is a device in which the user can connect all audio or audio/video source components (such as CD, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc players). The preamplifier then can switch between sources, process audio and/or video, but also supplies an audio output signal to what is referred to as a Power Amplifier.

In a Preamplifier/Power Amplifier configuration, while the Preamp takes care of the input sources and included audio/video processing, the Power Amplifier is the component that supplies the signal and power needed for the loudspeakers to produce sound.

In other words, you cannot connect speakers directly to a preamplifier (there are no speaker connection terminals on a preamplifier), unless they are self-powered speakers for which preamp outputs are provided. Also, it is also important to note that AV Preamp/Processors also provide a preamp output(s) that can be connected to a Powered Subwoofer

Other Names For Preamplifiers

In home theater, preamplifiers may also be referred to as Control Amplifiers, AV Processors, AV Preamps, or Preamp/Processors due their increasing role in providing both audio decoding/processing and video processing/upscaling capabilities.

Additional Features a Preamplifier Might Include

In some cases, an AV Preamp Processor may also include the ability to be the central hub of a multi-room audio set-up either via Multi-zone or wireless multi-room audio capability, as well as accept direct streaming from Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as many smartphones and tablets.

It is also possible that an AV Preamp/Processor may be equipped with a USB port for accessing compatible digital media content directly from plug-in flash drives or other compatible USB devices.

However, it is also important to note that beyond core audio decoding and processing features, whether video, streaming, and/or multi-room distribution and control features are provided at the manufacturer's discretion.

This means when considering the purchase of AV Preamp/Processor, make sure it has, in addition to audio, any video or networking features you may desire.

Integrated Amplifiers

When a preamplifier and power amplifier are combined in one unit, it is referred to as an Integrated Amplifier. In addition, if an Integrated Amplifier also includes a radio tuner (AM/FM and/or Satellite Radio and/or Internet Radio) then it is referred to as a Receiver.

The Choice Is Yours

So, there you have it. Although most consumers opt to use a home theater receiver as the central hub of home theater connection and control, you do have the option of separating the functions of a home theater receiver into two separate components - an AV Preamp/Processor and a Power Amplifier. However, doing so can be a much more expensive option. The choice is up to you, but my suggestion would be to consult a home theater dealer or installer to determine what might be the best option for your specific home theater setup.

Examples of AV Preamp/Processors Include The Following:

NuForce AVP18 - Buy From Amazon

Onkyo PR-RZ5100 - Buy From Amazon

Outlaw Audio Model 975 7.1 HDMI AV Surround Processor - Buy From Amazon

Marantz AV7702mk2 - Buy From Amazon

Marantz AV7703 - Buy From Amazon

Marantz AV8802A - Buy From Amazon

Yamaha CX-A5100 - Buy From Amazon

Disclosure: The E-commerce link(s) included this article is independent of the editorial content and we may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page.

Was this page helpful?