PreAmp Vs Amp: How Do They Differ And Do I Need Both?



While the terms sound similar, the two devices serve different purposes. However, this post includes the difference between amp vs preamp.

Whether professionally or just for fun at home, you will undoubtedly come across the terms amp and preamp in setting up a studio. I’m very sure you’re wondering what the difference is.


Does one of them, or both, meet your needs?

If you consider purchasing a good preamp or amplifier, they are not cheap so you definitely don’t want to end up buying equipment you don’t actually need.

Let’s get started.

Amp vs preamp are interchangeable. The two are the same thing, so there is no need to worry about three devices.

However, let’s begin by looking at the differences between amp vs preamp.

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Preamplifier Vs. Power Amplifier

Preamplifiers boost weaker signals to line level, while amplifiers boost line-level signals so that they can be sent to speakers.

Microphones output a very weak signal, which a preamplifier must amplify before being sent to another device like a mixer, receiver, or amplifier. If it is at the same level, it can be processed with other input signals and sent through a power amplifier to the speakers.


PreAMP vs AMP: Which is best for you?


You might be wondering why you need two separate devices for this.

Couldn’t you get an integrated unit with both a power amp and preamp built-in?

It is possible, but the preamp is usually kept separate to keep it away from the large transformers in a power amplifier. While a preamplifier uses little electricity, a power amplifier uses a lot and generates a lot of heat.

This article explains the difference between a preamp vs amp in more detail: 


Preamp Vs. Interface

You can connect microphones, instruments, and other audio equipment to a computer with an audio interface. Preamps are usually built into audio interfaces, and they do a fine job. You don’t need a separate preamp if you have a quality interface.

A preamp that colors the sound is the only reason you might want one. Preamps included in audio interfaces are always transparent; they transmit the sound faithfully and do not color it with a warm, vintage sound.


Preamp Vs No Preamp

A preamp is required when you have a low-signal microphone or another device. Otherwise, the output will sound horrible.

Nevertheless, if you have an audio interface, it will already have a preamp built-in, so you won’t have to buy one separately. Mixers and other devices are also equipped with preamps. Many of these devices have built-in preamps.

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Where Does A Preamp Go?

If you purchase a preamplifier, you must know where to place it in the signal chain.

We will use a microphone preamplifier as an example since it is the most common type. But the general procedure is the same.

The preamp should be placed near the beginning of the chain because it boosts a weak signal to line level. The mic input of the preamp is directly connected to the microphone.

After the preamp, any number of devices can be connected. The device is usually connected to a mixer, an interface, a receiver, or a power amplifier.


Here’s how to connect a preamp to an interface


Remember that an audio interface contains a preamp, so you shouldn’t run the signal through two of them.

Even though it sounds terrible and causes distortion, this is a widespread mistake with a preamp to interface connections. Make sure to connect the preamp to the line input of the interface, not the mic input.


Here’s how to connect a preamp to a receiver


As with the interface, the preamp plugs into one of the line inputs (sometimes labeled aux in). Turntables are plugged into the phono-in plug, which leads to a phono preamp in the receiver.

You’ll need a separate device if neither the receiver nor the turntable has a phono preamp.

The input of the record player goes into the phono preamp, and the output of that goes into one of the receiver’s lines inputs.

Additionally, you may need to connect the turntable’s ground wire to the preamp’s grounding post (not all turntables have a ground wire).

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Here is a step-by-step guide on how to connect a preamp to a mixer

There is no difference. The preamplifier plugs into one of the mixer’s lines inputs.


Here’s How To Connect A Preamp To An Amp

It’s pretty straightforward. Connect the cable to one of the outputs on the preamplifier and the corresponding input on the amplifier (usually marked with a letter).


Preamp To Amp Cable

Preamplifiers and amplifiers can be connected using either XLR or RCA cables. Yamaha’s website has more information about the different types of cables.


What Are Preamp Outputs, And What Are They Used For?

It is a very common question, so I decided to answer it here. It is essential to distinguish between this output on a receiver and a guitar/bass power amplifier.


How do preamp outputs work in receivers?

The receiver’s outputs are designed to be connected to an external amplifier.

You can connect your speakers to a separate amplifier if you need more power than the amplifier built into your receiver or if you want to relieve the receiver of some of the load. The pre-outs can also connect to a powered subwoofer (usually marked as such).


How Does Preamp Out Work On A Poweramp?

With a guitar/bass power amp, the preamp out/poweramp is a loop that can be used as an effects loop or to daisy chain several amplifiers.

Watch the video below for more information.


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