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What is a Preamplifier?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 23, 2024
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A preamplifier, also referred to as a preamp, is a device typically used along with sound equipment to help improve the overall quality of sound. In order to accomplish this, the device helps prepare the main amplifier, which increases the power and sound of the equipment, for receiving the electronic signal. Through the help of the preamplifier and the main amplifier, the sound is not altered in quality, but it is much louder.

Both home audio systems and live band performances can include preamps and main amplifiers. They may also be used in a music recording studio or built into a music mixing desk. A preamplifier may also be used with a television in order to improve antenna or satellite communication.

In order to prepare the main amplifier for the electronic signal it receives, the preamplifier emits a low level signal to line level. It is often part of a turntable, pickup, transducer, or turntable. In the case of a home sound system, the device may simply switch to various line level sources in order to control the volume without truly amplifying the sound.

In the typical audio system, a preamplifier only supplies a voltage gain, which is generally somewhere between 10 millivolts to 1 volt. It does not, however, provide current. Rather, the second amplifier, which is referred to as the power amplifier, supplies the necessary current to the speakers.

A preamplifier may be incorporated into a sound system in a variety of ways. It may be placed inside the housing of the power amplifier that it corresponds with, or it may have its own housing. The preamplifier may also be kept close to the source of its electrical signal while maintaining a distance from the power amplifier, such as when it is near a hi-fi entertainment system or when it is part of the home computer. If it has its own housing and is to be used with the sound system of a band, it may be anchored to microphones, turntables, an electric bass, or an electric guitar.

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Discussion Comments

By anon164450 — On Mar 31, 2011

I just bought a mark III 16-channel peavey mixing board. I'm new to this stuff and need to know where the pre-amp is hooked up (what connection point on the mixer) and most mixing boards already have an amp in them, correct?

By anon130313 — On Nov 28, 2010

Hey Raj, I'd suggest hooking your CD player to your mixer. Link the mixer to the V-verb, then preamp and amp the output.

By anon122749 — On Oct 29, 2010

In response to the above comment, a pre-amp is one of two parts of an "Amplifier" the second part is called the power amp, with out the pre-amp running through a power amp (Which would then run through speakers) the pre-amp is useless. The two combined parts (Pre-amp and power-amp) create what we know as an "amplifier."

By anon89056 — On Jun 08, 2010

what amplifiers are compatible with preamplifiers?

By anon44721 — On Sep 10, 2009

who invented the Preamplifier?

By rajsingh — On May 02, 2009

I have an amplifier, mixer, cd player, equalizer, pre-amplifier and a behringer V-verb Pro model rev 2496.

Could you tell me in what order to hook up this system, so I could get the most acoustic sound.

thanks Raj.

By anon15351 — On Jul 09, 2008

Does a pre-amp plug into the amplifier?

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