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The Best Preamps of 2017

Quality sound control for hi-fi enthusiasts

Preamps Review

Why Buy a Preamplifier?

A preamplifier often distributes higher quality sound than receivers or combined components, thanks to a dedicated power supply and the fact that there is more room in both the manufacturer's budget and the product chassis for high-performance components. Audio preamps such as the Parasound P5, Prologue Premium or Denon DN-500AV, offer options including surround sound, tube amplification and mobile device inputs for customization of your home stereo or theater system.

Hi-fi enthusiasts benefit from increased sound personalization when purchasing separate components such as preamps. When relying on a receiver that includes an amp, you get out-of-the-box sound quality and functionality that might not be aligned with other components or needs. With a preamp, you can shop amps and components from other manufacturers to create a system that delivers the type of sound and performance you want. You can also check out our articles on home audio for more information.

Preamplifiers: What to Look For

Shopping for audio equipment can get complex, and even single components, such as preamps, offer hundreds of feature options. Here are four major considerations to help you decide on equipment for your home AV setup.

Two Channel Versus Surround
Most preamplifiers are built to handle either two-channel stereo or surround sound output. Opt for surround equipment if you're building a home theater with surround speakers or if you want ultimate flexibility for both an audio and video room. Two-channel options usually bring you the highest quality sound, particularly at the top end of the preamp spectrum, and you can still use the equipment to run sound for television and movies.

Outputs & Inputs
Before deciding on an AV preamp, you will want to make a list of functions you want to perform so you know what inputs and outputs your component must have. Try to select devices with XLR-balanced connections and subwoofer outputs for optimal sound, but also consider whether you need HDMI, USB or auxiliary connections for things such as high-definition sound or portable music device integration.

Built-In DA Converter
Components with a built-in DA converter that transforms digital data to analog may offer higher-quality conversion over built-in converters in CD player or receivers. The conversion of digital signals to analog allows music sourced from media including CDs and computers. While not required for most AV operations, a DA converter can increase your enjoyment of music, and having a preamp with a built-in converter saves space in your audio rack.

Tube or Solid State
Whether you buy a solid-state or tube preamp is mostly a matter of personal preference. Tube amps are known to provide true-to-life sound and utmost reliability, making them a favorite of music enthusiasts. Solid-state components tend to average in at lower price points, are easier to find and provide low distortion and easy control.

While not required for home audio or video functions, preamps can greatly increase your enjoyment of music, television and movies. Find the preamp that's right for your room, preferences and audio setup for optimal satisfaction.