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Home Audio Guides

Home Audio Amplifiers and Preamps

Whether you're setting up a home studio or want superior sound while listening to music, amplifiers and preamps can help you get the results you want. Preamps clean up and sometimes add detail to raw voice and digital music files. Amplifiers then increase sound volume and intensity, creating a richer, fuller audio experience.

What kind of preamp do you need?

As noise-cancelling devices, preamplifiers can provide a necessary step before amplification or other output. They take the initial audio signal, clean it up, and modulate it for you. Without preamps in place, you may wind up with feedback in your recording, lessening their quality. The type of equipment you need will depend largely on input type and desired results.

  • Mic Preamps: Microphones tend to pick up considerable amounts of white noise, even in a quiet room. While recording voice, singers may breathe or sigh, creating distortion. Instrument microphones may pick up interference from neighbors. Mic preamps are designed to filter out these unwanted inputs for a cleaner signal.
  • Color: Some options may add color, or modifications, similar to the acoustics that come from being in a small or large room.
  • Integrated: Many amplifying devices come with integrated preamps designed to filter noise prior to amplification. Models in this category include the Yamaha A-301 and the Marantz PM7005.
  • Standalone: Designed to clean up sounds from a variety of input sources, preamps act as a buffer between source and output. This option is a good choice if you want to be able to swap equipment.
What kind of amplifier do you need?

Here, choices will depend largely on the number and type of outputs, because each one will need a different channel.

  • Power Rating: In order to amplify speaker power, look for at least double the wattage of the speaker or output device. For example, 50-watt speakers need at least 100-watt amplification. The higher the wattage, the greater the amplification.
  • Stereo: Because each side of stereo counts as a separate channel, you will need at least 2-channel amplification for stereo.
  • Zoned Systems: Many home audio setups use separate zones where you can arrange for different areas to play different music and audio. In this situation, remember to consider each zone separately. Some zones may require multi-channel signal amplification for complex audio. Others may not need any at all.
  • Home Recording Studios: If you're recording music or audio at home, consider a high-performance, multi-channel amp. This way, you can account for all vocal ranges, sound effects, and musical instruments.
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