Preamplifier Vs. Amplifier: What’s The Difference?

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If you have ever created music or used an instrument, you know that there are some essentials for that, including preamps and amps. If you have no idea what they are or how they differ, let me help you!

What are preamps and amps? Are there any differences between preamps and amps? In this article, you will find the exact definitions of them, as well as why to use them. Let’s start!

Key Takeaways

  • Preamps and amps are some essential devices that many professionals of sound need.
  • A preamp increases the signal level that is sent by another device and helps send those signals to an amplifier.
  • The amps increase the electrical signals during the production of sound.
  • Preamps and amps have some types, and in both of them, you will find three types.
  • Preamps and amps do not have any effect on the sound quality!

Preamp vs. Amp: What are they?

What is a Preamp?

A preamp is a short version of the word preamplifier, and its job is to increase the level of signals. Preamps are used with microphones, and their job is to increase their signal level so that it becomes more robust and higher. It is a device that can also help reduce the noise that may come from any connected device.

As its name suggests, a preamp’s job is also to handle the signals before they are sent to an amp.

What is an Amp?

Amp is another shortened word, but in this case, we have the amplifiers! An amplifier’s job is also related to helping and increasing; they help increase the electrical signals you might use during the production and reproduction of sound.

As I combined preamplifiers with amplifiers, you should know that an amp will take the signals from the preamp and send them strongly enough to any other electronic audio device that one might use.

Preamp vs. Amp: How do they differ?

So, as you understood until now, a preamp is in charge of signals and boosts them in a line level and sends them to the amp; meanwhile, an amp is a device that collects those signals and takes them into a higher grade that is called speaker levels which is basically the way that you listen to the sound.

Anyways, let me tell you some of the main differences between a preamp and an amp regarding their main specifications.

Do they differ in looks? – Design

When you search for audio devices in general, you find them big and small, and preamps and amps do have a difference regarding this part.

Preamplifiers are always smaller in size and more compact. In contrast, when you are in front of an amplifier, you will find a significantly bigger size, and they are not the most portable devices you can purchase.

Are there different preamps and amps? – Types

Yes, there are, and you will find three types of preamps and three types of amps. The three types of preamps include charge-sensitive preamps, current-sensitive preamps, and parasitic-capacitance preamps. In terms of amplifiers, there are some various types, such as voltage amplifiers, current amplifiers, and power amplifiers.

When do they come in hand? – Usage

If you have ever heard about audio interfaces, you may have noticed the name built-in preamp on them, and that’s because preamps are mainly used to increase the signals and the levels of a microphone. Nothing is better than using a preamp when unsure how the microphone signals will be.

When it comes to amplifiers, they are primarily used in instruments and other mixers that you may connect to any other device. If you ever talk with someone who plays an electronic guitar, you will find that they use an amplifier as their primary device. That’s because, in electric guitars, you always have different signals all related to electricity and the signals that they send.

How to connect them? – Connectivity

As you know now, preamps are used with microphones, and to connect a preamp to the microphone, you should use an XLR cable; meanwhile, to connect the preamp to any other device, such as an audio interface, you should use a TRS cable.

Amps differ greatly in terms of connectivity, as they include an RCA connection with analog audio devices; meanwhile, it works with a TRS input to accept the preamps. However, something special you will notice in amplifiers is the coloration of the inputs.

The green one stands for analog audio inputs; the orange one is for preamp outputs; the red ones include line-level outputs; the green and yellow stand for speakers you might use.

Do they have an effect? – Sound Quality

When it comes to the sound quality effect, you will not have anything new while using a preamp. A preamp won’t change anything in the sound quality, but its job is only with the signals.

 On the amplifiers, you will find another no answer! Amps don’t improve the sound quality either, as their primary job is again related to boosting the electrical signals.

How much power do they use? – Consumption

If your concern stands on the power they will have and use to work; you should know that a preamp uses a low power consumption; meanwhile, an amplifier has a higher range of power consumption as it needs it more.

Final Words

With all that said, this article has come to an end! From everything mentioned in this article, you can find out that preamps and amps are different devices, but if you think about which one to use, I say you should use them both! The combination between preamps and amps is the best thing to do in the audio world.

I hope that everything I mentioned in this article is understandable, so here ends the battle “preamp vs. amp.”

Further Reading

As I mentioned preamplifiers and amplifiers, I would like to add for you guys some budget tube preamplifiers to look for. Also, you can check out which are the greatest amplifiers for turntables.

There are some audio interfaces that you definitely need to take a look at, as I’ve written some differences between Scarlett 2i2 and 2i4 as well as Focusrite and Presonus audio interfaces.

Whether you’re looking for information on audio equipment, looking to learn more about how things work in the music field, or looking for reviews of products, we got you covered!



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