Preamp vs Amp: Differences Explained

Preamps and amps are both essential audio equipment, but what separates the two? In this blog post, we’ll go over the key distinctions between preamps and amps, and help you determine which one is best for your needs.

What is the Difference?

An amplifier, or amp, is a machine that takes an input signal — typically from a weaker source like a turntable or CD player — and magnifies it. An amplifier makes the signal louder so it can power speakers. A component preamplifier does the same thing but usually with higher-quality parts, which could improve sound quality.

Preamp Basics


As the name suggests, a preamplifier (preamp) is a type of audio equipment that strengthens low-level signals. For example, the signal coming from a microphone or an acoustic guitar pickup is usually too weak to be sent straight to speakers or recording devices. A preamp amplifies the voltage and/or current of this signal so that it can be handled correctly.

A preamplifier may also offer extra functions in certain cases, such as equalization, gain control, and impedance matching. These capabilities are especially vital for live sound reinforcement and studio recording purposes. This can add color to your sound, and some preamps even have EQ built in.

Also, they can exist as standalone units or be incorporated into mixing consoles, guitar amplifiers, and other audio gear. They can also be part of software-based audio systems.

Amp Basics


An amplifier is a vital piece of audio equipment that takes the signal from your guitar, bass or other instrument and makes it louder. The amplified signal is then sent to your speakers to make the sound loud enough for you and your audience to hear over a PA system or drums.

There are two primary types of amps: tube amps and solid-state amps. Tube amps use vacuum tubes to boost the signal, while solid state amps use transistors. Every type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to select the right one for your requirements.

Although solid state amps are more durable and easier to take care of than tube amps, they don’t usually have the same “warm” sound. Tube amps cost more and need more regular maintenance, but they are known for their distinctive sound.

A solid state amp is likely the best choice if you’re just starting out. After you’ve been playing for a while and have a clearer idea of what sounds you prefer, you can start shopping for a tube amp.

Key Distinctions

It can be difficult to decide which preamp and amp combination to buy for your stereo system. Do you need both components? How do they work in tandem? What is the distinction between them, anyway?

There are a few key distinctions between preamps and amps you’ll want to remember when making your purchase:

Inputs and Outputs

Inputs and Outputs prep

Preamps typically have more inputs than amps. The reason for this is that they’re designed to take in signals from various sources – like a turntable, streamer, TV, etc. – and then send that signal to an amplifier. Amps usually only have one input (sometimes two), as their main purpose is to amplify the signal they receive.


The gain setting on a preamp controls how much the incoming signal is amplified. This is important because it allows you to change the level of the signal before it gets to the amplifier. That way, you can make sure your music is loud enough without any distortion or other negative effects. Amps don’t have a gain setting because their only job is to amplify the signal they receive.


Many preamps come with some form of equalization (EQ), which lets you change the sound of your music to better suit your taste. For example, if you want more bass, you can turn up the EQ setting for bass frequencies on your preamp. Amps generally don’t offer EQ settings because their job is only to amplify the signal they receive; it’s up to the preamp to alter the sound before it gets to the amp.

Equalization premp vs amp

Power Consumption

Preamps use less power than amplifiers because they don’t have to work as hard. This is an important consideration if you’re using battery-powered equipment or if you’re trying to reduce your power usage for environmental reasons. Keep in mind that some preamps come with built-in amplifiers, so make sure you know how much power each component consumes before making your purchase decision.


In general, preamps cost more than amps because they provide more features and allow for more sound-shaping options. If you’re working with a tight budget, you might want to look for a preamp/amp combo unit instead of purchasing each piece separately.

Features Comparison

Preamps are used to amplify the signal from your instrument or microphone so that it can be properly processed by your amplifier or mixing console. They typically have several input and output options, as well as controls for volume, EQ, and gain. Some preamps also have built-in effects such as compressors, limiters, and reverb.

The features available on an amplifier will differ depending on the type of amplifier it is. For example, solid state amplifiers typically have fewer features than tube amplifiers. All amplifiers will have controls for volume, EQ, and gain, though. Additionally, some amplifiers have built-in effects such as reverb.

Many amps today come with features that can be very handy, like:

  • Headphone jacks: These enable you to listen to your music without disturbing others.
  • Effects loops: These let you insert effects pedals into the signal path, giving you more control over your sound.
  • EQ controls can help you to adjust the tone of your sound, making it simpler to create the sound you desire.
  • Boost controls: These can be used to increase the level of your signal, giving you more power when you need it.

Preamp vs Amp: Which is Better for You?

What’s the difference between preamps and amplifiers? And which one would be better for you? These are two essential questions to ask when considering audio equipment.

It all depends on what you need. If you need to add some color to your sound or if you need EQ, then a preamp is likely a better choice. However, if you just need to make your signal louder, an amplifier is probably the way to go.


The choice between a preamp and an amp comes down to your needs and preferences. If you want more control over your sound, go with a preamp. If you’re looking for more power and volume, an amp is the better option. Do your research and listen to each option before making a decision.