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How Do I Choose the Best Home Theater Preamp?

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  • Written By: L.S. Ware
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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There are quite a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best home theater preamp, or preamplifier. Now a separate component, the home theater preamp was originally merely a part of the audio-visual (A/V) receiver. A/V enthusiasts often want the preamplifier, power amplifier, and receiver to be individual components to achieve better sound and video quality. Primary factors to think about include the budget, the available space, and the desired or required features. Cost comparisons and company research, such as warranty information, will also assist when making a decision.

Budget is perhaps the most important consideration. A high-end home theater preamp can cost a great deal; some cost $3,000 US Dollars (USD) or even more. They can be found for less, but features and sound quality may suffer. Be sure to allocate sufficient funds for all parts, cables, or accessories that may be needed.

The room size and intended audience size are important in the selection of a home theater preamp. It must be determined that the chosen piece of equipment will provide acceptable sound for the space and that it will fit in the allocated equipment space. The quality of the sound and images of a home theater preamp can be degraded by vibrations, so the final location and stability of the equipment should be taken into account.

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A myriad of features are available when investigating the best option for a home theater preamp. Ensure the device has sufficient inputs and outputs to handle all current needs as well as any anticipated future needs. For example, a phono input will be necessary if a record player is to be connected to the preamp, and whether balanced or unbalanced outputs are required for the speaker system should also be determined. Most preamplifiers come with a multitude of inputs and outputs for video, including composite, component, and HDMI. Be sure to purchase equipment with the most current standards that still supports any legacy devices that will be connected.

As with any retail purchase, it is recommended to do a good amount of research prior to purchase. Read reviews and talk with other A/V enthusiasts. Find a retailer that will allow for testing of the equipment and listen to a few different devices. If possible, test the equipment at home to ensure that the sound provided matches that heard in the store. While it is not an absolute requirement, most experts and enthusiasts strongly suggest purchasing matching brands of amplifiers and receivers because they will provide better quality than mismatched systems.

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