How To Connect Preamp To Amp: A Step-By-Step Guide

by John Sanderson
how to connect preamp to amp

Preamps are like the microphone of an amp. They increase the strength and frequency of an input signal, making it easier for an amp to recognize and process. You can connect a preamp to an amp in one of two ways: with a direct output, or through a speaker input. Because there’s no universal standard for speaker inputs, you have to check your amp and preamp to see which type they use. If your components only have standard 1/4 inch inputs, you can get an adapter cable or purchase a preamp with XLR outputs instead. Preamps are affordable and easy to install on almost any system. The caveat is that not all preamps will work with your specific setup—you need to make sure that both devices have the same type of input available. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to connect a preamp with your amp so that you can make the right choice from the get-go.

How To Connect Preamp To Amp

  • Turn off the power to your amp, preamp, and all of the equipment that is connected to it. Make sure that all of the wires are unplugged from the device.
  •  Determine if your preamp has direct-out jacks, which are usually RCA jacks or XLR jacks. If so, connect them to your speaker input and turn on the power for your amp. If not, you’ll have to connect it through your speaker input instead.
  • Check your amp for a speaker output jack, which is a 1/4 inch jack with two or three terminals on it (one red, one black, and one white). Connect the black wire from your preamp to the black terminal on the amp and connect the red wire from your preamp to either of the other terminals (it doesn’t matter which one). Finally, connect a wire from one of these terminals to each of the red and black wires in your speaker cable.
  • Turn on the power for your amp and turn up the volume until you hear sound from your speakers. If you don’t hear any sound, double-check all of the connections that you just made and try again. If you’re still not hearing anything, make sure that your amp is receiving a signal from the preamp, and then consult an electronics expert if necessary.
  • If you have a tuner or another input device, connect it to your preamp as well so that you can listen to other sources as well as your amp.
  • Use the volume knob on your preamp to control the volume of the signal that you’re sending to your amp.
  • If you want to connect a microphone or other direct input, plug it into the line input or mic input on your preamp.

How To Connect A Preamp To An Amp Through A Speaker Input

  1. Identify your amp and preamp. Both devices should have a speaker output, which is typically 1/4 inch wide and located on the back panel. If your amp has a direct output, you’ll see two outputs: one labeled “speaker out” and the other labeled “line out.” The speaker out will be used for connecting a preamp to an amp through a speaker input.
  2. Identify your preamp’s inputs. Most preamps have RCA inputs, which are black and red cables with rounded connectors on each end of the cable. The red and black colors are standard in consumer audio, so most amps will have corresponding RCA inputs on their back panel as well. A few high-end preamps use XLR connectors instead—these are three-pronged cables with two black pins and one red pin at both ends of the cable. If you don’t see either type of input, you’ll need to get an adapter before proceeding.
  3. Set up your preamp. Connect the RCA cables from the preamp to the corresponding RCA inputs on the amp, then connect the other ends of the cables to the back of your speakers or amplifier (this will vary depending on your specific setup). The red and black inputs should be labeled “left” and “right,” respectively—if not, you may have to consult your owner’s manual.
  4. Turn on both devices and adjust volume levels. Make sure that each device is turned all the way up, then use a stereo cable to connect them together. You should now be able to control volume from one device instead of two!
  5. Connect power cables as necessary. If you want to play music with an amp but don’t want it connected to a power outlet, you can use a power cable splitter for this purpose (available at most hardware stores). This will allow you to plug both devices into the same outlet and have one cable running from your amp to each device.
  6. Enjoy! Once you’re sure that everything is working correctly, you can disconnect the preamp and amp from the power source and enjoy your new stereo setup!

Check Your Preamp And Amp Form Input Types

  • Check the back of your amp. If there’s a type of input labeled “Preamp,” you can use that input with your preamp.
  • Check the back of your preamp. If it has XLR inputs, you can use them with an amp that accepts XLR outputs; if it has 1/4 inch inputs, you can connect it to an amp that accepts 1/4 inch inputs.
  • If neither device has the same input type, get an adapter cable or buy a preamp with XLR outputs instead. This will allow you to connect both devices together and have them work in harmony for optimum performance.
  • If both your amp and preamp have the same input type, you can simply use a speaker cable to connect them.
  • If you’re connecting a preamp to an amp with a speaker input, you can use the speaker cable to connect the preamp to the amp.
  • If you’re connecting a preamp to an amp that has XLR outputs, you can use XLR cables with both devices.
  • If you’re connecting a preamp to an amp that has 1/4 inch inputs, buy an adapter cable or get a preamp with XLR outputs instead so that it can work with your system. This will allow for optimum performance because both devices have the same input type.
  • If neither device has the same input type, get adapters or buy adapters so that both devices have the same input type and make your setup compatible for optimum performance.

How To Install A Preamp Using The Direct Output Method

  1. Plug the preamp into an AC outlet. If your components have a 1/4 inch input, plug the preamp into the input. This is the easiest way to get started with this method of connecting a preamp to an amp.
  2. Connect the cable from your amp to your preamp. You can use a regular stereo cable, but if you have XLR connections on both devices, opt for that instead.
  3. Plugin both devices into their respective power sources and turn them on. Make sure that you have turned on all of your speakers and that there’s nothing interfering with your signal path (such as a fan or other electrical device).
  4. Play some music through your system and make sure that everything sounds good before moving forward. If it sounds too mellow, try turning up the volume on one of your speakers while playing something loud through another speaker; if it seems too harsh, turn down one speaker while playing through another at full volume; if it’s too tinny, try adjusting the gain controls on your amp.

Test Out The Setup And Fine Tune

  • Listen to your music through your speakers to make sure that you have a clear and strong signal.
  • Turn up the volume on your amp, now playing music through your speakers.
  • Listen to the level of distortion or hiss that you hear.
  • Turn down the volume on your amp, now playing music through your speakers.
  • Turn up the volume on your amp again, but this time with only one of your speaker cables connected to it (one channel is missing).
  • Listen to the sound quality of both channels and make any adjustments accordingly so that you hear no distortion when using only one channel at a time (the other channel should still be working fine).
  • Once you’re happy with the volume balance of both channels, turn on your amp and play some music through it.
  • Turn down the volume on your amp again, now playing music through your speakers.
  • Turn up the volume on your amp one more time, now playing music through your speakers.
  • If you still hear distortion or hiss when using only one channel at a time, make adjustments to the speaker cables so that they’re not interfering with each other as much as possible. You can also try different lengths of speaker cables to see which ones sound better for you and which ones cause less distortion when playing music through them.
  • If there are no issues with any of these adjustments and you’re satisfied with the quality of both channels’ output signals, make sure that your speaker cables are not too long or too short and that they’re not rubbing together (you can also try different types of cable).

Conclusion

Preamps are an essential part of any great home audio setup. If you want your speakers to give you the best sound possible, they’re an essential addition to your setup. Preamps are affordable and easy to install on almost any system. Now that you’re familiar with the different connection methods, you can select the best preamp for your specific setup.

FAQ’s

Should I buy a preamp with an “all in one” design?

All-in-one preamps are not necessarily the best option for your specific setup. The main reason why you might choose an all-in-one preamp is that it’s easy to set up and use. If you’re buying a whole system, it’s not really necessary to have a separate preamp, but it’s definitely possible to get a good sound from an all-in-one unit if you’re using only a single speaker cable and the speaker cable connections are well-insulated and shielded.

What do I need to know about different types of preamps?

The most common types of preamps are tube, solid-state and hybrid units, but there are also many more options available today than what was available just ten years ago. These days, there are even some new designs that combine elements from different types of designs (e.g. tube/solid-state).

What are the different types of preamps?

Tube design preamps are still the most common type of preamp, but they’re not necessarily the best option for every type of setup and they can be very expensive. Solid-state designs are cheaper to produce and are a great choice if you want to keep the price down while still getting a good sound. Hybrid units combine both tube and solid-state circuitry, and their performance is somewhere in between these two types of designs.

Do I need an all-in-one design for my setup?

If you’re buying a whole system, it’s not really necessary to have a separate preamp, but it’s definitely possible to get a good sound from an all-in-one unit if you’re using only a single speaker cable and the speaker cable connections are well-insulated and shielded.