Amplification Basics – Pt. I

Amplifiers can be confusing. There are power amps, pre amps, and integrated amps. Not to mention tube amps, transistors amps, and digital amps. There are even headphone amplifiers and amplified speakers. So it’s no wonder we’re all confused. 

But fear not. We’re going to break down the basics, put each amp in its rightful category, and give you some all important clarity on the subject of amplification. Let’s start with three main camps:

  • Power amplifiers
  • Pre amplifiers
  • Integrated amplifiers

If your hifi system were a car, the power amp would be its engine. The pre amp provides the acceleration, breaks, dash controls, etc. And by combining both those talents into a single ‘integrated amplifier,’ you’d get a complete ride that’s ready to drive off the lot. 

Quad Artera Stereo Power Amplifier

Basically, power amps provide the grunt required to drive speaker cones. The bigger the speaker, the more power required. And by separating your power amp from your pre, you can increase that grunt with greater ease as your system demands grow. Plus, you’ll also isolate any signal interference caused by housing both components within the same chassis. 

Quad Artera Play Preamplifier

Pre amplifiers play many roles. They boost low-level audio signals to line levels. They attenuate volume. They offer input selections for a multitude of audio sources like record players, smart devices, televisions, etc. And some even include digital to analogue converters. So they’re a vital addition to any contemporary entertainment system. 

Leak Stereo 130 Integrated Amplifier

Lastly, integrated amplifiers combine the talents of power and pre into a single, fuss-free package ready to play music. And for this reason, they’re by far the more popular choice among most listeners. Yes, purchasing separate components will give you greater flexibility. Yes, it’ll also improve audio quality. But these are often choices made by listeners who are further along their audio journey. 

If this is you, then I highly recommend taking the plunge. The sound quality of seperate components is simply devine. However, if you’re doing this for the first time, you might want to start with an integrated amplifier. It’s far more cost effective and a little easier to wrap you head around.