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Original Message

RE: More confusion over pre-amps and amps for Maggie 3.6s

Posted by ProfPaul on February 1, 2012 at 13:15:22:

I've never tried getting by without a pre-amp. In principle, it makes sense that you should be able to do pretty well without one with a few caveats. For me personally, those caveats are big enough I'll continue using a preamp. Like you, I bought a great pair of speakers (3.7s in my case) and am building up the rest my system as I'm able to get purchases past my wife. A center channel (for HT), a preamp, and a more powerful amp are what I'm considering ATM.

A pre-amp does a few things for you.

1) It generally adds a remote control. I do like the ability to change volumes as I listen. Virtually no power amps will have remote volume control (precious few have volume control at all!). You could also get the volume control on some CD players, possibly through the remote.

2) A lot of us like subs with 3.xs. Do you need one? Depends on what you listen to, what you value in music, and how much you enjoy sharing your listening experience with the neighborhood. A preamp will simplify the process of adding a sub. This could probably be done with splitters or creative use of the analog outs AND headphone jack on a CD player, but a good pre may give better integration.

3) As others have mentioned, a pre can juggle multiple inputs, although this can be accomplished with a bit of a wiring project. Personally, I have sufficient sources to juggle I want the preamp, but I use mine for HT too.

4) If you're listening to a CD, you're using a DA converter at some point. That can be on the CD player (pretty much all have it) or in a preamp. Some on here will advise the purchase of ultra-high end CD/DVD/Blu/computer music servers/digital radio/whatever else comes digital so that you get a good DA converter for the signal. My philosophy is to get a good preamp with DA conversion I'm happy with, and let it do the converting off cheap readers for whatever I'm listening to. I'll freely admit I don't have a great preamp yet, but I do intend to get one and do all my DA conversion there. So, if you are happy just listening to CDs off your system, a high-end CD player could make real sense. However, the preamp is something to consider if you will be using additional digital sources at some point. (And yes, I imagine this point will start a fight.)

A preamp can do a few other things (Audyssey calibration, interpreting more advanced surround sound modes [mostly for HT], equalization, and a host of things that are probably generally bad ideas). My guess is most of us would choose a preamp, but I can certainly believe its possible to get great sound without one.