Does A Preamp Improve Sound Quality? A preamplifier, or preamp, is a device that can be connected to other audio and audio-video sources like CD, DVD and Blu-Ray players. As such, it allows for quick and easy switching between these sources as well as process audio and video inputs.
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Aside from these functions, a preamp is also used to increase the quality of the sound from audio and audio-video sources. This function is particularly true at higher gain settings, thanks to its more sophisticated circuitry.
Benefits Of An External Preamp
While certain audio and audio-video appliances have built-in internal preamps, many audiophiles add external preamps to their setup. While the installation of external amps means added cost, it’s considered well worth the expense due to its numerous benefits.
Improved Sound Quality
As previously mentioned, better sound quality from preamps installation becomes noticeable at higher gain settings. With simple preamp circuits, the sound quality is relatively fine but only with gains up to 40 to 50 dB. But with higher gains, the sound becomes less clear – or as audiophiles say it, veiled – particularly for low output dynamic microphones.
The sound quality improves with the use of high-quality external preamps. The sound has full and clear transparency that stays even at the highest possible gain settings.
Internal preamps in an audio interface don’t offer over 60dB in gain with many even offering less gain. But low output dynamic microphones usually require up to 70 dB, and in some instances, higher than 70 dB. It is where the external preamps come in.
Internal preamps can be on the low noise spectrum and, thus, can be sufficient for specific purposes. But when you’re using ribbon microphones, among other types of low output microphones, your setup will likely benefit from external amps. It is also true when you’re recording ultra-quiet sources.
Added Sound Character
External preamps add a special sound character that isn’t possible with internal preamps. You may want a 70s-style vintage sound or a 60s-style tube sound, both of which are possible with external amps.
Choosing External Preamps
Should you get an external preamp for your current setup? It depends on your needs and wants in your audio-video system.
If you’re starting, you can skip an external preamp. You can instead choose a high-quality audio interface with internal preamps. You may also not use it if you’re using high output condenser microphones since its installation will not make a significant difference in sound quality.
If you’re looking for the best sound quality, you should consider an external preamp for your setup. You will also need it if you’re working with low output dynamic microphones.
To conclude, you should also consider whether you’re happy with the sound quality from your audio interface with internal preamps. Keep in mind that while technical properties of sound, such as noise, can be objectively measured, the overall quality of sound is subjective. You have the final decision whether an external preamp will improve the sound quality based on your needs or not.
If you decide to get an external preamp, you may want to consider the ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier and the Behringer Microphono PP400 Ultra-Compact Phono Preamp.