Preamplifiers & DACs
A preamplifier (preamp) is the control centre to which you connect your source components (CD player, turntable, phono stage, DAC, streaming network player etc.). Home audio stereo preamps typically have a volume control as well as multiple inputs for other components you want to listen to and maybe a headphone output or phono input too. You then have the capability to select which component you want to listen to and at your own preferred volume level.
They may also include a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) or built-in network music player/streamer. You can also choose a separate DAC to suit your digital connection and file listening needs as well as allowing for the upgrade flexibility in the future that separate components allow.
So why would you break down your audio system into separate components? Sound quality and potential upgrading flexibility are the main reasons.
Better sound quality may be achieved as the product designers don't have to cram so many parts into one box allowing them the freedom to lay out optimized and potentially shorter signal paths. Sensitive low-voltage preamp and DAC circuits aren’t located alongside the high-voltage amplifier parts and your preamp or DAC won't have to share the same power supply with your power amplifier either.
Additionally you will have more freedom of choice when it comes to system building/changing options. The many varied combinations of preamp, DAC, power amplifier, and speakers will allow you to achieve the high fidelity and clarity you’re looking for whenever you’re ready for a system upgrade or component addition.
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