Connecting an Amplifier to a Receiver without Pre-Outs

Norvan Martin
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Receiver pre-outs are essential for enhancing sound quality since you need them to connect your receiver to an external amplifier. However what if you have a receiver without pre-outs and don’t know how to connect it to your amplifier? In this article, we cover how you can connect an amp to a receiver without pre-outs.

Pre-outs on a receiver are used to connect an external amplifier to your receiver so that the amplifier can then power speakers in your home theater system. To learn more, check out our article on what is pre out on a receiver and when to use it

Many people will tell you that connecting an amp to a receiver without pre-outs is an impossible feat. Due to their lack of information, they opt for receivers with pre-outs.

The fact is that a receiver with a pre-out is easier to connect with an amp than a receiver without pre-outs.

Nonetheless, if yours doesn’t have this feature, you have nothing to worry about it. You can use one of the following methods to connect the devices and get quality music.

1. Use the Unbalanced RCA Stereo Output (Tape Out)

Some older versions of receivers have an unbalanced RCA stereo output, also popularly known as tape–out. This feature is only available on older receivers. 

receiver tape out

Tape out is an unbalanced RCA stereo output that provides a signal feed that you can feed into the amp’s input source selector to establish a connection. If you have a vintage amplifier from say back in the 70’s, then this should be an easy setup.

The only limitation is that tape-outs are line-level signals and so, play music at high frequencies. You need to use an amp with volume controls to avoid damaging your speakers.

2. Use Speaker High-Level Outputs

As you can see, the above method can work, but it comes with some risks.  So, depending on your needs, you can consider opting for high-level outputs or speaker-level outputs. 

Speaker High-Level Outputs to connect receiver to amplifier without preout

Your amp should have the inputs built-in so all you need to do is to connect the speaker-level outputs to the line-level input on the amplifier.

In some cases, you will need a Line Level Converter (LOC) to convert the signal from speaker level to line level. However, most of these converters will introduce some sort of audible distortion.

3. Use The Headphone Jack

This one may come as a surprise to you, but yes you can use the headphone jack, but you’ll need a 3.5mm to RCA cable like the Amazon Basics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter Audio Stereo Cable – 4 Feet. In this case, you would bypass the amplifier altogether.  

To get it done, use a headphone to RCA adaptor and plug it into the RCA inputs on the amp. Then connect the speakers to the amp. However please note that you will only get stereo sound.

receiver headphone out

This means that this method won’t work if you are feeding a multichannel amp. To fix this, you could try a stereo to surround converter like the ProLogic 2 which attempts to convert stereo to 5.1 surround. 


You could use the pre outs to connect your external amplifier. However, you will have a similar problem as you would if you were to use the headphone jack. That is, you will only get stereo sound.

receiver zone 2 pre outs

Again, you can try a converter like the PorLogic 2 to convert the signal to a pseudo 5.1 surround sound.

3. Add Your Own Pre Outs

This one is for more technically advanced people. Setting up your preamp outputs on your receiver is something best left to professionals. 

With that said, here’s how you do it:

  1. Power down, disconnect, and open up the receiver and trace down the internal pre-amp/processor section and amp modules.
  2. Find the line-level signal circuits between the modules.
  3. Cut the circuit and bypass to external jacks.
  4. You can then add switches for each channel pair to select between ‘bypass’ and ‘internal circuit’ modes.

And that’s it, as we have said, be careful and ensure that you have good knowledge of electronics when attempting this kind of modification. 

4. You May Not Need An Amp

In many cases, you are probably worrying about nothing as you may not even need an external amplifier. In many cases, you’ll have a receiver that has a built-in amplifier or a preamp. 

Take a receiver like the Yamaha RX-V675. This is a powerful AVR with a preamp that can pump out 110 Watts/Ch on ALL 7 Channels. You can drive almost any speaker with this beast! There are many other receivers with preamplifiers like the Denon AVR-X4700H and the Marantz SR8015. Which is better? You’ll have to check out our Denon vs Marantz review as well as the Marantz vs Yamaha review for that.

Advantages Of Using Receivers Without Pre-Outs

Pre-outs are normally found on highly expensive receivers. However, they can come with some disadvantages.

So, using a receiver without this feature can be an opportunity to reap lots of benefits. Let’s see why some people are happy to use receivers without pre-outs.

1. It Can Be Affordable

One of the advantages of using receivers without pre-outs is the cost. High-end home theater systems require powerful A/V receivers that come with plenty of connectivity options, including the pre-outs.

The majority of people are not picky. They can do well without high-end home theater systems. However, due to a lack of information, they end up buying a costly receiver.

If you are satisfied with the performance of a chapter receiver such as the Denon AVR-S540BT 5.2 channel 4K, or you are not choosy, you can go for receivers without pre-outs and save a lot of money. All you need to do is to connect the devices properly.

2. It Can Consume Less Power

When you are using receivers without pre-outs, you are likely to consume less power.  Pre-out connections such as subs consume a lot of power.

You need to plug them into outlets. Most powerful A/V receivers also come with advanced systems that you may not need but consume additional power. So, by connecting an amp to a receiver without pre-outs, you can save a lot of energy without sacrificing your listening experience.

3. It Requires Fewer Cables But Increases the Quality of Sound

Many people use most of their connections’ pre-outs. This means their living rooms are tangled with plenty of cables, which can cause a lot of confusion. 

They can also use different amps, which can cause some slight inconsistencies within the sound. That’s not the case if your receivers lack pre-outs. The limited cables help to improve the sound quality.

Disadvantages of Using Receivers Without Pre-Outs

Since you can connect an amp to the receiver, you have nothing much to lose. Find some of the things that you need to consider before opting to use a receiver without pre-outs below.

1. More Strain on the Receiver

Since pre-outs enable you to connect your amp to an external amp, it helps to reduce the amount of power that the receiver requires.

The built-in amp has a limited power supply. So, if you don’t have pre-outs, your receiver may not work well if your speaker load is heavy.

2. Can’t Add Channels

The pre-out section has connections like “Height 2” or “Front Wide”. You can use them with a wide variety of external sources. If your receiver lacks pre-outs, you may not have similar features, denying you the privilege to add channels.

As already mentioned, the good news is that you can eliminate or minimize some of these drawbacks by connecting an amplifier to a receiver without pre-outs.


Are Receivers with Pre-Outs Common?

Pre-outs are currently quite common on A/V receivers.  If you are looking for a higher-priced model, you’ll most likely find this feature on the device.

However, receivers come with a wide variety of connections.  So, before buying one, be sure you research your options.receiver with pre outs

Remember that highly expensive receivers typically have more connections than less powerful ones. Again, it would be best if you verified whether yours has pre-out connections. Some expensive ones don’t.

If your A/V receives lacks pre-outs for any of the above reasons, don’t throw it away. Use the options we’ve discussed above to connect an amp to the device, and you’ll get quality music.

How to Connect a Power Amp to a Receiver with Pre-Outs?

If the receiver has pre-outs, you should have no problem using it. Connecting these devices is easy. The first thing to do is add a trigger wire between the amp and the receiver. By doing this, you enable both of them to turn on simultaneously.

How to Connect an Amplifier to a Receiver Without Pre-Outs

After adding the trigger wire, find a high-quality RCA cable and use it to connect the devices.

Connect from the A/V receiver’s pre-out to the amp’s jack. Remember, you should use an unbalanced connection. Lastly, connect your speakers to the power amplifier using a positive-negative connection wire.

Do I Need A Pre Amp If I Have A Receiver?

Receivers that come with phono input do not necessarily need a phono preamp. This is the case with your record player, which has an internal preamp.

Ordinarily, the phono preamplifiers included in receivers or turntables are low to poor quality. Therefore, an external preamp will almost at all times result in much better output.

Do All Receivers Have Preamps?

Practically, nearly all newer amps and receivers do not come with a phono preamp built-in. On top of that, just like with one built into your turntable, if you connect things up and everything sounds fine, then automatically, you have a built-in phono preamp.

Commit it to your memory that you need to connect the ground wire from your turntable if it has one as well.

What’s The Difference Between Preamp And Power Amp?

First, we need to understand what a Power Amp Does to distinguish between the two. While a preamp strengthens your guitar’s weak output signal to line level, a power amp on the hand boosts that line-level signal even more – so that it can be projected through speakers.

The likelihood that the majority of valve amplifiers feature tubes in their power amp sections cannot be cast into any doubt whatsoever.  

How to Use a Receiver Without An Amplifier?

You can connect your receiver directly to your speakers if you don’t have an amp or can’t install it for any reason.

An amp is used to increase the signal power from the receiver to the speakers. However, some speakers, known as active or powered speakers (active vs passive speakers) have a built-in amp and do not need an external amplifier.

Find the steps you can follow to use your receiver without an amp below.

Step 1: Power off the receiver and ensure you’ve firmly plugged your power cable into the system.

Step 2: Navigate to the rear of the receiver and locate the speaker terminals. Connect your speaker wires to these terminals.


If your receiver comes with spring clip terminals, you should do this:

  1. Press down on the black (negative) or red (positive) clips.
  2. Insert your speaker wire into the slot on the receiver.
  3. After that, release the clips.

how to use a receiver without an amplifier

If the speaker features binding post terminals, follow the steps below.

  1. Turn the black (negative) and red (positive) binding posts counterclockwise to loosen them.
  2. Go under the binding posts and locate the slots on the receiver. Insert the speaker wires into these slots.
  3. Once you are done, turn the binding posts clockwise to tighten them.

Step 3: Connect the remaining speaker wire’s end to the corresponding speakers.

To learn more, check out our guide on how to connect a powered speaker to a receiver

Wrapping Up

Now you can connect a power amp to a receiver with pre-outs and without pre-outs. Pre-outs are common today, and setting them up is much simpler. However, they can be expensive, demand more power, and have some sound issues. So, there are times when you may require the skills we’ve discussed above to connect an amplifier to a receiver without pre-outs.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin