What Is Pre-Out On A Receiver and When Would You Use It?

Norvan Martin
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Most receivers are built with amplifiers that are rather limited in what they offer as far as power amplification is concerned.

These internal amplifiers are weak and consequently, you may need to use an external amplifier to achieve better amplification.Pre-Out On A Receiver

This is where a pre out receiver comes in. Pre out receivers are connected to external amplifiers to increase the volume and power of your home theatre.

Pre out receivers use pre outs to connect to external amplifiers with pre ins. Simply put, a pre-out is basically an output that sends a signal to your amps.

To explain another way…

A pre out allows you to connect an external power amplifier to your receiver instead of using the amp built into the receiver. This way, the signal will pass through the receiver without amplification and will instead be amplified by the external amplifier. 

In this article, we will discuss further about what pre out receivers are, why you need them, and the best available on the market.

What Is Pre Out On A Receiver?

As mentioned earlier, pre out receivers are audio receivers that offer the pre out option. A pre out is an RCA audio connection type that is the output of the preamplifier section.

What Is Pre Out On A Receiver

The pre out comes in handy when the goal is to improve power amplification by connecting to an external amplifier. You do this by bypassing the internal amplifier in a receiver with preamp.

It’s used to connect to an external amplifier in case you need more channels or power to drive speakers than the receiver itself provides.

As its name suggests, a pre out is a pre-amplified output. This means your receiver selects the audio source and controls the volume and other important audio effects such as tone, filters, and balance.

However, the output from this connection is not an amplifier. Remember, pre outs only output signals, not actual power.

Where Are The Pre-Out Ports On A Receiver?

On checking behind your receiver, you should see that some ports are labelled as ‘pre-out’ or ‘preamp out’. The ports may also be designated as ‘subwoofer pre-out.’ There may be a full area of pre-outs for all the speakers in a home theatre set up, as well as external active subwoofers, on the panel at the back of your AV receiver.

Why Use A Pre Out Receiver?

Receivers are connected to external amplifiers with the aim of transferring the task of powering the speakers.

This is a transfer of the amplification task from the inbuilt amplifier of the receiver (which has a relatively limited capacity) to an external amplifier with greater capacity. Consequently, there are significantly improved audio results from the speakers.

Additionally, many people choose to place additional equipment such as companders and graphic equalizers between the preamp and external amp connection. This can greatly enhance the flexibility of a sound system.

How Are Pre Out Receivers Designed To Work?

As mentioned earlier, pre out audio receivers come with the pre out option which is designed to connect to your external amplifier. This way, they provide enhanced power output to your speakers.

This is achieved by the more powerful external amplifiers taking over the function of amplification.

They therefore provide power to the speakers instead of the inbuilt amplifier in the receiver. The pre out audio receiver itself retains all its other functions including volume control, digital inputs, source inputs, audio recordings etc.

The audio receiver now serves as a pre-amplifier while the external amplifier assumes the role of amplifier ensuring the speakers are better able to meet increased demands.

How To Setup A Pre Out Receiver

Setting up a pre out receiver is quite easy. Here are the steps:

  1. Locate the pre out socket on the audio receiver. The pre out sockets resemble a set of RCA jacks on the back panel of the receiver and are labeled FR, FL, C, SR, SL, SBR, SBL, with one or two subwoofer outputs.
  2. Once these are located, they are to be connected appropriately to the external amplifier. You can use a regular RCA cable to make the connection.  All pre outs will work with standard RCA cables.

How To Setup A Pre Out Receiver

The entire process may be routine work for some. However, if that isn’t the case for you, or you tend to get stuck while adopting the DIY approach, just take some time to read each port label and complete the connection or ask a techie for help.

Pre Out Receivers and Power

Why do you need a pre out receiver? To get straight to the point, the answer lies in performance.

While the inbuilt amplifiers of many receivers may be able to handle the demands placed by the speakers in providing basic sound performance, sometimes basic is not good enough.Pre Out Receivers and Power

This turns out to be so if you are into heavy duty usage of your speakers and still want optimum performance at such intense levels.

The situation is similar if you are looking out for enhanced performance, or even if you intend your speakers to function in a large room. In fact, if you ask many audio professionals about how to connect two receivers together for additional power, they will likely tell you to use pre out. 

You may find yourself a bit limited by the performance of your regular audio receivers which are not usually designed to match the high demands such situations place on the amplification system due to the need to economize on hardware estate as earlier pointed out.

This particular problem is conveniently solved by pre out receivers which give you the option to rely on a more powerful external amplifier to boost signal supply to your speakers.

This can make a world of a difference for individuals who place emphasis on performance or want to fully enjoy their sound systems even in expanded areas.

Also pre out receivers bring along with them improved options and not just in sound performance as earlier highlighted.

With a pre out receiver providing the option of extra power, extra channels that the inbuilt amplifiers would ordinarily not be strong enough to provide for can be accessed.

These include pre-sense or front height channels and also providing capacity to power even zone 2 speakers.

Sometimes, people chose this option if one of their receiver channels is blown. we actually don’t recommend it as there are various ways to fix a blown receiver channel

Pre Out Receivers And Powered Subwoofers

Most subwoofers come with their own power and so need to be connected separately from the rest of the speakers.

In most cases, all you have to do is connect them to the port marked “subwoofer” using the included cable. This sub pre out is for connecting to a powered subwoofer only. However, it will have all the high frequencies cut out, just leaving the bass signal.

Why You May Not Need Pre Out Receivers

Not everyone will need a pre out on your receiver. For example, your acoustic requirements may be really basic and of the kind that your speakers can adequately handle while connected to a regular audio receiver.

For example, when you are not very picky on audio quality or generally do not intend to use your sound system in a large area. In these situations, your speakers don’t have to work too hard, so you may not need to splurge the extra cash getting pre out audio receivers.

Moreover, if you make the decision to get an external amplifier, that’s an extra cost that may be unnecessary. In the end, consider what you want and the costs you are willing to cover when making the decision to get a pre out audio receiver.

Why Do Receivers Have Weak Amplifiers?

When it comes to sound systems, power is a major issue. However, most receivers have weak built in amplifiers.

This is due to the fact that modern receivers are compact and have little space for the hardware required to produce high level amplification.

In such instances, a power deficit may arise at intense levels of usage with the built in amplifier struggling or being simply unable to adequately cope with the increased power demands. As a result, audio performance levels may be negatively impacted.

What Is A Pre Out On A Car Stereo

Many car owners see pre out on their stereos and become confused. The question ‘what is a pre out on a car stereo’ is a common one.Pre Out On A Car Stereo

Is it the same as a regular pre out on a home theatre receiver? Yes, it is. It’s just an output that sends signals to your amps.

Do you need one? Not really, it just makes it easier to set up your sound system if you have one on your stereo. Some amps have high level connections anyway.

Let’s take an example, many car audio systems comprise subs with amps added to the subs. In such cases, you’ll only need a single pre out. If however, you add an amplifier, then you’ll need at least two pre outs.

Connecting An Amplifier To A Receiver Without Pre Outs

Is connecting an amplifier to a receiver without pre outs possible? While a pre out makes the connection easier and offers better control, it sure is possible to connect an amplifier to a receiver without pre outs. Here are some options:

  1. Tape Out: Well, if your receiver is older, it may have a tape out and you can use that. Tape out is an unbalanced RCA stereo output. These outputs provide a feed of the signal that can be fed into the amplifier’s input source selector. You should note that tape outputs are line level signals. This means you’ll be able to so it may play at full volume unless you have a volume or gain control on the amplifier. In fact, you should make sure your amplifier has volume control or you may fry your speakers! It’s not ideal, but it can work. For more clarity, you can learn more about pre out vs line out.
  2. Use High Level Inputs: Some amps have high level inputs built in. Moreover, you can also get a line level converter which will convert the speaker out signal from the receiver to a line level signal (RCA) output.

Additionally, you could also go for an inexpensive pre/pro and separate amplifier. For more information, check out our full article on connecting an amplifier to a receiver without pre outs

Adding Pre outs To A Receiver?

What if you want to add a pre out option to a receiver without pre outs? Is it possible to add pre out to a receiver? It’s a common question from DIY enthusiasts while in the process of building power amps.

Well, you could always reroute the pre amp to the power amp in the receiver. However, you may need to employ signal splitting.

However, you’ll need to know the output impedance of the preamp and the input impedance of the power amps to make this work. It can get quite technical, so if you’re not into audio DIY, just buy a receiver.

What Is The Difference Between Line Out And Pre-Out?

The line out signal is most times a fixed voltage signal that volume control has zero effect on. Because the pre-out is designed to be linked to a power amp, it’s signal is usually variable; in this case, adjusting the volume control adjusts the output signal level, as a power amp is typically fixed gain.

How Do You Hook Up A Subwoofer To A Receiver Pre-Out?

With subwoofers that have their own internal amplifier, pre-outs can be utilized. It’s very easy to connect your powered subwoofers to a pre-out. To do so, just connect your receiver to your subwoofer using an RCA-type input jack, quick and easy.

What Is The Use Of Pre-Out On An Amp?

The function of a pre-out is that instead of using the receiver’s built-in amplifier, a pre-out allows you to connect an external power amplifier. It permits a signal to pass through the receiver without being amplified and be amplified by another power source instead.

Which Brand Receivers Have Pre Outs?

You will find receivers with pre outs from most of the major receiver brands. This includes Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha, Marantz, Pyle, Sony, and so on.

We particularly find that many Pyle, Yamaha, Sony, Denon, and Marantz receivers will have pre outs. Check out our Denon vs Marantz comparison to find out more about these receivers. 


Pre out receivers are a kind of receivers that allow for connection to an external amplifier rather than relying on the inbuilt amplifiers to power the speakers of the sound system.

In many cases, they can represent a sound investment when the goal is improved audio quality or enhanced performance to meet heavy-duty audio production.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. 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