What Is a Pre-Out on an A/V Receiver and When to Use It?

Let’s be honest, receiver’s are not the easiest of devices to use. There are many different features, ports, and specifications. One such feature is a pre-out. But what is a pre-out? How should you use it? Let’s find out…

What is a Pre-Out?

A pre-out is a feature that allows users to use external power amplifiers, instead of the receiver’s built-in amplifier. It works by blocking the receiver from amplifying the signal, which allows the signal to be amplified via the external device.

If you’re using a receiver for the first time, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the pre-out, but they can be very useful at a later date. There are pros and cons of using pre-outs, as well as different reasons for using them.

When is a Pre-Out Used?

A pre-out is most often used to connect with the amplifier inside a subwoofer. They are also great for adding different channels to your sound/theatre set-up.

Pre-outs can e used even if you own one of the best A/V receivers. In fact, most receivers aren’t powerful enough for what we need. A pre-out allows us to connect to a more powerful amplifier, which can make a huge difference to what your sound system can achieve.

Most speakers on the market have their own built-in amplifier. You can connect to these with a pre-out connection. This will reduce strain on your receiver, while allowing your speakers to work at their full potential.

You may also use a pre-out if you want to get the most power from extra large speakers. Essentially, pre-outs mean your speakers don’t have to work as hard to get the same level of power.

Pros of Using Pre-Outs

You should now have a decent idea of why pre-outs are such a useful feature. Let’s jump into the main benefits of using a pre-out:

Easier for Your A/V Receiver

Using a pre-out allows your receiver to use less power to achieve the same result. Taking care of your receiver will allow you to use it for years and years. Oh, and it’s wise to purchase a premium receiver, as you won’t be forced to run the device at full-capacity.

One receiver we really love, the Onkyo TX-RZ820 THX-Certified 4K Receiver (Amazon link), comes with pre-outs for 7.1 channels of sound. This feature allows you to expand to a pre-out, while not maxing out the receiver’s power. Simply put, connecting to an external amplifier with a pre-out will allow your amplifier to work better.

Add Channels to Your Speaker System

A pre-out will further improve what your sound system is capable of achieving. You can use complex sound systems that require multiple different channels.

Your pre-out may have options to connect speakers, such as “Height 2”. These options are channels that work with external sources of power. This gives users a huge range of options and opportunities. However, users may need to do some further research into each individual channel and what they do.

Sonic Character

Pre-outs are useful for improving the sonic character of your surround sound system, regardless of whether you’re using active speakers or passive speakers. This won’t sound (if you pardon the pun) useful for all of you, but pre-outs are extremely beneficial to those who have advanced systems.

Cons of Using Pre-Outs

Nothing in life is perfect. As such, you can expect to experience a few negatives when using pre-outs:

Expensive Receivers

To get the most from the pre-out feature, you will need an A/V receiver that comes with a pre-out. However, not all of them do. Purchasing a premium A/V receiver with pre-out technology is not cheap. You may find a receiver that you think is amazing, only to discover that it doesn’t have a pre-out, and you have to pay even more to get one. With that said, purchasing a receiver with pre-out is definitely worth it if you want to create the best sound system possible.

Power Consumption

Using a pre-out will consume more power. It’s as simple as that. You see, a powerful receiver will use more power to do what you want it to do. Connecting to a subwoofer using a pre-out will mean plugging into an additional power outlet.

More Trouble

Using pre-outs will require additional cables and devices. If not properly organized, you can have cables running everywhere, which created mess and can lead to accidents. It’s important to keep your set-up organized, especially if you plug into multiple pre-outs.

Furthermore, using multiple amplifiers can cause differences in the sound. This won’t be noticeable to most, but it may be an issue for those audiophiles who demand perfection.

Do All A/V Receivers Have Pre-Outs?

It’s extremely common to find pre-outs on today’s A/V receivers, especially the premium models. With that said, most receivers come with different connections on the back. Most receivers aren’t the same. As such, ensure your receiver has a pre-out if you will need one now or in the future.

It is more common for the premium models to have pre-outs, compared to the cheaper models that come with fewer connection options.

How Does the Pre-Out on My A/V Receiver Work?

Getting your pre-out to work is a fairly easy process. The first step is to see if your speakers will use an external amplifier or built-in amplifier. If using an external amplifier, you should find the receiver’s corresponding pre-out connection.

There are multiple connection choices, so make sure to choose the correct one. An RCA cable is the best cable to use. Alternatively, you could use a Y-Splitter if there are multiple inputs.

After the speaker is connected to the receiver, everything should be ready to go, and you should be able to enjoy your favorite tunes. If things aren’t working, then you may have inserted the cable incorrectly or into the wrong connection.

As you can see, pre-outs aren’t a complicated feature on your receiver. It may take some time to get familiar with the set-up, but it’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Those who want to get the most from their surround sound system should spend some time playing around with the pre-out feature – the results are definitely worth it.