What is a Pre-out, and How Do I Use One?

Receivers can be quite complicated, especially if encountering them for the first time. These devices have lots of specs and ports, which may be quite confusing. In this particular article, we take a look at one of the most used parts of receivers-the pre-out.

What Is a Pre-Out?

A pre-out is a port or set of ports that allow you to use an external power amplifier if you do not want to use the receiver’s inbuilt amplifier. It is through these port/ ports that you will connect the external amplifier.

In this case, the signal passes through the receiver without getting amplified. It is then amplified by another power source, connected externally. You do not have to worry about pre-outs immediately you buy your receiver since the inbuilt amplifier can do the work.

However, you will need to use one for more flexibility. Luckily, most, if not all A/V receivers come with a pre-out for every speaker and two connections if you intend to use a subwoofer. People have different reasons for using pre-outs. However, you need to understand that there are both pros and cons to it. We will discuss this further.

How Do Pre-Outs work?

Pre-outs copy the signal that is sent to the receiver and relays it to an external amplifier. It gives your receiver more power, amplifying sound further. You may need to use the pre-out if you have your system in a large room or your amplifier does not have the power to drive the speakers.

You will notice ports that resemble a set of RCA jacks at the back of the receiver. They normally have distinct labeling and are mostly indicated. To take advantage of them, you will have to connect the receiver’s outputs to the amplifier and the speaker cables to the external amplifier and not the receiver.

Therefore, this connection will take the burden of driving the speakers from the receiver to the external amplifier, making the receiver act as a pre-amplifier. However, it still does all the basics: audio processing, volume control, and sound tuning. The external amplifier only offers power.

Why Do You Need Pre-Outs?

Pre-outs are commonly used with receiver/ subwoofer setups. This reduces the burden of sound amplification on the main woofers, creating room for high volumes with very few distortions. Therefore, you will enjoy quality music.

Subwoofers have their internal amplifiers, which are relatively less powerful. Therefore, you are better off using a pre-out for sound amplification. You may also need the pre-outs to add different channels to your receiver.

Keep in mind that most receivers, including the most expensive ones, lack enough power to drive complex home theatre systems, which can be limiting. This may be the case even with several speaker ports.

Therefore, an external power amplifier allows you to play around with your set-up, helping you explore new experiences that you could not achieve due to your receiver’s limitations.

You may also need a pre-out when dealing with a big sub or special speaker channels. Connecting such a setup with an external amplifier heavily improves the sound quality and reduces the load exerted on your receiver’s internal amplifier.   

Most people also use pre-outs with Zone 2 or Zone 3 Outputs. These normally allow one to play audio in another room. You will realize just how valuable these ports are, especially when your speakers are in a large room and the internal amplifier in the receiver does not have enough power to drive their functioning.

A pre-out allows you to enjoy your home theatre’s experience, opening it up to several heavy upgrade options.

How to Use a Pre-Out On Your Receiver

You must properly connect the external amplifier to your receiver if you need the best experience. Even though this is usually a relatively simple procedure, most people make mistakes and further impair sound amplification.

You first need to identify whether your speakers will be using the receiver’s inbuilt amplifier or an external one. If your speakers have an external amplifier, look for the corresponding pre-out connection, which should be on the receiver.

Also, keep in mind that there are several connection options when connecting your devices, a good example being a subwoofer. You can use a single tip RCA cable or an RCA cable and Y-splitter to target several sub inputs. If you are lucky enough, your subwoofer will come with a dedicated subwoofer cable.

Setting up pre-outs should not take much of your time since the process is relatively easy. It would be best if you also learned more about them to further your experience. These allowances offer you a chance to play around with your speaker set-up, an opportunity that you should utilize,

Why Should You Use a  Pre-Out With Receiver/ Amp Set Up?

You are not limited to subwoofer connections only, as pre-outs can also be used in receiver/ amp setups. It offers you an easy time to connect the receiver’s outputs directly to the amplifier, after which you can connect the speakers to an external amplifier instead of the receiver. 

What this does is take the load from the receiver to the external amplifier, which is often more powerful and offers high gain power amplification. The pre-out usually syncs with the pre-ins of the external amplifier for better results.

The receiver acts as a pre-amp in such a setup, offering different signals for different functions such as volume control and audio processing. This makes your entire connection highly flexible and open for modifications.

When Shouldn’t You Use a Pre-Out?

Just because your receiver has pre-outs does not mean that you need to use them all the time and with every type of connection. You have to remember that pre-outs are signals used to interface an outer enhancer to control the speaker but do not use the receiver’s intensifiers.

A subwoofer only increases the main speakers’ bass ability, which is necessary to maintain their sizes without giving up low-frequency ability. This mostly works inside a determined volume for better results.

Therefore, do not use a pre-out in a subwoofer connection if your main intention is to boost the bass performance. You will need bigger conventional speakers for improved bass performance since subwoofers do not have very low frequency in such connections.

Benefits of Using Pre-Outs

There are several pros of using pre-outs that you need to be aware of. This is in line with helping you learn more about your receiver. We may have mentioned some benefits in the course of our discussion, but let us now narrow it down to the specifics.

It takes the strain off your receiver

This is by far the biggest benefit of using the pre-outs. It means that your receiver will now use less power, allowing you to take care of it. Its in-built amplifier normally has limited power to drive the speakers and will therefore appreciate a boost.

You will notice your receiver working better and longer durations when using pre-outs since the speakers won’t be sharing their power among fewer channels anymore. Also, always opt for more expensive receiver models, ensuring that you do not push your device too hard and damage it.

Allows you to add channels and improve your speaker

These allowances in your receiver offer you the chance to push your surround sound system without causing damage. You get to open up new possibilities and explore connections that may not have been possible before.

You will even enjoy challenging connections such as Dolby Atmos. Some pre-out sections support connections for speakers such as Front Wide or Height 2, which are added channels that require an external power source.

You can explore the endless possibility of your home system connection and know when to use different connections.

Improves sonic character

Pre-outs enable distinct setups that are otherwise impossible. You will notice that both passive speakers are connected to the receiver’s amplifiers, while active speakers with their amplifiers also draw from the connection.

What is the impact? The resultant effect will be an improved sonic character of your entire system. Even though you will need pre-outs for simple speaker systems, knowing how to use them will help you explore and achieve relatively advanced and expensive setups.

These advantages are normally witnessed the moment you establish a connection.

Disadvantages Of Using Pre-Outs

Even though the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, you still need to have a complete understanding of both. Pre-outs are not angelic and have their flaws too.


Using pre-outs can be expensive depending on the connection you want to achieve. For those targeting complex and advanced home theatre systems, you must have a powerful A/V receiver, which does not come cheap.

You have to spend on an expensive receiver with a detailed pre-out section. This is one of the reasons why most people have not yet achieved their ideal home theatre systems. Powerful and diverse receivers cost an arm and a leg.

More power consumption

You will notice this soon enough. Pre-out connections create more amplifiers whose resultant effect is more power consumption. Even as it is, you’re a/ V receiver consumes noticeable amounts of power. You can imagine just how it escalates after introducing a new amplifier.

In this case, both your receiver and connections, such as your subwoofer, will be part of your power grid. Receivers, especially the powerful ones, are very expensive, and a system that utilizes more power further aggravates that.

You may have to rethink your decision if you prefer saving money to using it.

More complexities and taking up of more space

Using a pre-out means coming up with additional connections, which may not go well with minimalists and the space-conscious. It makes use of several cables, which may be further confusing. This further puts more pressure on you to keep your cables organized and neat. It would be best if you also kept in mind the hazards associated with lots of cables.

You may also notice inconsistencies with the resultant sound, albeit slight. This phenomenon normally occurs due to the use of several amplifiers. However, most people will barely notice it save for the audio heads.

Therefore, you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making a choice. All in all, the pros outweigh the cons, which is a good thing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.    What Is the Difference Between a Pre-Out and a Line-out?

A pre-out connects an A/V receiver to an amplifier or a subwoofer. It works by producing a variable signal, allowing one to adjust the output signal system via the volume controls. On the other hand, a line out is a type of audio connection that takes care of external speakers. They are normally found at the back of the subwoofer or receiver.

The line-out is not affected by the volume control, given that it is a fixed voltage signal.

2.    How Do Pre-Outs Look?

Pre-outs resemble RCA jacks and are normally located at the back of the receiver. Luckily, they are normally labeled and, in some cases, use a color code system for easier visibility. They should not be confused with line-outs that, even though they look similar, have different sets of colors.

3.    What Controls do Pre-Outs Offer?

 Pre-outs offer both volume and signal control. They have a varying signal voltage, allowing you to push your speakers further. However, it is worth noting that they do not amplify the base.

4.    What Receiver do I need?

You can use any receiver provided that it has pre-outs at the back. However, certain connections call for complex and expensive receivers. This is most common if you need more channels.


Pre-outs have several advantages that we should tap into. They allow individuals to achieve their surround sound fantasies provided they have the right receiver. You get a chance to open up your receiver to endless possibilities instead of starting all over and buying a new one.

However, one needs the right connection for the best experience. I hope that we have helped you understand why you need pre-outs and how you can use one for your room’s best sound experience.

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