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Integrated or Pre-Power

Go back 20 years and all high-quality stereo systems would invariably comprise of separate preamplifier and power amplifier components. In today’s marketplace by comparison, the top-of-the-range products are still separates, however it’s now commonplace to use a high-quality integrated amplifier.

From my experience there are no hard and fast rules to denote that one topology is necessarily better than the other... so let’s take a brief look at both.

Integrated

An integrated amplifier incorporates everything in one box. Internal space is always at a premium and from a design perspective there are a number of competing factors and compromises to be made. To successfully design a high-quality integrated amplifier remains a difficult undertaking. One of the many challenges the designer faces is how best to isolate the effects of the high power components from the small signal stages. Many companies produce integrated amplifiers, but only a few reach the top of their craft.

Integrated amplifiers in our range include the award-winning Audiant 80i with USB input and the reference éloquence 150i and éloquence 250i integrated amplifiers with optional USB DAC and MM/MC phono modules.

Pre-Power

On the face of it the pre-power platform is a far better concept. Simply put, all the small signal stage components are in one box and all the high power stuff is located in the other. Indeed it is the best way to go, but to really understand all the subtleties and nuances, you can spend a career perfecting your art and still seek that elusive 5%.

In practice there are no hard and fast rules. I’ve seen integrated amps that far outperform any pre-power and visa versa. If you really want to check out the differences between the two platforms, read reviews but remember to always put more weight on reviews with associated lab tests. While it’s all about the sound at the end of the day, an amplifier is a precision engineered product and must therefore be subject to the laws of physics.

Pre-power options in our range include the Audiant DP32 USB DAC preamplifier & 100p stereo power amplifier and the flagship Prisma SM6 MkII Preamplifier & 350 Stereo Power Amplifier or 750 Monoblock Power Amps.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
"I’ve seen integrated amps that far outperform any pre-power and visa versa."
I'm not sure how that is possible.
# Posted By jeff stake | 20/07/10 7:23 AM
Hi Jeff

On the face of it, it does seem impossible. What I should have said was that I've heard integrateds outperform pre-power and I've also heard many pre-power systems better integrateds.

Of course the latter is more common and widely accepted, but it really comes down to the implementation. A well implemented integrated amplifier, dollar-for-dollar, is very difficult to beat. Just think about it, the money saved on the expensive preamplifier casework can be invested in making the integrated sound better. Not to mention the much shorter signal paths and the ability to be able to match the preamp output to the amplifier input (this of course should only be an issue when mixing and matching pres/powers).

There are also benefits of Pre-power, as mentioned in my post, and you can also tweak the sound by your choice of interconnects.

So it's horses for courses really, it comes down to personal preference and what suits your situation.
# Posted By Perreaux | 20/07/10 11:43 AM

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