Connecting an Amplifier to a Receiver Without Pre-outs – Explained
Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on Connecting an Amplifier to a Receiver Without Pre-Outs
Have you ever looked at the AV receiver’s back and scratched your head, wondering what wires go where? And did you recently discover that your receiver lacks pre-outs?
This is not uncommon if you’re new to the audio world. Receiver pre-outs help you connect your receiver to an amplifier to improve sound quality.
A receiver with pre-outs makes it easier to connect to an amplifier than a receiver without pre-outs. But don’t freak out because you don’t need to buy an expensive AV receiver just because your existing one doesn’t have pre-outs.
Even I don’t have a receiver with pre-outs, which I know will come as a shock to you. Since my receiver lacked pre-outs, I looked into various methods for connecting the power amp to it. After trying a few different approaches, I finally found a way to get my amplifier to produce easygoing bass from my stereo system.
Let the cat out of the bag!
How to Connect Power Amp to Receiver Without Preouts
To connect the power amp to the receiver without pre-outs, you must first purchase all the required items. The good thing is that the methods involve only a few pieces of equipment, but it is still important to have them with you. Otherwise, you’ll have to stop the process in between to find out the missing equipment. For connecting an amp to a receiver without pre-outs, you’ll need the following items:
- An RCA cable
- A speaker wire
- An associated speaker
- A trigger wire
Remember, as you continue adding more speakers to the channels supported by your receiver without pre-outs, you’ll have to get more speaker wires, RCA cables, and other items to connect.
Use the Headphone Jack
This might surprise you, but you can use the headphone jack (Aux cable) to connect your amp to a receiver without pre-outs. To do so, you need a headphone-to-RCA adapter with a 3.5 mm jack.
Find the RCA inputs on your amplifier for plugging the RCA adapter into them. You can insert the two RCA ends from the headphone-to-RCA adapter and insert them in the RCA inputs on the amp.
Next, find the headphone jack on the receiver and plug the other end of the headphone-to-RCA adapter into it. Now connect speakers to the amp to enjoy the sound. Remember that you’ll only get stereo sound with this method. Thus, this method won’t work if you have a multi-channel amp. To solve the issue, use a stereo-to-sound converter.
Use the Unbalanced RCA Stereo Output
If you have an older receiver model, chances are that it has an unbalanced RCA stereo output. This type of output is also known as a tape-out. The unbalanced stereo output establishes a signal feed that goes into the amplifier’s input to create a connection. This is an easy method if you have an older amplifier, probably from the 70s.
The only drawback of this method is that tape-outs will play sound at higher frequencies. In this case, if your amp has volume controls, you can use this method easily because it won’t damage your speakers.
Use Speaker High-Level Outputs
Using the unbalanced RCA stereo output is risky because it is a line-level signal. Thus, you’ll have to play music at an increased volume, which can damage the speakers. So, if you want to avoid the above method, go for the speaker’s high-level outputs. This is a great option for receivers with no other way to connect to an amp. You can use two ways to connect the amp to a receiver with only speaker outputs:
- Connect it to the unused speaker output terminals
- Connect alongside stereo speakers you’re already using
Speaker-level outputs are at the back of the receiver, and all you have to do is to connect them to the amp. Amps have built-in speaker-level inputs which allow you to connect the speaker-level-outputs to the built-in inputs in your amp.
Speaker Level to Line Level Interface
If you have a receiver without pre-outs, one easy way to connect an amplifier is to use a speaker level-to-line level interface. A speaker level is an adapter with two interconnect outputs and two speaker inputs. This helps deliver power to the external power amplifier. It also converts a speaker-level signal to a line-level signal.
To do so, use the speaker wires from the receiver and connect them to the inputs of the adapter. Now use the female RCA outputs to connect the external amp and the receiver through the interconnects. The interconnects will deliver the signals from the device to the external amp.
Remember that a speaker-to-line-level adapter doesn’t work with digital amplifiers, but it works well with a high-power amplifier. Speaker-level to line-level adapters are also available for home stereos and are distortion free.
Use a Line Output Converter
A line-level converter can also be used to connect your amplifier to a receiver without pre-outs. A LOC or line-level converter allows you to establish a link between a receiver without pre-outs to an external amp. It converts the speaker-level signal to the line-level signal. However, a line output converter is more suitable for car audio, and most of them are designed to work in cars. Thus, they take lower input, and the high power output may cause issues if used at home.
Zone 2 Outs
A few types of receivers have Zone 2 or Zone 3 outs that allow you to connect to an external amplifier easily. So, if you have a receiver with no pre-outs but zone 2 or zone 3 outs, you can use them to connect the receiver to the external amplifier. Zone 2 features an RCA connection type that will help you connect the zone 2 outs to the RCA inputs on the amplifier.
Add Your Own Pre-outs
No pre-outs? No problem! You can add your own pre-outs to the receiver. However, this method is only for tech geeks. To set up your own pre-outs, follow these steps:
- Shut down the receiver and disconnect the power.
- Use a schematic for the receiver to help you choose where to add the pre-outs.
- Take out the outer casing by unscrewing it and access the circuitry.
- Locate the amp modules and the pre-amp/processor section.
- Locate the line-level signals among the modules.
- Break the circuits and bypass external jacks.
- Now add switches that allow you to choose bypass or internal circuit mode.
Remember that this type of modification is suitable only if you know electronic circuits. You must consult a professional if you don’t know how to operate electronic devices.
Advantages of Having a Receiver Without Pre-outs
Pre-outs are present on high-end receivers. However, if they aren’t present on your receiver, don’t worry because it has some benefits. If you’re going to buy a receiver, you can consider these benefits of a receiver without pre-outs:
One of the main benefits of a receiver without pre-outs is that they are very affordable. If you want to make an advanced home theater system, you’ll need a receiver with pre-outs, as these receivers come with numerous connectivity options. But having a home theater isn’t something that everyone wants. So, if you don’t want a home theater, you can consider a receiver without pre-outs because it’s much cheaper than a receiver with pre-outs.
Another big advantage of a receiver without pre-outs is that it consumes less power. Receivers with pre-outs take up a lot of power because of pre-outs and other connections. These receivers are also equipped with advanced connections and features you don’t need, but they consume power when you plug the receiver. Thus, if you connect your amp to a receiver without pre-outs, you can save energy. However, you’ll have to compromise a little on the sound quality.
Receivers with pre-outs have lots of connections, so you’ll need lots of cables. Lots of cables can increase clutter and make it difficult to manage. A receiver without pre-outs has limited cables, which makes management easier as there are fewer cables.
Disadvantages of Having a Receiver Without Pre-outs
Having a receiver without pre-outs may also come with a few disadvantages, which you must consider. If you have a receiver without pre-outs or going to buy one, the following are some drawbacks to consider:
A receiver with pre-outs means you can have more connections to add more channels. If you have a receiver without pre-outs, you won’t have more features because you can’t add more channels. However, the good news is you can connect an amp to your receiver without pre-outs which can help you overcome this disadvantage. Plus, you can’t get surround sound from a receiver without pre-out, for this purpose, you’ll have to use a surround sound converter.
More Strain on the Receiver
If your receiver doesn’t have pre-outs, it will put more stress on the device. Having pre-outs means you can easily connect an amp to the receiver, reducing the power and load on the device. A receiver without a pre-amp won’t work if the speaker load is heavy. The built-in amp won’t work as it has a limited power supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to use a second receiver as an amp?
You can use a second receiver as an amp if you want to set up a home theater. This is a simple four-step process which is as follows:
- Connect the new receiver’s output to the old receiver’s analog source input using a cable.
- Choose the correct play mode using the old receiver’s control buttons on the device or the remote.
- Assign the number of incoming channels for amplifying.
- Go to the Expert Setup menu, select the multi-channel option, then choose the through output mode.
Are receivers with pre-outs common?
These days receivers come with pre-outs, especially on the high-end models; they are common. However, even some expensive receivers might not have pre-outs. If you have a receiver without pre-outs, it is still useful. You can connect the power amplifier to the receiver and enjoy its benefits.
How to connect an integrated amplifier to an AV receiver?
You can connect an integrated amp to an AV receiver with RCA cables. Locate the pre-outs on the AV receiver and connect the RCA cables to the channels. Now connect these to the integrated amplifier and connect a speaker to the amp to listen to the sound.
Can another receiver be used as a pre-amp?
Yes, you can use a vintage stereo receiver as a pre-amp. An old stereo receiver with normal connections will work; you can connect them to another receiver through jacks.
How does a speaker-level adapter work?
A speaker level adapter converts the speaker level signal between the amp and the speaker to a level that the amp can understand. It does so by lowering the voltage by 50 to 60%. One type of speaker-level adapter offers low-impedance output to the amp by adding circuitry. This type of device needs a power supply to work.
Do all receivers have preamps?
A phono preamp is not present in most contemporary receivers and amplifiers. However, some receivers have an input labeled as phono input, but it’s just the label and it doesn’t have a phono preamp.
If you don’t have pre-outs in your receiver, there are several other ways to connect it to the amplifier. Connecting an amp to a receiver without pre-outs may seem challenging, but you can do it easily if you’re a tech geek. However, if you want to avoid all this, you can consider buying a receiver with pre-outs. If buying a receiver with pre-outs is out of your budget, you can follow this handy guide and try the different methods. We hope one of these methods to connect a power amp to a receiver will work out for you.
Last Updated on February 4, 2023 by Danny Reid