Should you spend more money on an amp or preamp to get better sound?

Also how dumb would it be to get a $1500 amp and then get a BHK preamp or vice versa? Just curious if you had to buy higher end components years apart what would be the best plan.

I would start with a great amp. Amps are the foundation of your system.


ok, thanks that helps out a lot.

I’d recommend speakers first. Match them to the music you like and the space/room you’ll listen in. Then pick out your sound source (streaming, sacd/cd, vinyl). Once this is defined, you can make your amp and preamp selections, whether all tubes, all SS, or a combo of tube preamp and SS amp that works with your speaker selection. You may even want to consider an integrated amp! They also come in tube and SS flavors. Take your time and lay out a plan first. It’ll save you a lot of money. Ask me how I know.


While I agree with Ron, I’d also say that a good pre will make all of your sources sound good. And you may change your mind about what sort of amplification you want as you make changes, especially speakers.

So my first thought as an answer to the question in your Title is, "Yes":stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


yes I agree speakers first.

However you decide, enjoy your audio journey!

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My experience and by now means do I have the right to tell you how to spend your money.

My journey into 2 Channel HiFi Hell started with the Stellar Stack (2x M700’s/SGCD). Great rig, great Synergy. Even added a third M700 for my Center Channel.

Then last year, I heard a friends’ just repaired/refreshed pair of VTL 300 Tube Amplifiers and was stunned. His Preamp was nothing special at the time (Transistor type - forget the manufacturer/model). But the sound ! Hard to describe in Audiophile Adjectives (my Audiophile equivalents won’t pass the language Police (no offense Elk). I just liked what I heard through his Thiel CS2.4’s.

That’s when the squirrel cage was revolving in my head. Since I can’t afford a pair of M1200’s, why not just get a Tube Preamp and run a pair of Orchard Audio STARKRIMSON Class GaN Amplifiers. Excellent sound quality but too bad they have a bad habit of to quote Cheech & Chong going “Up in Smoke” very easily. I blew 4 of them over time and gave up. Plugged in my McIntosh MC50’s which are fresh from repair (one still is for a strange detectable oscillation) and things still were good but not great. Next up was 2 channel’s of my trusty Adcom 7300 5 channel Amplifier. The Adcom sound as Paul McGowan mentioned in his Video has everything good about it but compared to what’s happening in the World of Tube’s and Transistors, it’s dated but holds it’s own. Great Amplifier’s which started my entry level into High End Audio 28 years ago (Adcom GFP345/GFA-555II).

Which brings me to my latest and final purchase WRT to Amps :zipper_mouth_face:… The Jolida 3502P with KT150’s instead of the supplied 6550’s. Enough power to run the finickiest of Bookshelf Speaker’s. I run a pair of KEF 105/3’s Coupled Cavity Bass Sections only with a 1000W@4Ω Class D ICE Amplifier from Parts Express.

This all tube front end with the PS Audio DirectStream DAC completes my front and back ends of my system. Speakers will be KEF LS50 Meta’s to pair with the Bass only KEF 105/3’s.

You will have to decide. I’ve aways been a seperates person because I like the grief of mixing and matching pieces until I get the sound that I want. I’m not a fan of integrated’ products for this very reason. :zipper_mouth_face:

It’s a Rabbit hole. Electronics first and them Speaker’s. Ivor Tiefenbrun was correct !

Enjoy the ride ! :joy:


Thanks for the info! I’m definitely going separates, have budget Fluance towers, an emotiva basx3 amp and a sprout 100, with a Fluance rt83 turntable. I’m upgrading speakers first, then will update amp and preamp later. Eventually I will get a separate phono preamp as well. Looking at a VPI turntable as the final upgrade to my system.

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Hmm the famous question. Everyone has what seems to be a different answer. Hey that is what makes it fun. I’m a believer that you need to start with the source. To me what good is a 10K pair of speakers if I am driving it with my 1984 walkman. So I would think a preamp would be the key but again everyone has their own preference.


I might be one of the contrarians on the thread. I have always regarded my preamp as the nerve center of my system. All of my sources go into it, its output is the source for my power amp. Dollar for dollar if I’m thinking about an upgrade of my amplification chain, the nerve center gets priority.
My two cents.


… because he made source components and electronics! His first speakers, Linn Kan, were cobbled together from liquidation stock when Chartwell went bust. They were so bad, some people loved them.

Last time I looked, the sound came from the speakers. They need power to move those little cones back and forth. That where the amplifier comes in. Getting an amplifier first is like buying a tank of fuel and looking to buy a car to put it in. Sources just work on a GIGO basis. I decided over 10 years ago streaming will take over the world because great quality sound can be done so cheaply.

In 40 years of owning audio I’ve never owned an active pre-amp, only once owning a passive pre-amp, for 6 months that cost $500. I’ve never felt left out. My first hifi was an Aiwa Music Centre, and here in the UK integrated components have always been far more popular than separates, especially integrated amplifiers (often with phono), so I’ve always liked integrated units.

People rarely mention the volume control on PS Audio DACs, but I thought it was excellent and for several years ran a PWD Mk2 DAC straight into a power amplifier.

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It seems to me speaker abs power amp can last decades but source tech changes more frequently. So get best speakers you will like for long haul and then a great amp. But amps cost less so maybe start with the amp.


For what it is worth, I offer this from another thread , which sums up exactly what I mean:

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For me I don’t want a great pair of speakers for any amount of time if the music coming out of them isn’t that good.

Like I stated, everyone has their preference. Nothing wrong with that. There are no wrong answers, just preference.

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Well one thing I didn’t mention is I want more bass than my speakers are giving me right now. Hopefully without having to get subs (don’t have the room). So I wanted to change them first, then get amps/ preamps that match or go well together.

To answer your hidden question. Yeah, it is ok to have a more expensive preamp feeding the Emotiva power amp.

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This is such a loaded question. Having listened to friends’ systems who have different approaches to mine, there is seldom any right or wrong for getting best sound you can afford, but you have to be realistic about your limits. Equally restrictive are your budget, and your listening room. These influence what you can achieve in sound quality.

After that, I’m in the camp that the sound you get is determined first by the recording you’re playing and the sound is preserved or degrades as you go down the chain. One of the other things I’ve learned to be true is your listening room will restrict what sound you can get. This is where you need speakers that work well with your listening room.

My approach was best source (e.g. Direct to disc vinyl, DSD mastered recordings on DSD files, etc.), next would be best player (high end turn table, arm, MC cartridge, high speed tower computer, bit perfect software), next part of the chain is the phono preamp or high resolution DAC, next is the preamp, the amp and the loudspeakers.

For the rooms I’ve setup my systems, Vandersteens worked best without breaking the bank. Then I looked at what I had left over to spend. I got the expensive high end turntable, and MC cartridge. The arm was selected based on the cartridge, and I got the best phono stage I could afford, it was in the PS Audio IVH preamp. I got an amplifier that could do a decent job to drive the speakers and preserve the audiophile details.

A most impressive demonstration came from the local Mark Levinson dealer. Salesman asked me if I ever heard the Levinson? So he had to play it for me. He played them through modest speakers I could afford Polk Audio Monitor 10s. It was astonishing. The speakers played loud but they sounded really clear. The way they filled the demo room with sound made if feel like the band was playing for you in the room. The high end amp had absolute control over the drivers and made the speakers sound much better than you could imagine. I bought the speakers.

An equally impressive demo was a friend who upgraded his preamp. He had an Amber preamp and replaced it with an ARC SP8. It was astonishing how the sound stage blossomed not just in depth but in height. The ability to float sounds in mid air was spectacular. He had the high end table arm and cartridge and a Klyne head amp which allowed this to happen.

Later in life when I splurged for the high end preamp and power amp, they revealed EVERYTHING. If you had vibration issues, you heard microphonics which affected the performance, some sounds would be harsh, and some sounds wouldn’t be clear. Similar negative effects if you had AC issues. That’s on top of finding interconnects and speaker cables that work well in the system.

So if you are considering shelling out a lot of money for an upgrade, find a reputable dealer who can understand what you have to work with and what you are willing to spend. You might find it better to upgrade something different than what you were considering.

You’ll likely find it worthwhile to pay attention to how you have your system components set up. You may find your system might sound better than you thought. Try experimenting with speaker placement. Distance away from walls will change sound. Make sure speakers and other components are properly seated and not rocking back and forth. Check your shelves. They should be level. Do the tap test. Put one finger on the audio component and tap the shelf with your other hand. You want a dull thud and not be able to feel vibration. Otherwise, your shelves are vibrating causing “ringing”. Other things like that.


This is good advice, OP. In a similar vein, I highly recommend Jim Smith’s “Get Better Sound” in paperback or on DVD. My paperback copy is getting a bit dog-eared because I refer to it often to make sure I being consistent in observing good practices and plotting my kit upgrade path and room modifications in a manner that does not work at cross purposes. Highly recommended:

Most importantly, have some fun.

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Something you might want to play around with is speaker placement. There are many videos and techniques out there, but if you have a small room, this one will show you what your speaker soundstage can do.

L.O.T.S. Loudspeaker Optimization Techniques for Soundstage! - YouTube

It might just surprise you. Have fun!

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