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5 Best Preamps/Processors For Home Theater (Reviewed)

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A preamp is an integral part of immersive and Pro level home theatre sound.

If you want a more natural, richer, fuller, and more immersive sound without any noise and distortion then this is your companion to go with.

Apart from the sound it also keeps every audio component in the system healthy.

It makes low-level input signals digestive for the power amplifier. Digestive means it converts it into line level. The power amplifier can better digest these newly boosted signals received from the preamp.  

Our Top Tested & Reviewed Products At A Glance


Video Resolution

Audio Format

Supported Surround Sound Channels


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Marantz AV7706


8K Ultra HD

Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced



Marantz AV8805


4K Ultra HD

Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced



Anthem AVM 70


4K Ultra HD & Upgradable to 8K

Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX enhanced



The amplifier doesn’t get a low-level input signal directly from the source but it gets its digestive form from the preamp that’s why its health will last longer. 

The amplifier further amplifies the signals to power up the speakers. That’s why the speakers also get easy-to-digest signals. Due to preamp, they get more refined signals.

As a result, the amplifier and speakers stay healthy and throw a richer and more immersive sound that is not possible without a preamp in the chain.

I have bought many preamps for my business, installed them in my clients’ theatre rooms, and tested them out in my friends’ houses. That’s why I am the best person to educate you about them.

Before reviewing them. Let’s first discuss key points briefly.

What are preamp and processor?
A preamp just works on audio signals whereas preamp/processors work on both audio and video both. The processors are a more advanced form of preamps because they have a preamp and also process video. That’s why sometimes they are called Prepro.

Preamp/processors are different from AV receivers. AV receivers have a built-in power amp but the preamp/processors don’t.

All Products At A Glance – The Review Of Each Product Is Below This Table

Preamp/ProcessorVideo ResolutionAudio FormatSupported Surround Sound ChannelsRatings
Marantz AV77068K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, & IMAX enhanced11.24.9
Marantz AV88054K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, & IMAX enhanced13.24.9
Anthem AVM 704K Ultra HD & Upgradable to 8KDolby Atmos, DTS:X, & IMAX enhanced15.24.8
Yamaha CX-A52004K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X11.24.6
NAD Master Series M17 V2i4K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X11.23.9

1. Marantz AV7706 – Best Budget Home Theater Processor


Video support: 8K ultra HD | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D | HDMI ports: 8 inputs  | Wifi: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Streaming services: Internet radio, Deezer, Napster, Spotify, Apple Music, and much more | Audio channels: 11.2

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4.9Expert Score

Build Quality
Video Quality
Sound Quality
  • 8K/60 Hz and 4K/120 Hz video passthrough
  • All modern audio/video formats support
  • Need pro skills for connectivity and wire management
  • The mobile app cost $20. Yes, it is not FREE
It has all the same features as AV8805 + better and more modernized video features. But it has 2 fewer channels of support than that. 11.2 channel is pro and at the same time con too. Because it lowers the price and makes it the best for family entertainment nights. (You can read AV8805 features in the below 2nd product review)

Is It For You?

For those who want superior video quality with superior audio and are okay with 11.2 channels of audio. It is the Best fit For A Family Home Theater.

Build Quality

The build quality is the same as the AV8805. Same design, look, and material.

Video Quality

It is superior to the AV8805 when it comes to the video department. The refresh rate was better, the colors were richer and the contrast was more distinctive than the AV8805.

You need the best projector and the best viewing distance in combo with any processor to have the best video experience. Read my guides about them.

Sound Quality

The sound felt the same as AV8805. The sound was detailed and rich.

Unique Features Of This Processor

8K/60 Hz and 4K/120 Hz keep it apart

Detail Review Of Marantz AV7706

It is the best of the best and it provides 8K quality video and audio for 11.2 channels with additional two zones. The reason it is number one on this list is that it provides all the pro features at an affordable price and 11.2 channels are suitable channels for small to medium Dolby Atmos theater rooms. 88.4% of the American household has 1-3 rooms. So 11.2 channels are the best for the 88.4% of Americans living in houses and this figure is nearly the same for the UK, CA, AU, & NZ. Reference for this is below the FAQs section.

It has all the features that Marantz AV8805 has (You can read them in the below 2nd product review). That’s why I will not repeat the same features. I will just highlight those features in which it is the winner and has extras. I don’t want to waste your time.

It has all the audio/video formats, connectivity options, and controlling options that AV8805 has.

The box content is the same as well. That’s why go ahead and read the below av8805 review section for that.

 These are the similarities so what are the differences among them?

Difference between Marantz AV8805 & Marantz AV7706?

  1. The av8805 provides 13.2 channels with two zones while the AV7706 provides 11.2 channels with two zones.
  2. The AV7706 Provides a video of  8K/60 Hz pass-through and 4K/120 Hz pass-through. While the AV8805 provides a 4K/60 Hz passthrough.

I installed this for my client because he is ok with the 11.2 channels but he needs Top Notch video quality. He is a veteran and that’s why I have a lot of respect for him.

I tested it out with the movies. The detail of the sound was amazing. There were many more sounds in the woods full of winds. I was hearing the leaves hitting the ground in more detail. The sound quality was the same as the AV8805.

The 4K video quality was enhanced more than the AV8805. The refresh rate was amazing and the colors were richer and the contrast was better.

Video Review

2. Marantz AV8805 – Best For Surround Sound 13.2 Channels


Video support: 4K ultra HD | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D | HDMI ports: 8 inputs  | Wifi: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Streaming services: Internet radio, Deezer, Napster, Spotify, Apple Music, and much more | Audio channels: 13.2

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4.9Expert Score

Build Quality
Video Quality
Sound Quality
  • 13.2 Channels with 2 other zones
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • 8 HDMI inputs of 3D, 4K, and HDCP 2.2 compatibility
  • 3 outputs and one is eARC
  • Dolby Vision, HDR, and HLG video processing
  • DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced
  • Supports voice command controls of Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant
  • HEOS and Apple Airplay 2 support
  • Swift HDMI-CEC feature
  • Audyssey mic support
  • Power supply for streaming dongles
  • A dedicated mobile app for controlling
  • Pro-level connectivity skills required
  • Pro-level wire management is required
  • The mobile app is not free and it costs $20

Is It For You?

For those who are very serious about the audio experience of their home theater. This one is the blast from the future for many of us.

Build Quality

It is very beefy and heavy. Two persons are required to carry it comfortably. The body cover is made of strong metal. But it needs ventilation for cooling.

All the needed inputs/outputs are embedded. The ports with silver dots in its label frame are the outputs and all others without these dots are inputs.

The connectivity options that are installed in it truly win my heart.

Video Quality

I love the vivid colors on the screen. The 4K was delivered with fantastic and flawless contrast. 

The 3D was lifelike. I enjoyed it more than I have ever enjoyed in a professional cinema hall. Maybe it is because all my speakers are of the best quality in my theater room.

Sound Quality

I have never experienced the detail and accuracy of the sound this much before. The detail was so killing that I heard the sound of small tools on the handle of the door when a character in the movie was opening the door.

To have the perfect sound you must acoustically treat the theater room and also soundproof it. Read my guides about them.

Unique Features Of This Processor

  1. The diverse connectivity options
  2. The wide variety of 3D audio that it supports
  3. All major formats of video with 3D and 4K Ultra HD delivery
  4. 13.2 channel audio with 2 other zones

Detail Review Of Marantz AV8805

It provides a 13.2-channel facility with two additional zones.

It has all the major audio and video formats. it provides audio formats like DTS:X, Aura 3D, and Dolby Atmos. In the video formats, it provides Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG.

It has 8 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs. All HDMI inputs are compatible with 4K Ultra HD, 3D,  and HDCP 2.2 with a future upgrade to 2.3. 

The 1 HDMI output out of these three is ARC. This ARC Is eARC-enabled.

It has all the features and facilities that any home theatre enthusiast needs under the sun.

With this amount of channels you can play with it to have 7 on the ground and 6 above in the ceiling. You can even adjust the number to 8 speakers in the ceiling. This is incredible to have a completely immersive sound around you. 

With an additional two zones, you can have another zone in the bedroom or kitchen. 

It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity with HEOS and Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility. With HEOS and Apple Airplay2, you can stream music to the second zone and the main zone straight from the internet and streaming apps.

There is a plethora of music streaming apps that can be streamed to this AV processor VIA Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. 

Its remote is very ergonomically friendly but I like its voice command control and mobile app. That’s why I will talk more about those.

It can be controlled by Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or Amazon Alexa.

Its $20 app is available both in the Apple Store and Google Play Store. The app is robust and one of the best I have ever experienced. I was able to change the level and even the frequencies of individual speakers.

I was able to tweak the results of the Audyssey mic sound Optimisation.

At the front, this processor has a minimalist design and looks clean. But when you open the drop-down or below the bubble display, it can transform into a bad boy.

Behind the sliding door, it has controls for the main and other zones. It has buttons for preset sound modes and above the buttons, it has a larger display for information.

In the box, I got a remote control with batteries, user manual, cables guide, Audyssey Mic withstand, FM and a.m. antennas, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antenna, and the processor itself.

I installed this for one of my audiophile clients. He wants everything about the sound to be perfect and not lesser than that.

We tested it out with movies. The colors were alive and the contrast between the black and white was distinctive. The vivid colors were a treat to my eyes. The Dolby Vision format videos on Netflix were delivered flawlessly.

With this audio, my favorite scenes were transformed completely. The sound was so detailed and accurate. I was amazed by its detail when a character in the movie opened the door. I can hear The sound of small tools on the door handle.

When a dinosaur steps on the ground in the Jurassic Park movie. The step felt in my chest and when his foot displaced soil, I could hear the soil hitting the ground too.

I fell in love with it once again when I toggled the HDMI control on in the setup menu. After that processor turned on all the products in the chain automatically when it was turned on.

Video Review

3. Anthem AVM 70 – Best IMAX & Dolby Atmos Processor


Video support: 4K ultra HD and upgradeable to 8K | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX enhanced | HDMI ports: 7 inputs  | Wifi: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Streaming services: Internet radio, Deezer, Napster, Spotify, Apple Music, and much more | Audio channels: 15.2

Today’s Best Deals

Check Price On Amazon (Used Piece)

Buy On Crutchfield (New One)

4.8Expert Score

Build Quality
Video Quality
Sound Quality
  • Full, natural, and realistic sound with tight bass
  • Natural, vibrant, and alive video colors
  • DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, and IMAX enhanced audio
  • HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG 4K video and upgradeable to 8K
  • All needed inputs and outputs
  • Built-in Chromecast
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 15.2 channels with the second zone
  • Nice web browser interface instead of a setup menu on the screen
  • Very Expensive and usually family home theaters don’t need 15.2 channels
  • The ARC sound optimization needs pro tweaking
  • Heavy and probably two persons will be required for safety reasons
  • The web interface may be new and difficult for some

Is It For You?

For those who need the best audio for their theater and nothing less than that.

Build Quality

The outer frame is strong and sturdy. The whole body is well-ventilated. The front design is cool and all the buttons at the front are self-explanatory. 

Video Quality

I loved the video. I was not expecting this quality from it. The colors were vibrant, natural, and alive. 

Sound Quality

The sound was 3D and I loved the sound bubble around me. The sound was natural and the bass was tight. The bass was what I fell for. The sounds can be good with many preamps but this one knocks it out of the park with the bass quality.

The best processing needs the best speakers to go with it. It will do justice to it. Read my review of the best speakers.

Unique Features Of This Processor

  1. Built-in Chromecast
  2. Separate signals for two subwoofers

Detail Review Of Anthem AVM 70

This is the 3rd best preamp/processor right now available on the market. It provides 15.2 channels of audio with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX enhanced. It also provides a second zone.

It provides a 4K video and is upgradeable to 8K after a firmware update. It is compatible with HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG video in 4K format.

The Dolby Vision and Dolby Digital content of streaming apps can pass through from the processor to the display without any data loss. Because these data can travel decompressed due to the eARC capability of this processor. 

In eARC you get audio/video without any compression. You get the original form of it without cutting its edges.

It consists of 7 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs. All are HDCP 2.2, 4K, and 3D compatible.

It has Chromecast built-in and I love it very much. I can stream my favorite music and movies from PC or mobile directly to this processor.

Apart from Chromecast, it is compatible with Airplay2 as well. With this, you can stream music via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to the main and as well as to the second zone.

It comes with innovative ARC Technology. That can auto-calibrate the sound quality according to the environment of the theater room.

In the box you get a Warranty card, radio/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antennas, remote with batteries,  ARC sound calibrating system, quick setup guide, a tiny user manual, and a note for the complete online user manual.

My friend is an audiophile and he has this in his theatre room. I tested out its settings and delivered power.

I love the web browser interface of it. Every setting of this processor can be controlled by internet browser interference provided by Anthem. 

Now, I am no longer required to press clunky buttons on any remote to go from one option to another on my TV or projector screen. Now, I just have to fly the mouse cursor to choose between the options in the setup menu. This can truly save a lot of time for home theatre owners.

I was able to create 4 audio profiles for each purpose and condition. This feature is very convenient and much needed.

I played movies and the audio/video quality was superb. I felt the 3D formation of sound around me. The audio was so detailed, the dialogues were clear, and the sound effects were punchy. 

This processor has two separate signals for two subwoofers. That’s why I was able to feel the bass too in 3D formation. It felt like the bass was traveling from one corner to another corner of the room and from top to bottom. All other processors have two separate outputs for the subwoofer but they have only one signal for that.

The whole sound was realistic, natural, and full of tight bass. Man! Never had this quality of bass before. The preamp can process the bass signals but you will need the best subwoofer to throw it at you. Read my review about it.

The Dolby Vision content of streaming apps was stunning. The colors were vibrant, the whites were brighter and the blacks were darker than before.

Video Review

4. Yamaha CX-A5200 – Best For Dialogues Clarity


Video support: 4K ultra HD | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X | HDMI ports: 7 inputs  | Wifi: Yes | Bluetooth: Yes | Streaming services: Internet radio, Deezer, Napster, Spotify, Apple Music and much more | Audio channels: 11.2

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Check Price & Reviews On Amazon

4.6Expert Score

Build Quality
Video Quality
Sound Quality
  • 4K ultra HD video with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG
  • DTS:X and Dolby Atmos sound formation
  • 3D video support
  • Natural colors on the screen with great contrast
  • Clear dialogues with Boombastic sounding effects
  • Multi-zone audio and video with Airplay management
  • Not IMAX enhanced
  • No Auro 3D

Is It For You?

For those who want the best clarity of dialogue and sounds of the movies. If you can compromise on 13.2 channels and IMAX then this one can beat Marantz AV8805 in audio.

Build Quality

The build quality is fantastic. The casing is sturdy and firm. The design is one of the best. The front display looks cute to me.

Video Quality

The 4K video was amazing with this processor. The colors were so alive and natural. I loved the contrast because it was pleasing to my eyes.

Sound Quality

The dialogues were clear. I never missed low-sounding dialogues and heard them clearly. The background music stand out and the sound effects really won my heart. Because the sound effects helped the visuals very well.

You should also have the best in-ceiling speakers to have the 3D audio bubble experience. Read my review about it.

Unique Features Of This Processor

The dialogue’s clarity keeps it apart.

Detail Review Of Yamaha CX-A5200

It provides audio in 11.2 channels with an additional 2 zones and video in 4K. 

The audio is in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X format and the video is Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG.

It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity options. Due to this option, it can be controlled and music can be streamed to it wirelessly.

Due to Airplay2, you can stream music to the main and other zones Via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It can be controlled wirelessly by a dedicated mobile app or by voice commands through any Amazon Alexa device.

It has 7 HDMI inputs and 3 HDMI outputs. All HDMIs are HDCP 2.2, 4K, and 3D compatible. One output is eARC compatible after a firmware upgrade.

With music-cast speakers, you can connect surround speakers wirelessly to it.

In the box, you get a remote with batteries, a quick setup guide, an AM antenna, a Power cable, YPAO sound optimization tools, And the processor itself. The complete user manual can be downloaded from the Yamaha website.

At the front, it has two knobs for the input and volume. Between these knobs, it has a drop-down door.  Behind the door, It has a control panel. The whole processor can be controlled by this control panel without the use of a Remote. Here you will also get the port to tuck in in the YPAO calibration mic.

My friend has this in his theatre room.  I tested it out with movies. 

Due to its AI Technology. The dialogues were clear all other sounds in the movie were fuller and the bass was amazing. I have never experienced the bass like this before.

The video colors on the screen felt like a treat to my eyes and the contrast was deep. I love those projectors and receivers that provide me with an optimal level of contrast in the video and this processor truly delivers.

Video Review

5. NAD Master Series M17 V2i – Best For Streaming Services

NAD Master Series M17 V2i
4.4Expert Score

Build Quality
Video Quality
Sound Quality
  • Sound is immersive
  • All speakers blinded in the flow very well
  • HDR10 with 4k
  • Dolby Atmos is there but DTS:X after a firmware update
  • Faulty HDMI handshake
  • Not a very tight bass
  • DTS:X is provided after the firmware update
  • Not a nice number of HDMI


Video support: 4K ultra HD | Surround formats: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X | HDMI ports: 5 inputs  | Wifi: Yes | Streaming services: Internet radio, Deezer, Napster, Spotify, Apple Music, and much more | Audio channels: 11.2

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Buy On Crutchfield

Is It For You?

For those who are fans of NAD electronics. Not no other reason to buy it.

Build Quality

A good effort is put into the ventilation of this product. The frame is sturdy and a lot of aluminum is used.

But very few HDMI inputs are built-in.

Video Quality

The video was good and it was the only part that I completely enjoyed. The colors were great and the contrast was amazing. 

Sound Quality

The sound was immersive and constant across the room but the bass was not that much tight to give a realistic touch to the action happening on the screen.

Unique Features Of This Processor

The front Touch LED display keeps it apart.

Detail Review NAD Master Series M17 V2i

It is the second-best for 11.2 channels because I was not fully satisfied with its bass quality.

It provides Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio for 11.2 channels and an extra second zone. 

It provides HDR10 video in 4K format.

Although it comes with 2 remotes, one for the main zone and one for the second zone control, it can be controlled via Amazon Alexa voice commands too.

Content can be streamed to it via Wi-Fi from Apple devices by airplay2.

It is equipped with a BluOS device that can stream music from a plethora of streaming apps and internet radio.

It has 5 HDMI Inputs and 2 HDMI outputs. They all are 4K and HDCP 2.2 compatible.

In the box, you get a second zone control and a main zone control remote with batteries, a power cord, a user manual, a calibration mic, a BluOS dongle, a USB for a firmware update, a quick setup guide, and a warranty card.

My friend has this in his theatre room and I tested it out with movies.

I love the DiracLive sound Optimisation software that is available both for Mac and Windows.

I was able to tweak the sound of individual speakers on the software and then select the preset on the front touch display.

After Optimisation the movie sound was immersive. The sound feels like it is actually coming from the surroundings and not from the speakers. The flow of the sound from speaker to speaker was so constant that none of the speakers sounded different than the rest of the speakers.

But the bass never satisfied me. It was not able to give a realistic touch to movies. This might feel different to you because of your theater room environment but I am telling you what I felt.

unboxing video


Do I need a preamp?

You need a preamp if you want fuller, richer, and more natural sound with ease of burden on your amplifier. 

The preamp works on the incoming low-level signals to make them digestible for the amplifier. In this way, it eases the stress on the amplifier and also pushes the signals more refined to each speaker. In this way, each speaker gets the signals in the form that they need. That’s why they sound so much better.

This prolongs the life of the amplifier and the speakers as well.

Can I use my receiver as a preamp?

Almost all of the receiver has their preamp and amplifier. You can use its built-in preamp but it can’t deliver audiophile levels of results. It can only satisfy the needs of a normal home theater owner.

But audiophiles and pro home theater owners must go for separates to get that audiophile level of audio experience. Separates means using a separate preamp and amp in the chain.

Does a preamp improve sound quality?

Let’s discuss the sound equipment chain without a preamp. Here the Amplifier gets low-level signals and needs a lot of work to amplify them. That’s why the amplifier always stays under stress and can’t push desirable signals to the speakers.

Still, the sound can be impressive but not as immersive as you get with a preamp in the chain. When there is a preamp the sound feels richer, fuller, immersive, and more natural without any stress on the amp.

Can I use a preamp without an amp?

When your speakers are active then yes you can use only the preamp. Active speakers are those that have their own power amplifier built in them that’s why you can connect these directly to the preamp.

Here in this case you don’t need any external amp to connect to the preamp.

What's the difference between a preamp and a power amp?

The preamp just boosts the low-level signals to make it digestible for a power amp. The power amp increases the magnitude of these signals even more to drive the speakers.

The preamp is connected to the power amp and the power amp is connected directly to the speakers.

What is the difference between the preamp and the integrated amp?

The preamp doesn’t have a power amplifier built in. It needs a separate external power amp. But the integrated amp has the preamp and the power amplifier both built-in. When the preamp and power amp both are in the same product then it is an integrated amp.

How do I choose a preamp?

  1. Check if the preamp can be controlled in smart ways and provide support for all modern audio formats like Dolby Atmos, Aura3D, and DTS:X, and it is also IMAX enhanced. 
  2. If you need additional zones then check if it provides them.
  3. Check that it provides wifi, Bluetooth, and enough HDMI inputs and outputs that you need. 
  4. Check as well if it supports major streaming apps.

Helpful Resources For The FAQs To Read More

  1. This is my opinion, learn more here from MARANTZ site. (Resource for the first answer)
  2. This is was my opinion, Read this discussion on HomeTheaterShack. (Resource for the second answer)
  3. This was my opinion, read this discussion on Quora. (Resource for the third answer)
This article was first posted on
Ayaan Khan
Ayaan Khan

I'm Ayaan khan, a freelancer and a Computer Science degree holder from P.E.S. College. After my degree, I started an internship with my father in his home theater showroom. After working for a month I realized that this is the best job in the world for me and it could be turned into a passion. Fast forward to when my internship ended, I joined my father as a full-time home theater equipment tester. I test new equipment and approve it before it can be installed in the customer's house. I love to test equipment and sometimes love to install it by myself in the customer's theater room. I have the right experience and knowledge to learn from my articles. In my Free time I write & answer questions here on AVSFORUM. Every Article on Homelytainment is curated according to Homelytainment's Editorial Policy and Sponsorship Policy. If you have any questions for me. Reach out to my email (Support(AT)

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