Best Home Theater Preamp/Processor (Top 5 Reviewed)


Best Home Theater Preamp

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

If you want a more natural, richer, fuller, and 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.  

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.

Preamps/ProcessorsVideoAudioChannelsRatingsRead Details HereToday’s Best Deals
Anthem AVM 70 – Best for 15.2 Channels and Builtin Chromecast4K Ultra HD & Upgradable to 8KDolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX enhanced15.25/4.9Read DetailsCheck Price On CrutchfieldOpens in a new tab.
Marantz AV8805 – Best For 13.2 Channels4K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced13.25/4.9Read DetailsCheck Price On AmazonOpens in a new tab.
Marantz AV7706 – Best for 11.2 Channels8K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced11.25/4.8Read DetailsCheck Price On AmazonOpens in a new tab.
Yamaha CX-A5200 – Best For Dialogues Clarity4K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X11.25/4.6Read DetailsCheck Price On AmazonOpens in a new tab.
NAD Master Series M17 V2i – 2nd Best For 11.2 Channels4K Ultra HDDolby Atmos, DTS:X11.25/3.9Read DetailsCheck Price On CrutchfieldOpens in a new tab.

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.

Anthem AVM 70 – Best 8K processor with Builtin Chromecast

best 8k processor for home theater

Specification

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

Reasons To Buy

  1. Full, natural, and realistic sound with tight bass
  2. Natural, vibrant, and alive video colors
  3. DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, and IMAX enhanced audio
  4. HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG 4K video and upgradeable to 8K
  5. All needed inputs and outputs
  6. Built-in Chromecast
  7. Builtin wifi and Bluetooth
  8. 15.2 channels with the second zone
  9. Nice web browser interface instead of setup menu on the screen

Reasons To Avoid

  1. The ARC sound optimization needs pro tweaking
  2. Heavy and probably two persons will be required for safety reasons
  3. The web interface may be new and difficult for some

Who Is It For?

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

This is the 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 upgradable 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 in it. 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 the 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/Wifi/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 setting 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 the 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 of 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 subwooferOpens in a new tab. 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.

Build

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

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

Sound

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 speakersOpens in a new tab..

Feature That Keeps It Apart

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

Marantz AV8805 – Best For 13.2 Channels

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Specification

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

Today’s Best Deals

Check Price & Reviews On AmazonOpens in a new tab.

Reasons To Buy

  1. 13.2 Channels with 2 other zones
  2. Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity
  3. 8 HDMI inputs of 3D, 4K, and HDCP 2.2 compatibility
  4. 3 outputs and one is eARC
  5. Dolby Vision, HDR, and HLG video processing
  6. DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, Auro3D, and IMAX enhanced
  7. Supports voice command controls of Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google assistant
  8. HEOS and Apple Airplay 2 support
  9. Swift HDMI-CEC feature
  10. Audyssey mic support
  11. Power supply for streaming dongles
  12. Dedicated mobile app for controlling

Reasons To Avoid

  1. Pro-level connectivity skills required
  2. Pro-level wire management is required
  3. The mobile app is not free and it costs $20

Who Is It For?

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.

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

It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity with HEOS and Apple airplay2 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.

By 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 opens the door. I can hear The sound of small tools in the door handle.

When a dinosaur steps on the ground in the Jurassic Park movie. The step feels in my chest and when his foot displaces soil, I can 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 was turning on all the products in the chain automatically when it was turned on.

Build

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

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

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 in 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 roomOpens in a new tab. and also soundproofOpens in a new tab. it. Read my guides about them.

Feature That Keeps It Apart

  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

Marantz AV7706 – Best for 11.2 Channels

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Specification

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

Today’s Best Deals

Check Price & Reviews On AmazonOpens in a new tab.

Reasons To Buy

Note: it has all the same features as AV8805. That’s why repeating the same stuff doesn’t make sense but it has the upper hand over it in the video department.

  1. 8K/60 Hz and 4K/120 Hz video passthrough
  2. All modern audio/video formats support

Reasons To Avoid

  1. Need pro skills for connectivity and wire management
  2. Mobile app cost $20

Who Is It For?

For those who want superior video quality with superior audio and they are ok with 11.2 channels audio.

It is the second-best by Marantz and it provides 8K quality video and audio for 11.2 channels with additional two zones.

It has all the features that Marantz AV8805 has. That’s why I will not repeat the same features because 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 above 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 passthrough. 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.

Build

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

Video

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 projectorOpens in a new tab. and the best viewing distanceOpens in a new tab. in combo with any processor to have the best video experience. Read my guides about them.

Sound

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

Feature That Keeps It Apart

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


Yamaha CX-A5200 – Best For Dialogues Clarity

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Specification

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

Today’s Best Deals

Check Price & Reviews On AmazonOpens in a new tab.

Reasons To Buy

  1. 4K ultra HD video with Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG
  2. DTS:X and Dolby Atmos sound formation
  3. 3D video support
  4. Natural colors on the screen with great contrast
  5. Clear dialogues with Boombastic sounding effects
  6. Multi-zone audio and video with Airplay management

Reasons To Avoid

  1. Not IMAX enhanced
  2. No Auro 3D

Who Is It For?

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

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

The audio is of 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, 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 and 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.

Build

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

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

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

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

Feature That Keeps It Apart

The dialogue’s clarity keeps it apart.


NAD Master Series M17 V2i – Best For Streaming Services

NAD Master Series M17 V2i

Specification

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

Reasons To Buy

  1. Sound is immersive
  2. All speakers blinded in the flow very well
  3. HDR10 with 4k
  4. Dolby Atmos is there but DTS:X after a firmware update

Reasons To Avoid

  1. Faulty HDMI handshake
  2. Not very tight bass
  3. DTS:X is provided after the firmware update
  4. Not a nice number of HDMI

Who Is It For?

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

It is the second-best for 11.2 channels because I was not fully satisfied by 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 remotes with batteries, power cord, user manual, calibration mic, BluOS dongle, a USB for a firmware update, quick setup guide, and 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 the 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.

Build

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

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

Sound

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.

Feature That Keeps It Apart

The front Touch LED display.

FAQs

Do I need a preamp?

Yes, 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. By 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.

This is my opinion, learn more here from MARANTZ siteOpens in a new tab.


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

This is was my opinion, Read this discussion on HomeTheaterShackOpens in a new tab.


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 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.

This was my opinion, read this discussion on QuoraOpens in a new tab.


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 builtin 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. And 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 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, DTS:X, and it is also IMAX enhanced. 
  2. If you need additional zones then check if it provides.
  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.

Ayaan Khan

Hi, it's Ayaan khan a freelancer and a computer science degree holder from P.E.S. College. I write articles on Homelytainment.com. The facts and research is provided by Daniel and the writing job is mine.

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