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Why are preamps so expensive?

Cbdb2

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To what extent does quality of components impact production cost?
It would be interesting to see what the components in these things actually cost. The circuit boards are as cheap as in the $100 mixers (and the quality will be similar). Same for the connectors. Switches, cheap. Even a very good 10 watt PS cheap. You might want to spend some money on a good pot, you only need one. So you spend 30 times what they spent on that mixers pots and your still around the same point as the mixer. Less than $20 in parts or they couldn't sell it for $100.
 
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I'd find it hard to imagine using that for simple playback. I don't record or DJ, so many of those functions would be superfluous for me. I understand the pricing point, though. A "mid-level" audiophile preamp would be the NAD C 165BEE at US $1100.

So it's a $1,600with/remote version of the venerable Hafler DH-110 which had a performance/price ratio in the stratosphere. Wayyy overpriced. So it's a high-margin joy for NAD to sell. Yup. Audiophile wannabees just wanna spend $$$.
 

Angsty

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No kidding, whats your point?
You said "Don't know what he was talking about. The components only cost a lot if there audiophool components. What costs a lot for most of these devices is the marketing."

My counterpoint is that Amir was not simply talking about the components cost.
 

Angsty

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So it's a $1,600with/remote version of the venerable Hafler DH-110 which had a performance/price ratio in the stratosphere. Wayyy overpriced. So it's a high-margin joy for NAD to sell. Yup. Audiophile wannabees just wanna spend $$$.
I'm certainly not defending the price; even WhatHifi? said the NAD was "not the last word in transparency at this price" and "unimpressive feel and finish for the money". What I find harder to swallow is that NAD operates and sells its products at a higher gross margin than its near competitors such as Rotel and Cambridge Audio, which have similarly priced products. It may be fair to claim that ALL of them as a group have a much higher selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) than they should have for their cost of goods sold, but they do have a different business model than lower-overhead businesses.

Audio may be a hobby for most of us, but it is a business for them. It's fair for any consumer to question if they are getting appropriate value from a seller's product, but to suggest they are doing so in a way that's "high margin" requires a more rigorous analysis. We'd insist on that rigor for product performance claims, wouldn't we?
 
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JeffS7444

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I built one of these in 2020, and was fortunate to get the case, knobs and other parts as shown. I initially thought it would be an easy weekend build, but it took me considerably longer, and the cost, not including my labor, was not trivial.
http://www.signaltransfer.freeuk.com/preamp.htm
But while I didn't get balanced i/o or remote control, I got a parametric equalizer, mm/mc phono, a processor loop, and a headphone amplifier. When you build something like this, you really begin to appreciate how costly parts like relays, film capacitors and heatsinks can be.
_DSC5262.jpg
 

Angsty

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I built one of these in 2020, and was fortunate to get the case, knobs and other parts as shown. I initially thought it would be an easy weekend build, but it took me considerably longer, and the cost, not including my labor, was not trivial.
http://www.signaltransfer.freeuk.com/preamp.htm
But while I didn't get balanced i/o or remote control, I got a parametric equalizer, mm/mc phono, a processor loop, and a headphone amplifier. When you build something like this, you really begin to appreciate how costly parts like relays, film capacitors and heatsinks can be.
View attachment 201625
That's a lovely pre-amp. How do you like it now that it's done? Its a shame they don't sell the case anymore.
 

pjug

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Just because parts cost might allow something to be built for a certain price doesn't mean it is worthwhile for a company to make it. Say you can make $100 margin (including all costs, overhead and labor etc.) on a device. If the market is small (say you can sell 1000/yr) is it worth it to make just $100K per year? Certainly not for a larger company. Maybe it is for a very tiny company, but can they make an attractive preamp that sells for $200 and nets them $100? That would be tough for a small operation.

My company has 2 people and 1 part timer. Even so, no way would we invest our resources in something that only netted us $100K per year.

In other parts of the world, the considerations might be a little different. But still if the market for a product is small it's hard to offer a cheap solution.
 

Angsty

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Just because parts cost might allow something to be built for a certain price doesn't mean it is worthwhile for a company to make it. Say you can make $100 margin (including all costs, overhead and labor etc.) on a device. If the market is small (say you can sell 1000/yr) is it worth it to make just $100K per year? Certainly not for a larger company. Maybe it is for a very tiny company, but can they make an attractive preamp that sells for $200 and nets them $100? That would be tough for a small operation.

My company has 2 people and 1 part timer. Even so, no way would we invest our resources in something that only netted us $100K per year.

In other parts of the world, the considerations might be a little different. But still if the market for a product is small it's hard to offer a cheap solution.
Agree, which is why a US-made Schiit Freya S at $650 should be considered something of a marvel. Schiit, selling directly to small markets, gets to spread a lot of fixed cost to other products, making it possible to put this preamp into small batch production at reasonable cost. They sell a lot more Manis and Modis, I’d bet, so those products likely hold up the house.

The price of a preamp has to do with a lot more than the assembled parts.
 

Angsty

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One will pay $28000 for APX555. Is it a good price, considering it is unable to measure distortion of SOTA linear circuits?
I guess that depends on what you can make by selling the results you find using it.
 

JeffS7444

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That's a lovely pre-amp. How do you like it now that it's done? Its a shame they don't sell the case anymore.
I think of it as a lovely old-fashioned thing, in the sense of being a purely analog device, but it works great. There is no CPU here; not so much as an optical encoder or membrane switch: Source selection is via a chunky ganged switch.
 

Angsty

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I think of it as a lovely old-fashioned thing, in the sense of being a purely analog device, but it works great. There is no CPU here; not so much as an optical encoder or membrane switch: Source selection is via a chunky ganged switch.
I guess I’m just an old-fashioned kind of guy. A reminder - I have a Bryston BP-25 that started production more than 20 years ago!
 
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Vacceo

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Maybe. I think it's all in the ADC and how well it works. A 24-bit ADC should do a good enough job to allow for inaudible variances downstream. I have a 16-bit Parasound Zphono USB that does not sound as good as my more conventional MM phonos. I don't have the testing equipment to measure the differences.
In this configuration, the distortion inherent in vynil reproduction will get digitalized too, right? I mean, it's not that you get some sort of CD out of the LP just because the signal turns digital first and analog again.
 

Angsty

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In this configuration, the distortion inherent in vynil reproduction will get digitalized too, right? I mean, it's not that you get some sort of CD out of the LP just because the signal turns digital first and analog again.
Yes, that's correct. You get the distortion and noise of the vinyl, the turntable/tonearm, the cartridge and the analog amplification all before you get to the ADC. My concern about the ADC is that too low a sample depth may make it harder to do digital amplification without further distortion.

To be candid, my issues with the Zphono USB could be more in the analog amplification than in the ADC. Amir measured the version without ADC and found it to be a middling performer.


I was not really impressed with the Zphono USB and it's possible that the added circuitry could have negatively impacted the analog performance.

As a phono preamp, it was an inexpensive one so I felt no real let-down that it did not perform as well as one costing five times more at retail. The matching Parasound ZPre3 costs about US $550.

 

Talisman

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It's exactly the same question I've been asking myself these days.
I bought a hypex NC252 module and I wanted a nice preamp with a good large motorized volume knob and several selectable inputs .... I haven't found anything under 1000 euros, it's an absurdly high figure for what a preamp has to do.
I decided to use the pre out of my cxa61, which has exactly everything I need, plus a power amp section and it cost 899 euros.
Why should a similar case, but without a power amplifier cost 1200/1500 euros? It makes no sense, the only explanation I have given myself is that using preamp plus power amp is the prerogative of the most advanced audiophiles and more willing to spend money, in short, it is a price for chickens to pluck.
 

Angsty

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It's exactly the same question I've been asking myself these days.
I bought a hypex NC252 module and I wanted a nice preamp with a good large motorized volume knob and several selectable inputs .... I haven't found anything under 1000 euros, it's an absurdly high figure for what a preamp has to do.
I decided to use the pre out of my cxa61, which has exactly everything I need, plus a power amp section and it cost 899 euros.
Why should a similar case, but without a power amplifier cost 1200/1500 euros? It makes no sense, the only explanation I have given myself is that using preamp plus power amp is the prerogative of the most advanced audiophiles and more willing to spend money, in short, it is a price for chickens to pluck.
Using an integrated amp that allows for pre-out is a smart solution. I had a similar circumstance with my Bryston integrated - the preamp only version (BP16) costs just as much, if not more, for the same circuitry that’s in the B100. Preamps are a more niche market than integrateds, so niche pricing applies.
 

JeffS7444

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Whats the labour cost done by robot's in China. And how is it more than this $129 CND mixer?

Well shoot, now that you've got me thinking about using mixers, I am fascinated by this thing:
https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0BV2
It's extreme overkill for home hifi use, and yet at ~3500 USD, it's easily within many audiophile budgets, and how many audiophile preamps allow i/o connections to be located remotely, connected to the console by skinny ethernet cables? Love the use of touch screen for channel balance of stereo sources, and at around the 16:00 mark of the video, plugins are demonstrated.
 

Cbdb2

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Steve Rogers

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I too am bemused at pre amp prices. It sounds like preamps are expensive because people are prepared to pay for them. On the other hand who know how good the cheap ones are, nobody wants to screw up a nice system because pre amp is adding some distortion. Maybe this is something Amir can help if anyone can send him one to measure. For example here is a cheap one on ali express - who knows if its any good. Here is a bit more expensive (although still cheap) one from audiophonics whose stuff gets a good write up here. However many members control power amps from DACS so that is what I will try, although that audiophoinics one is tempting......
 

tomchris

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While I trust Amir, you can get a 150w x 2 @ 8 ohm Hypex amp fully built for less than the Freya

As a non-electrical engineer, I have a hard time squaring away that something that generates that much power costs less than something that essentially gives you multiple plug-ins and volume control. It feels like the power amp involves all kinds of complicated hardware and the preamp is, effectively, a switch and a volume knob. Please, help me understand!

We are fortunate that we live in a time where manufacturers such as Hypex, Purifi, Topping and Shiit have provided consumers with some really good inexpensive products. If you are capable you can even design and make your own thing to some degree.

As you may recognise, there are many consumer goods where prices have risen and others where prices have gone down, not necessaily in line with what is easily made/achieved should be relavely inexpensive. It is always in the manufacturers interest to maximize profits, whatever the cost.

Let me counter your question by asking: What do you need/want from a preamp? Does the product exist? Do you find the price reasonable?
 
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DesertHawk

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We are fortunate that we live in a time where manufacturers such as Hypex, Purifi, Topping and Shiit have provided consumers with some really good inexpensive products. If you are capable you can even design and make your own thing to some degree.

As you may recognise, there are many consumer goods where prices have risen and others where prices have gone down, not necessaily in line with what is easily made/achieved should be relavely inexpensive. It is always in the manufacturers interest to maximize profits, whatever the cost.

Let me counter your question by asking: What do you need/want from a preamp? Does the product exist? Do you find the price reasonable?
It's a fair question. At the risk of sounding snarky, I really do understand supply and demand and admittedly don't understand manufacturing audio equipment.

But my question basically boils down to:

A preamp = "electrical guts" + connectors + manufacturing

A power amp = "different electrical guts" + connectors + manufacturing

As an outsider, it seems like the "guts" in the power amp should cost more. It also seems like supply/demand shouldn't be drastically different (if you are in the market for a power amp, you probably will want a preamp/if you can manufacture a power amp, you can manufacture a preamp)

Maybe a better question is why aren't power amps more expensive?
 
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