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Why are preamps so expensive?

restorer-john

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Although the device was developed 45 years ago, its performance, e.g. distortion factor < 0.003%, noise figures etc. have only really been surpassed in the past few years.

The power amplifier SE-A1 also set standards, real 350W class A continuous power (20 - 20,000Hz) at 4 and 8 ohms/channel, damping factor 100 at 8 ohms, 275 watts input power in idle mode, nominal distortion factor 0.003% (at nominal power, 20 Hz - 20 kHz), signal-to-noise ratio 120dB, and a total harmonic distortion of 0.01% with a power bandwidth of 5Hz-100kHz (not only at 1kHz ;o).
That was 1977!

The figures published as specifications were also extremely conservative. They were guaranteed worst case numbers, unlike the best case, single frequency numbers published by so-called SOTA manufacturers these days.

Distortion numbers have not got better in today's 'SOTA' proper preamplifiers. And proper preamplifiers have a range of controls, inputs, tone circuitry, filters and high quality RIAA stages. The single stage, op-amps-in-a-can being held up as 'preamplifiers' by the un-informed in 2022 make me laugh.

Here's an example of one of my vintage (1983) Denon preamplifier's specs:

1651876868845.png


I cannot measure the THD of my unit- it is below the residual of my test gear and much below 0.001%, at any frequency. All I can see is mains spurs which are the only factor in reducing is S/N. And they are so far down it doesn't matter.

Preamplifiers were a solved problem 45 years ago and have only got more and more stripped down, devoid of actual usefulness and basically a waste of money for anyone who actually has more than one or two pieces of HiFi gear.
 

restorer-john

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No, Panasonic's professional audio division was Ramsa, and if you needed a signal generator, there were many less expensive ways to get one.

Actually no. Ramsa was not even thought of, letalone incorporated in 1977 when this preamplifier had already been designed, produced and marketed. Ramsa did not come into being in Japan until 1979 and nowhere else until 1980.
 

Steve Rogers

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The figures published as specifications were also extremely conservative. They were guaranteed worst case numbers, unlike the best case, single frequency numbers published by so-called SOTA manufacturers these days.

Distortion numbers have not got better in today's 'SOTA' proper preamplifiers. And proper preamplifiers have a range of controls, inputs, tone circuitry, filters and high quality RIAA stages. The single stage, op-amps-in-a-can being held up as 'preamplifiers' by the un-informed in 2022 make me laugh.

Here's an example of one of my vintage (1983) Denon preamplifier's specs:

View attachment 205011

I cannot measure the THD of my unit- it is below the residual of my test gear and much below 0.001%, at any frequency. All I can see is mains spurs which are the only factor in reducing is S/N. And they are so far down it doesn't matter.

Preamplifiers were a solved problem 45 years ago and have only got more and more stripped down, devoid of actual usefulness and basically a waste of money for anyone who actually has more than one or two pieces of HiFi gear.
I understand that for someone with one source and a power amp its a waste because they can use a dac such as dx3pro+, but what does someone with multiple sources and a poweramp do?
 

restorer-john

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but what does someone with multiple sources and a poweramp do?

They buy a decent preamplifier I guess. :)

Rotel make a few.


What you are paying for with preamplifiers such as the Rotel above, is digital sources. The specifications are average at best and don't come remotely close to analog only preamps from the past unfortunately.
 
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Roland68

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No, Panasonic's professional audio division was Ramsa, and if you needed a signal generator, there were many less expensive ways to get one.

As unlikely as it may seem, this extremely costly preamplifier was intended as a "statement" product, and I'm aware of no profession that needed it's particular set of features. Products like these were money-losers, but they brought prestige to the brand and helped to sell more ordinary products. Nakamichi, Sony and Kenwood/Trio also produced costly and exotic flagship products. In the automotive world, the 2000GT was Toyota's statement product in the 1960s, and around the same time, Mazda introduced their first Wankel-powered Cosmo sports car.

Japanese companies still produce "statement" products today, though they're generally much more modest in scope: Sony's Alpha 1 camera sells for a relatively modest 5999 USD. Some people purchase them to photograph the grandchildren.
Of course you can have your opinion.
In reality, I met a developer around 2001 who had been using this device for his developments and as a reference for over 20 years. I also know from him that most of these devices were supplied to audio manufacturers/developers and universities. Among other things, also to two well-known manufacturers in Germany and the USA.
Unfortunately, most of these developers are now deceased.
 

Roland68

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If you look at a company like NAD which is good for value you can buy:

NAD C 165BEE pre amp for $1200 + NAD 268 power amp for $999
NAD 368 which is basically the 268 and a pre amp combined (and with a dac and bluetooth too) for $1200

The 368 even offers a stereo RCA preamp output for connecting a separate amplifier or powered subwoofer!!

Other companies are similar - you play a real premium for a pre amp as opposed to an intergrated or power amp with DAC (that can act as a pre as pointed out). It looks to me pre amps are a real rip off.
Without wanting to offend you, but that is a definite apples-and-oranges comparison.
The NAD C 165BEE is a very complex preamplifier in which one of the most capable developers (unfortunately passed away 3 1/2 years ago) and his team invested several hundred hours of development time. The technical effort in all areas, solutions and components speak for themselves. With so-called high-end manufacturers, you pay a multiple for such complex devices.

The preamp section of the NAD C 368 consists of a simple input section with phono amp and input switching, an NJW1194Volume CONTROLLER and 2 OPAmp. The relays used in the C 165BEE alone are significantly more expensive.
This should not say anything about the performance of the two devices. The NAD C 368 is a great device with a very complete equipment.
With the C 165BEE, the developer has simply shown what is possible for this price. The components used are not exactly cheap and the costs for the development should be in the 6-digit range. Due to the smaller number of units, the profit from the C 165BEE project will certainly be lower than from the C 368 project, both overall and per unit.
 

Steve Rogers

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Without wanting to offend you, but that is a definite apples-and-oranges comparison.
The NAD C 165BEE is a very complex preamplifier in which one of the most capable developers (unfortunately passed away 3 1/2 years ago) and his team invested several hundred hours of development time. The technical effort in all areas, solutions and components speak for themselves. With so-called high-end manufacturers, you pay a multiple for such complex devices.

The preamp section of the NAD C 368 consists of a simple input section with phono amp and input switching, an NJW1194Volume CONTROLLER and 2 OPAmp. The relays used in the C 165BEE alone are significantly more expensive.
This should not say anything about the performance of the two devices. The NAD C 368 is a great device with a very complete equipment.
With the C 165BEE, the developer has simply shown what is possible for this price. The components used are not exactly cheap and the costs for the development should be in the 6-digit range. Due to the smaller number of units, the profit from the C 165BEE project will certainly be lower than from the C 368 project, both overall and per unit.
on the contrary, Thx for explaining.
 
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