another rookie question - preamp or or power amp

I have a decent integrated amp ("decent" - to my ears). SS, 50Watts to 8 Ohms. It  has a preamp output. 

I have been looking at used power amps and preamps in the 2-400 dollar range.  

For example: the Parasound 2125 power amp, the Parasound P3

This is an OR question. Which choice will yield a better improvement,

1) if I put a preamp before my integrated so the integrated acts as the power amp

or 2) if I use my integrated as a preamp to a power amp?

It's also a choice to sell my integrated and save up until I can buy both a power amp and a preamp, but obviously I am itching to try one of the above options. 

My room is 15x13 so I am not sure I need a big power amp (big: 100Watts?)



Get both when you can ....from the same manufacturer....they will have been designed to work well together

You dont mention your speakers then it is difficult to recommend an amplifier ...

By curiosity which are they ? 😊 Efficient one or not ?

Unlike many people i had reduce the size of my room and speakers and i had never been so happy , even if my soundstage is not as spectacular as in my past acoustic room this is satisfying and surprizingly clearer because my past speakers were old and i listened now in near listening field ...The small  active  modified speakers i own had other qualities compared to my past speakers...

Then downgrading is not necessarily loosing on all counts ...





Why not just upgrade to a better integrated? Parasound Hint for example. Or a Luxman. Hegel H190 is reasonably priced on a used market. You will probably get more bang for your buck that way. 


In this case, upgrading to a better (used) integrated makes the most ense to me.




@audphile1 @stuartk

I thought separates were the better direction. But I understand the rationale.

My logic is, I am trying to upgrade one tiny step at a time. First I would get a better power amp or better preamp than what’s inside my current integrated, and then the other component. E.g. when my current integrated sells.

Right now, I couldn’t buy an integrated that’s a step up in any aspect, but $400 on the used market could buy me a decent power amp or preamp,

+1 for upgrading your integrated @grislybutter


TMR has an excellent reputation ... perhaps you could sell your gear to them and pull down some better stuff!


You already  had some answers by members friends  here ...

And i think if you choose well a 400 bucks a power amplifier will go a long road ...😊

But take the time to decide between the power-amp and preamp option and the only integrated ...The best option can wait for you then wait for it reading about these choices and the market offerings ...

If i had money i will buy a LTA Berning  ZOTL tube pre-amp + S.S. power amp ...



i live well with a low cost headphone and speakers system and i lack the experience to advise you about amplification and pre-amplification for sure... my best advise would be as i did,take a long time to pick it and read a lot.... I was happy only after doing this exploration between choices ... Dont let the fever for change push you to act prematurely ...

I wish you the best Christmas for you and your family ...🎄



@grislybutter one tiny step at a time doesn’t get you the upgrade you’re hoping for. Unfortunately that’s true in this hobby. It will get you possibly something different but not necessarily better.
Are the separates better than the integrated isn’t an easy question to answer without knowing your budget, functionality and features you’re looking for, speaker power rating requirements (Dynaudio love power btw), etc.

In the example of Hegel H190, you get enough power to drive your speakers, good low noise design and an excellent built in dac. Going with separates and adding an amp to your current integrated will result a bottleneck presented by the pre-out section of your integrated. I don’t know what it is you have now but substitute Hegel H190 with whatever other integrated (used) your budget would allow if you had sold your current amp and added whatever it is you wanted to spend on the amp. Don’t get hung up on thinking the integrated is a sub optimal approach. It’s not. 

What is your current integrated?

Do you feel the need for more power? 

Maybe just looking for a different sound?

@mahgister Merry Christmas to you too!

@ozzy62 right. I know it won't buy much. I thought a Parasound 2125 power amp, the Parasound P3 would be an upgrade.

@mesch it's a Denon receiver. It has what I prefer, it's 2 channel, no phono, with preamp, sounds great. I am looking for a little warmer sound and power = more effortless mids

@audphile1 I see. I don't think a used Hegel H190 will go under $3000 in the near future, I checked hifishark. That's almost 8 times my budget. 

I guess I can conclude that for my budget I can't do much. Still, I was curious if preamp or amp would yield the bigger improvement. 

Another consideration is, I sold some old gear, I have about $400, if I don't use it, it will be gone soon. A pipe will break, a medical need or emergency trip will arise, etc. it will be used for a necessity  

Thanks again everyone!

There are some really good integrated amps, but there are advantages in going with separates too.  Which is better is a depends on the particular component in question.  If you get another integrated, it could be an upgrade, or it could be a sideways step.  Ultimately, I opted for separates and have never regretted it.  There's a lot more flexibility with separates, and the physical and electrical isolation is a plus.  

@audphile1 as I wrote above it’s a 2 channel denon receiver, from the 90s, with a preamp out. 50Watts into 8Ohm

@knotscott I am trying trying trying the separates route but everyone pushes back :)

@dekay thanks!

Knowing what i know now i will go with separate for speakers or active speakers with preamplifier + headphone out ( which is what i own ) ...For many reasons ...

Flexibility, tube -S.S. combined, tone controls equalizers addition , top preamplification stage superior to most integrate at some price point ...

Also upgrading scale is easier with 2 pieces than one ...

And i own a top Sansui alpha 607i integrated where all is very good...but i did not have the model upscale Sansui where pre is separable from the power section alas!... I use it only with my headphone now anyway which are impossible to drive well with most headphone amplifier if not all ... I know i tried for one day with one of the best tubes headphone amp existing and i fail ( no comparison at all) and return back to the headphone out of the 100 watts Sansui after a heavy lost of money ( almost 300 bucks) ...


At your budget, I would get these: Kenwood Basic M1 Stereo Power Amplifier and Kenwood Basic C1 Stereo Pre Amp SET | eBay

I owned them when they first came out in the 80’s and doubt that you’ll find a better sounding combination at that price. They were highly revered in the audio community at the time. The variable loudness is a great feature also. The Parasound that you are interested in has a quite high THD (total harmonic distortion). Not in the same league in my humble opinion.  I hope you find what you are looking for.

thanks @ellajeanelle I was hoping to get one component for about $400, to upgrade and then later on upgrade the other component

thanks OP ...

I prefer the look of my other Sansui AU 7700... But i use it no more for now ...

The alpha 607i is a notch over it though in all aspects save flexibility...

It was so amazing that he drives better my headphone K340 than one of the best tube headphone amplifier on the market ...It takes me minute to compare because he beat it on the spot... I never imagined that an headphone out of a 100 watts speakers amplifier will beat a top tube headphone  amplifier with not even a comparison because i lost near 300 bucks in this trial comparison ( save the ratio noise /signals was better on the tube amp because his separate linear power supply was a top notch one). but all others characteristics were better with the Sansui , for example the out of the head impression, the timbre, the deep bass the imaging and soundstage ... The alpha was the top of the Sansui history ... mine is only the first basic model ... Imagine the rare top one existing only in Japan at high price even after 25 years or more ... In my headphone it is evident that the sound is tube like even if it is an S.S. amp... The best realistic timbre i listen too speakers included ...

@mahgister the Sansui looks awesome!


I had always thought that conventional wisdom dictates that "getting it right up front first" yielded the most notable sonic improvements.  And by that logic, the preamp section would be the place to start.

Is there any possibility to try before you buy?  Or to possibly buy from some place like Music Direct and return if things don't work out like you want them to?

grislybutter OP: If looking for an amp only, take a look at a Vintage Denon POA 2200, if you can find one or an Adcom GFA 555.  They are around your price range used and in a different (higher) league than that Parasound. No offense to you or anyone, but Parasound is geared more toward home theater than hi fi. 

. . . to relate my own limited experience, I got into separates in '94 and it was an immediate entrance down the vacuum tube rabbit hole.  Except for the preamp.  Anyway, since then, I have only owned three different tube amps (I still own two of them) and 3 different preamps (and I still own all three of them), so I am not trying to come off as the know-all/be-all last word of wisdom.

My first upgrade (it was an amp ugrade) was a major equipment upgrade.  Definite expansion of width and depth and height of soundstage . . . but still sort of missing something that I thought/knew must be out there.  At that time I was using a B&K digital HT (Dolby Prologic) pre. It didn't sound bad, it didn't sound good, it just sounded. I came across a real affordable deal on a VAC two channel preamp with a pair of 12AX7s from Audio Advisor so I ordered it and I truly WANTED it to sound good.  It didn't.  Nails-on-a-chalkboard.  I sent it back.  In '99 I came across one of the few local dealers (he no longer exists as such) who had a used and wierdly modded Cary SLP90 for sale so I auditioned it for a weekend.  It had one of the six tubes basically out, and the cabling the dealer sent me home with (an adapter to go from RCA out to balanced in on the pre) was totally wrong, but despite all that, and the fact that all of the above made it sound like hammered crap, it truly sounded musical.  Based on the changes I felt I was going to have make, I made the dealer an offer that he accepted.  I replaced the tubes and got the right cable (balanced out to balanced in) installed, and it was really the great sound I had wanted.  (I later sent it to Cary to undo some of the previous mods.)

Down the road I changed amps again, not because of sonic quality but because of reliability issues, and about three years ago I saw what I thought was a decent price on a preowned preamp that I had always sort of been lusting for (plus the fact that I thought my SLP 90 was sounding tired), and the most recent new to me preamp I put in my system did impart sonic differences--not as sweet and warm as the preamp it replaced in my system, but more detailed and more "spacious" (if I dare use that word).  A larger sonic presentation.

Anyway, TMI I am sure, but this is what I have personally experienced with different preamps and amps in my system.

Frankly, i’ve built many amazingly good systems around a lowly NAD 3020 A Integrated and eventually adding a more robust power amp….. BUT by putting the bigger $ into the transducers ; cartridge and speakers.

One such combo: Denon DP-47F > Grado Sonata > NAD 3020A > Vandersteen 1’s

BUT i understand the itch to try and learn by doing….

Lets coordinate for loan of a tube Belles preamp, so you can evaluate the change, scratch the itch and not be out any $…..



@immatthewj I did think about buying a preamp from the big retailers for around a $1500 on a credit card. I think it's a good idea actually because it would show me if there is a difference. The downside is that once I return it, I would have to go for an older version of it, because the latest one would still cost more on the used market. E.g., Parasound P3 vs P6, but still, it would get me going.  But your advice is so far the best one, for my limited knowledge and budget.   

Also…. those in San Diego looking for used gear would do well to troll thru Stereo Unlimited from time to time… hundred or so used components at any given time

Not exactly Craigslist pricing…. but often close… and they consider offers….

I go to Stereo Unlimited once a month or so to clean records. And they do have a lot of nice used gear. I haven't approached them with an offer lower than the posted price, but good idea!

If you plan to get one good integrated amp and be done with it, an IA is a good option. If you figure to continue your journey to other levels, the move to separates makes the most sense to me. All of the best systems I’ve heard had separates. At a certain level the limitations of an integrated will typically become apparent at some point. (granted I haven’t heard all of them, or even the best of the modern ones, but the physical and electrical separation, along with separate power supplies is a some point, it’s a benefit that can be heard) It really depends on how far you want to take things......which is often an unknown until you get there! 🙄😉

I haven't approached them with an offer lower than the posted price, but good idea!

That's hwo I wound up buying the SLP90 I alluded to, and he readily accepted the offer, so I think I should have low-balled him even more.  Ha ha.

the idea that separates are always better is just wrong


what matters is the quality of the parts


if you are on a limited budget lookat an integrated from a high end company

the nuprime ida8 is fantastic piece

Dave and troy

audio intellect NJ

40 year industry veterans


,,,what matters is the quality of the parts

True, but it’s worth noting that if you took the preamp section out of a good integrated amp, gave it it’s own power supply and enclosure, and used it to power the same amp, it would have some benefits over the integrated version of the same components.  How much of a difference that can be heard is another variable by itself, but there's definitely that potential.

There’s never a free lunch though...separates require a separate set of RCA connectors, which can introduce a new source for degradation if not done well. The good news is that it’s not hard to do a competent job of picking that cable.

Here’s a bit of a change in direction from what people are suggesting.


I would consider an Adcom GFA-545 power amp.


Inexpensive to buy. Well designed circuit. Big power supply. 

I picked one up so I could have a higher power amp on hand for driving my DIY speakers. All my other amps are below 30w.


For the couple of hundred bucks you’re gonna spend on it, it’ll provide a lot of joy.

I had 2 very good integrateds amps, the KRELL K-300i and the CODA CSiB, I went separates with CODA 07x + CODA #8 replacing the CSiB. I also went Benchmark LA4 + KRELL Duo 175XD replacing the KRELL K-300i.  While the integrated were very good and I was more than happy with them. The separates were much better to my ears and I will not go back to an integrated.

The only time I took a penalty going separates was going from a $7k RAAL VM-1a tube amp (with preamp) to a Schitt Mjolnir preamp ($1100) and Schiit Aegir amp ($800). If the VM-1a was 100/100 the Schitt stack on my headphones was 90-95/100. Very close for a lot less money. I am listening to them as I write this and it is a killer combo.

These days when I need some audio gear I always think about checking out Schitt to see if they have a solution. It will most likely sound very good and be cost effective.


Hey Gris,

Your question may already have answer.  Double check if the preamp in your integrated is always in the circuit.  Meaning,  if you put another preamp in the chain, it will still go through the preamp in the integrated.  My Hegel, for instance doesn’t have a dedicated preamp input and will run the external preamp through it’s preamp and then to the amplifier.

All the best.


Wow. Exactly, Thank you!

I have been looking at the different combinations and wondered why some integrateds have the main input and the preamp our and then connected with a dongle vs. just the preamp. That's how ignorant I am. I don't have a main in.



Unfortunately, upgrading "one tiny step at a time" is not a strategy that is likely to keep you satisfied in the long run. I dare say, everyone here, at some point, has experienced situations when we wanted to upgrade but simply couldn’t afford to spend what it would take to make a real improvement. 

It’s not clear to me which aspects of your system’s presentation you’re seeking to improve. If you simply must spend that $400 now, it’s possible a power cord upgrade or vibration control could yield some noticeable benefit, depending upon what your goal is.


Preamp has controls, sometimes a phono stage, sends line level.
Power amp takes line level and ramps it up to speaker level.

You need both, though they may be combined in one chassis (integrated amplifier).


@stuartk I understand. Given how "budget" my current amp is, it could be an improvement though - or so I thought.

I already have had a lot of help here and I think I will be on the right track. 


I already have had a lot of help here and I think I will be on the right track.

Best of luck, then, moving forward!  


For my secondary system, I use the Parasound NC 2125 V2 with Zpre3. Absolutely love it.  They work together with great synergy.  You did not disclose what IA you have but I believe Parasound 150 wpc will drive your speaker better than your 50 wpc IA as the amp.

@grislybutter Are you in L.A.? I have a P3 for FREE if you are.  It's old with a scratched top, but it works!  And the price is right. 

@lanx0003 I have been looking at the Parasound 2125 at an auction which is why I mentioned it

@shtinkydog close! I will message you, I am already experimenting with the higher quality sound thanks to a generous member


@grislybutter , depending on your sources, and with careful choices, you might not need a “preamp”.

You'll never regret having the best preamp you can afford. If you aren't passing the best signal though a decent preamp the best amp in the world won't do you any good. I've found amps that were better than I though all because I'm using a PS Audio BHK preamp.