Rec Out vs Pre Out: What’s the Difference? (Explained!)

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Hooking up your AV receiver can be complicated to do due to the different number of ports it comes with. The fact that all of these ports have a specific function and are intended for a specific use makes this task even harder than it has to be for most people.

If you look behind your AV receiver, two of the ports you will notice are the “Pre Out” and the “Rec Out” ports. Both output types are very common in audio equipment. However, what are they meant for, and how different are they from each other?

If you have been wondering what a Rec Out and a Pre Out port are, and how to use them, you need to read this article to the end.

Rec Out is an output port that sends out raw audio signals intended for recording. The audio signals transmitted by a Rec Out are post-amp signals that are unaffected by gain, volume, and effect changes. On the other hand, Pre Out sends pre-amp audio signals that are affected by volume changes to external amplifiers and active speakers.

Before I go on to talk more about the differences that exist between these two output ports found on AV receivers, here is something brief about these individual outputs.

Rec Out

A Rec Out or Recording output is a port on AV receivers that are used to transmit clean vocal and instrument signals from a source device to a recording setup. This port is particularly common on audio equipment such as guitar amplifiers and mixing consoles.

The audio signal sent by a Rec Out is dry and unprocessed, with no trace of effects and coloration.

Additionally, the audio signals sent by Rec Out ports are fixed-volume audio signals. What this means is, Rec Out ports send the output of audio devices without adding the effects of the master volume’s variation.

Due to the fact that Rec Outs are entirely unaffected by any EQ, effect, volume, or gain changes made on the device, these signals are referred to as original audio signals.

This is enough on Rec Outs for this particular article. However, if you wish to read more on Rec Out ports, you can read more here.

Pre Out

Just as its name suggests, a Pre Out (Pre Amplifier) is designed to send audio signals out of an audio unit before it reaches the amplifier of the unit. Thus, a Pre Out port is an output port that enables you to connect your AV receiver to an external power amplifier, rather than the built-in amp of the AV receiver.

What you should note is, every AV receiver is built to have an internal amp that functions by amplifying the audio signals that pass through it. However, whenever an AV receiver’s pre-out port is connected to an external power amplifier, it bypasses the AV receiver’s internal amplifier.

A Pre Out can also be connected to speakers and subwoofers that have built-in amplifiers. Such speakers and subwoofers are known as active speakers and active subwoofers respectively. Apart from these, a Pre Out can be used to add different channels to a home theatre system.

Connecting your Pre Out to an external amplifier or to an active speaker/subwoofer helps to reduce the receiver’s load. This is because, with this connection, the receiver does not bear the responsibility of driving every speaker/subwoofer that is a part of the setup. Thus, it uses less power. 

Thus, a Pre Out is an output port that enables an audio signal to leave a receiver without it being amplified. This signal gets amplified when it is received by the external amplifier.

What Is the Difference Between Rec Out and Pre Out?

How different is a Rec Out from a Pre Out? Fundamentally, these two ports primarily function by transmitting audio signals from the A/V receivers. However, there are a few things that set them apart. Let’s take a look at these differences.

The main differences between a Rec Out and a Pre Out can be traced to the characteristics of the audio signals they transmit as well as their signal transmission destination or where they transmit audio signals to.

A Rec Out port is meant for recording audio. Due to this, it is used to send audio signals to recording setups. On the other hand, a Pre Out port transmits audio signals from receivers to external amplifiers and speakers with built-in amplifiers.

Another point is that a Rec Out sends a post-amp, audio signal to recording devices whiles a Pre Out sends a pre-amp audio signal to external receivers or speakers.

Since audio signals from Pre Out ports are pre-amp signals, they are very weak and need to be amplified to a usable level. That is why audio signals from a Pre Out are usually routed to an external amp where the audio can be amplified and processed externally.

However, that is not the case with a Rec Out port. This is because a Rec Out sends a post-amp audio signal to recording devices.

Finally, a Rec Out port sends out clean audio signals without including the master volume and gain. This is because audio signals transmitted by a Rec Out do not vary with volume setting. Audio signals transmitted by a Rec Out are not routed through the volume control and tone control sections of the receiver.

Due to this, any changes to volume applied to the sound do not affect a Rec Out’s signal. A Rec Out port on any audio device is specifically intended to be used to record the audio from the device without any interference to the signal, regardless of what changes are made to the sound coming from the device.

That is why the audio signals transmitted by a Rec Out are raw and unprocessed.

On the other hand, audio signals transmitted by a Pre Out are routed through the tone and volume control sections of receivers. Due to this, they are affected by gain and volume control. That is why adjusting the volume control adjusts the output signal of the Pre Out.

Why Do Some Devices Have a Rec Out and A Pre Out?

The primary reason why some audio devices and equipment come with both Rec Out and Pre Out ports is that such devices may need to send audio signals from the device to multiple places simultaneously.

In plain terms, you may need to do recording whiles audio is being played out of the speakers connected to the system. To do this, you will need an AV receiver that has both output ports.

As you may already know, the different types of outputs that come with audio devices have their own uses and benefits. Thus, having the option of using them separately simply increases the versatility and functionality of the audio device, making it more useful overall.

Why Is It Important to Distinguish Rec Out and Pre Out?

Most devices may have either a Pre out or a Rec Out. However, some have both. Due to this, it is always important that you are able to distinguish between the two.

Being able to distinguish between the two will mean that, the two outputs will be used appropriately. This ultimately means the AV receiver is used to its fullest potential. This will ensure that you receive the right signal type from the output that you are hooking up to.

If you have read up to this point, then you must have picked up on the fact that the ideal way to transmit audio signals meant to be recorded is via the Rec Out port. Since Rec Out is primarily intended for use as a recording signal, you are always assured of producing a very clean and balanced signal that is excellent for recording.

However, if an audio signal is sent out to a recording device with the effects and EQ applied to it, the recorded audio may sound terrible and be very difficult to mix properly.

Since a Pre Out port takes a load off the receiver by routing the audio signal to an external receiver, making use of it will ensure that you do not overwork your receiver.


Rec Out and Pre Outs are two outputs commonly found in lots of audio equipment. A Rec Out port is a port that sends, a pre-effect signal that is intended for recording and cannot be affected by any audio changes whiles a Pre Out sends a pre-amp audio signal that can be affected by volume changes but nothing else.

A Pre Out always sends the signal before the amplifier and gain stage of the device and is always a signal that requires further amplification to be useful.