The quest for improved sound can be likened to a never-ending journey for most audio enthusiasts. In that regard, the possibility of using a power amp with an integrated amp is a scenario many people would love to experiment with.
However, is it really possible to achieve this setup? Can you use a power amp with an integrated amp?
You can use a power amp with an integrated amp provided that the integrated amp has a preamp output (or pre out). Ideally, you must connect the integrated amp’s preamp output to the input of the power amp.
Reasons To Use A Power Amp With An Integrated Amp
As you may already know, integrated amps have a built-in power amp. So why exactly should you use an external power amp with a power amp? Let’s take a look at them.
To Generate More Power to Drive Speakers
Let’s just say you are having a party outdoors, and your home theater speakers just aren’t loud enough to play music outside. So you went to rent PA speakers or borrowed some speakers from a friend.
However, after checking the ratings of your integrated amp’s power amp, it’s just not powerful enough to power the PA speakers.
Here is where a more powerful external power amp comes in handy.
Using a power amp with your integrated amp is an effective way to increase the power of your system. The advantage of combining these two amps is that your setup can generate enough power to drive bigger speakers.
And if there is the need to add even more speakers, that will also be possible by using a more powerful external amp. This increases the total amp power directed to each speaker for the generation of better sound. Hence you can consider combining your amps if your speakers are power demanding.
The reverse is also true.
If your integrated amp’s power amp is too powerful for a set of smaller speakers, you can pair a less powerful power amp with the integrated amp. And this way, you can power the smaller speakers with the external amp.
To Improve The Quality of Sound Generated
A lot of work goes into the design and production of integrated amps. In spite of this, when it comes to the quality of sound capable of being generated by integrated amps, manufacturers compromise a lot.
Manufacturers spend an awful amount of time and resources on designing the preamps. And they spend quite less on the power amps, sadly.
And that’s totally understandable. That’s because the preamp defines the overall sound of an integrated amp.
However, this results in a poorly built amp section in integrated amps. Although it works really well, the power amps in integrated amps don’t sound as good as dedicated power amps.
So using a power amp with your integrated amp is a sure way to improve the overall sound quality of your audio setup.
Problems With Using Power Amp With An integrated Amp
Despite the many positives of using a power amp with an integrated amp, there are a few problems that can potentially happen. These problems are only likely to pop up if the connections are not done properly or if you use faulty speaker cables. Let’s take a look at these problems.
Increased Noise Floor
The unwanted background noise in an audio signal is what is referred to as noise floor. If you crank the volume of your speakers all the way up while nothing is playing and you hear a hissing sound, that is the noise floor.
Usually, any audio that is run through an amp comes with some degree of noise. This noise could be from faulty cables, poorly recorded audio, audio effects, and devices the signal was processed through.
And when you process any audio through an amplifier, the noise in that audio gets amplified as well. This means that running an audio signal through two amps will lead to greater amplification of both the desired sound and noise.
Hence the external power amp and the integrated amp will increase the noise floor even more. This means the audio signal will be noisier after two stages of amplification.
Extremely Loud Distortion From Speakers
Extremely loud distortion can be a nuisance to music lovers. This unwanted distortion can be produced when the cables used for the amplifier connections are defective or damaged. Improperly wired connections can result in a lot of distorted sounds being produced from your speakers.
How to Connect a Power Amp To An Integrated Amp
Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s talk about how to properly connect a power amp to an integrated amp.
To use a power amp with an integrated amp, you plug the power amp into the preamp output (or pre out) of the integrated amp. The power amp will receive audio signals directly from the integrated amp’s built-in preamp.
There are two ways you can use a power amp with an integrated amp. In both cases, you will need to use the preamp output connection of your integrated amp. Hence, before you connect your power amp to your integrated amp, you need to make sure your integrated amp has a preamp-out connection.
However, this should not be a problem because many integrated amps have preamp-out jacks. Check the ports on your integrated out and look for an output port labeled “Preamp Out” or “Pre Out.”
If you don’t find this port or anything similar on your integrated amp, then I’m sorry, you’re out of luck — there is no way you can connect a power amp to your integrated amp.
Now let’s talk about the two ways you can use a power amp with your integrated amp.
1. Using Your Integrated Amp As A Preamp
You can decide to connect your power amp to an integrated amp in such a way that your integrated amp will serve as a preamp. An integrated amp that has a properly designed and implemented preamp section can work quite well as a standalone preamp. You can then connect the preamp-out to the inputs of your power amp.
By using the pre out from the integrated amp, you have basically bypassed the power amp section of the integrated amp.
Hence the only amp that will be driving the speakers connected will be the external power amp that has been connected to the integrated amp.
Connecting your integrated amp to serve as a preamp is simple and easy to do. All you need is to use an RCA cable to connect the two amps together. Simply connect the integrated amps preamp output to the main input of your power amp using the RCA cable.
After connecting these two amps together, all of your speakers should be connected directly to the power amp. In this setup, your integrated amp is responsible for receiving an audio signal from the source and passing it to the power amp, which in turn drives the signal through the loudspeakers.
2. Bi-Amping Using Integrated Amp and Power Amp
Bi-amping refers to using two channels of amplification to power each speaker in an audio system. In plain terms, bi-amping means driving the high frequency and low-frequency drivers in your speakers with separate amplifiers.
With this connection method, instead of a loudspeaker’s highs and low frequencies sharing one channel of an amp, each section gets a dedicated amp to drive it. This simply means you are increasing the power used to drive these speakers since they are not sharing one amp.
This allows you to separate the high and low-frequency signals coming from the source and route them separately to the tweeters and woofers in your speakers.
Here are some things you need to know before you try bi-amping using an integrated amp and power amp.
Firstly, not every integrated amp supports bi-amping. With these amps, their speaker-out terminals stop working when you connect a device to the preamp out. However, you need to be able to use both the pre out and speaker out in order to bi-amp.
Also, bi-amping should only be done if your speaker has dual binding posts. This means the speakers have two pairs of terminals — one for high frequency and the other for low frequency.
In our instance, the integrated amp’s built-in amp will provide the high frequency, while the dedicated power amp will provide the low frequencies.
Before you begin bi-amping, don’t forget to remove the linking bars from the back of your speakers before doing the connections.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here is how to bi-amp using an integrated amp and power amp
- Connect the preamp out (or pre out) of the integrated amp to the input of the power amp using an RCA cable
- Connect the integrated amp’s speaker outputs to the top binding posts of the speakers. The top binding posts are usually the high-frequency terminals
- Connect the power amp’s speaker outputs to the bottom binding posts of the speakers. The bottom binding posts are usually the low-frequency terminals
- Power on the integrated amplifier and power amp and play any audio to verify everything works
- Adjust the volume on both amps to match them
It is worth noting that some mid to high-end integrated amps have a jumper between the preamp and power amp section. With these integrated amps, you’ll have to connect the pre out to both the Main Input of the integrated amp as well as the input of the external power amp. This can be done by using a simple RCA splitter like Fospower Male to Male RCA Splitter Cable (on Amazon).
What this splitter cable will do is to send the preamp output’s signal to the amp section of your integrated amp as well as the power amp’s input.
What Will A Power Amp Add To An Integrated Amp?
Basically, adding a power amp to your integrated amp system supplies you with better power to drive your speakers. This is because power amps are known to take line-level signals, step up the voltage and current, which is used to drive speakers.
Bear in mind that if the power amp that has been connected is of the same high quality or higher, you are likely to experience improvement in the quality of the sound.
Generally, adding a power amp to your integrated amp can increase the clarity of your sound further by separating the individual sound elements produced.
I’m sure if you’ve been reading this article from the beginning up to this point, you’d already know the answer. But let me summarize everything in a few sentences. What will a power amp add to an integrated amp?
A power amp, when added to an integrated amp, can provide your audio setup with more power so that you can use high-power-rated speakers. You may also notice an improvement in the sound quality. And by bi-amping using an integrated amp and a power amp can improve the clarity of the sound output/
How Would You Connect A Subwoofer To The System?
Technically, subwoofers are no different from full-range speakers. They are engineered just like other speakers. The only difference is that subwoofers are designed to play only bass or low frequencies.
For an amplifier system made up of a power amp and an integrated amp, if the integrated amp is serving as a preamp, you can connect a subwoofer to the system in the same way as you would for a normal speaker.
However, you cannot connect a power amp and integrated amp system to a subwoofer by bi-amping. This is because the goal of bi-amping is to designate one amp to manage the high frequency of your sound system and the other amp to manage the low frequencies.
In plain terms, for one full-range speaker with bi-amping potential, one amp is assigned to drive the low frequency, with the other driving the high frequency.
You can use a power amp with an integrated amp. It is actually a very common practice. There are actually two ways to do this; by using your integrated amp as a preamp or using it as part of a bi-amping setup.
If your power amp is of high quality, using it in conjunction with an integrated amp will make your sound much better as compared to running the signal through only the integrated amp.