Written by 7:44 am Preamps

Why Are There So Few Multi-Channel Analog Preamps?

Steven Stone wonders why multi-channel analog preamplifiers are the red-headed step-children of audio components.


The most disappointing product category at the 2012 CES was multi-channel analog preamps. As far as I could tell, there were no new product introductions. I wonder why…

With many audiophiles opting for Oppo universal players, I would think the demand for multi-channel preamplifiers would also increase, since the best way to use an Oppo’s analog outputs is via a set of pass-through inputs. You don’t have this option with a two-channel or all-digital preamp.

Looking at what is currently available in multi-channel analog preamps, the pickings are slim. You have the Parasound P-7, Conrad Johnson MET1, Audio Research MP1, and Meitner Switchman-3. Bel Canto used to make a very nice multi-channel analog pre-amp, the Pre6, but it is no longer in regular production. All of these, with the exception of the Meitner, are over ten-year-old designs created for the home theater invasion that never quite happened. Even by audiophile standards they are long-of-tooth. By computer standards they are antediluvian.

I’ve been using the Parasound P-7 in one of my room-based systems for over nine-months and I love it. One of the 5.1 analog input sets gets the output of an Anthem AVM-20 pre-pro while the other gets the output of an Oppo/NuForce NXE-93. The Anthem handles the Direct TV Toslink and Oppo Coaxial digital signals. All my video goes into a DVDO iScan Duo so the AVM-20’s lack of up-to-date HDMI isn’t a drawback, the DVDO can re-route audio from HDMI to S/PDIF for the AVM-20. Various DACs, including the Weiss DAC202 and Wyred4Sound DAC2, go through the Parasound’s various two-channel inputs.

The P-7 makes it easy to do A/B comparisons between DACs and other front-end devices. With a numbered 0 – 100 numbered volume control, matching levels easy and repeatable. My complaint with the Parasound is that I wish it were a newer design, and I’d like the option for discrete stereo subwoofers.

What about the other currently made 5.1 designs? I’m still waiting for an update to most of the units I’ve mentioned. And when will other manufacturers realize the need for a reference-quality multi-channel preamp? Your guess is as good as mine. Tempus fugits…

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