Here's our Hardware Tip for.. February 13, 2004
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MP3 Player Pre-Amps
If you listen to a variety of MP3 players, you'll notice that you can turn up the volume so that it's very loud on some units, while others have only a small range for volume. In a large part, pre-amplification circuitry makes the difference here.

Pre-amp circuitry boosts the audio signal strength between the time it comes out of the internal DSP (digital signal processor) and before it leaves the device to your headphones or speakers. Some MP3 players do the pre-amp boost well, some not so well, and some don't boost the signal at all. Listen to a variety of players before you buy one and decide for yourself if the signal is strong enough for your tastes.