Need A Quick Education

I am narrowing down a short-list of preamplifiers that have the features I want. Unable to audition them, I wanted to know what a good "Signal to Noise" ratio is. I am seeing 90dB through up to 102dB. Is a higher number here better? I know that with CD and SACD/DVDA players a higher S/N ration is a good thing, is it the same with preamps? If I run an SACD player through a preamp with a 90dB (or lower), what am I losing? BTW: all the pre's I am looking at are SS and the one in the lead has a s/n of 90dB. Thanks in advance!!
Don't base your decision on specs.Give a call to Bruce Jacobs/Sound World at:920-733-8539.They allow for home demonstration on many models.Good specs don't translate into good sound.Good luck!
as soon as it >= 90db it doesn't make a difference in these terms as long as it can play music the way you want to hear it.
I was under the impression that the lower the number (SNR) the less quiet it would be, in terms of "hiss", etc. I realize it will play music and maybe even play it well, but will I have to turn the volume up higher and (possibly) sacrifice a "black" background as opposed to a pre with a higher SNR?
Don't go by the numbers. Hifi gear is voiced by ear, not by statistics. Many "reference" pieces don't look good on paper, but delight the ears. When ever possible, demo gear before buying and trust your ears. Happy hunting!
I'd love to do that but I don't have a dealer in my area!

You might want to ask a couple of dealers that advertise here on AG if they would grant you an in home audition. I have seen a couple advertise that they would do this and besides it never hurts to ask. I agree with the other posters that you should never buy on specs.

What about those of us with horns? You'd better pay SOME attention to the S/N ratio, because you'll hear the N quite a bit if you don't. Just hope the manufacturer posts accurate/honest measurements. Wait... did someone say you just have to listen?

Trey is right to ask - I have a pre/pro that has a S/N ratio that is "better than 90db A weighted", and at idle it sounds a little like listening to the inside of a seashell with my Klipsch la Scalas.
S/N in this case is more for the amplifier domain than in preamp and low-powered amps for horns usually have S/N much higher than 90dB.
Maybe I should back up a bit and restate what I am asking. I am trying to understand SNR as it applies to a preamp. What does it mean? How important is it? Is there a good "benchmark" number to look for on a SS pre. Is >100dB better than 90dB? If yes/no, why? Believe me, I will always try to listen to the equipment first, when possible and I have always trusted my ears when it comes to equipment purchases. I put "little" stock into stats as well but they can at least point you in a certain direction when comparison with your senses is not possible.
S/N ratio isn't measured for speakers, you're thinking of sensitivity (also reported in dB).

S/N ratio is the same specification for CD players, tape decks, and pre-amps. It is the ration of the noise generated by the electronics themselves to the desired signal passing through those electronics. So, all other things being equal, the higher the S/N ratio, the better the gear since the less noise (junk, trash, grain, etc) it will add to the audio signal.

That said, the others (and you) are right. A pre- with a S/N ratio of 110 dB is not automatically better than a pre- with a S/N ratio of 100 dB. I would think that most competent designers could manage a S/N ratio of >90 dB, though.
The preamp I am leaning toward has a SNR of 90dB. The model is the Audio Refinement Pre-5 which has all the features I am looking for - no DSP and everything remains in the analogue domain. The other preamp I am looking at which will serve a similar purpose is the Sony TA-P9000es which has an SNR of >100dB. Both seem to use dedicated circuits and appear to be well built. The Audio Refinement is the "economic" line of YBA. The Sony, well... The Sony seems to have the better stats here but I have been unable to listen to one because they seem to be out of stock every where I go. The only way to get the Audio Refinement piece is out of a dealer in NY that I have never dealt with before. I am in Dallas, TX. See my dilemma?
Trey, there are many more dealers for AR than the one in NY, Hi-End Theater & Audio in Dallas for one. Check out this link to locate an AR dealer near you:

Best of luck. FYI - a higher SNR is quieter.
Thanks, Creeper! I couldn't find a dealer list to save my life when I was doing my searches. Now I can give this a listen and decide for myself! Thanks again!
S/N is a measure for the poweramp that matters more than S/N measure for the preamp...