Just picked up one of these for a very reasonable price. I love the digital/analog switching, because there are times when I want to be able to use an EQ for older recordings. But this is the first pre-amp I've ever bought and wondered if anyone out there could answer some questions. I've always found good advice on this forum!

1. What is the advantage of having a pre-amp over, say, just an AV receiver? Any advice for a strong receiver to pair with this unit?

2. I'm planning to use this unit for all of my audio needs, including digital home theater and analog phono. But it doesn't have HDMI connections, and that seems to me to be a negative in 2011. It looks like I can purchase a Sherwood HDMI switcher, but am I right to assume that using this switcher will automatically downgrade the sound quality from my TV? Isn't it necessarily true that adding a converter to upconvert sound will automatically compromise that sound? In which case, I'm thinking this pre-amp might not be what I actually need. It has such good reviews though, so I'm reluctant to part with it....

3. Finally, can someone explain to me why I would want to use digital optical cables over HDMI?

Thanks in advance for any advice!