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Let's say I am talking to my friend about some rock band or restaurant and describing how much better it is, compared to some other band. I say

  • You think this album is good, wait until you hear the album Y. Compared to Y this album is just a preview.
  • If you enjoyed the X show or Y restaurant, then you will definitely like Z. Compared to Z, X or Y is just a preview.

In chat WendiKidd suggested opening act.

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I think preview is not the word you're looking for because the purpose of a preview is to give you a peek at exactly what you will be getting with the full thing. In other I expect the full show, for example, to be exactly like the preview except that I will get to see the whole thing. And if it's not like the preview then I will feel that the preview was misleading.

@WendyKidd's Opening Act is a good metaphor to use when talking about a band.

Almost any metaphor can be used if it's set up correctly.

If X is a house, Y is the Taj Mahal.

Sometimes the setup is implicit. If you're talking about fine dining restaurants, You might say:

Compared to Lutèce, Le Cochon is just McDonald's.

  • 1
    I like this answer, it explains the difficulty I was having answering this question on chat; the word that should be used depends on context. The Taj Mahal is an amazing dwelling that makes all other houses look less impressive. An opening act makes the main event look much more impressive. This restaurant is really good, but it looks like McDonalds in comparison to something else. There perhaps isn't a single word that fits, but a concept that can be used to contrast each example with something relevant. +1 – WendiKidd Mar 24 '13 at 0:44
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In the stated context I don't think you're going to get any better than opening act.

From a different medium, and perhaps more generalizable, you might consider prologue. In the theatre a prologue ‘sets the stage’: introduces the basic premises and most important characters, establishes the audience’s fundamental expectations and swiftly creates a sense that the main action which follows will be important and engaging.

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Consider teaser, in its sense “A short film or quote meant to draw an audience to a film or show”, particularly for the music album example. For the restaurant example, one could try “this is just a snack...” or “this is just a taste compared to...”.

For a more-formal tone, consider foreshadowing and presage (“An intuition of a future event; a presentiment”). Phrases like a mere shadow or a pale shadow might be used, although the latter is most often used in descriptions of something formerly much better than it once was, rather than of something that will get much better later.

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