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Do I need a preamp now?

Kannan

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Hi friends,

Unlike the yore, modern sources have good power in their low level output to drive a power amp or a pair of active speakers.

It includes media players, CD/DVD/bluray players and also DACs.
Some of these DACs also come with a variable digital volume control or a built-in preamp with analogue volume control. But the implementation of the preamp leaves a lot to be desired.

Most PC software like JRIver or foobar and more provide a bit perfect volume control to control the output form the DACs to the poweramp. SO in that way, preamps have in a way become redundant.

But the big question is how is the sound quality without a preamp in-between.

Two days back I had the pleasure of listening to a high-end setup which included Rockna DAC connected to a Siltech tube linestage preamp, a couple of Nagra monoblock amplifier and speakers.
Since Rockna recommends not to use a preamp with their DAC, we also listened after removing the preamp.
There was no difference in detail.
With the preamp, the background was darker and the sound was more organic and sweeter.
Without the preamp, the sound was that much more digital, and a wee bit dry.
This is one of the best DACs in the market today and also the pre is one of the best one can get their hands on.

There is no preamp in my setup now, the DAC is directly powering the power amp.

So the question is of adding a preamplifier
But since my DAC has a good output, the overall system has good power to driver the speakers.
So I feel there is no point in adding an active preamp as it will likely increase the noise floor, but instead go ahead with a passive preamp.

Coming to passive preamps, we have resister based attenuation preamp, transformer based attenuaters (TVC) and tube based preamps.

The question is which is the better of the three?

My power amp has a relatively low impedance of 8.5k ohms

Please share your opinions.
 
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saikatbiswas82

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As the power amp is having low input impedance, I think putting a buffer in chain won't hurt. IMHO only.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using Tapatalk
 

Kannan

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As the power amp is having low input impedance, I think putting a buffer in chain won't hurt. IMHO only.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A3003 using Tapatalk
I agree, that is why I am also looking at the option of TVC which is immune to impedance by design. With enough power in the chain the TVC may not lose any bandwidth aswell.

Regarding the resister based one, I will probably have to customize.

I tried a Lyrita preamp sometime back but was not happy with the result.
 

elangoas

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There is no preamp in my setup now, the DAC is directly powering the power amp
Am not aware of the technical part of Pre-amp.. But, i have used an USB DAC (with Headphone out) with power amp..I think USB DAC also acts as a pre-amp.. Same should be in your case too..
 

Kannan

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Am not aware of the technical part of Pre-amp.. But, i have used an USB DAC (with Headphone out) with power amp..I think USB DAC also acts as a pre-amp.. Same should be in your case too..
That is exactly how I am using now, but want to add a passive pre for a more organic sound if i can find a good match.
 

drkrack

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Aug 29, 2016
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Hyderabad
Hi friends,

Unlike the yore, modern sources have good power in their low level output to drive a power amp or a pair of active speakers.

It includes media players, CD/DVD/bluray players and also DACs.
Some of these DACs also come with a variable digital volume control or a built-in preamp with analogue volume control. But the implementation of the preamp leaves a lot to be desired.

Most PC software like JRIver or foobar and more provide a bit perfect volume control to control the output form the DACs to the poweramp. SO in that way, preamps have in a way become redundant.

But the big question is how is the sound quality without a preamp in-between.

Two days back I had the pleasure of listening to a high-end setup which included Rockna DAC connected to a Siltech tube linestage preamp, a couple of Nagra monoblock amplifier and speakers.
Since Rockna recommends not to use a preamp with their DAC, we also listened after removing the preamp.
There was no difference in detail.
With the preamp, the background was darker and the sound was more organic and sweeter.
Without the preamp, the sound was that much more digital, and a wee bit dry.
This is one of the best DACs in the market today and also the pre is one of the best one can get their hands on.

There is no preamp in my setup now, the DAC is directly powering the power amp.

So the question is of adding a preamplifier
But since my DAC has a good output, the overall system has good power to driver the speakers.
So I feel there is no point in adding an active preamp as it will likely increase the noise floor, but instead go ahead with a passive preamp.

Coming to passive preamps, we have resister based attenuation preamp, transformer based attenuaters (TVC) and tube based preamps.

The question is which is the better of the three?

My power amp has a relatively low impedance of 8.5k ohms

Please share your opinions.
I have tried this (connecting a DAC to poweramp directly) many a times but it was never a reliable experience.
Some unnecessary music details get amplified over Vocals etc, sometimes bass is distorted or Treble is unusually harsh etc. So a preamp is more important addition to the chain, I've recently found a cheap Chinese tube buffer improved the SQ significantly better than anything else.

Sent from my Redmi Note 3 using Tapatalk
 

Kannan

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So a preamp is more important addition to the chain, I've recently found a cheap Chinese tube buffer improved the SQ significantly better than anything else.

Sent from my Redmi Note 3 using Tapatalk
Thanks for the input.

Sir I too ordered one of the cheaper variety on impulse from aliexpress yesterday. Let me see how it sounds.
In the meantime I am also looking at few other options.
 

manniraj

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Let me know if an Aikido ACF-2 tube buffer stage interests you. I have a fully built unit with matched Tungsol 6SN7 tubes which I am not using because I have moved to all solid state sometime back with Class A amps.

Thanks
 

heliumflight

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Nov 25, 2008
Messages
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Location
delhi
Hi friends,

Unlike the yore, modern sources have good power in their low level output to drive a power amp or a pair of active speakers.

It includes media players, CD/DVD/bluray players and also DACs.
Some of these DACs also come with a variable digital volume control or a built-in preamp with analogue volume control. But the implementation of the preamp leaves a lot to be desired.

Most PC software like JRIver or foobar and more provide a bit perfect volume control to control the output form the DACs to the poweramp. SO in that way, preamps have in a way become redundant.

But the big question is how is the sound quality without a preamp in-between.

Two days back I had the pleasure of listening to a high-end setup which included Rockna DAC connected to a Siltech tube linestage preamp, a couple of Nagra monoblock amplifier and speakers.
Since Rockna recommends not to use a preamp with their DAC, we also listened after removing the preamp.
There was no difference in detail.
With the preamp, the background was darker and the sound was more organic and sweeter.
Without the preamp, the sound was that much more digital, and a wee bit dry.
This is one of the best DACs in the market today and also the pre is one of the best one can get their hands on.

There is no preamp in my setup now, the DAC is directly powering the power amp.

So the question is of adding a preamplifier
But since my DAC has a good output, the overall system has good power to driver the speakers.
So I feel there is no point in adding an active preamp as it will likely increase the noise floor, but instead go ahead with a passive preamp.

Coming to passive preamps, we have resister based attenuation preamp, transformer based attenuaters (TVC) and tube based preamps.

The question is which is the better of the three?

My power amp has a relatively low impedance of 8.5k ohms

Please share your opinions.
I am using an Asus Xonar sound card and directly fed into power amp.
 

elangoas

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That is exactly how I am using now, but want to add a passive pre for a more organic sound if i can find a good match.
While your DAC already has pre-amp, by adding an other passive pre-amp, the signal passes thru pre-amp stage twice.. Wouldn't this degrade the signal ?
 
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sound_cycle

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Jan 12, 2014
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Location
Hyderabad
So I feel there is no point in adding an active preamp as it will likely increase the noise floor, but instead go ahead with a passive preamp.

Coming to passive preamps, we have resister based attenuation preamp, transformer based attenuaters (TVC) and tube based preamps.
I have detailed my pre- encounter in this thread.

A pre- made the music much more dynamic and enjoyable.

Was impressed sufficiently to order one. The Saga. it has passive and a valve buffer. There is another from the same maker which has many more interesting things at 2x the price. Either mode with that pre- is allegedly highly transparent. (I have ordered and read reviews only)

My plan is to use a pre- power- combo. a short experiment with a pre- between the dac and amp did not impress much.

ciao
gr
 
Last edited:

eastofthesun

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Hey Kannan , you can absolutely give the preamp a miss of the DAC is a good one with volume control and input selection. I personally use a similar kind of a set up like yours. My DAC is directly connected to the power amps and it's sounds perfect!
Cheers!
Anand

STEREO: Transrotor zet 1 TT, Transrotor 8.2 MC reference phono stage, Ortofon rondo red cartridge,MSB Platinum iv DAC, MSB data CD Transport , mola mola Kaluga power amplifiers, Transparent audio Ultra cables and interconnects, Transparent audio premium USB cable , Synology D 415 play 12 TB RAID NAS drive ,Mac book air with Roon, Joseph Audio Perspectives Floor standers , Stillpoints Aperture Acoustic panels, Blue jeans CAT6a cables. Transparent audio Reference power cords , Transparent audio MM2 power isolators .

HT1: Optoma HD 82 projector, Ibox media player, Synology D 415 play 12 TB RAID NAS drive, Anthem MRX 500 AV receiver , B & W centres & surrounds , REL T5 subwoofer.

HT2: Panasonic 42' Plasma, Monitor audio Radius R250 centre and front speakers, Radius R90 rears and radius R360 subwoofer. Dune media player and pioneer BDP 140 blu ray player.
 

Kannan

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Messages
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Location
Chennai
I have detailed my pre- encounter in this thread.

A pre- made the music much more dynamic and enjoyable.

Was impressed sufficiently to order one. The Saga. it has passive and a valve buffer. There is another from the same maker which has many more interesting things at 2x the price. Either mode with that pre- is allegedly highly transparent. (I have ordered and read reviews only)

My plan is to use a pre- power- combo. a short experiment with a pre- between the dac and amp did not impress much.

ciao
gr
I have already ordered the cheaper version of tube buffer from aliexpress.
I also want to try out a TVC and a impedance matched resistive passive pre in my setup.
There is nothing like hearing for yourself I guess.

I have Chromecast Audio, a Parasound ZDac.V2 and will be getting the Teac UD301 dual mono DAC early next month.

So listening to all the three above, with and without a passive pre should be an interesting experiment.

Some preamps I am looking at with budget in mind include. But sadly is it not possible to listen before buying though some offer 14-day return. But even with return, custom duty paid and return freight will be lost.

Resistive types:
Tisbury mini preamp - Affordable
DACT SMD (with 10k pot)
Khozmo Acoustic dual mono pre
Luminous Audio Axiom, custom designed (pricey)
some DIY stuff on ebay

Tube buffer:
The one already ordered, Douk Audio FX based on 6J1 tube
Schiit Saga
some DIY stuff on ebay

TVC based:
Prometheous standard (pricey)
some DIY stuff

Sadly pre-amps do not come cheap and I am also open to buying used stuff if I get an opportunity to listen before buying, ofcourse if the seller is in Chennai.

Keeping fingers crossed

Hey Kannan , you can absolutely give the preamp a miss of the DAC is a good one with volume control and input selection. I personally use a similar kind of a set up like yours. My DAC is directly connected to the power amps and it's sounds perfect!
Cheers!
Anand
Hi Anand,

I too am liking it without a pre now, but the experience of adding a pre in another setup opened up the ears. My ageing ears really enjoy an organic sound as I often listen for long hours deep into the night due to the kind of work I do.
So I need controlled dynamics even at low volumes which i think a passive pre can give.

While your DAC already has pre-amp, by adding an other passive pre-amp, the signal passes thru pre-amp stage twice.. Wouldn't this degrade the signal ?
The Chromecast does not have a preamp, but just a digital attenuation.
The Parasound does have a proper preamp with analogue attenuation, but it is not that well implemented.
While adding a passive pre to the above chain, the attenuation in the DACs will be defeated to utilize the full output.

Let me know if an Aikido ACF-2 tube buffer stage interests you. I have a fully built unit with matched Tungsol 6SN7 tubes which I am not using because I have moved to all solid state sometime back with Class A amps.

Thanks
Will study the specs and PM you if interested. Thanks for the offer.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

eastofthesun

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HI Kannan , I used to use an Accuphase as a passive preamp maily for volume control until i got an attenuator for my MSB DAC. I still feel removing the Accuphase from the chain made a difference to the sound in a good way. I do not mean to deride Accuphase in any waycos i really like the sound of Accuphase but i just felt that the sound was better once ! component was made less in the chain.
Cheers!
Anand
 

Kannan

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HI Kannan , I used to use an Accuphase as a passive preamp maily for volume control until i got an attenuator for my MSB DAC. I still feel removing the Accuphase from the chain made a difference to the sound in a good way. I do not mean to deride Accuphase in any waycos i really like the sound of Accuphase but i just felt that the sound was better once ! component was made less in the chain.
Cheers!
Anand
what type of an ettenuator was it, a pot?
 

eastofthesun

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Hi kannan , it's a step assisted attenuator which is used as the volume control in the msb. It's an add on and doesn't come with the DAC as a package .
Cheers!
Anand
 

Kannan

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Hi kannan , it's a step assisted attenuator which is used as the volume control in the msb. It's an add on and doesn't come with the DAC as a package .
Cheers!
Anand
Hi Anand,

Can you link me to it.

Cheers
Kannan
 

GeorgeO

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While everyone has their own opinions based on their own experience, I am personally a a fan of preamps. I have fed the signal from my source which has a volume control in the digital domain directly into my power amp, but definitely found the sound better when fed through my pre-I will avoid that path for myself. I have also used an integrated amp, where the preamp stage has come into play and like that as well. A passive attenuator type may not be an expensive option-as a good pre is, but hey, to each his own!
 
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