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Pre-amp suggestions needed

Wharfedale Speakers

haisaikat

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For the last 4 years I was happily using a CA 650 A integrated amp with MS Aviano 6 FS and was quite happy with source being RPI with Rune / Moode fed via ODAC (objective DAC).

This year I made three upgrades, introduced CA 851C CDP which acts not only as transport but also as DAC which is better than ODAC (highs and vocal significantly improved) and also as a input selector too. Next up replaced USB out of chain with Coaxial input using Allo-Digione (thanks to @Kushanava for the inputs on this one and the tidal reference). The other upgrade was got a CA 840W power amp, where i enabled the digital volume control in the CA 851C CDP making it act as pre-amp and feeding it to the power amp directly. The dynamics and details improved noticeably after this upgrade.

I did keep the speaker unchanged since I have felt the Avianos are a overall all rounder and matches very very well with CA amps. I can live without the enriched vocal which some BS offers in similar or slightly higher range. Note the amps and cdps i added are all used gears, not new. got them at less than half their prices and eprfectly working in excellent condition, so was previous 650A integrated amp.

But every upgrade brings in some need for further upgrades as the case is. I have to solve two problems now
1. The CA CDP is known to reject recordings that are not good and not sure if that is the reason, i see some brightness in the chain (even before the poweramp upgrade) with sibilance effect in vocals in few recordings (Katra Katra from Izaajat both Indian and UK version is one example. Note that AR Rahman recordings have very less or non-existent sibilance in current chain).
2. I have not used my TT setup for quite some time now and want to resurrect it, @sachu888 and @sadik are greatly helping in a new CNC build which is expected to reach by this week. Problem is that CA 851C is a digital source selector, no analogue bypass option that can leverage its volume control (again its a digital volume control so no use anyway).

To solve above problems, switching interconnects is one option I have in mind, presently Zeus Z1 from sound foundations are being used from CDP to poweramp. Will try a few local options too and see of that deals away with the sibilance.

Regarding the analogue input problem I have got suggestion from my dear friend @subhashis_1980 to use Schiit Sys Passive Pre-amp. to act as volume control and switching between CDP and CNC Phono. However it has output impedance of max 5K Ohms and 840W has input unbalanced impedance of 68K Ohms and this mismatch may call in for a buffer, not sure if my assumption is right here. But a volume control is required even if its a cheap one to say the least and passive and nice to have a remote too if possible.

After reading many threads here, i see that lesser the number of components in block better it is. But upgratitis makes me think if a good pre-amp can be an addition to the chain at this stage. I would prefer a tone control option too if i go that route along with remote and volume control but would not make it a blocker for right selection. Budget max 50 K INR. No choices between branded or DIY kits, or SS vs Tubes but have looked into the Lyrita DHT Pre but no audition possible till now, CA 840E / 851E may get a used one in that range and serves everything i need except tone control but not sure if i should spend 50K on a SS pre.

Suggestions welcome my friends.
 
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newlash09

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Yeah that is quite a conundrum you are in. You surely need a pre amp of some kind to sort this out. Even if you accomplished volume control despite the impedance mismatch, you'd always be worried if you are hearing your system at it's TRUE potential. Even iam in a search for a tube preamp at the moment. So let's hope something crops up soon enough.
 

rikhav

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Just incase if you have missed there is a very good Cary audio preamp for sale by FM @Fiftyfifty and it's within your budget

It's a SS pre but Cary audio is very well know for it's 2 channel components so do some reading about it and see if it can work for you or not
 

drkrack

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I was happily using a CA 650 A integrated amp
Do You Still Own CA650A ? That has a Preouts, Can't it be used as a preamp only ? This is the last preamp (out of the integrated) you were happy with.

with sibilance effect in vocals in few recordings (Katra Katra from Izaajat both Indian and UK version is one example. Note that AR Rahman recordings have very less or non-existent sibilance in current chain)
the sibilance is common with older recordings in digital format , basically a Good detailed (read Clinical) DAC brings about the shortcomings in original recordings. The OS DACs usually increase the noise floor, in older recordings, in my experience.

I have not used my TT setup for quite some time now and want to resurrect it
Adding TT will make the need for analog inputs . You will need an analog preamp in that case.

Schiit Sys Passive Pre-amp. to act as volume control and switching between CDP and CNC Phono. However it has output impedance of max 5K Ohms and 840W has input unbalanced impedance of 68K Ohms and this mismatch may call in for a buffer, not sure if my assumption is right here.
I don't think SYS should have any problem driving your power amp. Check this reference.
http://www.decware.com/paper55.htm
Best Preamp is NO PREAMP. SYS does almost nothing to the sound, other than pure volume control in my experience.

Budget max 50 K INR. No choices between branded or DIY kits, or SS vs Tubes but have looked into the Lyrita DHT Pre but no audition possible till now, CA 840E / 851E may get a used one in that range and serves everything i need except tone control but not sure if i should spend 50K on a SS pre.
I think you should look at tube pre , as the match with SS power works very well . but getting a tube preamp with remote in your price range is bit tough. The Options are
1. Schiit SAGA (I have heard this in Combo with Vidar and its amazing at the price point)
2. Schiit Freya (25k above your budget , but an upgrade with Balanced options)
3. DIY based on Marantz circuit from AE like this ones.. Marantz Circuit Tube Pre
4. I had very good experience with this cheap tube Pre from AE Try This One , Most of the listeners in MyPlace have been pretty happy with it, but it provides only one input, keeps it uncomplicated that way.
5. The Lyrita DHT pre is a very good one, and economical too. Lack of remote is the only drawback.
There are few other options on AE, which I am not sure about, do have a look.

if you Go with SS Preamp there's a Cary preamp and Stealth DC1 on HFV classifieds which can be looked into.
Parasound has come with an upgrade to their legendery preamp Halo P5 , the price I'm sure will be much above your budget.

I would prefer a tone control option too if i go that route along with remote and volume control but would not make it a blocker for right selection.
if You buy a one with Tone controls, make sure it has a Tone Defeat Switch as well.

To solve above problems, switching interconnects is one option I have in mind, presently Zeus Z1 from sound foundations are being used from CDP to poweramp. Will try a few local options too and see of that deals away with the sibilance.
Not only ICs but Powercables, Speaker Cables can be employed to further tweak the sound to your liking .
 

haisaikat

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Just incase if you have missed there is a very good Cary audio preamp for sale by FM @Fiftyfifty and it's within your budget

It's a SS pre but Cary audio is very well know for it's 2 channel components so do some reading about it and see if it can work for you or not
thanks for highlighting. I checked it for option now. Probably its newer condition to FM is expecting higher valuation. on hifishark i see for half the prices. I can have the shipping and customs managed for less. But thanks for the suggestion i will keep this preamp in mind, may have to check impedance though

Do You Still Own CA650A ? That has a Preouts, Can't it be used as a preamp only ? This is the last preamp (out of the integrated) you were happy with.
wow, yes i still own this but presently on sale. I never bothered to look at this, it does have pre-outs and can very well play this role. Many thanks for this suggestion and it does at least help me with one option not to be left dry until permanent solution comes in.

I don't think SYS should have any problem driving your power amp. Check this reference.
http://www.decware.com/paper55.htm
Best Preamp is NO PREAMP. SYS does almost nothing to the sound, other than pure volume control in my experience.
Thanks for this document so input impedance must be higher of power amp than that of pre-amp. Then I do not have a problem to try SYS.

if You buy a one with Tone controls, make sure it has a Tone Defeat Switch as well.
is that a tone bypass? there is a complete bypass loop output in may pre amps. have to research more

Not only ICs but Powercables, Speaker Cables can be employed to further tweak the sound to your liking .
indeed, need to check, also thanks for the other preamp suggestions. I will review them, but are you saying for a good pre amp I need 80-90K budget? I can look at used versions of those too, does not have to be new. If there are some suggestions feel free to provide beyond 50K

I have also got suggestion from a fellow FM for his owned CA C500 pre-amp of year 2000 era, without a remote though. evaluating that too.

Regarding Lyrita, is it an entry level? I heard they customize, but for 50K is lyrita (comes around 40K for new) better or DIY kits?
 

haisaikat

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I had raised a ticket with Cambridge audio support, while they warned me that c500 is obsolete and no assurance for spares they did indicate that 851c inbuilt pre-amp is better than that of 650a. The 650a only advantage is analogue inputs and the tone controls but probably both are passive. Still kind of divided whether to settle now for cheaper ca c500 preamp and upgrade later. Would definitely try the schiit sys and let this group know.
 

sound_cycle

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I had raised a ticket with Cambridge audio support, while they warned me that c500 is obsolete and no assurance for spares they did indicate that 851c inbuilt pre-amp is better than that of 650a. The 650a only advantage is analogue inputs and the tone controls but probably both are passive. Still kind of divided whether to settle now for cheaper ca c500 preamp and upgrade later. Would definitely try the schiit sys and let this group know.
I've tried it in my rig. I'd say it is modi level vs Gungnir MB if I were to use DAC analogs.

I have no hesitation in saying forget the SYS, it was disappointing. I know 36K (India D&D price) seems a lot to pay for a volume control with a cheap remote, but try Saga in your rig and then pull the trigger on anything.

As for the question of the difference a pre- can make I've tried several, clearly audible differences, and the best so far was the Saga. (note I am not claiming it is the best out there or anything of the sort). Going from DAC direct to a pre-amp was a big step up - and this was a unity gain passive bit of kit. Now with the recent changes I am glad I had that in the chain.

ciao
gr
 
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haisaikat

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1. Schiit SAGA (I have heard this in Combo with Vidar and its amazing at the price point
I have no hesitation in saying forget the SYS, it was disappointing. I know 36K (India D&D price) seems a lot to pay for a volume control with a cheap remote, but try Saga in your rig and then pull the trigger on anything.
Saga looks good and less in ur budget
http://www.schiit.com/products/saga
I see strong favour for saga. I researched a bit more and got to know that saga is either a passive preamp (without the tube working) or with the tube in action it's a tube buffer. Then I also bumped across this older thread on HFV https://www.hifivision.com/threads/whats-a-tube-buffer.28221/ as per which unless we have a scenario where input impedance of Poweramp is not greater than 10 times of output impedance of source this will not add value. In my case majority source is the ca CDP 851c whose output impedance is less than 50 ohms and input impedance of 840w is 68k ohms in unbalanced mode. I will find out my only other source which is the CNC phono, @sachu888 do you know? But the point is for the most common scenario will a tube buffer actually make a difference? I am not in the US, so cannot take the 15 day trial.

I did read now that the tubes purpose is introducing tube signature and it does allow tube upgradation. But does it improve dynamics? I mean it's still supposed to be passive right like a buffer?

Moreover would an American brand gel well with British brand ( specs aside)? What all gears are you having in the chain?

4. I had very good experience with this cheap tube Pre from AE Try This One , Most of the listeners in MyPlace have been pretty happy with it, but it provides only one input, keeps it uncomplicated that way
This option is ruled out because if two reasons, unless the Chinese one is a clone of a popular brand model, can we trust it's implementation and specs? Of course hearing is believing so if result is heard good that closes everything. Second up its single input I cannot live with, today we (me and @subhashis_1980 ) looked at Little Dot MK2 tube pre-amp and some used ones were coming for less than 200 USD but has only one input. I still want to keep the Chinese path open for any more tried and tested options as first hand opinion matters.
 
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sound_cycle

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I
Moreover would an American brand gel well with British brand ( specs aside)? What all gears are you having in the chain?
Detail in Sig. All silver Schiit..

My observation was sys vs saga. I have not read up on the impedance issue you speak of.

I don't like sys. For reasons you can clearly hear.

Ciao
GR
 
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tuff

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in my usage of System, I found it let me hear what a power amplifier sounds like. It has no sound signature. Is absolutely transparent. It works well with the arcam power amp well. With the Crown it sounded dull and dead. It's a passive volume control so no preamplification.
 

sachu888

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FM Aniket has designed a very good Class A preamp, using all discrete components. It has onboard power supply and volume pot, so it can be directly mounted on faceplate.
Here is a PCB

We have all parts. The approx cost of preamp module would be Rs 3000. He has also designed a 75W Class AB power amp. We may offer few full soldered modules for the same.

Regards
Sachin
 

haisaikat

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Detail in Sig. All silver Schiit..

My observation was sys vs saga. I have not read up on the impedance issue you speak of.

I don't like sys. For reasons you can clearly hear.

Ciao
GR
Pardon, the signature I noticed now by going to desktop mode from mobile browser. I see you have you speakers to dac as all American chain. Also I see from specs that in an all Schiit chain you did not obviously had the impedance issue too ( 20k vs 75). It's good to hear your feedback on actual performance.

Question: Any plans on tube upgradation or using SS (solid state) tubes vs present set of stock vacuum tubes?

Noted your observation for the sys and saga comparison.

in my usage of System, I found it let me hear what a power amplifier sounds like. It has no sound signature. Is absolutely transparent. It works well with the arcam power amp well. With the Crown it sounded dull and dead. It's a passive volume control so no preamplification
Can we say a preamp is transparent while adding tube imaging to the signal? Or are you saying when using passive mode it's transparent while tube is bypassed.

2. Schiit Freya (25k above your budget , but an upgrade with Balanced options)
The study on Saga is beginning to let me think that although American the Schiit Freya is the more serious pre-amp of the lot from Schiit in the true sense. Need some AB listening opinion if someone has heard both. Of course the price point is noted. Send lot of online discussion available in favour of both https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30705-schiit-saga-vs-freya/

FM Aniket has designed a very good Class A preamp, using all discrete components. It has onboard power supply and volume pot, so it can be directly mounted on faceplate.
Here is a PCB

We have all parts. The approx cost of preamp module would be Rs 3000. He has also designed a 75W Class AB power amp. We may offer few full soldered modules for the same.

Regards
Sachin
Thanks for the offer Sachin, I will get back on this one. What is the gain of this device and inputs / output impedance? Can it be upped to have 3 inputs with selector and a two outputs? So that one can be fed to sub if required?

I had a similar question for the new CNC build, do we know what is the output impedance of the CNC if I were to put a preamp between it and the power amp for the volume and tone controls?
 

drkrack

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is that a tone bypass?
Yes, something that disengages the Tone Control.

for a good pre amp I need 80-90K budget?
A good preamp can make or break a system irrespective of other components.
I'd actually say if you leave the schiit and few other options a serious preamp will cost way more than that. 1.25L -2.0L (1500 - 3000 USD) should be a decent budget according to my current estimation.

Regarding Lyrita, is it an entry level? I heard they customize, but for 50K is lyrita (comes around 40K for new) better or DIY kits?
Forget the CA 500 pre as it won't serve your purpose well. Lyrita has a very good SQ advantage, as a person experiencing tubes for the first time can easily enjoy the difference.

This option is ruled out because if two reasons, unless the Chinese one is a clone of a popular brand model, can we trust it's implementation and specs? Of course hearing is believing
Yes you need to hear it to belive, its too light on the pocket and works very well as a tube buffer. Even If you upgrade to military spec tubes you won't be losing more than 5k in this experiment.
But does it improve dynamics? I mean it's still supposed to be passive right like a buffer?
It improves overall SQ, especially the midrange, at the expense of some details. Tubes are mostly active and gel well with SS power amps.

Moreover would an American brand gel well with British brand ( specs aside)? What all gears are you having in the chain?
Most of the Schiit products except Sys and Vidar are bright in nature. CA being neutral /warm the chance of balancing the shortcomings is much better.

It has no sound signature. Is absolutely transparent.
Yes, its just a glorified volume control, but does very well what it's supposed to.

Can we say a preamp is transparent while adding tube imaging to the signal?
Tubes invariably color the signal, each tube has well documented signature with various combinations of tonal variations.
https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/22739-power-trip-a-guide-to-power-tubes-and-their-signature-sounds?page=5

Saga is beginning to let me think that although American the Schiit Freya is the more serious pre-amp of the lot from Schiit in the true sense. Need some AB listening opinion if someone has heard both
Obviously yes, but the simplicity of Saga gives it a distinct advantage over Freya, again the rule of keeping it simple applies. Apart from option for balanced input /output it improves the SQ over Saga by different proportions depending upon accompanying electronics. If you can afford go for Freya.

Audionote, Conrad Johnson, Cary & Jolida etc are other options for tube preamplifiers. There was a AMR tube DAC /preamp on HFV classifieds as well, check availability.
 

haisaikat

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Yes you need to hear it to belive, its too light on the pocket and works very well as a tube buffer. Even If you upgrade to military spec tubes you won't be losing more than 5k in this experiment.
thanks for this pointer, i will certainly evaluate this route.

Most of the Schiit products except Sys and Vidar are bright in nature. CA being neutral /warm the chance of balancing the shortcomings is much better.
brightness as i am learning these days in infused in many modern dac stages or dacs to make the output sound detailsed but it has its toll on the midrange by infusing sibilance, not my scenario alone but some other systems i have heard in similar budget.

Yes, its just a glorified volume control, but does very well what it's supposed to.
it
I see a similar product from iFi except that i has a single input hence no-go from my end.
https://ifi-audio.com/products/micro-itube2/

Obviously yes, but the simplicity of Saga gives it a distinct advantage over Freya, again the rule of keeping it simple applies. Apart from option for balanced input /output it improves the SQ over Saga by different proportions depending upon accompanying electronics. If you can afford go for Freya
I learnt from another thread unless the entire circuit of the preamp or poweramp or cdp / dac is balanced, just leveraging unbalanced to balanced conversion will not help much, i know at least for my scenario CA CDP and the CA poweramp i have are not fully balanced, meaning they employ conversion at input and output stages. So I will not be able to take full advantage of this, not sure how internally Schiit is designed.

Audionote, Conrad Johnson, Cary & Jolida etc are other options for tube preamplifiers. There was a AMR tube DAC /preamp on HFV classifieds as well, check availability.
I looked at the likes of Conrad, even the vintage used ones are above my budget. The Parasound Halo P5 used ones coming for around 100 USD, thats almost 80-90K with shipping and customs i assume so double of my current budget even for used ones. Could you help me with the thread where there is the AMR preamp for sale? the Cary and other SS ones i will park for now as if its SS i plan to see if i can get hold of a CA preamp of the likes of 840E or above in similar budget because i am a big time CA fan.

But to summarize the discussion this far as it seems
1. Favourable low budget option to start with would be a Chinese one that has options to swap tubes for experimenting. All within 5-7K INR.
1.1 Missing something good in 15-25 K range. Saw on classifieds a Bottlehead tube preamp got sold in June this year.
2. Next up tube buffer model Schiit Saga or the likes of iFi itube 2 . It will be good option as many have feedbacks on them as positive. max budget is around 30-35K INR
3. If the above costs 35K closest competitor is Lyrita preamp at 40K INR which would be potentially better than Schiit (correct ?), tubes can be swapped and multiple inputs, just drawback no remote
4. Next up around 60K INR comes Schiit Freya.

Any other suggestions on the above categories?

Forgot to add, this tube rolling guide I found very useful and more relatable to my experience.

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/little-dot-tube-amps-vacuum-tube-rolling-guide.563884/
This link opens fine however when I try to go to details from other links present on this page those are all broken, may be old that is why.
 

drkrack

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This link opens fine however when I try to go to details from other links present on this page those are all broken, may be old that is why.
Yes, you need to scroll down to the tube of interest , some intra post linking seems broken for the time being.
 

sachu888

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Thanks for the offer Sachin, I will get back on this one. What is the gain of this device and inputs / output impedance? Can it be upped to have 3 inputs with selector and a two outputs? So that one can be fed to sub if required?

I had a similar question for the new CNC build, do we know what is the output impedance of the CNC if I were to put a preamp between it and the power amp for the volume and tone controls?
Hi @haisaikat specifications as follow

- Discrete stereo preamp/headphone amp
- Input Impedance: 100kOhms
- max gain: 8dB
- max voltage output: 11V rms
- SNR: 115dB
- THD: <0.002% 20-20000Hz, Vo=5V rms
- Transformer required: 18-0-18V AC, 50VA
- Frequency response: 1-150000Hz(-3dB)
He has also designed a Class AB power amp for 75W and 120W version. @Aniket can provide you more details on this.

Regards
Sachin
 

Kannan

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Pre-amps are always a big headache and can be a hit or a miss and the only way to assess is to introduce in your chain and check. Staying within the same brand is one way to do a blind purchase.
Most modern digital volume controls are bit perfect and give high voltage output aswell, but they can produce a digital glare.
An analogue preamp does have its bloom in the midrange, but finding one to match your power amp can be a challenge.
I would recommend you go with a Cambridge audio pre amp itself as the safest bet.
 
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I would second @sound_cycle and @drkrack on this.

I've been using a saga as a preamp to the vidar as well as to my trigon tre 50 monoblocks. It's extremely transparent and switching on the tube buffer adds a slight bit of bloom to the mid range.

I don't recommend the sys. I don't find it as transparent as the saga and it seems veiled at times.
 
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