Jump to content
IGNORED

How important are preamps (comparatively speaking)


Preamp or Amplifer more important for SQ  

41 members have voted

You do not have permission to vote in this poll, or see the poll results. Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

Recommended Posts

Hi,

 

I don't want to start *that* discussion again, but for someone like me not using a preamp for the explicit reason it's always devastating, what to answer ? So the "Just get a reveiver" is funny, but there's missing one option I'd say.

 

Regards,

Peter

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

Link to comment
I don't want to start *that* discussion again, but for someone like me not using a preamp for the explicit reason it's always devastating, what to answer ?

 

Peter

Perhaps in your system, but certainly not in my experience at our regular listening sessions at different locations where we are able to compare good DIY preamps with digital volume control from different DACs. Your situation is quite different to most, with ultra sensitive horn speakers that may even be able to be driven to very high SPLs from a Class A preamp with adequate bias and supply rail voltages ? Perhaps a preamp is not a proposition for you due to already having PA gain well above what is required to drive your horn speakers to destructive levels ? In your situation You would need the small added gain from a preamp as much as another body orifice.

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

Link to comment

Given the nonexistence of a "preamp" (which, traditionally, refers to a voltage amplifier) in an all-digital system, it's a moot point unless you're analog somewhere between source and power output stage. If your DAC can drive your power amp directly and has a good volume control circuit, a separate preamp provides only input and switching capability plus analog inputs if you need them. Whether a preamp or buffer stage enhances SQ is hotly debated here and elsewhere - all seem to agree that a preamp can make SQ worse, but not all agree that it can make SQ better between a DAC and a power stage if the DAC has the volts and the VC to do the job.

 

I no longer use a preamp between my DAC and my power amp, but I do have a Parasound Zphono preamp for vinyl. I tried inserting it between the DAC and the amp with no significant or consistently detectable difference. To be honest, I didn't put a lot of effort into looking for one, so it may be there - but it's sufficiently subtle that I really don't care. Late one night when I've had just enough food and wine, I may try a more extensive session with phones on - but through my speakers with casual listening to a few tracks once each, the Parasound made no difference.

Link to comment

As others have pointed out, a preamp's usefulness depends on the system. I have one set of amps that have low input impedance, and when used with long interconnects, a preamp is required (and not just any preamp); not for volume but to retain dynamics and frequency response at the frequency extremes. With the other set of amps, I can happily live without a preamp.

Link to comment
Hi Mike,

 

Of course, everything is important but in this comparison, in my experience, it isn't even close.

I've heard many more systems wrecked by preamps than by power amps.

The volume control alone is a major source of coloration in most systems.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

I agree wholeheartedly with Barry.

Link to comment

Great question - but devilishly difficult to answer. :)

 

Whatever you are using for a preamp - a "real" preamp, the preamp section in a receiver, a digital or analog volume control in your DAC, or digital volume control in a player on your PC - the preamp seems to me to have the most effect or "coloration" on sound save for the speakers. And not very far behind that. All else being equal, I would say it is very important. But where exactly it is *located* is more a matter of how you design your system and what you want to do with it than anything else. In fact, perhaps more than everything else all put together, save for the speakers.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
Hi Mike,

 

Of course, everything is important but in this comparison, in my experience, it isn't even close.

I've heard many more systems wrecked by preamps than by power amps.

The volume control alone is a major source of coloration in most systems.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

Thanks all...I should have clarified more what I was seeking. I was mainly wanting to know if there was as distinguishable difference in SQ between brands for preamps. I have mostly used recievers most of my life, but at someone elses suggestion I tried a NAD amplifier and I noticed a relatively easy difference in SQ. Currently I am just using my denon receiver's pre-outs to the NAD amp. I am mainly wondering if I will be able to identify a big difference in SQ by using a preamp vs a receiver's pre-outs. I know I will always have some sort of preamp or receiver pre-outs as a means of control...my main question was if there is a dramatic difference in SQ between brands as there is for amps.

Link to comment
Great question - but devilishly difficult to answer. :)

 

Whatever you are using for a preamp - a "real" preamp, the preamp section in a receiver, a digital or analog volume control in your DAC, or digital volume control in a player on your PC - the preamp seems to me to have the most effect or "coloration" on sound save for the speakers. And not very far behind that. All else being equal, I would say it is very important. But where exactly it is *located* is more a matter of how you design your system and what you want to do with it than anything else. In fact, perhaps more than everything else all put together, save for the speakers.

 

-Paul

Thanks Paul, I agree speakers make the most difference...I am mostly curious if I would be just as happy with a cheap receiver preouts as compared to an expensive preamp. The NAD amp I bought was a worthwhile upgrade, and I know speakers are definitely a worthwhile upgrade. For my limited audiophile capabilities, I am not so much interested in expensive cabling or dacs. As for speakers everyone has there own opinions, and I have heard many relatively low priced speakers that to me sound as nice as some more expensive ones, at least for my musical preference (jazz & chillout). Right now I am content with a pair of infinity crescendo 3008 that I picked up at a garage sale for $20 that I paid $80 to be refoamed...although I may splurge some day for some paradigms if I find the right price. Note I am very budget minded (grin).
Link to comment
Thanks Paul, I agree speakers make the most difference...I am mostly curious if I would be just as happy with a cheap receiver preouts as compared to an expensive preamp. The NAD amp I bought was a worthwhile upgrade, and I know speakers are definitely a worthwhile upgrade. For my limited audiophile capabilities, I am not so much interested in expensive cabling or dacs. As for speakers everyone has there own opinions, and I have heard many relatively low priced speakers that to me sound as nice as some more expensive ones, at least for my musical preference (jazz & chillout). Right now I am content with a pair of infinity crescendo 3008 that I picked up at a garage sale for $20 that I paid $80 to be refoamed...although I may splurge some day for some paradigms if I find the right price. Note I am very budget minded (grin).
And to clarify, I know importance of a DAC, I just mean for my ears, the cheap DACS seem fine to me...I see much better improvement from speakers and amp than from dacs (and I have tried dacs from embedded to $100 dragonflys to $300 midrange to $1000 higher end....none seemed that dramatic of a difference as compared to speakers and amps...) And now I am contemplating using a receiver pre-outs or a dedicated preamp. I have heard differences in different brand preamps/recievers, just not sure it was "better sq"...whereas I could definitely tell difference in SQ with amps and speakers.
Link to comment

Why would anybody have a preamp if they didn't need one?

 

How could anybody get by without a preamp if they need one?

 

You need a preamp or you don't. If you don't need one, then you certainly don't have one and turn the volume down somewhere else in the system.

 

You may not like engineering rules, but here's one. You NEVER amplify and then ATTENUATE.

 

Whatever is driving your speakers or headphones requires a certain voltage to drive it. If the voltage produced by your source is insufficient then you boost it with a preamp. That's ALL she wrote.

 

The presence or not of a preamp in a system on its own is no indication of the SQ of that system.

Mike zerO Romeo Oscar November

http://wakibaki.com

Link to comment

Hi Mike,

 

Thanks all...I should have clarified more what I was seeking. I was mainly wanting to know if there was as distinguishable difference in SQ between brands for preamps. I have mostly used recievers most of my life, but at someone elses suggestion I tried a NAD amplifier and I noticed a relatively easy difference in SQ. Currently I am just using my denon receiver's pre-outs to the NAD amp. I am mainly wondering if I will be able to identify a big difference in SQ by using a preamp vs a receiver's pre-outs. I know I will always have some sort of preamp or receiver pre-outs as a means of control...my main question was if there is a dramatic difference in SQ between brands as there is for amps.

 

I think I understood the question as originally asked. My answer is that in my experience, the differences between preamps are appreciably *larger* than those between amps. Put another way, I think it is more difficult to design a preamp than it is to design an amp. It seems there is more than can be damaged with the lower level signals. Also, as I mentioned, my experience has been that volume controls are among the most sonically damaging parts of the signal path.

 

If nothing else, unless it is one of those extremely rare receivers with a great power supply, going to separates will make for great improvements right there (i.e., the power supply, which is the heart of any piece of electronics).

 

Ultimately, I can only speak for how *I* hear it. You will learn infinitely more if you can audition some different electronics in your own system. Perhaps get a friend or two with different gear to bring some over to try with your system.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

Link to comment

. . . all the way.

 

 

Forget the DAC's, the pre amps, the tubes, the mono blocks and the passive X-overs.

These are all legacy products, signal degrading dinosaurs in the digital world.

 

 

 

I can not vote for a single one of your options.

Other or None at all I could give my vote.

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile” at http://www.computeraudiophile.com/blogs/digipete

Link to comment
Thanks Paul, I agree speakers make the most difference...I am mostly curious if I would be just as happy with a cheap receiver preouts as compared to an expensive preamp. The NAD amp I bought was a worthwhile upgrade, and I know speakers are definitely a worthwhile upgrade. For my limited audiophile capabilities, I am not so much interested in expensive cabling or dacs. As for speakers everyone has there own opinions, and I have heard many relatively low priced speakers that to me sound as nice as some more expensive ones, at least for my musical preference (jazz & chillout). Right now I am content with a pair of infinity crescendo 3008 that I picked up at a garage sale for $20 that I paid $80 to be refoamed...although I may splurge some day for some paradigms if I find the right price. Note I am very budget minded (grin).

 

Personally, I cannot hear the difference between my little NAD T747 acting as a preamp, and preamps I have tried going up to about the $2600 range. Above that, there tend to be distinct differences, though not enough to drive me to buy one. YMMV!

 

I think you would be fine hang in a set of decent amps off the back of that receiver (depending upon just *how* cheap it is... :)) - perhaps into something inexpensive but really high performance, like a set of Outlaw M2200s. Sweet sound, low price, nice reserved look. Win-Win-Win.

 

As for DACs, some of the cheap DACs are awesomely good. The Dragonfly for one. The best low cost DAC I have ever ran across is the $180 iFi iDSD Nano. Jaw droopingly good at the price, and easily able to fool unwary listeners into thinking they are listening to a far more costly DAC. I have turned the power on to a Benchmark and played the music through the iDSD Nano before to rave reviews. That then turn to amazement as I reveal the true source. Great fun, so long as you are sure to do it in a spirit of fun!

 

At the $500 range these days, DACs are just so good that there is little, if any need, to spend multi-thousands of dollars on a DAC. Desire perhaps, but little need.

 

Just my opinion of course, but for what it is worth... :)

 

-Paul

 

P.S. My "main" speakers these days are an almost 40 year old pair of large Advents. Short of monolith sized Maggies, they produce the most pleasing sound I have ever listened to. I regretted giving away my originals every day, so much so I sold very much more expensive speakers and started shopping on EBay. I am so glad I did...

 

I do plan to buy a pair of acoustic suspension speakers someday, as soon as I give it up enough to buy Spendor or another beautiful sounding brand, but I am not in any hurry to do so... at least not so so long as these Advents last!

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
. . . all the way.

 

 

Forget the DAC's, the pre amps, the tubes, the mono blocks and the passive X-overs.

These are all legacy products, signal degrading dinosaurs in the digital world.

 

 

 

I can not vote for a single one of your options.

Other or None at all I could give my vote.

 

haha...if i haven't read some of your posts about $10K speakers, i would ask what you are talking about...but your budget is just a tad out of my reach (grin). Maybe if the world discovers what you have found to be true, that the technology will be mass produced and i can buy some of those digital speakers for $300 (wink)

Link to comment
Personally, I cannot hear the difference between my little NAD T747 acting as a preamp, and preamps I have tried going up to about the $2600 range. Above that, there tend to be distinct differences, though not enough to drive me to buy one. YMMV!

 

I think you would be fine hang in a set of decent amps off the back of that receiver (depending upon just *how* cheap it is... :)) - perhaps into something inexpensive but really high performance, like a set of Outlaw M2200s. Sweet sound, low price, nice reserved look. Win-Win-Win.

 

As for DACs, some of the cheap DACs are awesomely good. The Dragonfly for one. The best low cost DAC I have ever ran across is the $180 iFi iDSD Nano. Jaw droopingly good at the price, and easily able to fool unwary listeners into thinking they are listening to a far more costly DAC. I have turned the power on to a Benchmark and played the music through the iDSD Nano before to rave reviews. That then turn to amazement as I reveal the true source. Great fun, so long as you are sure to do it in a spirit of fun!

 

At the $500 range these days, DACs are just so good that there is little, if any need, to spend multi-thousands of dollars on a DAC. Desire perhaps, but little need.

 

Just my opinion of course, but for what it is worth... :)

 

-Paul

 

P.S. My "main" speakers these days are an almost 40 year old pair of large Advents. Short of monolith sized Maggies, they produce the most pleasing sound I have ever listened to. I regretted giving away my originals every day, so much so I sold very much more expensive speakers and started shopping on EBay. I am so glad I did...

 

I do plan to buy a pair of acoustic suspension speakers someday, as soon as I give it up enough to buy Spendor or another beautiful sounding brand, but I am not in any hurry to do so... at least not so so long as these Advents last!

 

Thanks Paul...i think your budget and my budget are more inline. I am running an older higher end denon receiver with preouts. 2308ci that that i bought used for $120. I have had some cheap preamps (carvin or carver, i forget, nikko or something like that, rotel, and a few others) and none to date sounded any better than the denon receiver used as a preamp...

 

My wife and I are garage sale junkies, so i come across stuff all the time, but for now i think i agree, without spending drastically more money, the reciever pre-outs should be fine for me. I do love this NAD amp i bought for a dance for $250 though (NAD 218 thx). I am thinking about trying one of the cheap recievers that do DLNA, DSD, USB....i just picked one up on ebay (onkyo nr535 for $195 dlvd). I will see if using the preouts sound worse or better or indistinguishable as compared to my older denon receiver as a preamp.

Link to comment

Whether or not you hear a difference between your receivers preamp section and a dedicated preamp depends on the dedicated preamp. I know that I can hear differences between preamps in my system, but it depends on the rest of your system of course, and how much importance you place on sonic attributes such as soundstage, imaging, etc. If you just want a volume knob, then what you have is fine.

Link to comment
Why would anybody have a preamp if they didn't need one?

 

How could anybody get by without a preamp if they need one?

 

You need a preamp or you don't. If you don't need one, then you certainly don't have one and turn the volume down somewhere else in the system.

 

You may not like engineering rules, but here's one. You NEVER amplify and then ATTENUATE.

 

Whatever is driving your speakers or headphones requires a certain voltage to drive it. If the voltage produced by your source is insufficient then you boost it with a preamp. That's ALL she wrote.

 

The presence or not of a preamp in a system on its own is no indication of the SQ of that system.

I desire a preamp for its inputs and volume control. My amp has neither. I like versatility (e.g. cd,usb,dlna,aux,phono)...so i guess you would say "i need", based on my versatility desires. Of course i could use an integrated amp/receiver instead. I have to admit though, plugging my samsung mega directly into the back of the NAD amp and playing a flac file sounded pretty impressive even without any external dac. I think the answers i have read that sounded the best was that the power supply in the preamp will make a difference when comparing. That is probably why the NAD amp sounds better than any other reciever i have ever used. THe difference even to my untrained ears was quite significant. The power supply is pretty heavy...and that may be the difference. I also agree that it is probably cleaner better if i went directly to the amp with a dac without going through a preamp of other sorts first.

Link to comment

I agree with Barry that a preamp can have a significant effect on SQ, and that effect can often be negative. OTOH, high end quality preamps can and do sound better than no preamp in many systems. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, those preamps tend to list in the $10K region and above.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

Link to comment
Put another way, I think it is more difficult to design a preamp than it is to design an amp. It seems there is more than can be damaged with the lower level signals. Also, as I mentioned, my experience has been that volume controls are among the most sonically damaging parts of the signal path.

 

Agreed. My Class A Preamp and Class A headphone amp are both very low noise, wide bandwidth, and have vanishingly low distortion. ( <.0005%) They both use DACT2 attenuators to avoid the colouration, that Barry mentions, as well as retaining wide bandwidth. They also have low output impedance. Many DACs are let down by mediocre output stages and digital volume control isn't always as good as is claimed.

 

You may not like engineering rules, but here's one. You NEVER amplify and then ATTENUATE.

When more engineers start designing power amplifiers with far less gain to suit CD/Digital output levels, then the inevitable trade offs will be reduced. In a typical domestic listening requirement we often need as high as 30dB attenuation.

P.S.

Good to hear from you again Fred !

 

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

Link to comment

In summary, I guess, if reading correctly...is that most believe that unless you have big budgets the lower end (sub $500) stuff really won't make much difference. No preamp is better than using a preamp, and if you use a preamp, the power supply will likely be the most relevant in SQ. Of course, certainly I will try many, since I am always buying and selling.

Link to comment
Unfortunately, with few exceptions, those preamps tend to list in the $10K region and above.- Allan

 

That's where those into DIY have a marked advantage with both the analogue and digital areas.

It helps of course that you don't need to include your own labour costs.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

Link to comment
haha...if i haven't read some of your posts about $10K speakers, i would ask what you are talking about...but your budget is just a tad out of my reach (grin). Maybe if the world discovers what you have found to be true, that the technology will be mass produced and i can buy some of those digital speakers for $300 (wink)

 

 

Analogue pit fall

Ask a typical audiophile the cost of his rig.

Then ask him how much he spent on previous gear - getting there.

He probably wasted many times the cost of his current system.

 

 

Digital solution

Now go audition and buy a pure active digital and DSP room optimising system.

You will like the sound at home, if you liked the sound in the store.

No surprises, sounds good in any room (as well as possible), perfect for a combined stereo / surround rig.

 

 

New smaller Genelecs

 

Price indications (about to be released for sales)

EUR 1200,- 8320 + GLM 2.0 or

EUR 1700,- 8330 + GLM 2.0

 

add a

 

USD 500,- Stello U3 USB -> AES3 DDC

 

 

Wammo - you are all digital and your wife didn't leave you.

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile” at http://www.computeraudiophile.com/blogs/digipete

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...