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Looking for a DAC which excels as a pre-amp


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I am considering removing my pre-amp fromthe chain and am also overdue a DAC upgrade so am considering my options for qualityDAC pres. Also you opinions on whether a pre-amp is necessary these days. Mycurrent system is Laptop / SBT > Beresford Caiman DAC > Croft 25 valvepre-amp > Event Opal active monitors.

Before I upgraded to active speakers Ifound the pre-amp a vital component in my passive system, I tried my budget DACin variable mode, using the SBT digital volume direct to a power amp as well asother options and none came close to my valve pre for perceived realism and dynamicsbut the synergy in my new system despite being more revealing speakers and of sourcematerial appears to show less profound differences with my pre in or out of thechain.

This had made me curious about trying agood DAC pre and I suspect output and input impendence dictate synergy to a largeextent but I want a DAC that has a well implemented volume that won’t lose thatsense of authority that comes with a good pre-amp – or should I just find agood DAC that does conversion well and stick with my pre in your opinion? Theinput sensitivity of my speakers are .755 v/rms is 0dBu and any further specs can be found here: http://www.eventelectronics.com/opal

I’m UK based am my topbudget is £2k but would rather spend less than that, for an idea the likes ofthe Benchmark DAC2 or NAD M51 would be around my top end budget.

Excellent DAC (Musical and engaging sound)

 

Excellent pre section with well implemented volume and low noise floor(suitable to be used direct to active speakers)

 

Fully balanced design, not XLR connections on single ended circuit

 

Remote control for volume

 

Excels on Asynchronous USB input (well all inputs really, just hear in manyDACs USB lets the side down I want to use SBT EDO)

 

Ideally DSD (not a deal breaker but like to keep my options open)

 

Thanks very much

 

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Just to clarify: do you need analogue inputs or purely digital? How many sources?

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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If you only have digital inputs, a lot of people think such a setup sounds best without a preamp.

 

You might want to try a DAC at full output>Passive Pre> Active Monitors. I'm using a $49 Schiit Volume control between my DAC and power amp, and I find I've lost nothing in SQ. If anything, I think the system sounds superior this way to how it did with many preamps - very clean and clear sounding, yet still warm on warm recordings. But I didn't try any extremely expensive pre-amps costing multiple thousands.

 

The SB Touch is known to sound best at 100% output, so I'm not sure your previous experience is very applicable to what you are now considering.

 

Of course, the other possibility is that you will simply prefer the sound of your valve pre in any case. Nothing wrong with that.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Cayin iDAC6 MKII (tube mode) (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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If I were looking for an all-digital DAC/pre in that price range, there would only be one candidate: Lyngdorf TDAI 2170 with DAC, pre, room correction, digital crossover AND power amp on one chassis.

 

Only downside is that demand is so great that you will have to wait to get your hands on one.

Al J.

Modem/router + Keces DC-116 12V LPS - SGC Sonic Transporter + Sonore 12V LPS/Edwards Audio ISO-1 mains isolation transformer - Meicord Opal LAN cables - Aqvox Switch + Sbooster 9V LPS/Uptone LPS-1 - Etalon Isolator - Sonore Signature Rendu Special Edition + Mad Scientist Heretical USB data-only cable - Sonore Ultradigital + Uptone LPS-1 - PS Audio I2S-12 cable - HQ Player - Holo Spring Level 3 DAC -  iPeng on iPad 2 - MK Sound 300 monitors - Mad Audio Scientist Tungsten Carbide footers - Niels Larsen NLE speaker cables - Walker Audio Reference Plus HIGH Definition Links - 2 MK Sound MX350 subs - Shakti Stones - Herbie's Super Sonic Stabilizers - Herbie's Tenderfeet - Stillpoints ERS EMI/RFI sheets - Gutwire Ultimate Ground + Entreq Minimus + Silver Minimus grounding boxes - Symposium Rollerblocks - Symposium Ultra platform - Akiko Tuning Sticks

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You could also add the Mytek and Naim V1 to your list.

 

 

The Chord Hugo is another option though it's a portable and not as ergonomic as the others for household use. It's a tad above your price range.

 

Ayre is releasing a new unit next month priced at around $1500 that might also meet your needs.

 

The site also just reviewed a Hegel product at your price point as well.

 

Of all the DACs I've been auditioning the Ayrr QB-9 was the most impressive. If the upcoming release meets your needs and captures the same sonic magic it might be the one.

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I'm happy with my NAD M51. It doesn't do DSD, but it has multiple HDMI connectivity, if you want to use it with video equipment, in addition to 2-channel audio. NAD makes a slightly downgraded version, the C 510. The specs are almost identical to the M51, plus it has a volume knob on the front panel, in addition to the remote control. Retail here in the USA for the M51 is $1,999, and the C 510 is $1,299.

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a definite contender is the B.M.C. Puredac ....does everything you have asked for [and has a superb balanced headphone amp built in]

 

+1 for the B.M.C. PureDAC

Eric


Ubuntu Linux box (i7-12700K, 12 cores, 32GB RAM, Intel X520-DA1 NIC, HQP Desktop) > fiber > MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+ > fiber > fitlet2 (HQP Embedded OS - NAA) > T+A DAC8 DSD > Rogue Audio DragoN > Klipsch La Scala — digital volume control with HQP, DSP with HQP convolution 

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If I were looking for an all-digital DAC/pre in that price range, there would only be one candidate: Lyngdorf TDAI 2170 with DAC, pre, room correction, digital crossover AND power amp on one chassis

I am waiting for the pre-amp version of the 2170. The TDAI 2200 made an excellent job here.

 

 

a definite contender is the B.M.C. Puredac ....does everything you have asked for [and has a superb balanced headphone amp built in]

I ordered a PureDAC in last summer but returned it. Had issues with USB handshake between the PureDAC and my Daphile nettop and also with the SBT (EDO app). Afaik there was an update to fix it. Ah, besides there was an ugly click in my active speakers each time I turned on the PureDAC. Well, I changed to the Oppo HA-1 (I am happy about its analog inputs).

I think the more modern B.M.C. DAC is the UltraDAC now (DSD128 via USB, 192/24 via SPDIF). Much more expensive though.

 

 

@Bluedroog... do you know the EDO compatibility list? https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UnnpylzUvFW3oi0ip5ghpuWFfDVcufKCn8k54uhqYKQ/edit?pli=1#gid=0

Will your DAC and the SBT always be switched on? In case not, for a successful USB handshake the DAC should be switched on before the SBT. And I would look for DACs with a XMOS USB chipset (or Amanero?).

Euphony (NUC7DNKE: Roon or Stylus) --> Euphony EP (NUC7CJYH: Roon Bridge or NAA or StylusEP) --> Matrix Audio X-SPDIF 2 --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (I2S) -->

Euphony (NUC7DNKE: Roon) --> WS 2019 Core (i7-8700: HQPlayer, JPLAY Femto, Roon Bridge, MinorityClean) / Matrix Audio Element H --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (USB) --> B & M Prime 6

Synology DS 112+ (LMS) --> pi3B+/HifiBerry Digi + Pro (PiCorePlayer) --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (SPDIF) -->  

bedroom: pi3/DigiOne (RoPieee) --> S.M.S.L M500 --> KRK Rokit 5 or AKG 712 Pro

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I just read in a review of the PureDAC that it doesn’t retainthe volume from your previous listening session once switched off, while not adeal breaker that is something I’m sure I’d find annoying.

Others I haveconsidered include the Benchmark DAC2 although some the pre section isn’t thebest, NAD M51 but USB lets it down, also M2Tech Young DSD, W4S…I’d really liketo get a few units on loan so I can try them in my system and also try them withand without my pre. I am very fond of my pre-amp, hand made here in the UK by aone man show, slightly quirky design and very non frills in terms of featuresbut I’d also like the functionality of a remote and fancy trying a balancedsystem.

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I just read in a review of the PureDAC that it doesn’t retainthe volume from your previous listening session once switched off, while not adeal breaker that is something I’m sure I’d find annoying.

That's true! I almost had forgotten about this.

 

I wonder if I should recommend the Oppo HA-1 :) I like the unit for its numerous inputs, stable USB handshake, the display, the remote control. The headphone amp is something I will try in the future.

Euphony (NUC7DNKE: Roon or Stylus) --> Euphony EP (NUC7CJYH: Roon Bridge or NAA or StylusEP) --> Matrix Audio X-SPDIF 2 --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (I2S) -->

Euphony (NUC7DNKE: Roon) --> WS 2019 Core (i7-8700: HQPlayer, JPLAY Femto, Roon Bridge, MinorityClean) / Matrix Audio Element H --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (USB) --> B & M Prime 6

Synology DS 112+ (LMS) --> pi3B+/HifiBerry Digi + Pro (PiCorePlayer) --> Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro (MQA) (SPDIF) -->  

bedroom: pi3/DigiOne (RoPieee) --> S.M.S.L M500 --> KRK Rokit 5 or AKG 712 Pro

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Surely the key requirement is finding a dac with a valve stage output, as replacing the sound of a Croft is mighty tricky. In your shoes I think I might concentrate just on the DAC....£2k buys a pretty decent DAC.

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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Surely the key requirement is finding a dac with a valve stage output, as replacing the sound of a Croft is mighty tricky. In your shoes I think I might concentrate just on the DAC....£2k buys a pretty decent DAC.

 

 

That is a serious option too, the Croft isn't balanced which is no biggie but I've got a balanced itch I have fancied scratching, the Croft doesn't have a remote either but I have discovered one of the dealers will fit a module for that.

 

I have wanted to try the DDAC NOS kit so keeping the Croft and trying that is one option I'm thinking of, there was seems something very neat about a DAC / Pre to actives.

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Others I haveconsidered include the Benchmark DAC2 although some the pre section isn’t thebest, ...

 

I have not heard of that myself...

 

I liked my Benchmark DAC-1 HDR, and then the DAC-2 HGC even better. I compared the line stage of the HDR with my MFA Magus tube preamps line section. OP amps besting small signal tubes ? Yep.

 

I still use the Magus for a phono amp, and to switch in the output of a Dolby Digital decoder (2x of 5.1), but the preamp's 'Tape Out' goes to the 'Analog In' on my Benchmark. With all the other digital inputs, I get wonderful flexibility !

 

Also I consider a remote volume control almost a requirement for computer based music, since the recorded track volumes varies so widely, and we tend to bounce around from album to album more often (since we can !).

 

 

OTOH, I have heard very good things about that TEAC DAC.

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exaSound e20/e22! :)

Triangle Magellan Concerto 2 < AQ Everest < Vitus Audio SS-010 Mk2 < AQ Dragon High Current < AQ WEL XLR < Chord Qutest DAC w UpTone JS-2 & AQ Dragon Source < AQ Diamond USB < Innuos Phoenix USB w AQ Dragon Source < Aurender N100H & AQ Dragon Source < NetGear GS105GE Switch w UpTone LPS1.2 < Supra CAT8 Ethernet < Gryphon PowerZone w AQ NRG-Wild < Stillpoints UltraSS, Ansuz Darkz D-TC & D2, Omicron Harmonic Stabilizer, Gold Evolution SE & Classic < Furutech FT-SWS (R) < Synergistic Research Orange Quantum Fuse < Solid Tech Hybrid < GigaWatt G-16A 2P Circuit Breaker

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exaSound e20/e22! :)

 

I completely agree with this, but the e20 is now discontinued and the e22 is out of the OP's price range.

 

Of the DACs previously mentioned I think the Benchmark DAC2 and the Hegel HD12 are pretty much mandatory listens given what you're looking for, Bluedroog. But if you can swing the extra cash the e22 is worth every penny, imo.

Mac Mini (+Tidal +Roon) -> WiFi -> Lyngdorf TDAI1120 ->JM Reynaud Lucia (Tellurium Q Black v2)

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. Some have stated apreference but what do you think generally of the DAC / Pre vs. DAC and Preroute? It seems to really divide opinion, I suspect being a computer audio sitemore would lean to the all in one route? My pre-amp is a very capable unit butI really do need a DAC upgrade so not sure if I should just be looking at a DACor if it makes more sense to just get one unit that does it all since it issuch an expanding market.

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