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Do you even need a preamp?


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Is there anything wrong with the thinking that one doesn't even need an integrated amp or preamp?

If my DAC has a remote volume control, and i never change my balance or bass/treble controls, is there any reason i can't just buy an amp and not worry about a preamp?

 

Works for me, with a single computer source.

If you want to add channel balance/gain and/or EQ/tone controls, there are plenty of freeware plugins compatible with your software player of choice, should they and/or your stereo power amp not have some of these features built-in.

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It depends mainly how good the digital attenuation is implemented in the DAC, especially at higher attenuation levels, (e.g.perhaps even as much as 30dB in a typical domestic situation) as the vast majority of commercial Power Amplifiers have far too much gain. The other main reason is the number of different sources you have, as mansr explained.

 

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

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Nope not needed. There ways to work it if you want multiple sources too if you need that.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I'll add my voice too: not needed. I have an Oppo BDP-105 that serves as my disc player and my DAC. I've tried my setup with and without a preamp, and it just sounds cleaner to me without. The Oppo's volume control is implemented quite well, inside the DAC in 32-bit float mode, so you don't lose any resolution until you start really attenuating things a lot.

 

But sandyk is right in that if your power amp-speaker combo makes your music ear-splittingly loud, then you need to make sure your DAC's digital volume control is well-implemented if it's going to be doing a lot of attenuating (like being below 50% of max volume all the time).

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That will work just fine. You'll obviously be restricted to a single source, but if that's not a problem, then go for it. You can always add a preamp later if you do find a problem.

 

actually 3 sources...besides the usb from computer, it also has digital input (using coax from sacd), and pair of analog inputs too. (teac ud-503)

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actually 3 sources...besides the usb from computer, it also has digital input (using coax from sacd), and pair of analog inputs too. (teac ud-503)

 

Oh no! You will be limited to Quad DSD and 384 khz 32 bits. Then next year when everything is OCTO DSD and 768khz it will be obsolete. Maybe the Velvet sound DACs will save the day.

 

Excuse me being a smart ass. That unit looks made to function as a preamp so should be good to go. That DAC is like a digital swiss army knife. An amp and you are rocking and rolling already.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Oh no! You will be limited to Quad DSD and 384 khz 32 bits. Then next year when everything is OCTO DSD and 768khz it will be obsolete. Maybe the Velvet sound DACs will save the day.

 

Excuse me being a smart ass. That unit looks made to function as a preamp so should be good to go. That DAC is like a digital swiss army knife. An amp and you are rocking and rolling already.

 

well it is already obsolete even though they are back-ordered (grin).

the nt-503 lacks the analog in but has network (dlna&internet streaming) and flash drive inputs instead, in addition to the pc usb and digital inputs...

 

...i should have waited a month (grin).

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well it is already obsolete even though they are back-ordered (grin).

the nt-503 lacks the analog in but has network (dlna&internet streaming) and flash drive inputs instead, in addition to the pc usb and digital inputs...

 

...i should have waited a month (grin).

 

See, I told you so. :)

 

Yeah too bad the streaming inputs would have been handy to have. Now the issue is silver or black. I'll never forget buying a silver Nakamichi deck because everything I then owned was silver even though I liked the black better. Within two years the Nakamichi was the only silver thing I owned. In fact it was over a decade before I had any other silver gear, and I still have the functioning Nak today.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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See, I told you so. :)

 

Yeah too bad the streaming inputs would have been handy to have. Now the issue is silver or black. I'll never forget buying a silver Nakamichi deck because everything I then owned was silver even though I liked the black better. Within two years the Nakamichi was the only silver thing I owned. In fact it was over a decade before I had any other silver gear, and I still have the functioning Nak today.

 

i thought about sending the ud503 back and getting the nt503, but the more i thought about it, i really wouldn't stream. i have so much dsd material that i will never listen to a fraction of what i have already....and if i really want something new, i would download it anyway....although it might be interesting to play the same file streamed vs usb to see if i can hear a quality difference.

 

update---actually i just checked and i still have 7 days to return the ud-503....i will think about this, and may send the ud503 back and get the nt503...

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i thought about sending the ud503 back and getting the nt503, but the more i thought about it, i really wouldn't stream. i have so much dsd material that i will never listen to a fraction of what i have already....and if i really want something new, i would download it anyway....although it might be interesting to play the same file streamed vs usb to see if i can hear a quality difference.

 

update---actually i just checked and i still have 7 days to return the ud-503....i will think about this, and may send the ud503 back and get the nt503...

 

Unless the cost for the extra streaming is too high I think I would go with the Nt503. Looks to be the same only with the extra connections. I don't use that type connection, but many here on CA use the connection with a NAS.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Is there anything wrong with the thinking that one doesn't even need an integrated amp or preamp?

If my DAC has a remote volume control, and i never change my balance or bass/treble controls, is there any reason i can't just buy an amp and not worry about a preamp?

 

I have never felt the need to purchase a standalone preamp. I have used the Benchmark HDR DAC directly connected into ADAM A7 active speakers for the past 5 years. Awesome sound, remote control and volume attenuator with excellent connectivity - USB, optical, 2 x coaxial plus analogue IN with RCA and Balanced OUT.

 

Benchmark are offering refurbished models of the HDR for $US1,150 or you can purchase the new Benchmark DAC 2 HGC with native DSD conversion for just under $2k

 

Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.

 

Simple excellence IMO.

 

I am also using the Auralic MINI Streamer (with internal DAC) US$500 direct into a Halo A21 Poweramp connected to ATC passive speakers with excellent results. Sometimes I connect the MINI via the Benchmark's optical input for improved performance although not really required as the MINI's DAC is quite good and it has its own iPhone App that controls the volume.

 

I see no need to purchase a standalone Preamp as there are lots of simple and easy to use sources that provide excellent sound quality and connectivity without breaking the bank.

 

All the best,

 

 

Ajax

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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As has been mentioned many power amps have way more gain than you need, if that is the case and your DAC does not have a way to set some fixed attenuation in the analog domain, the computer could come along and send full output to your power amp which COULD damage speakers. Relying on the fact that you always have the volume control set to -20 or greater is not necessarily a smart thing to do. Many people that have done this have had the experience that every so often the computer over rides your setting and dumps full value signal into your DAC.

 

Some DACs have adjustable attenuators in the analog side, many do not. It is possible to get external attenuators for this purpose, but you have to get the right ones that will work in your situation.

 

John S.

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As has been mentioned many power amps have way more gain than you need, if that is the case and your DAC does not have a way to set some fixed attenuation in the analog domain, the computer could come along and send full output to your power amp which COULD damage speakers. Relying on the fact that you always have the volume control set to -20 or greater is not necessarily a smart thing to do. Many people that have done this have had the experience that every so often the computer over rides your setting and dumps full value signal into your DAC.

 

Some DACs have adjustable attenuators in the analog side, many do not. It is possible to get external attenuators for this purpose, but you have to get the right ones that will work in your situation.

 

John S.

 

Depends on his amps. His DAC has 2 volt max. Usually enough to drive to clipping. The volume can be handled in the DAC though so it would require computer malfunction and/or the DAC malfunction (which is a computer inside of course). He could always do 6db of digital attenuation in his playback software and on the DAC so both must fail for it to be a problem. Both failing an providing full signal is much less likely.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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It all depends on how well your DAC combines with your amp.

I tried to get rid of the preamp in my setup since my DAC has very good volume control (PS Audio Directstream) but the output of the DS being passive (transformers) I was lacking a bit of punch. I saw that when I introduced a home cinema preamp for a test.

So I went into bying a really good preamp and really like it better!

You can't be sure without trying...

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Not sure if it's been clearly said by anyone, but any device including some form of analog attenuation is a preamp, whether it's a stand alone one, if it's integrated into an amp, a DAC or a soundcard.

According to this, I'm pretty sure that quite a few people who think they don't use a preamp actually do.

 

Not using a preamp would then mean using exclusively digital attenuation as a mean to control the volume level.

 

Whether or it is a good idea or not is a question of bits: those bits available on top of the bits used by the music files.

1 (empty) bit correspond to 6dB.

So a 16bit file processed as 24bit will allow 8bit for attenuation or 48dB before degrading the file, same for a 24bit file processed as 32bit.

You would think 48dB is more than enough and that may be true.

But there are a few things to consider before dropping the subject.

First we need to make sure that whatever digital attenuation is done, it is done after the file is processed from 16 to 24/32 or 24 to 32bit otherwise data is lost.

Then the potential atténuation of 48dB starts from the full volume capacity of a system. It's the case most of the time, but you want to make sure that you usually listen to your music above that threshold of 48dB attenuation starting from the max your system can do.

Then it also depends of what comes in the way:

- replaygain for example, if done at the scale of a library, it can be as high as 10db attenuation, so only 38dB remain for your volume attenuation

- DRC or any DSP, some correction can be above 10dB as well on some frequencies.

If you cumulate the 2 (as I do), There is hardly more 35dB digital atténuation left

- then, how many DACs out there actually work on a 32bit volume attenuation basis : does the claim "32bit" DAC garantees that ?

Not sure.

So, assuming that they at least work in 24bit, if one assumes a 24/96 file, I already send to the DAC a file from which possibly more than 3 (useful) bits have been taken off. It's OK since 24bit files hardly have more than 20 used bits, but I can't use any digital volume attenuation on top...

I need an analog attenuation/preamp...

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Not needed if you have a great integrated!

Various speakers, electronics, cable, etc. on loan for manufacturers' evaluation.

More or less permanently in use:

 

Schiit Iggy (latest), Ayre QB-9 DSD, Ayre Codex, Uptone Audio ISO Regen/LPS-1 Power supply, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB, PS Audio LanRover, Small Green Computer, Sonore ultraRendu, gigaFOIL4 ethernet/optical filter - Keces PS-3 power supply, (3) MBPs - stripped down for music only,  AQ Diamond USB & Ethernet, Transparent USB, Curious USB, LH Lightspeed split USB, Halide USB DAC, Audirvana +, Pure Music, ASR Emitter II Exclusive Blue amp, Ayre K-5xeMP preamp, Pass X-1 preamp, Quicksilver Mid-Mono Amps, Pass XA-30.5 amp, Duelund ICs & Speaker Cables, Paul Hynes SR-7 power supply, Grand Prix Audio Monaco Isolation racks & F1 shelves, Tannoy Canterbury SEs w/custom Duelund crossovers and stands, 2 REL 212SEs, AV RoomService EVPs, ASC Tube Traps, tons of CDs, 30 IPS masters, LPs.

 

http://www.getbettersound.com

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Unless the cost for the extra streaming is too high I think I would go with the Nt503. Looks to be the same only with the extra connections. I don't use that type connection, but many here on CA use the connection with a NAS.

 

 

i actually played a lot with DLNA when i first got into "computer audiophile" because there was so much crying about how bad hdmi and usb is. Plus i couldn't justify the cost of an external dac when i couldn't hear much difference whether i bought a $2k dac or used dlna from a sony bluray....but i found using dlna was just a lot more cumbersome than just playing out the usb from a

windows box...after trying a dozen different dacs and playing with dlna..i finally settled on the UD-503.

 

but since it seems to be the same piece of equipment as the nt503, with just usb/ethernet instaead of rca in..i think i will send it back and go with the nt503. gives me a little more versaitility, although i probably won't use it much....whoa...now that i think about it, those rca inputs will come in handy. many times someone comes over wanting to hear speakers they want to play from their iphone or android and expect me to have rca jacks available to them.....i have to think about which i would use more...

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Not needed if you have a great integrated!

It's needed and it's there - it's just inside inside the case. The front end of the signal chain with its voltage gain stage(s), aka the preamplifier, is integrated with the output current gain stage(s), aka the power amplifier. Thus the name.

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It's needed and it's there - it's just inside inside the case. The front end of the signal chain with its voltage gain stage(s), aka the preamplifier, is integrated with the output current gain stage(s), aka the power amplifier. Thus the name.

 

Another problem is that unlike a dedicated preamp, they share a common power supply, which needs to be very well implemented. The Preamp section is often of a more basic type of design as well, and rarely a discrete design these days.

You are at the mercy of the preferred type of opamp used, which may have been decided by the bean counters as perfectly adequate.

 

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

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Is there anything wrong with the thinking that one doesn't even need an integrated amp or preamp?

If my DAC has a remote volume control, and i never change my balance or bass/treble controls, is there any reason i can't just buy an amp and not worry about a preamp?

 

I have a lot of experience doing it both ways and get excellent results from each. But since there's so many variables, its always a good idea to try the setup first because there's no guarantee that anything will sound good. Personally, if I couldn't afford a high quality line stage, I would use a dac with a volume control or a passive. But you'll still need to try it to make sure whatever you get integrates properly with your system.

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In my case I have a DAC with volume control and remote (LHL Xfi/LPS) running directly into powered speakers (Adam Sub10 Mk2 then to two Adam A7X). Simple signal path and less cables to worry (and argue) about. I can add other inputs through the Mutec MC3+ USB, just upstream of the DAC, such as TV (Toslink), and control volume from the DAC. So, no (additional) preamp is needed as all of the required functions are embedded into other gear.

 

Before this DAC I was using one without volume control (Resonessence Concero HD) and (as I was running single-ended at the time) used a Schiit SYS for volume control - simple, inexpensive "passive preamp" with two inputs.

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star

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