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cordobaman

Streaming pre-amp, usb digital out, analog in. Does it exist?

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My Goal: A pre-amp with built-in streamer, hardware volume control, and iPad app interface for streaming from a music library as well as Tidal. The usb digital output would be bit-perfect, DSD compatible, and sent to an external DAC. Analog inputs would allow the analog out from the external DAC to feed back to the pre-amp for hardware volume control. Then I can change out the DAC any time I want, and always have just the one (iPad) interface for song selection and volume control. Use with Roon...that may be ok.  Dream budget $2500 USD.  But does this exist any any price?  I cannot find one!

 

 

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The difficulty, as I see it, is that you're looking for a preamp that has to be both before a DAC in the signal chain (because you want the preamp to have a digital-streaming interface to send digital data to the DAC), AND also after the DAC in the signal chain (because you want the hardware volume control).

 

My suggestion would be to instead seek a DAC with streaming capabilities (or a DAC plus a dedicated streaming appliance like a Sonore Rendu type thing), and then an analogue preamp. That would give you the analogue volume control (which BTW is going to be no better, and possibly worse, than a well-implemented digital one), plus the digital processing and streaming capability you seek.

 

Your all-in-one solution does not (as far as I know) exist, because of the unusual "loop-back" functionality you want: You want the preamp to first do the streaming, then feed the DAC, and then have the DAC feed back in to the preamp. You're basically asking a preamp manufacturer to build a digital and analogue preamp that also allows you bypass its internal DAC. I don't think anyone's going to make such a thing,

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Hi @cordobaman

I'd like to agree with Tom's view on the subject.

Two points regarding your concept:

1) Given your emphasis about an external DAC of your choice you may want to have as well the choice of the streaming platform, as these are major components in your digital streaming chain, and their quality prone to change with the arrival of better technology. That would simplify your search a lot.

2.) In case 1.) is not that important to you, you may look at the Moon 390 streaming pre with DAC that offers I2S out, and you may convert that signal into the DAC of your choice, though I am not aware if that is the definite use case it is implemented for. Or you test the DAC that is included.

The Mind2 streaming module is replaceable, in case there will be better solutions in the future. Product guarantee of the product is 10 years.

Price 5300 USD.

Cheers, Tom

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Great replies so far, thank you!

 

Here's what led me to the search. Threads on Denafrips DACs intrigued me to the point of purchasing an ARES II. Old school analog sound via PCM and DSD to boot...perfect! Connected it to the usb output of my Auralic streamer, only to discover that in order to use the usb out from the Aualic, I had to set its volume control to 100% in order to play DSD.  Ok, if the R2R DAC sounds as analog as they say, will I need DSD?  Changed over to Auralic's software volume control to play PCM.. The overall sound quality was drastically reduced.  Not the DACs fault, I could still detect the expanded stage and depth from the ARES II, it was just obvious that the same songs in PCM (software) vs DSD (hardware back with the Auralic DAC), the DSD was better.

 

OK, so how about using a "Sonore Rendu type thing" and let ROON handle the volume control for the new DAC.  Nope, I found a thread on the ROON forum where somebody attempted this very thing...the output of the Rendu needs to be set at 100%, just like my Auralic streamer.

 

I've even gone as far as trying to find a streaming DAC that utilizes R2R and also plays DSD, not having luck there either.

 

Hope I am making sense.  Please keep the ideas coming!

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Hi again,

I understand you have a denafrip ares II, with which you already practised your "loop back model" but not to your satisfaction, is that correct ?
+ Auralic ? Streamer (As streamer and pre )
The core problems are:
- DSD bitstream, that usually can't be changed in the digital domain and runs at 100% volume bc it can only be altered in the analogue domain.
- the software volume control of the Auralic streamer degrades the sq

You may want to enlighten us a bit more detailed about the signal path from the net or HD to your speakers ?

Let's assume, you may have the following stream (standard model): 
(digital in) streamer (digital out) -> (digital in) DAC (analogue out) -> (analogue in) Pre or Integrated with volume control in the analogue domain, then you may understand how DSD can be set up to work properly and where the signal degradation might come from in your "loop back model"?
OTOH, you will anyway find out sooner or later, that only a friction of the music you like may be available in native DSD, often it is upsampled PCM, and that upsampling your favourite music to extreme DSD levels at home will request a lot of computer power (often = invest).  It is a choice to be made and depends on your mileage.


Regarding Roon, the signal from your DAC, fed by Roon, usually is analogue out to your pre, integrated or power amp, and when playing DSD (at 100% volume) it might be better to have a pre-stage with potentiometer in between , i.e. the SCHIIT Sys - passive pre-amp @ 75 USD; when you drive your power amp directly. You could use the JDS LAB ATOM HP amp with Pre stage as well, for 99 USD. 

Best, Tom

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Thanks for your message, Duck!  I'll clarify some...

 

My Auralic Altair is currently acting as pre-amp, server/streamer, and DAC. There is an internal SSD with flac and dsf files, the latter I rip from SACD and have a hundred titles. The Altair has no analog input so I was not able to try the "loop back" with the ARES.  I no longer have the ARES, I flipped it in the event I found another all-in-one solution like the Altair...but would re-purchase if I found a pre-amp solution.  I am trying to avoid having a second control for volume, and seek the ability to select music and control volume from my iPad.  I just thought it would be cool to have that complete control and be able to try different DACS.

 

The Altair is 90% perfect. It ticks all my boxes except I believe I could improve on the sound (DAC). Plus there's an annoyance that Auralic has not addressed on this model nor the new G version. 

 

As an audio hobbyist, the hunt is part of the fun!

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Hello again.
I read in a review about the Altair: "(the) External D/A converters also receive native DSD streams in this way (USB out), while Auralic deactivates the internal DAC and the analog output stage". IMHO, that is the standard procedure for pre-amps in the audio world.
I hope I won't disappoint you that suggesting the use of the Auralic witha any DAC you want plus a Pre of your choice would solve your problem. you would have analogue out from your DAC and the Altair DAC to the Pre, which controls the volume.Classic approach, I'd say.
Otherwise you may want to have a AIO solution, like that of MOON (or any other streaming pre), which plays DSD256 and may be controlled with their Mind software via your IPAD. I think it exists even in a better specc'ed version (and a highe price). For playing with DACs and different chips, the ALTAIR looks perfect, as long as you accept that you connect the DAC output to your Preamp (which for example could be XXX or the Moon or any preamp without DAC or streaming function), but you could exchange it as well with a less espensive Microrendu, that streams your stuff as well.
Best, Tom

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