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tackleberry

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I borrowed one for a week and didn’t think it was anything special with my ATC. I had a decent pot to buy something decent, and wouldn’t have settled on it. When I look back, It seemed to not have much life at low level volume. The lad who lent me it said something kind of similar. anyone else think this?
 

Fourlegs

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And I most probably never will. To me passive preamp shouldn't sound like anything at all. It should just be a "wire with gain" solution to control volume and possibly inputs. If this can be achieved with Khozmo or other similar products then I see no point in paying 6k for another product. If one wants to color the sound with preamp then that's another story.
The other possibility of course is that other passive preamps colour the sound compared to the MFA Baby Ref. Having heard the Baby Ref compared to other passives, it is my conclusion that it is the Baby Ref which is the uncoloured one.

Perhaps the only way to have a view on this is to hear for one’s self.
 
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Fourlegs

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I borrowed one for a week and didn’t think it was anything special with my ATC. I had a decent pot to buy something decent, and wouldn’t have settled on it. When I look back, It seemed to not have much life at low level volume. The lad who lent me it said something kind of similar. anyone else think this?
No, that isn’t a comment that I recognise. Infact I used to really enjoy the Baby Ref at low volumes possibly because of the transformer winding configuration at low volumes.

I found both Baby Refs to be just a short bit behind the Chord Dave direct output in terms of transparency when feeding ATC actives. If I ever have a fixed output dac again I know I would straight away get another MFA Baby Ref pre amp.

As with all things we all look for something in particular when we listen to our systems and that is why trying with a home demo is always best.
 

tackleberry

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Wonder if there wasn’t something quite right with it then. The lad who lent me it had it running with a vitus power he said it “came alive at higher volume”

this was after I’d had it. He sold it for an accuphase as far as I know.
 

DomT

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And I most probably never will. To me passive preamp shouldn't sound like anything at all. It should just be a "wire with gain" solution to control volume and possibly inputs. If this can be achieved with Khozmo or other similar products then I see no point in paying 6k for another product. If one wants to color the sound with preamp then that's another story.
But it isn’t that simple. I have a Little Bear and a Croft OBH-22 here and they sound very different. One is worth £20 and the other £200. I have heard Lurch’s system and it’s great but did no preamp comparison. MFA demos are always excellent at shows despite using amps like the Quad 303 and 405. I think that they do it show how great their preamps are.
 

TheFlash

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And I most probably never will. To me passive preamp shouldn't sound like anything at all. It should just be a "wire with gain" solution to control volume and possibly inputs. If this can be achieved with Khozmo or other similar products then I see no point in paying 6k for another product. If one wants to color the sound with preamp then that's another story.
Which is exactly what the Baby Ref does… and until you hear one vs a Khozmo, you’ll probably think they’re broadly the same. There is absolutely no colour; if anything colours, it will be the Khozmo. No, I haven’t heard one, but there would be simply be no market for the Baby Ref if others could do this. Seriously, talk to @Lurch .
 

TheFlash

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Wonder if there wasn’t something quite right with it then. The lad who lent me it had it running with a vitus power he said it “came alive at higher volume”

this was after I’d had it. He sold it for an accuphase as far as I know.
Quite possibly. A passive or active with a traditional attenuator might well be expected to be more transparent as the volume is cranked and there’s less wire in the signal path. But a TVC shouldn’t do that at all.
 

simon g

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And I most probably never will. To me passive preamp shouldn't sound like anything at all. It should just be a "wire with gain" solution to control volume and possibly inputs. If this can be achieved with Khozmo or other similar products then I see no point in paying 6k for another product. If one wants to color the sound with preamp then that's another story.

I think you may be misunderstaning what a passive pre actually is. Passive pre amps do not have gain. They merely attenuate a signal, to provide volume control, and enable input/output switching. In general, the higher the quality of components and construction the lower is tne degradation of the signal.

You can thus appreciate that the 'wire with gain' does not apply here.

You may also be able to appreciate that the essential volume function is achievable simply with a variable potentiometer, if you want a really simple and cheap device. Not necessarily the highest SQ though.
 

tackleberry

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I may have to try a different unit. The mfa was my first choice when I was looking for a pre last year and was disappointed after hearing nothing but praise
 

stevebrown

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And I most probably never will. To me passive preamp shouldn't sound like anything at all. It should just be a "wire with gain" solution to control volume and possibly inputs. If this can be achieved with Khozmo or other similar products then I see no point in paying 6k for another product. If one wants to color the sound with preamp then that's another story.
LMFAO, and all TVs are equal because they show the same signal given to them and all speakers are the same because they output sound and all cars go from A to B and all etc etc etc ridiculous comment.
The are all different passive or active, every designer and manufacturer has their own way of doing it and ergo the end result is always hugely or marginally different.
Some are measurably better, some have flavours, some do more, some try to do little, some you will like and some not but everything written applies to both passive and active, unless you live in a perfect world, or if you prefer fairyland where they simply and cheaply pass a perfect signal from A to B with a volume control, perfect of course all made by the same company who simply lets us put whatever price and badge we desire onto every identical box.
 
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Jezmond

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I’m running without a preamp currently and use vinyl as well as digital sources.

I simply unplug the XLR’s on the back of my SCM40A’s. Both my DAC and my phono stsge have volume controls.

Oh, I have a Little Bear passive pre-amp. Works surprisingly well, not tried it with my ATC’s though.
 
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Patu

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The other possibility of course is that other passive preamps colour the sound compared to the MFA Baby Ref. Having heard the Baby Ref compared to other passives, it is my conclusion that it is the Baby Ref which is the uncoloured one.

Perhaps the only way to have a view on this is to hear for one’s self.

Yes of course, that's a possibility. I would start my experiments with the ~800EUR preamp though and go further from there if needed.

Based on numerous reviews and measurements, my go to preamp for completely uncoloured sound would probably be Benchmark LA4/HPA4. It costs half of what MFA does and I'm pretty sure it's about as uncolored as premp can possibly be.

But it isn’t that simple. I have a Little Bear and a Croft OBH-22 here and they sound very different. One is worth £20 and the other £200. I have heard Lurch’s system and it’s great but did no preamp comparison. MFA demos are always excellent at shows despite using amps like the Quad 303 and 405. I think that they do it show how great their preamps are.

I'm certain that MFA passive preamps sound great and do what they're supposed to do but TO ME they seem like an awfully expensive equipment when you check under the hood and consider what they actually do. But that's just my opinion, no need to get offended.

Which is exactly what the Baby Ref does… and until you hear one vs a Khozmo, you’ll probably think they’re broadly the same. There is absolutely no colour; if anything colours, it will be the Khozmo. No, I haven’t heard one, but there would be simply be no market for the Baby Ref if others could do this. Seriously, talk to @Lurch .

When someone sends me a Baby Ref and pays shipping back and forth, I'm happy to try one. I have no interest in buying one for £6k though. To me, Khozmo is on the limit when you can actually just buy one to try it out and then sell forward if it's not for you.

I think you may be misunderstaning what a passive pre actually is. Passive pre amps do not have gain. They merely attenuate a signal, to provide volume control, and enable input/output switching. In general, the higher the quality of components and construction the lower is tne degradation of the signal.

You can thus appreciate that the 'wire with gain' does not apply here.

You may also be able to appreciate that the essential volume function is achievable simply with a variable potentiometer, if you want a really simple and cheap device. Not necessarily the highest SQ though.

Poor choise of words by me but I can assure you that I'm not misunderstanding a thing. I should've probably wrote something like "wire with negative gain". Sorry, English isn't my native language. Anyway, I know perfectly well what passive premp does and how it differs from an active one.

What I'm struggling with is the idea that preamp can ever only degrade the signal. It can't give you higher fidelity than connecting the source directly to the amp (or can it?). What's questionable though is if digital volume control is inferior to analog volume control on preamp. Linn does their digital volume control pretty well and that's the reason I still use my ADSM/3 directly to ATC's. Linn doesn't even manufacture separate preamps anymore since they believe that they are always inferior to their digital volume control. I must admit that I haven't tried a separate preamp in this setup but I most certainly will some day.

LMFAO, and all TVs are equal because they show the same signal given to them and all speakers are the same because they output sound and all cars go from A to B and all etc etc etc ridiculous comment.
The are all different passive or active, every designer and manufacturer has their own way of doing it and ergo the end result is always hugely or marginally different.
Some are measurably better, some have flavours, some do more, some try to do little, some you will like and some not but everything written applies to both passive and active, unless you live in a perfect world, or if you prefer fairyland where they simply and cheaply pass a perfect signal from A to B with a volume control, perfect of course all made by the same company who simply lets us put whatever price and badge we desire onto every identical box.

I mostly agree with what you posted above. What I look for from a preamp is a perfectly executed volume control which degrades the signal as little as possible or preferably not at all. I don't even need extra inputs and outputs, one input and one output is enough for me.
 
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TheFlash

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Yes of course, that's a possibility. I would start my experiments with the ~800EUR preamp though and go further from there if needed.

Based on numerous reviews and measurements, my go to preamp for completely uncoloured sound would probably be Benchmark LA4/HPA4. It costs half of what MFA does and I'm pretty sure it's about as uncolored as premp can possibly be.
You won't find a pre as uncoloured as an MFA Baby Ref, sorry. I even heard one against an MFA Classic V2 and it was in a different league. I sold mine because of other constraints in my system, otherwise it would be here right now.
I'm certain that MFA passive preamps sound great and do what they're supposed to do but TO ME they seem like an awfully expensive equipment when you check under the hood and consider what they actually do. But that's just my opinion, no need to get offended.
I'm not sure whether Dom was offended, but checking under the hood is kind of missing the point. In performance terms, they represent great value; yes, they're that good.
When someone sends me a Baby Ref and pays shipping back and forth, I'm happy to try one. I have no interest in buying one for £6k though. To me, Khozmo is on the limit when you can actually just buy one to try it out and then sell forward if it's not for you.
Ok, when I say they represent great value... I bought (and sold) mine used for less than half that £6k. Or, if you like, around the same price as a new LA4/HPA4. I sold it for just slightly more than I paid (despite the market rate being several hundred more) because I sold to a dear fellow wammer. Buy used and you won't lose out if not for you.
What I'm struggling with is the idea that preamp can ever only degrade the signal. It can't give you higher fidelity than connecting the source directly to the amp (or can it?). What's questionable though is if digital volume control is inferior to analog volume control on preamp. Linn does their digital volume control pretty well and that's the reason I still use my ADSM/3 directly to ATC's. Linn doesn't even manufacture separate preamps anymore since they believe that they are always inferior to their digital volume control. I must admit that I haven't tried a separate preamp in this setup but I most certainly will some day.
The best digital volume control really is excellent, though I've never personally compared direct with MFA Baby Ref. Lesser/earlier implementations chopped bits so degraded the sound but the DAVE and probably your Linn are more sophisticated than that.
I mostly agree with what you posted above. What I look for from a preamp is a perfectly executed volume control which degrades the signal as little as possible or preferably not at all. I don't even need extra inputs and outputs, one input and one output is enough for me.
You want an excellent digital volume control or a Baby Ref then.
 
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Patu

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You won't find a pre as uncoloured as an MFA Baby Ref, sorry. I even heard one against an MFA Classic V2 and it was in a different league. I sold mine because of other constraints in my system, otherwise it would be here right now.

I'm not sure whether Dom was offended, but checking under the hood is kind of missing the point. In performance terms, they represent great value; yes, they're that good.

Ok, when I say they represent great value... I bought (and sold) mine used for less than half that £6k. Or, if you like, around the same price as a new LA4/HPA4. I sold it for just slightly more than I paid (despite the market rate being several hundred more) because I sold to a dear fellow wammer. Buy used and you won't lose out if not for you.

The best digital volume control really is excellent, though I've never personally compared direct with MFA Baby Ref. Lesser/earlier implementations chopped bits so degraded the sound but the DAVE and probably your Linn are more sophisticated than that.

You want an excellent digital volume control or a Baby Ref then.

Have you heard the Benchmark btw?

I'm sure Dom wasn't offended but I certainly have stirred a pot here it seems.

Not sure if we can talk about great value when a passive preamp costs £6k but obviously there's always something which costs even ten times more. It comes down to what you compare the gear with. I would consider my ATC's great value when you compare them against £500k speakers which don't even have perfectly matched built-in amplification. But then again, you can probably get extremely close to ATC with half the price. Law of diminishing returns...

I think I already have an excellent digital volume control but it interests me to try an external preamp some day. Currently I'm on a break from hifi investments. Been fiddling around with cabling for so long and now things sound better than ever. Maybe it's better to not touch anything for a while and just enjoy the music.
 

DomT

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Have you heard the Benchmark btw?

I'm sure Dom wasn't offended but I certainly have stirred a pot here it seems.

Not sure if we can talk about great value when a passive preamp costs £6k but obviously there's always something which costs even ten times more. It comes down to what you compare the gear with. I would consider my ATC's great value when you compare them against £500k speakers which don't even have perfectly matched built-in amplification. But then again, you can probably get extremely close to ATC with half the price. Law of diminishing returns...

I think I already have an excellent digital volume control but it interests me to try an external preamp some day. Currently I'm on a break from hifi investments. Been fiddling around with cabling for so long and now things sound better than ever. Maybe it's better to not touch anything for a while and just enjoy the music.
You are seriously reading a lot into things and moving into another universe of reality if you think that I am offended! I don’t even own an MFA or have made any claims about how they compare to other devices! I said that my Little Bear and Croft OBH-22 sound different.

There are a lot of good preamps at different price points. Some people prefer a preamp. Some do not. Nothing new in this. Go and visit some wammers and have a listen because it’s all theory otherwise.
 

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