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In a digital system how important it an analogue preamp?

tuga

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Isn’t that the argument you use against objectivists? If you hadn’t cherry picked my post it should have been clear that I don’t fall into that camp.

I couldn’t give a flying fig if what I hear is defined as accurate as long it gives me an “illusion” to my ears of performers playing music in front of me. Quite obviously what I hear is highly unlikely to sound the same as in the mastering session let alone the concert hall, but if the recording and hifi fool me into thinking I’m listening to the original performance, particularly with small scale acoustic classical, than job done. The whole thing is an illusion and it is what we think we hear that really matters.

Some may like their hifi to add a touch of flavour, others not; neither is right or wrong, so much as being what works for any individual.
Also there's no guarantee that listening to the mixing or mastering system will provide more (or less) enjoyment than one's system and room. As you say, it's a matter of preference.

 
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Camverton

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Heh heh, where I come from that's fighting talk! 😄

As far as I am concerned, at any rate, it's not about equipment adding extra emotion of its own, it's about allowing the emotion of the musical performance through. Surprisingly few hifi components are very good at that ime. 
I completely agree, and it’s interesting that we both like the same type of speaker. 

When I heard your system it certainly didn’t seem to add anything to the detriment of the music. We do have our speakers arranged differently with respect to the room which gives a different presentation.

As for performances of music I doubt we’ll ever agree, and why should we. As with hifi there is no perfect way of doing things, and if there was I suspect neither of us would be too keen on the result! Come to think of it that might be why I preferred valves with electrostatics; maybe they were too perfect for their own good?! I did try valves with my stand mount MBLs but they just got in the way of the dear old music.

 
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savvypaul

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The whole thing is an illusion and it is what we think we hear that really matters.
Spot on. And, if you forget about the system, and get into the music, then the illusion is successful... because that is the sole purpose. 

If there were only one way to create a satisfactory illusion, then we would all own this same system. 

 

Camverton

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Also there's no guarantee that listening to the mixing or mastering system will provide more (or less) enjoyment than one's system and room. As you say, it's a matter of preference.
Yes, the speakers I would use for editing the audio track of a video would be different to the one I would use for enjoying the final video. 

 
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moo-fi

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Mixing and mastering speakers are very different beasts. Most of the really big pro stuff is aimed at mastering, these tend to sound amazing and cost a small fortune. For mixing it is all about detail retrieval and it does not have to sound good (if often helps if it doesn't).

 
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TheFlash

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Following your train of thought ......

Since i hear a more dynamic sound using a preamp compared to using the output stage in the DAC then if the preamp can't add the dynamics then the volume control / Output stage in the DAC's must be squashing the dynamics instead. An equally unpalatable suggestion to some i'm sure

maybe the impedence matching aspect is important here ?
Impedance matching is important with active preamps; I guess with passives, you need to look at the impedance of the devices on either side of the pre.

 I can absolutely see (have absolutely heard) how an active pre can add weight, punch, drive or whatever anyone wants to call it. And I’ve sometimes enjoyed the difference the pre brought to the party.

And that is what yours is doing. It’s an active device which could also include tone controls (whether visible/adjustable or not) to boost certain frequencies; it could do all sorts of magic to the incoming signal, and many of us enjoy a particular flavour of magic. It wouldn’t be correct to blame the volume control on the DAC in most devices for any lack of drive; what people miss without a pre is the aforementioned magic which it adds.

I only get all stubborn and picky when people talk about an active pre “letting more of the signal through” than without it in the playback chain. That’s simply impossible, electrically.

 

Lawrence001

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Are you saying that playing around with attenuation and gain will change the dynamic range of the signal, or just about perceived "dynamics"?
Mainly perceived dynamics. I believe the thread is mainly referring to that rather than the dynamic range of the signal..

Having said that I made a point about digital attenuation reducing the bit rate which would impact the dynamic range of the signal, not in terms of peak to trough but the nuances of the micro dynamics within the signal.

Actually, maybe it depends exactly what dynamic range means, simple peak to trough of a passage of music would be the same if measured direct and then attenuated and amplified by even cheap components.

Whereas if you look at the local peaks and troughs deep within the signal I suspect passing it through these circuits would change the waves from the original. Then the micro dynamics of those peaks and troughs within that signal may no longer have the same dynamic range, impacting the sound the listener hears.
 

TheFlash

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We have measured around 11 TVCs, the best in terms of bandwidth being a pair of Tribute Silver wound TVCs, that includes Sowter made TVC. Also, don't be fooled...they all sounded different, thus imparting their own sound on the signal.

Same with the SUTS I tried. Ortofons, Hashimotos, Bobs devices.....you name them!

However, all of the other issues remain. Including bandwidth and linearity issues.

Regardless of who makes them and what they cost.

Just to add, I used a Slagle for months and it was beautiful. I still miss it at times, but that had a definite character too. Mainly in the LF which was not what I would describe as "measuring acceptably"


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I’m not fooled, don’t worry! The MFA Baby Ref (mine—>Lurch’s) is in a different league from the Classic V1 and V2) from the same stable.

But you’re using ambiguous and potentially misleading language when you speak of TVC passives “imparting their own sound on” the signal: to be clear, all a passive can do is take more or less of the incoming signal away in passing it through its internal wiring including attenuator, perhaps as has been suggested above moreso in the HF than anywhere else. What any passive “imparts” is only by subtraction not addition. For the avoidance of doubt, and all that.

Whereas an active pre can subtract, add, whatever.

 

TheFlash

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That might be your experience but it isn't mine. 

There's a few too many definitive statements that are actually subjective opinions in this thread than is really healthy. 
Take your own medicine and name names? Of which specific TVC pre’s and active pre’s do you have experience?

My only definitive statements are based on the electrical principles employed by passive and active pre’s. I have never suggested, for example, that all passive pre’s, or even all TVC passive pre’s, are “better” than active pre’s. I’m purely pointing out that the minimal circuitry (little more than the attenuator) in passives means they take less of the original signal away than an active does. Actives can affect the signal in all sorts of ways from nice to nasty, but they’d struggle to let more of the incoming signal through than a bit of wire.

 
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Bigman80

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I’m not fooled, don’t worry! The MFA Baby Ref (mine—>Lurch’s) is in a different league from the Classic V1 and V2) from the same stable.
But you’re using ambiguous and potentially misleading language when you speak of TVC passives “imparting their own sound on” the signal: to be clear, all a passive can do is take more or less of the incoming signal away in passing it through its internal wiring including attenuator, perhaps as has been suggested above moreso in the HF than anywhere else. What any passive “imparts” is only by subtraction not addition. For the avoidance of doubt, and all that.
Whereas an active pre can subtract, add, whatever.
I'm not here to argue about it, I was only pointing out that your blanket statement on TVCs vs Active preamps was incorrect, and I stand by what I have said.

I can't find any specs/measurements for your preamp.....I'd be happy to measure it and post the results?












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Fourlegs

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We have measured around 11 TVCs, the best in terms of bandwidth being a pair of Tribute Silver wound TVCs, that includes Sowter made TVC. Also, don't be fooled...they all sounded different, thus imparting their own sound on the signal.

Same with the SUTS I tried. Ortofons, Hashimotos, Bobs devices.....you name them!

However, all of the other issues remain. Including bandwidth and linearity issues.

Regardless of who makes them and what they cost.

Just to add, I used a Slagle for months and it was beautiful. I still miss it at times, but that had a definite character too. Mainly in the LF which was not what I would describe as "measuring acceptably"
 
My experience is that using a MFA Baby Ref V2 compared to taking a Chord Dave direct to the power amp was that the Baby Ref did not change sound at all in terms of character, tone etc but there was a very slight (and I mean very slight) difference in absolute transparency with the MFA. I am not being fooled, the MFA as near as makes no difference did not impart any sound of its own on the signal. Also I am not fooled because I have owned many TVCs and yes they are different but to my ears the best of them such as the Baby Ref V2 really are just about invisible from a sonic point of view.

Was this one of the TVCs that you mention you have measured? It would be really useful to the conversation if you could actually be more specific in your claims because at the moment it is just generalisations and which seem to conflict with the specifics which others of us have experienced.

Can we have some specifics named please? Also, it would be really useful to have some more specifics of what you say you measured. The fuzzy photo doesnt really help.

 

Bigman80

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My experience is that using a MFA Baby Ref V2 compared to taking a Chord Dave direct to the power amp was that the Baby Ref did not change sound at all in terms of character, tone etc but there was a very slight (and I mean very slight) difference in absolute transparency with the MFA. I am not being fooled, the MFA as near as makes no difference did not impart any sound of its own on the signal. Also I am not fooled because I have owned many TVCs and yes they are different but to my ears the best of them such as the Baby Ref V2 really are just about invisible from a sonic point of view.
Was this one of the TVCs that you mention you have measured? It would be really useful to the conversation if you could actually be more specific in your claims because at the moment it is just generalisations and which seem to conflict with the specifics which others of us have experienced.
Can we have some specifics named please? Also, it would be really useful to have some more specifics of what you say you measured. The fuzzy photo doesnt really help.
Transparency which way?

Better transparency with the MFA in, or out?

"I am not being fooled, the MFA as near as makes no difference did not impart any sound of its own on the signal. Also I am not fooled because I have owned many TVCs and yes they are different but to my ears the best of them such as the Baby Ref V2"

Like the Flash, you have also just confirmed that TVCs sound different, and that is the only point I am interested in making. If they all sound different, they must be having an effect on what you are hearing. Hence they are not just a wire with gain.

Regardless of what reason that is, which I have already spoken of.

I have had in my possession:

Slagle,
Lundhal,
Tribute,
Django,
Sowter
S&B
Plus a couple of noname Chinese ones.

Once again, I am not trashing TVCs. I like what they do and have owned and heard many.





 

Fourlegs

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Transparency which way?

Better transparency with the MFA in, or out?

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Transparency cannot be added to a signal. There was very slightly less with the MFA in. The way of describing the effect in visual terms would be to say that it was as if an almost invisible net curtain was being held over the image. But I do mean almost invisible. The change with the MFA Baby Ref V2 in the circuit was pretty much not detectable sonically.

 
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TheFlash

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I'm not here to argue about it, I was only pointing out that your blanket statement on TVCs vs Active preamps was incorrect, and I stand by what I have said.

I can't find any specs/measurements for your preamp.....I'd be happy to measure it and post the results?












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I use an Arcam A49 as an active pre into my ATC SCM40A’s and an Audia Flight FLS10 integrated into my Posselt Albatross. I retain no passives.

I stand by my blanket statement, happy to differ.

And I have no interest in measurements. I’m interested in design principles of course, but we both know that trying to use a a graph to compare the sound of any passive with the sound of any active is a fool’s errand.

 
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Bigman80

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I use an Arcam A49 as an active pre into my ATC SCM40A’s and an Audia Flight FLS10 integrated into my Posselt Albatross. I retain no passives.
I stand by my blanket statement, happy to differ.
And I have no interest in measurements. I’m interested in design principles of course, but we both know that trying to use a a graph to compare the sound of any passive with the sound of any active is a fool’s errand.
Ok.

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ziggy

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If you are using the volume control in the NVA then you are comparing two-things: digital vs analogue volume control and a bunch of (probably unnecessary) electronic components and an extra IC in the signal path. And a comparison with two variables is worthless/void.

Did you compare NVA (set to 0 attenuation) vs no-NVA using the Topping's (AKM chip) volume control?
The P20 is at a set level with adjustments made through the Topping remote.  In DAC mode there is greater dynamic range and a warmer (more analogue) sound.

 
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Fourlegs

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Like the Flash, you have also just confirmed that TVCs sound different, and that is the only point I am interested in making. If they all sound different, they must be having an effect on what you are hearing. Hence they are not just a wire with gain.
Me saying that different TVCs sound different is a world away from saying what you are trying to imply, ie that all TVCs have an affect on the sound quality. My claim is that the very best TVCs are as near as makes no difference the same as a wire but with gain control.

You have not disproved that. 

Instead you seem to suggest that all active pre amps are better than TVCs. Whilst the very best active preamps might indeed be better in measurement terms (and how they sound) compared to the worst examples of TVCs you have in no way shown that the best TVCs are inferior to the best active preamps.

I am really picking you up on what I perceive to be you tarring all TVCs with the same brush.

 
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tuga

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Mainly perceived dynamics. I believe the thread is mainly referring to that rather than the dynamic range of the signal..

Having said that I made a point about digital attenuation reducing the bit rate which would impact the dynamic range of the signal, not in terms of peak to trough but the nuances of the micro dynamics within the signal.

Actually, maybe it depends exactly what dynamic range means, simple peak to trough of a passage of music would be the same if measured direct and then attenuated and amplified by even cheap components.

Whereas if you look at the local peaks and troughs deep within the signal I suspect passing it through these circuits would change the waves from the original. Then the micro dynamics of those peaks and troughs within that signal may no longer have the same dynamic range, impacting the sound the listener hears.
Digital volume control can be "transparent", it really depends on how it's implemented.

For example, HQPlayer performs its DSP at 64/80-bit floating point, you can easily attenuate 60dB without loss.

Here's an interesting piece on Roon's software-based volume control:

"DSP Volume Control in Roon and XMOS" - Carl-Werner Oehlrich

 

tuga

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Mixing and mastering speakers are very different beasts. Most of the really big pro stuff is aimed at mastering, these tend to sound amazing and cost a small fortune. For mixing it is all about detail retrieval and it does not have to sound good (if often helps if it doesn't).
Surprisingly, for classical music most labels, studios and orchestras use B&W.

 

Bigman80

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Me saying that TVCs sound different is a world away from saying what you are trying to imply, ie that all TVCs have an affect on the sound quality. My claim is that the very best TVCs are as near as makes no difference the same as a wire but with gain control.
You have not disproved that. 
Instead you seem to suggest that active pre amps are better than TVCs. Whilst the very best active preamps might indeed be better in measurement terms (and how they sound) compared to the worst examples of TVCs you have in no way shown that the best TVCs are inferior to the best active preamps.
I am really picking you up on what I perceive to be you tarring all TVCs with the same brush.
A TVC is a winding of a particular metal wire. Due to the fact that it is a winding, it has levels of capacitance, resistance and inductance. Depending on how much wire is used, the gauge of the wire and the quality of the wire, those capacitance, resistance and inductance number will vary greatly. Also, Impedance varies when you attenuate the signal via a TVC too. That will also have an effect.

Therefore, your winding (TVC) will have measurable and audible differences to other windings.

The same is true of cables, cartridges, SUTs and TVCs. It is a fact, and I'm afraid it's a fact that doesn't change just because you spent a shit ton of money on one.

You may have a better quality winding in your MFA, than one found in say a £30 AliExpress one, but you still have Capacitance, Resistance, Inductance and variable impedance, and that will cause differences in how they perform sonically. They are not immune from these influences, which my "fuzzy photo" clearly enough demonstrated.

It's not a case of tarring every TVC with the same brush, it's about understanding them and why they sound different to each other.

You cannot escape it, and it will have some effect on what you hear. Hence the veil on the Chord Dave.

Also you do realize that by using the Dave straight into the amplifier that you used it's inbuilt volume control?....a silicone chip.

You have also stated the MFA was veiled (to a degree) in comparison......to a silicone chip. A £10 digital volume control chip.

My original, and somewhat now lost point was that this idea that TVCs are flawless, "signal in, signal out" or "wire with gain" is not correct. It's measurably and evidentially not true.

As I have previously stated, I am not running SUTs or TVCs down, and I do understand their appeal from a sonic perspective.









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