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In a digital system how important it an analogue preamp?


DomT
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1 hour ago, Lawrence001 said:

Is the Benchmark being used as a pre when only using a power amp, or are you using a digital volume in the Innuos?

I don't know the Benchmark but many DACs/ streamers have digital attenuation that involves reducing the bit rate. This will flatten the presentation and reduce resolution.

Sabre DACs are claimed to be "bit perfect" but I can say from experience that at a low volume they are definitely not. Or maybe there's a measurement trick that means they technically are but they still don't sound as good.

You could also compare the Arc pre to a similarly priced SS pre as you might be finding you prefer the presentation of valves.

The default config is to use the Benchmark in this property as a DAC and the Innuos as a server. Just for test purposes I listened to the Benchmark as a preamp as others do the same. 

I don’t prefer valves and am not looking to change anything in my system as it sounds great; I was just experimenting and sharing findings. 

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6 minutes ago, DomT said:

It’s the drive and energy that the SP17 has over the Benchmark that I like as I have said now a few times in this thread. 

9 out of 10 Wammers don't actually bother to read posts properly. They just skim through, carefully managing to avoid the salient points.

Gawd  Bless the Wam. :D

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10 hours ago, DomT said:

The big difference between preamp or no preamp was the energy that the music lost rather than tonal qualities and that is what I found puzzling.

I have tried a number of passive preamps over the years but this is also the conclusion I reached .. which is more "accurate" god only knows but for me it is as my mate's missus said when comparing two pairs of speakers, her response  "I like it better on these" ..

So for me I do not sweat it - I prefer an active preamp (and so it will remain until I plug a passive into my system and it makes my ears say "I like it better on this" but I will not be holding my breath having tried some supposedly stunning passives in the past).

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Super Wammer
On 19/10/2021 at 17:47, DomT said:

Test 1. Innuos Zen Mini mk3 with power supply; Benchmark DAC 2; ARC pre/power and ATCs this is my normal signal chain.  Its not perfect but its highly enjoyable and I have no real complaints for a small room, small speaker system.

Just looking at this again... and the Innuos, Benchmark and ATC's all have a reputation for being transparent, for telling it how it is. If you were seeking measured and heard accuracy, your "lifeless" (and ARC-less) system would satisfy the brief.

I recall asking on this forum about pre/power combos a few years ago when I though that the flavour of a system would come mainly from the power amp(s). I was gently educated about the overriding importance of the preamp in shaping the sound of a system... and your experience supports this.

Which is nice.

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Wouldn’t mind trying a good pre amp in my system, as currently have the Wadia 861 direct into the power amps.

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Super Wammer

I’ve never tried any system myself without a preamp because I’ve never owned a setup with a suitable configuration.  But when I was researching Linn streamers there were numerous Linn owners with the top-level Klimax pre-power configuration who felt something was lost when using a Linn streamer (with a digital volume) direct into their power amp.  Later streamers from this marque have full preamps inbuilt, perhaps for this reason.  

Your subjective impression of ‘drive’ is exactly what I’ve read too.  I’ve no obvious explanation other than greater gain and/or impedance matching as already suggested. 

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1 hour ago, DomT said:

The ARC SP17 is far from euphonic and the modern ARC sound is criticised by some for not being euphoric. It’s the drive and energy that the SP17 has over the Benchmark that I like as I have said now a few times in this thread. 

I don’t understand your point about using the tape output of the SP17. What do you expect it to do in terms of audio quality? Given that it’s a fixed signal and Benchmark designed the volume control to be optimised in the higher volume range the audio volume is likely to be very loud and unusable. 

Benchmark equipment is known for it's measured transparency. If the ARC produces "drive and energy" then I suspect that it is "adding" to the signal.

Can you not adjust the output level in your DAC2?

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1 hour ago, JANDL100 said:

9 out of 10 Wammers don't actually bother to read posts properly. They just skim through, carefully managing to avoid the salient points.

Gawd  Bless the Wam. :D

Top scores for missing the point.

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On 20/10/2021 at 10:46, hifinutt said:

Tried dacs into power amps many times , yes ok but I always go back to analogue pre for musicality. We are all different but seems to make a big difference. 

+1.  I had a Wyred4Sound DAC that could be used as a pre-amp.  I can't put my finger on it but there just seemed something missing.  Well ... I suppose the pre-amp was missing! Seriously though the music seemed to lack body. 

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if you open up the benchmark - there should be jumper plug to change the gain to suit - check in your manual as ive got dac 3 not the 2 but suspect they identical.

just remember to discharge the static or you can do damage.

as an experiment - it may work for you

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10 hours ago, tuga said:

Benchmark equipment is known for it's measured transparency. If the ARC produces "drive and energy" then I suspect that it is "adding" to the signal.

Can you not adjust the output level in your DAC2?

The ARC may or may not be adding something but I find it very hard to believe that every musician/band/orchestra that I tested would be playing with so little conviction and that recordings would have diminished dynamics.

You didn't answer the question about not using a power amp. Your suggestion is curious given that you appear to be using the analogue outputs of your DAC (that has a preamp) to feed an integrated amp (at least that's what your Wam profile suggests).  

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2 hours ago, Bokke said:

if you open up the benchmark - there should be jumper plug to change the gain to suit - check in your manual as ive got dac 3 not the 2 but suspect they identical.

just remember to discharge the static or you can do damage.

as an experiment - it may work for you

Given that I don't have any complaints about my system with pre and power amps in what way would removing the power amp help me?

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12 hours ago, TheFlash said:

Just looking at this again... and the Innuos, Benchmark and ATC's all have a reputation for being transparent, for telling it how it is. If you were seeking measured and heard accuracy, your "lifeless" (and ARC-less) system would satisfy the brief.

I recall asking on this forum about pre/power combos a few years ago when I though that the flavour of a system would come mainly from the power amp(s). I was gently educated about the overriding importance of the preamp in shaping the sound of a system... and your experience supports this.

Which is nice.

I have no interested in seeking a =n unobtainium theoretical idea of accuracy with my system; I just like music presented how I like it.  It's worth trying out other people's ideas though as you might like it.  In my case I was surprised that I ended up using ATC speakers.  I was also surprised about the positive contribution that the SP17 preamp made in my system.

Poweramps do make a big difference.  I did a comparison at home of Accuphase vs ARC vs Quad and the differences were very large and made a huge difference to the degree that it started to influence speaker choice ie I wouldn't pair Accuphase with ATC SCM11s.

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25 minutes ago, DomT said:

Given that I don't have any complaints about my system with pre and power amps in what way would removing the power amp help me?

if you remove the power amp then you will get no sound from the speakers

Did you read what I wrote -has nothing to do with removing power amp

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1 hour ago, DomT said:

The ARC may or may not be adding something but I find it very hard to believe that every musician/band/orchestra that I tested would be playing with so little conviction and that recordings would have diminished dynamics.

You didn't answer the question about not using a power amp. Your suggestion is curious given that you appear to be using the analogue outputs of your DAC (that has a preamp) to feed an integrated amp (at least that's what your Wam profile suggests).  

Can you point out where that question was asked to me?

All DACs and CD players have an analogue stage. Some have a very "transparent" or accurate one, others one which is "designed" for a particular (euphonic) presentation. I suspect that adding the ARC between a DAC and a power amp will only serve to reduce accuracy (no electronic equipment is truly "transparent") but may in the process produce (listener dependent) euphony or pleasentness. If that's the case then personally I'd rather skip the pre-amp and get an ARC DAC instead.

I suggested that you remove the volume control to determine whether this was a potential reason for the ARC sounding "better" to your ears. IOW you would be using the digital volume control and only passing the analogue signal through the ARC's circuitry, and that way not conflating the effects of the two variables.

Fequency response effects are enough to produce effects like "air", "darkness", "speed", "tightness", "detail", perceived "dynamics", etc. Then there are effects produced by HD and IMD, noise-floor and dynamic compression, even jitter. All these effects are perceived as "better" by some people and some are used creatively by engineers and producers in the studio.

Edited by tuga
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