Hello all. As designers, we only occasionally do audio installations, so we're always looking for great advice. We're now budgeting one for a client, and can either provide the Bricasti M1 DAC feeding the VAC Phi 300.1a amp directly, with no preamp, or have the Bricasti run through the VAC Renaissance MK III preamp and VAC Phi 200 amp. We've heard a couple of these items separately, so know their quality, but were wondering if any of you more experienced out there might have some particular insight. The volume control of the Bricasti does seem better able than many other DACs to fend for itself without a preamp, but any thoughts would be much appreciated. This particular room is small, with Joseph Audio Perspective speakers. Thanks in advance.
Hey there, I use an Audio Research Dac8 directly to mt Vac Phi 300.1. The ARC Dac8 outputs 6.6 volts balanced, more than enough for the Vac.

I use a server with Foobar which has a volume control built in.

John Bent of Bent Audio (thank you John) advised me to use the analogue attenuators on the Vac to pad down the output and use the digital volume in Foobar to do the rest.

I'm told digital volume controls reduce resolution as they attenuate so by using both you use them at their upper most positions where both are used at there best.

I can verify that this is good practice as just an anologe volume contol between Dac and Amplifier can effect dynamics and can be cable dependent, ie the shortest possible cable between attenuator and amplifier is a must.

The Vac Phi 300.1 by having attenuators built in means you can have your cake and eat it too in aplications such as this.
Which one sounds better to you. I love VAC components but I like active pre-amps if they sound good or serve a purpose.

A proper preamp is crucial to creating a realistic soundstage.

Most Dac's with volume controls regulate volume by truncating bits which loses resolution and clarity.

For those dacs that do analog volume regulation, 9 times out of 10 the volume control circuitry and implementation of the output stage will not be close to a real high end preamp.

You can buy an outstanding dac which can easily compete with the Briscati for $3,500.00 the Auralic Vega which we have tested vs most of the $7k-10k dacs, and the Vega stands neck and neck with most of them, and then put the money into a really good line stage.

The Vac gear is excellent I would also take a look at the latest CJ gear which is also fantastic sounding.
Thanks for the great responses. Audiooracle, those are great suggestions, but for this particular application, per the client's wishes, we're using these 2 brands.

Lustformusic, it seems like you've got a great system. Had you ever tried a preamp between your ARC and the VAC before you decided you preferred going direct? Also, does your VAC 300.1 run very hot? Another consideration of ours is determining how much difference in heat there is between that amp and the PHI 200, since the client's listening room is on the small side. Thanks again.

I have a (and love my) VAC 300.1.

I'm looking at new DAC options and Bricasti is on my short list.

What was the final configuration of this system and what were the your ears, and your client's ears?
I have owned all 3 and the Bricasti is hands down far superior in every way. The Vega has got the Directstream beat as well but doesn't hold a candle to the Bricasti ... Using a Simaudio I7 integrated and I toggle between using my Bricasti as preamp and I prefer it as a pre with my Zu speakers...
A little late here, I find that unless the pre-amp is of exceptionally good quality the sound suffers vs using a DAC with a quality digital volume control.

I have done rooms for T.H.E. Show Newport and RMAF and we did some tests fully expecting an audible Illusions pre-amp to be better with the VAC than using direct to DAC. It was not the case. Using very high quality Chapman speakers with Scan Speak Drivers.

Now I did another test. Using a reasonably good DAC, the HEGEL HD25 feeding a set of Genelec s30D ribbon tweeter solid state class a/b tri-amplified 120 watts per channel speakers being fed power by DH Labs Redwave power cables (these made huge difference too) . I went direct into them and then through a very high quality E.A.R. 912 Pre-amp. The 912 was clearly superior sounding, bass was better deeper, fleshed out more delineated, piano harmonics were correct.

So in one test we had a VAC PHI 200 using a Wadia 860x Both the DAC and AMP were of very high quality the Audible Illusions 2a pre-amp was of medium quality.

In the other test we had speakers of not quite as good quality , a high value DAC of almost reference quality, and solid state amplification. In this test having tubes from the 912 pre-amp may have influenced the test.

My personal take after this... spend your money on better speakers and amps until you hit the pinnacle and then , and only then consider a top quality pre-amp.

List458 hi, go direct (M1 to Vac) for the most transparent/dynamic sound.

Your dac from it's se outputs has 2v output at a very nice low 29ohms output impedance, this is better than most preamps have to drive a poweramp direct with.

Your amp (which is a poweramp with passive volume control on the input), has 36db of gain on it's se inputs, so your dac has more than enough output voltage to drive it into clipping.
But I would get the passive volume control on it taken out of the circuit, so it is then a true poweramp, so the output of the Bricasti is not seeing the passive volume control.

Cheers George
I find that unless the pre-amp is of exceptionally good quality the sound suffers vs using a DAC with a quality digital volume control.
No big surprise.
i drived my MBL9007 stereo mode directly from bricastiM1 for around 10 month, then added Marklevension No.326S... wow. even in single ended i was surprised that a pree is a must. then i switched to Monoblock by adding another 9007. i didn't try for bricasti"s Balanced output directly to my mbl mono block directly, as the sound difference was so big with no free and pree. then lately i add mbl 5011 pee to push my MBL9007 to the limit. PLEASE get a pree amp on your rig and it should be matched with power amp. don't experiment too much, its sometime made you ended up with no where. my No326S is sitting idle now, as its offset and gain is bit complicated to me. my speaker is Contour-S5.4, cable cardas/Wireworld.