Looking to completely overhaul my preamp section, knowledgeable people needed!

Hi everyone, first time poster here and all that...

I'm looking to do a complete overhaul of my preamp section. I'm currently running a Schiit Modi Uber II as a DAC, a Schiit Mani as a phono stage, and a Schiit Sys as a glorified volume control. This is outputting to an Adcom GFA555 power amp (this will eventually be upgraded to an Odyssey Stratos), then to a pair of LSA 2.1 Signature speakers.

At the moment I am considering a Parasound Halo P5 as an all in one solution or a new Schiit stack (Freya, Gungir) if I stuck with separates, and possibly some of Pro-Ject's lineup (Prebox RS digital). I would like something that is solidly engineered and measures well, but I don't place *perfect* measurements above all else.

To the extent that these components effect sound, I really enjoy a wide soundstage and precise imaging. Low background noise is very important as well. In terms of usability, I definitely would like a remote, solid volume control, and fully balanced inputs and outputs. 

Finally, my budget is $2000 but would prefer to spend less. I would also consider used options. Thanks!!

If I had a $2000 budget, I would not buy a P5. I had one in my system for a short time and I did not think it sounded very good at all. It was really more mid-fi than hi-fi, sonically speaking. It did have a lot of features that I would have enjoyed using. However, it just didn't cut it sonically.

That's just my opinion. Others may love it....
What sources? If only digital there is the Pioneer U 05 or for rather more money the Benchmark. Even more money would buy the forthcoming DSpeaker X4 with a range of equalization options.
If I didn’t care about tube vs. SS, and I wanted to get a good DAC, I don’t see what’s wrong with a Mytek Brooklyn DAC/preamp. You can get them on eBay for under 2k. 
+1 for the Mytek Brooklyn, excellent DAC with lots of inputs, MQA support, good phono.

Awesome replies! So I'll hit a few points:

Those products I was considering were definitely just preliminary options (having not heard any of them). I wanted to get a conversation, like this one, going to help generate ideas since I was kind of having a hard time narrowing it down.

As far as sources go, I'm currently streaming spotify via my xbox one s as my primary digital front end, and running a Pro-Ject RPM3 with a Sumiko pearl for my analog source. In the future I definitely plan on upgrading to a MC cart, so a built in phono would be nice (but not a necessity). MQA is also nice, however for all my high res digital, I just pull local files straight from my NAS.

If you had any other suggestions *like* the Mytek in the same price range, I'd love to hear them. The more options, the better chance I'll have to demo one. The gist is that I'd basically like a preamp with the similar features to the Parasound, but higher sound quality.
Don’t forget that the Mytek is capable of playing your DSD or other high res files via roon or JRiver. 

The benchmark DAC2 is in the same class, just doesn’t have MQA (for what it’s worth...MQA is still a lossy codec, and may go the way of SACD) but people love it.

and if you don’t mind a slow boot up, and the extra overhead of surround, the emotiva XMC 1 is fully balanced front left/right and has a solid DAC. You can get them used on eBay for 1200 or so every now and then.  Their XSP-1 is their stereo preamp and goes for 1600 brand new.
One other one to consider: you might be able to score a used PS Audio Directstream junior for about 2k. That would be a solid DAC/preamp choice as well. 
If it were me I would replace the separates with separates. Could be done in stages and allows greater flexibility. Possibly get a preamp with phonostage. I currently run a tube pre into a SS amp. 
FWIW - I replaced a 6H30/EZ80 tube preamp with a Schiit Freya. Aries Mini (fed from ALAC-ripped CD files or Tidal) through Gungnir Multibit has become my primary listening source. I’m very happy with the Freya/Gungnir combination going into a Taranis power amp and even a Hegel H200 running in HT by-pass mode. The sound is very analog-like. Another positive for me is that both are balanced designs. The Gungnir will not "do" DSD or MQA if that is important to you. It isn’t to me. I’ve done a little tube rolling (including NOS RCAs) with the Freya. I thought ICs to the power amp made a bigger difference. JFET buffer mode tends to be my default listening choice. For $2048 + shipping you could get Freya and Gungnir w/MB upgrade. Gen 5 USB is now stock on Gungnir. Both pieces have 5 year warranties. Good luck with your decision.

With recent experience and discoveries, I would avoid stuff with switching power supplies such as the Mytek Brooklyn or Benchmark dacs.   I have been in close communication with another user (robelvick) who initially went with a Benchmark DAC2 HGC and then moved over to a PS Audio Stellar Gain.  The Stellar Gain was a significant upgrade in sound quality.  The Benchmark has switching power supply with op amps, while the Stellar Gain is linear power supply with discrete Class A analog stages.  The difference is significant.  I have not personally heard the Stellar Gain, but my experiences with different topologies in general would agree that the Stellar Gain is superior.

I'm sure there are several available options, but the Stellar Gain would be an excellent choice.  The Parasound P7 is very nice, but it will not be as good as the Stellar Gain.  However, the P7 does have a phono preamp built into it.

Another option would be to look at some of the Audio-GD balanced DAC/premps, such as NFB-27.77.  Like Stellar Gain, it will be a superior DAC/preamp, but you will still need an off-board phono preamp.

The Adcom 555 is definitely a serious weak link here, so upgrading the amp is an excellent idea.

Ha! I just had a gentleman in another thread go on about how awesome the adcom 555 sounds and I shouldn’t believe what I read. I haven’t heard much good about them as serious high end amps.

OP - I have a tube pre as well and love it. If I were in your position, I'd be all over the schiit Freya. But that's just me. Good luck!
I used to own an Adcom 545 II amp.  While it was a great introduction to separates, when compared to other amps the Adcom was just smearing the sound. 
Ugh decisions decisions... See this is exactly why I needed help! lol

I'm starting to like the idea of the Schiit Freya, however, AVlee turned me to the idea of a Emotiva XSP-1. On reading some reviews, it seems that the Emotiva sounds excellent and offers quite a bit of bang for the buck. I know they're totally different beasts, but I wonder how each would sound in my system. Lots of people like to hate on Emotiva, but it seems like they put solid engineering principles into their products. Given the choice between a Freya+Gungnir MB and an XSP-1+Gungnir MB, what would everyone pick? Does anyone know if the Freya is truly balanced or if a bal->SE conversion happens?

Also, the Adcom has treated me very well but unfortunately its next on the chopping block. I'd recommend it to anyone starting out though, as I once was. Super clean sound with a strong low end, maybe a bit of grain on the top end though.
Like I said, I have the XMC-1, and it’s a solid piece of kit. Its negative qualities are non-audio in nature (40 second boot up time unless in fast boot mode, but then you are burning 30W all day) so if you go with the XSP, ask a dealer first if you can demo it and see if you find any wrinkles.  The logo looks like it was designed by a 12 year old, but the tech is solid.  I’m cool with them putting the money in the stuff that matters. 

I have looked and worked extensively with Emotiva products. Yes, they are an excellent value for the price point. They do have very good design on their topology and layout. The downside is they use lower cost components to provide that "price point". The amps are good with fuse replacements. The preamp/DAC devices will typically sound closed in. The XSP-1 does have one fully balanced and fully discrete gain stage. However, the input and output stages are littered with op amps. Emotiva likes to use the opa2134, which is a very muddy sounding op amp, in my opinion. If you are limited on your budget and need all the features that the XSP provides (i.e. phono preamp, crossover bass management, XLR, processor loop), it may be a good deal for you. However, there are better choices in equipment out there. If I had to get the XSP, I would look for a "Gen 1" model and then mod the heck out of the power supply and op amps.

The Shitt Freya is likely to be more transparent in sound and resolution if you use the JFET mode, but it purely a line stage without any additional features. Also, tube sonic signature is a whole different ballgame.

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So first Auxinput, I took a look at some of those Audio-GD offerings and they look pretty great with really good measurements. Have you heard any of their products? Also, in general their product lines are a little confusing.

Stfoth, would you mind throwing together a short pros vs cons list for the Emotiva vs the Freya? It's an awesome coincidence that you happen to have both and it would be super helpful to get your take on them. I'm not a diehard tube guy (yet) but like the idea of being able to switch between passive and tube stages. I don't really need most of the features of the Emotiva per se, I'm *primarily* concerned with the sound quality.

I have not heard the Audio GD products, but they have a very positive feedback on other forums and review sites.  The general sonic signature seems to be very natural sounding without any harshness.  The different product lines relate to the type of DAC chip used.  They still have DACs that use the old PCM1704 ladder-based DAC chip.  They also have a new discrete R-2R resistor ladder DAC.  The product I mentioned above uses the new ESS Sabre 9038 pro DAC chips.

Here's a nice review that also talks about the internal architecture:


I brought up the Audio GD option because I think they have an excellent architecture.  Three fully independent linear power supplies for the digital section as well as each of the analog channels.  Nice large power supply capacitance with a lot of local capacitance next to the analog circuits.  Excellent digital clock selection.  Thick metal walls for isolating transformers and digital/audio sections.  Fully discrete Class A FET based analog output stages.

They are made in China and you have to order direct from China.  You can sometimes find a used Audio-GD item up for sale, but they are rare. The NFB-27.77 would be a very nice DAC/preamp.

As far as the discussion on the Emotiva XSP-1, I think I would rather get the Parasound P7.  The quality of the internal components (capacitors, etc.) are going to be much better on the Parasound.  It does have a phono preamp, but obviously it is missing a DAC.

Given that you are intending the purchase of a Odyssey Stratos amplifier, I would focus my search toward those preamps that would serve that amp well sonically (to your taste) and match well electronically. What is the input impedance of the Stratos? 

Though as stated above, I am a fan of using a tube pre with a SS amp, matching the pre to the amp regarding impedance is important. 

Your preamp/amp combo serves as the heart of your system and once the right combo is found it can be held onto for several years. Digital audio continues to change, I would prefer not to limit myself to the types of 'files' I might wish to play ( for me today that is redbook PCM, tomorrow who knows). Therefore I recommend purchasing a separate DAC.  
+1 on a separate DAC. I never understood the draw of a DAC integrated into a pre since, like @mesch said, the tech and standards change so frequently. 
for under 2k, it would be tough to find a discrete preamp/dac combo.  I would prefer to get "good enough" and then put more money into speakers, if anything...but I don't have much credibility there.  I started with a nicely priced tube preamp and got stuck in a upgrade loop, ending up with my "dream" preamp, but spending way, way more than I wanted to.
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To anyone still following this thread, or someone with the same intentions as me, I wound up going with the (less expensive) Schiit Freya+Gungnir, and saved some money to put into an eventual amp upgrade. I'm happy with this decision as it allows me to upgrade my amp on a more reasonable time frame, for the price of a better preamp. Both the Gungnir and the Freya are massive upgrades from what I previously had, particularly in the stereo separation department as well as in overall detail and 'color'. It really is incredible the difference and I'm looking forward to seeing how much better a new amp will sound.

One thing I would absolutely recommend is to swap out the stock tubes ASAP. I used some of the money I had saved to purchase a matched quad of Tung Sol red base tubes and this yielded a very large sound quality increase. If you do go this route, make sure to listen to the stock tubes for a few hours, get a feel for them, then switch to the Tung Sols for a surprise ;)

At risk of sounding cliche, the Tung Sols really gave a nice 'holographic' effect and made the soundstage appear deeper. It is also a very quiet tube stage, with the hiss barely audible from an 8 foot listening position.

I also seriously considered an AudioGD piece for a very long time before making the decision and they look to be an excellent company with strong design principles, and I hope to hear one some day. Thanks for all the help everyone!
been looking at the p5 also for several months.
seems like a good bargain
i do get tired of this erik guy, bashing it everytime i sit at the computer to research them.
seems thats all he talks about.
whats with that ?