Who needs a Preamp??

Seriously, if your cd/dvd player has volume control as my Oppo does.
and you own a phonostage with volume as my PS audio does,  then
you your issues are:
-how to power a sub
-how to listen to tv thru your system

Who believes that a preamp Improves sound??

The OP mentioned he has an Oppo, as do I. Mine is a 105. It never floated my boat run direct UNTIL I upgraded the oem crap power supply and bypassed the 110/220 jumper. Lots of LPS choices on eBay under $300.

Doing these simple things, plus using the balanced outs to my balanced amp, and leaving the cover off provides a pretty amazing result, for less than what a decent PC would cost to a decent preamp. I have a Audio Alchemy DDP-1 + PS 5, the PS came 5 months later. The combo made my then PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell pre sound like a typical thin (no meat on the bones) passive, but the upgraded 105 direct to map via quality XLRs is better still

Straight in is very nice indeed, however

I want remote volume and remote balance from listening position for EVERYTHING, so I use Chase Remote Line Controller RLC-1 in ANY system without hesitation, I never want to be without one.

sold, but info, they come up for sale now and again.


S/N 105db,, they say Absolutely No Noise and it is true.

It says via tape loop which can be done if using a preamp, however I go direct to the amp.

I’ve gone direct or thru Chase RLC-1 into my Tube Mono Blocks; into my McIntosh 2250 SS Amp; Integrated Cayin A88T Tube Amp; Carver SS Cube Amp. None of my audio friends nor I could ever hear any difference.

I/we listen for hours, back and forth, stereo/mono/various volume levels/mixes from various engineers, individual tracks benefitting from a minor balance tweak, ...

It is from the Quad Era, so it has two outputs, front and rear, they are identical, I used to send one to Tube Mono’s and one to MC2250, separate speaker wires to nice German banana plugs at speakers, easy to compare tubes to SS.

Absolutely need the remote, no panel switches.

I’m using two, and have a spare.

Low Volume ’Loudness’ (low volume bass boost) is built in

I am a fan of Fletcher Munson EQ for low level listening, the primary benefit for me is to boost the bass players in Jazz at low volumes, that difference keeps it involving when low. This unit has automatic ’loudness’ (low volume boost)


you can find threads about people disabeling that feature, however, they don’t know how to properly use the unit.

It starts with no boost, and you adjust your volume elsewhere to your lowest normal volume, and leave that alone. then boost RLC-1, no eq, just more volume. When you lower the volume below your default start, the RLC-1 will then automatically and progressively engage low volume boost, use it right it’s terrific.

low volume eq effects highs also, but that is not what restores involvement for me, it is keeping the bass player in the trio rather than losing him/her

My experience revealed that if one is going to be happy with an outboard dac it needs a high quality and beefy power supply. When I first got my Audio Alchemy DDOP-1 the seller did not have the PS 5 outboard power supply. It took about 8 months before I finally found one and the resultant improvement was definitely worth the $695
My Oppo 105's well known weak link is its OEM power supply. By chance I came across aftermarket LPMs on ebay for $200 and up. Even the ~ $200 ones had a very large toroid, and pretty decent board parts. I also upgraded the OEM IEC to a Furutech with attached silver wires to the board and ground and a bypass jumper for the 110/220 o/o switch. Best ~ $300 I've ever spent. No outboard dac can compete for the dollar value and extremely high sonics. This method also eliminates a power cord, interfacing cable, likely shelf space, and vibration control trinkets
for the last 2 days I have been cranking the gold remaster of Night Moves: very visceral and enjoyable.
While this thread seems to have run its course, I’ll nonetheless ask for some guidance. I totally get the active vs passive discussion, having had placette and reference line one way back in the day and several actives since.
i now have the lumin x1 and it’s Much better w any active pre.  
I’m interested in the Townshend Allegri ref, but gotta wonder how that could improve on going direct using the dac’s volume control.  
OCD HiFi Guy (youtube channel) recently did a preamp shootout, including a stock Freya II and one with lots of mods. It didn’t come close to the others compared

I have tried many passives over the decades, including autoformers. Most likely the biggest issue was impedance mismatch. My current amp (EVS 1200) was interfaced with a AA DPA-1 + PS 5. Recently, I bypassed the pre and came straight out of my Oppo 105 with upgrade LPM that has a large toroid and better parts than the OEM. PS. Sounds pretty darn good. Keep in mind Ric also has a Oppo, albeit a 205, meaning impedance is probably matched

I have a ~ 15 yo PS Audio GCC 250 the GC stands for Gain Cell, sort of a passive. Why isn’t that tech still around?
There are three camps here concerning the use of preamps. The active, passive, and the no-preamp crowd. Who's right? There are no right or wrong answers here, strictly based on personal preferences, the type of gear involved and the speakers you are dealing with.  For myself and with the current set-up, I like an active preamp which gives me the ability to switch between multiple sources and provides the proper drive for my particular amp.
 my thought process has always been your amp and preamp is only as good as the interconnect cable that connects the two products some people love separates me I got myself a really good integrated and that's my word on that
I have not encountered a passive that can drive a high current amp and cables as well as a top tier preamp with a really good VC. As many have stared most commercial units use really poor quality VS's.  What people do not understand is that while a line level component may have enough voltage to drive an amp to clipping it is NOT the typical situation at listening levels. Most people only listen at 1 to 5 watts RMS which is a greatly attenuated level. If you think about it in terms of signal level being transmitted across the interconnect we are talking very low signal levels here that are far more sensitive to ground currents, common mode noise, RF noise and impedance reflections. A really good preamp can deal with those issues with supreme transparency whereas almost every passive outside of a TVC seems to be very sensitive to RF which give a slight edgieness that I feel people mistake foe transparency. Larger amps that draw significant currents also are difficult for a passive as the ground loop induced currents have no mechanism to control them being that the output impedance of a passive is extremely poor.  Now an amp with a well integrated volume control has some potential though
I was forced to temporarily use my Ayre Codex as a preamp when my CJ preamp went up in smoke (my fault, trying to improve the power supply).
The sound was listenable. I have also listened to vastly more expensive and better DACs (DCS) used without preamps. The sound is always lifeless and flat, the opposite direction from my beloved vinyl and true musical enjoyment - no moments of getting lost in the music. There are reasons, beyond simple controls that every truly outstanding system I have heard utilize a preamp. I believe only theoreticians and misers skip the preamp.
Good move. I made a similar move 30 years ago. Never look back. Something might be gaining on you! 
One of the best improvements I made to my system was getting rid of a Conrad Johnson preamp after buying a Lampizator big 7 DAC with a volume control. Removing the preamp lifted a hazy veil and allowed crisper dynamics in more detail. It also put two grand in my pocket after selling the preamp. 
Passive pre-amps have definitely made my system sound worse.  Using no pre-amp with my CD playe,  tuner, and even XM Polk radio was worse, and that is far from great anyway. A far as the electronics and physics involved, please inform me.  I am curious.  I can understand the tuners, because a switch bypasses the probably crappy gain control, and I can understand that my electronics could be better than the passive pre-amps I tried, but no pre-amp with the CD player?
itsjustme +1

The title of this thread motivated me to bypass my dac/pre

My Oppo 105 V V C sounds a whole lot better after I upgraded the IEC to one on Ebay that includes a heavy gauge silver wire harness. I further improved the sound when I replaced the OEM power module to one with a large toroid and superior parts. And while that made a quantum SQ jump it was when I upgraded my 1.0m XLR cable to WireWorld series 8 and replaced my AA DPA-1 with Ric Schultz EVS 1200 (newest IcePower dual 600w modules), which he then tweaks, that has me wondering whether a preamp is needed: I love this amp!.

Since bypassing my Audio Alchemy DDP + PS 5 power supply preamp a few days ago (not chump change), which I bought to play Redbook via my Marantz HD CD 1), I have listened primarily to SACDs, but 2 days ago I tried Redbook again. So far so good- very good, in fact. It seems that eliminating a power cord, and various digital cables (and another source with its PC and digital cables) can’t hurt WHEN the source has been, or is, improved
Ok, sorry a question that ha probably been answered before but I cant seem to find.

To open up my speakers (reduce impedance? - decrease the brakes put on them by volume) do I keep my volume on my amp up high and control volume with my DAC or vice versa?

My equipment: (I am sure midfi to many of you)
Innuos to Comet Exogal DAC to Audion KT 120 amp to Rethm Saadhana

I was interested in this thread because when I use my TT (Rega Planar 6) I have to then go through my Audio Hungary APR 204 pre-amp as it is my phone stage
To answer your question, IMO.  Without a preamplifier you are listening to audio components but with a preamplifier, you are listening to music.  
To use or not to use preamp it depends from a system and amplifier topology.

I use SET 300B amplifier. And in this topology the short signal path is important.
My amp is integrated and it is a good solution for low power SET amplifiers.
I also have an external phono stage for vinyl source.
Both phono stage and DAC are connected to input of my integrated SET.

If someone use more powerful amplifiers (especially mono-blocks) with more sophisticated circuit and long signal path it is more reason to use preamp.
I am also a poster child for preamps.  Won’t go into the dozens I have built and owned, but I love preamps! Beyond infatuation at this stage in our long relationship. Yep, it depends says it all.  
The whole issue can be nicely summed up with a, “it depends”.  

Of course I might be accused of being lazy with that response, but it depends.
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made a lot better sound than going direct. Specially on dynamics.
That is the sound of a typical "impedance mismatch" when this is said with direct or passive or even active preamp .

Audiophiles need to understand this "impedance matching" (>1:10 ratio) a lot more.
Then there will be a lot less experimenting and expensive mistakes done if they do.
If not they’re just p*****g into the wind changing things without any idea of what’s needed.

Just like a "impedance mismatch" can be had with "nearly" all tube preamps into a power amp with less than <10-20kohm input impedance.

It’s called "impedance matching"
And it goes right down the chain from source to speakers.
1: Source direct to poweramp,
2: Source to preamp,
3: Preamp to poweramp,
4: And yes even poweramp to speaker load impedance (this ones called damping factor)

Cheers George
I would love to use DAC-amp directly and save on the preamp, XLR and power cables, and save some rack space and free an outlet. But truth is that in my system adding a preamp (Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE stage 2) made a lot better sound than going direct. Specially on dynamics.
Passive or Active I believe that the volume control is the componet 
that one should be evaluating .
I have noticed that many passive pre tend to use stepped resistor VC
and many active pre tend to use either Alps or Burr Brown electronic stepped VC . 

I have experienced an Active pre with an Alps VC 
and that same pre with a stepped resistor VC , Stepped won !

I am currently using a Goldpoint passive pre  .

Ralph (Atma-Sphere) i got great sound with a Townshend Allegri+ with a pair of your mono's, one of the best sounds i have heard.
The Townsend is a Transformer Volume Control rather than a simple passive (potentiometer)- a bit different in principle than what has been discussed here so far.

If the output of the source is direct coupled then passive controls have a better chance of working. This is one of the reasons you see so much variation in user experiences.
I think you have to look at the evolution of the home music reproduction system to understand the Pre-amp's role.  It is the result of the need for a single point of control and access. It was about control as in signal path switching, balance and 'tone' alterations, level setting,  It also provided a cost effective and systemically benign location for an RIAA equalizer and some additional gain for it.  In those days the production of music sources and the recording technology combined with early component left a lot to be desired. The need to 'balance' the early stereo effect was present along with the need for the classic Base and Treble personalization of the listening experience - It all resided in the Pre-amp.

Times have changed a bit.

I used to think no preamp is better, until I heard a Backert rhumba 1.2., this preamp will tell you, you need one, this preamp has a huge soundstage, with amazing 3D, I tried to buy their discontinued rhumba model or demo? All gone.
I am a bass fanatic, in both substance, and detail. I hear nothing that suggests compression, lack of weight or heft, or any negatives, spoken about here. This subject will never go anywhere, as I have mentioned many times before....there is no right or wrong...it is up to the individual to what he / she, likes. I will never use a preamp ( an additional gain stage ) again. It is agreed, that a preamp does add " something ", as " additional " punch, warmth, and certainly, ime, colorations ( that some might find to be euphonically enjoyable, whatever ), but I have enjoyed my recordings, more, currently, than in the past, and " this ", is what it is all about. This will be my last post on this thread, as I agree with kalali........So, to everyone....Enjoy ! MrD.
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@ atmasphere,
I have to agree with you on the bass. After using a passive for 9 years, I can say with experience, that bass is pretty light with a passive. My current preamp has a bass that the passive simply could not match. Dynamics is something that the current preamp has in spades. I loved the sound of my passive, but my current preamp is something else. 
To the OP: Please save us and yourself the aggravation and do a search as this topic has been discussed ad nauseam. The discussion doesn’t usually end well as you can see. Thanks in advance.
I'm unconvinced. People that don't like bass may find a passive to their liking.
What a crock of ****. You've really surpassed yourself with that one.
My amps sit by my speakers allowing for short speaker cables. I find with shorter speaker cables the system has greater resolution.

But I also find that having the front end of the system in an adjacent room also helps as there is less vibration (despite a custom stand and platforms)- which makes a difference to things like CD transports (less errors) and turntables (less coloration).

So my interconnect cables are 30 feet long. Obviously a passive can't do the job. I have tried them (in fact we used to make one 30 years ago) because it would be nice if things were simpler; more compact (although I'd have to have the system sitting between the speakers, which I don't like). But I find that there are colorations that don't exist when using the preamp. Particularly disturbing for me is the reduction in bass impact and dynamic contrast, a bit like a tone control. I don't get this effect with my preamp. I've played bass since the 7th grade so this bit has to be right for me or I'm unconvinced. People that don't like bass may find a passive to their liking.
1. try tubes?

2. loudness compensation (progressive low volume boost of lows and highs) usually an on/off switch. When 'on' it automatically, and progressively, engages boost as you lower the volume below ...

Typically misunderstood because it is 'oppositely' named, it should have been called 'low vol compensation'.


Note: the amp volume/preamp volume/low vol boost circuit work interactively, you need to find the combo that only engages it when the preamp vol is turned below ... Another reason it is either misunderstood, or, disliked because it gets engaged too soon at mid to high volume.

When you get it right, t is a wonderful thing to listen to Jazz at low volume and still hear/enjoy the bass player and brush work on cymbals at proper 'relative' levels.

3. balance/tone controls. remote volume from listening position, oh yeah!

some recordings benefit greatly by a very slight balance adjustment, and some recordings benefit from a bit of tone control

Add the fact that we lose our ability to hear high frequencies as we age. Of course you don't.

carpet is a tone control, acoustic treatments are tone controls, why the heck not use tone controls for certain recordings? bypass of controls is nice.

give yourself a flexible/optional setup (I change my path often)

Three optional paths

1. direct into my tube integrated amp, Cayin A88t, which has remote volume and 4 inputs (one preamp in)

For sources that I know I will listen to fully attentively, at moderate to high volume, i.e. reel to reel, single cd player, never low volume when I would want low volume boost.

2. tube preamp/tuner via integrated amp's 'preamp in',

McIntosh mx110z for it's amazing tube FM and it's tube Phono EQ. When listening to FM at low volume, it automatically and progressively applies 'low volume boost'.

My TT has switch to bypass or use it's optional built-in phono preamp eq. I prefer the McIntosh tube phone eq. However, my prior McIntosh SS C28 preamp, I preferred the TT's preamp. Then, the TT goes to line, or direct to an amp or integrated amp. Sometimes I go straight to tube monoblocks.

3. Chase RLC Remote Line Controller. Primarily for it's remote balance control from listening position.

It's a remote controlled switch/volume/balance/tone control, and,

Primarily it is for CDs I know need a balance tweak, perhaps a single favorite track, or compilation CDs with many different engineers choices.

Also for a batch of CD's during a picnic/party ... 

And for memory lane a dual cassette deck and an 8 track thru it.

It has two sets of outputs if I want to easily compare amps, SS/Tube/....


IOW, give yourself options that are practical: direct when best, preamp for it's advantages, low vol boost when desired ....

a preamp can soften a digital source and make it listenable
This then is the fault of the source, and not the fault of going direct.

Better to fix the problem (get better source) and not just put a band-aid fix over it, by softening the problem with adding an expensive preamp.

Ivor Tiefenbrun, inventor of the Linn Sondek LP12, had a very good saying.
"It all starts with the source, get that right and your part the way there.
Don't get source right and it'll be a never ending struggle"

Cheers George
I've tried powering a Jolida JD100 tube CD and a Meridian 506 CD, both of which are respectable CD players, directly to my solid state amp that had volume controls for each channel. They both sounded flat to me. Uninvolving. After placing my Conrad Johnson PV5 preamp between the CD player and solid state amp, it made a world of difference IMHO, not just to my ears, but for every single person who listened to my system. It was just MUCH more musical and involving. I guess it depends on the equipment and maybe the music you listen to, since I've hooked both CD players up to a Conrad Johnson CAV-50 integrated and though that too sounds much better than the solid state without the CJ preamp, it doesn't quite have the same sound I prefer compared to the solid state mated to the CJ PV5. Definitely more slam and low end power with the latter. I've never had a truly high end solid state preamp, so I can not comment how that would influence the sound from the solid state amp connected to the CD player.    
If your source has a high quality volume control (as with a few DACs that change volume by adjusting the reference voltage), you can achieve the impedance and power supply benefits mentioned earlier using a high quality, unity gain, buffer, which I believe is similar to what @grannyring‘s well-regarded The Truth preamp is doing, although The Truth provides the volume control too using photo cells.  Pass is correct about having sufficient gain in our sources but he also recognized the sonic benefits of an active stage, which is why he designed his B1 buffer.  SMc’s VRE-1 is another excellent unity gain line stage (with volume control).  Tortuga Audio’s tube preamp buffer is another buffer option (no volume control) at a lower price.
 generally a shorter signal path is better as long as you have the essentials for proper sound reproduction and a good preamp is one of them .it's critical for depth imaging and soundstage and helps you adjust the sound to your taste. the wrong preamp will degrade the sound and take you away from the sound you like.
a preamp can soften a digital source and make it listenable
tube preamps are the best for that . adding a gain stage with volume control allows you to keep all the volumes on other components like dacs at their sweet spot so it improves sound quality.on some recordings i keep the dacs volume high and the preamp low some sound better the other way around it's more flexible vs having no choice about the dacs volume.you just have to pick a high quality preamp that you like what it adds to your system.if you like your dac's output stage that much try a preamp from the same brand it will give you more of what you like.  
To pre or not to pre, such is a query...

I don't have one.  Two matrix; one for source selection, the other for where and what I want to direct the signal to or through to the amps.

I can loop through eq...or not.

I can eq @ the source if it's from the 'puter...or not.

I can mix or crossover to whatever as desired.

I got over a 'stand alone' preamp.

It's just a form of signal control, after all.

Whatever boats your float. ;)
I did quite a few tests using the ps audio DS sr dac straight into the PS Audio BHK amp or going thru a McIntosh C47 preamp, both using soundstring balanced ic’s.

There are some tuning steps  you can apply to the dac. Best sound directly into amp is with attenuation on. Best sound going thru the McIntosh preamp is with attenuation off and volume is set to 85.

Overall, the best sound is when going thru the dac
 A preamp sets the stage. My SFL1 Sig++ throws a stage with right and left, up and down and near and far. Its quite amazing with the right stuff. The Chesky Test CD is just frightening. ;)

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George says:
It adds coloration that some may like. 
Bingo. Every single component in the world is subtractive. The very, very best subtract (distort) very little. Some distort a lot but with euphonic distortion (ok the world champ in that regard is the sounding board of a boesendorfer piano, but I digress).
The real issue is that most digital volume controls are truly awful. A couple of weeks back i posted a great PPT deck (from ESS tech) on the whys and the measurements.  want to make your 16/44 digital into 10 bit sound? use many digital volume controls. And we aorry about 192/24?  LOL!!!!!!! or am i crying?

That said, the Oppo may in fact use the ESS chip. If they apply digital control in the 32 bit core, it can be almost transparent. But you must check very carefully, and polls on Audiogon don't change the facts. Check how they go about it.
Technically, seldom needed, but a lot of music played through my Modwright 36.5 in the chain produces an emotional response in me that is kinda like the first bite of a hot fudge sunday...an "ahhh."  The 36.5 replaced the output attenuuator in a high-end DAC.
I will remind folks that The Truth preamp is a wonderful option with an input impedance of 6 trillion ohms and and output impedance of 3 ohms.  If your source puts out 1.5v or more of output, then you are good to go.  They all do today. No impedance issues to deal with.  In terms of the amp you pair with it, ideally it should be relatively sensitive with full volume attained with under 2 or so volts.  

You can use 30 foot long ICs with no issue.  Worth looking into for $1000. 
I have always said and experienced that there is nothing like a good preamp in a system. YMMV but my systems have always sounded best with an active preamp.
For sure an active preamp is better then 
a passive gain stage on a dac or Cd player with a volume control.andanother point the oppo has a few hundred dollars in parts speaking of the 205 .you get what you pay for.a active preamp has much bigger power supplies and much better 
dynamics,also much more $$. I have owned all types and owned a Audio store for years ,any good active  preamp will give you a bigger more stable performance.
vacuum tube preamps enhance the performance further still.
One more thing....imagine your favorite artist  ( piano player, sax player, vocalist, it does not matter ), and you had the ability to have him / her, play for you, solo. These are your choices. ( 1 ) you could hear him / her, perform, at his / her best, but....., in a poor sounding environment, similar to an airport bathroom, or, ( 2 ) you can hear, a high school student, of the same instrument, play, at Carnegie Hall, with you in the front row, the same piece of music. Mind you, the student is not bad, but lacks the " expertise " and years of " experience and polish ", of the instrument, your favorite musician possesses,........you cannot have both, in this situation. What scenario would you opt for........if you selected # 1, you know of what I speak. If you select # 2, well, you figure it out.....Again, thanks for indulging. 
Assuming all impedance and voltages are matched, passive is superior in sq, to me, at least. However, I feel it might come down to the recordings, themselves. My highest quality recordings, shine, and the extra gain stage, those I have heard, obscured details and nuances in the recordings. With tubes, added colorations ( again, to me ). But, if I put on a mediocre recording, of which I have many, some sound thread bare, however, detailed, I prefer hearing it this way, as it is from the prospective of what the musicians and the producers were striving for. But, having some excellent preamps and listening to some excellent preamps, I can see why some people prefer them. However, I feel these preamps are " sugar coating " what is being heard, adding some things of their own. Listen, I do not know why, after all this time, people are still debating, better or worse, tube or ss, passive or active, horns vs. box vs panels, etc. The important thing, is to hear everything you can, and, determine what it is " you, the listener ", wants. I will tell you this, and I posted this on another thread, but this will be shorter.....The tone of a violin, as an example, will have changed, to a large degree, once it has been recorded, in it’s final " laydown ", due to the microphones, their placement, and the recorders, and everything else the signal has to see and go through. Unless I was there where the mic was placed, during the recording, I am clueless as to what the result should be. So, I listen to the musicianship, as I try to connect, with the emotional content of the composers, and the players. Tone, harmonics, dynamics, imaging, soundstaging, detail, and other attributes, are all things we expect, and strive to recreate, but, we can only accomplish a fascimile of the real thing. However, when you listen specifically to the " prat ", the start and stop of the music, this is, a given, as the musicians and producers were satisfied, to lay down the final cut. Everything else will fall into place, but when I went passive with my Luminous piece, this, is the area, that truly shows itself, with every recording. So, if the tone of an instrument is off, because of the recording, it is all about what is happening with the " playing " of the instrument. I am not as interested in the instrument itself, as I am listening to the instrument, " being played ", and this, is somewhat lost, or fuzzed over, with a lot of systems. Some of you might know what I am speaking of, but I suspect some of you think I am a wacko....It’s ok....I listen differently than most, and I enjoy, every recording, I play.....Enjoy ! MrD.