A Minimalist Experiment

I lived in Chicago for three decades and still love its architecture, particularly that of architect Mies van der Rohe. His work is known for “less is more”. I’m running an experiment that applies the concept to audio and would love to know who, if anyone, has attempted the same.

Preamps help to select among sources and increase phono levels. Some say it improves system SQ, although I’ve never understood how or why a source with enough sound level would benefit from additional electronics in the signal path.

I mostly stream, either ripped CD files or from Qobuz, from desktop through my DSD DAC directly onto the BHK 250 and out to the Focals 1038s. Analog was secondary in my mind while building up my digital rig. I want to again listen to my wonderful collection of RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings, among others, and was faced with how to pull it off.

I have a Sonic Euphoria passive amp that I could press into service, but I would have to go single ended to the BHK amp. Instead, I thought about digitizing the signal from my Technics 1210GR (Lyra Delos cartridge)/Project Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamp and sending the coax digital signal directly to the DSD DAC.

Even though I felt the move perhaps an abomination I like to experiment. I also don’t have the cash to spend on a PSA preamp at this point and would prefer to keep the digital signal path simple (PC->DSD DAC->BHK250).

To my surprise, my reference recordings sound amazingly good. The $20 tiny little bitty analog to digital converter from Amazon yields CD quality and now I can use the DSD DAC as a digital preamp. Has anyone attempted this perhaps mortal sin in the audio world?

The DSD DAC has a reputation for making just about any source sound good. Although I have not done truly critical listening, through my system and my ears the digitized analog sounds just as musical as the pure digital sources using the exact same performances for comparison.

I’ve ordered a new Stellar Phono Preamplifier and can’t wait to see how the SQ changes when it replaces the Project Phono preamp unit. Is there anyone foolish or daring enough to have attempted something similar?

Yes it is fun to experiment. You are basically doing a vinyl-rip or needle drop on-the-fly and piping it into your DS DAC. A few years ago, I bought a $25 Behringer thingy on Amazon and ripped some old albums into Audacity on my MacBook. I agree - they sound fantastic.

When I was more into vinyl, I had a Schiit phono preamp that sound good. I used it for my needle drops too. Then I got a DSjr and I don’t listen to vinyl much anymore. My TT (and DSjr) is now piped into a Mcintosh preamp with a nice phono stage with lots of options, but I never really compared it to the Schiit.

Hi, thanks for replying. I’m glad at least one person has attempted the same. I think most who do so have as their goal saving their vinyl for posterity.

I think it’s a great idea to do it to preserve valued vinyl, but my main interest is to see if marrying the well-regarded new PS Audio Phono Preamp to the also well-regarded DSD DAC shows vinyl SQ superiority. After all, a digital rig like the DSD DAC + BHK 250 + Focals 1038 is a pretty good representative of digital processing.

So far, the experiment yields very good results using my Project Tube Box Phono Preamp. We’ll see what it’s like with the new PS Audio component. I’m hoping…

Michael Fremer actually did a shootout of a number of $300 and up ADC units and 30% of the respondents who graded 7 different audio clips each done with a different ADC noticed no difference. The ADC would appear to be a limiting factor to getting good sound quality using this method.

The key question is does a $20 converter need to be any more sophisticated for the job at hand. Step one is replacing the phono stage. Stage two of the experiment is using a different ADC. Life is good in the hobby.

Thanks again for responding!

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It’s how I play vinyl - phono preamp into ADC (a Behringer SRC2496), then through the digital chain and out into power amps like the other digital sources.

Sometimes record to a Roland recorder or to Audacity running on Mac or Redhat.

Same ethos as the PSAudio nuwave phono converter.
I still don’t know why that didn’t take off I would have loved one :slight_smile: