A regular preamp adding coloration or not in contrast to PWD's preamp function?


#1

I have been testing my setup with both a preamp (with PWD’s volume level on 100%) and using PWD as a preamp to directly drive my power amp (PASS Labs XA 30.5). The sound is significantly different. As a preamp I am using heavily modified PAS Labs X2.5 (external powersupply, output stage completely tubed). I have also tested some other preamps too.

In the case of a preamp usage the soundstage gets a depth boost clearly when compared to the PWD’s preamp functionality in which the sound stage feels like 2D very clearly (is this due to the reason that digital volume control is not bit-perfect at levels other than 100%?). The space between the instruments increase by a significant margin too (maybe this is due to the fact that the instruments lose focus in the case of the preamp and sound somehow reverberant)

In the case of direct connection between PWD and poweramp the transparency is on a higher level,this is the only advantage I was able to feel? As if I was listening to a marginally higher resolution file… However the 2D soundstage was obvious.

My system consists of Peak Consult Incognito driven by Pass labs XA 30.5 and PWD fed by my music server (SSD, linear power supply…etc) Interconnects Audioquest Wel Signature Balanced, Powercords all Oyaide Tunami with M1, F1 plugs.


#2

Regarding the 3D effect I feel when using an external preamp, is this the coloration of the preamp or not? I know that most editors even think that preamp adds to the sound to justify its existence however I can not get quite sure about it. As I can not 100% be sure about how the original recording was when recording I can’t say that precisely that either the preamp or the PWD plays more correct or not… However my logic states that if the digital volume control is not the effect of that 2D perception than PWD’s sounding is more correct and the preamp in charge is adding significant colorations to justify its existence and cost. Is this statement true? What are Ur opinions?


#3

This is something I’ve been mulling over, too.

With my PWD II directly connected, I get wondrous depth and soundstage through my Bob Latino M-125 tube amps in triode mode and Dynaudio Geminis (they have Esotec tweeters).

The back of the speakers are 29" from the wall, and about 8 feet apart, and at this point are aimed directly at the listener.

I find the depth greater this way even than with my Maggie 1.7’s set at 44" out.

I typically have the PWD set at 70-75 on its indicator, which yields about 82 db at my listening position. I listen mostly to acoustic jazz.

But I too have wondered if the benefits of going to a separate pre, and setting the PWD at 100 would offset the added cost and complexity (more cables, connections, etc). Maybe not.

I’d first play with speaker positioning for more 3D - distance from wall and toe-in - if I were you. Measure each change!

What speakers are you using?


#4
alpyoruk said Regarding the 3D effect I feel when using an external preamp, is this the coloration of the preamp or not? I know that most editors even think that preamp adds to the sound to justify its existence however I can not get quite sure about it. As I can not 100% be sure about how the original recording was when recording I can't say that precisely that either the preamp or the PWD plays more correct or not... However my logic states that if the digital volume control is not the effect of that 2D perception than PWD's sounding is more correct and the preamp in charge is adding significant colorations to justify its existence and cost. Is this statement true? What are Ur opinions?
Hi @alpyoruk , your observations are fairly consistent with what myself and many others have found when comparing the preamp functionality of the PWD to a good preamp. Personally I use the Coincident Statement line stage. It is marginally less transparent than DAC direct, but there is improved depth and 3D effect as you say. The frequency balance is more pleasing as well, with less treble emphasis, and fuller bass. Some people have heard my system and prefer the slightly drier, more transparent sound of DAC direct. I guess it depends on the person, the music and the system.

The PWD digital volume control does not restrict dynamic range when the volume is above 45 for redbook, or about 60 for 24-bit material. However, in practice, I can hear the loss of 3D soundstaging even just engaging the digital volume control from 100 to 99.

The principle of going DAC direct and cutting out a preamp is sound and makes theoretical sense. Unfortunately, in practice, it is still not as good as a using a good preamp IMHO. Opinions will vary though.


#5

Thanks @stereophilus … Was of great help to hear someone else who has experienced a similar case.

So can we sumup and say that the digital volume causes, as U stated, the loss of 3D effect of the sound tough it is more transparent due to shorter sound path?

So all that active circuitry, the preamp’s transformer’s effect, the extra interconnect and power cable still sounds more inviting and pleasent.

Still with lots of recordings the direct connection from PWD to power amp reproduces the timbre of the instruments more faithfully. For example using the preamp I quite easily hear that I am listening to a completely different piano whose notes have less weight and are more bright. So the preamp setup should be really colorizing the reproduced sound. What a tradeoff then this case is, for more 3D soundstage and pleasing sound, we have to löse transparency and faithfullness in timbre…


#6

@tedsmith … Mr Smith Does the DSD’s volume control eill be superior in the terms that it won’t effect the 3D sound stage (unlesss it is a coloration of the preamp) as does the PWD’s volume control? If we assume that it is the PWD’s digital volume control which is responsible for that 3D to 2D conversionof the sound stage (by the way we have witnessed the same phenomenom when using M2 tech Vaughan DAC, too… going to a preamp setup effected the sound as the same way as mentioned here).


#7
alpyoruk said Thanks @stereophilus ... Was of great help to hear someone else who has experienced a similar case. So can we sumup and say that the digital volume causes, as U stated, the loss of 3D effect of the sound tough it is more transparent due to shorter sound path?

So all that active circuitry, the preamp’s transformer’s effect, the extra interconnect and power cable still sounds more inviting and pleasent.
Still with lots of recordings the direct connection from PWD to power amp reproduces the timbre of the instruments more faithfully. For example using the preamp I quite easily hear that I am listening to a completely different piano whose notes have less weight and are more bright. So the preamp setup should be really colorizing the reproduced sound. What a tradeoff then this case is, for more 3D soundstage and pleasing sound, we have to löse transparency and faithfullness in timbre…


Well, who’s to say the timbre is more accurate? And accurate compared to what - live music? I find that with my preamp in the system I feel a greater sense of musical cohesion and timbral richness that reminds me of live venues. Soundstage, 3D effect and imaging help this illusion, but they are artificial aspects of the recording process. I have been to live concerts that sounded terrible. I wouldn’t want my system to reproduce that sound accurately… Using a preamp in my system helps me steer my system towards reproducing the type of real music I enjoy.

#8

Accuracy should be I guess to the actual sound which was being recorded either in the studio or in the live venue that recording process was being done. I want my system to produce that sound as faithfully as possible not enhance it in anyways (of course theoratically it will change it to a degree but not that much).

In my case when I listen through the preamp tough I enjoy it more several instruments sound quite differently. The piano example is like listening 2 different pianos at all one from tonk piano (sorry if I am being 100 explanatory…) the other one being a complete concert piano with mush less brighter sound with more low-mid emphasis.

I wonder what Mr Smith would say about that 3D to 2D change occuring and whether if DSD DAC has some advantages over PWD in terms of preamp abilities which would effect that… (of course if that’s not the coloration of the preamp and this effect has nothing to do with how the actual recording sounds…)


#9
alpyoruk said @tedsmith ... Mr Smith Does the DSD's volume control eill be superior in the terms that it won't effect the 3D sound stage (unlesss it is a coloration of the preamp) as does the PWD's volume control? If we assume that it is the PWD's digital volume control which is responsible for that 3D to 2D conversionof the sound stage (by the way we have witnessed the same phenomenom when using M2 tech Vaughan DAC, too... going to a preamp setup effected the sound as the same way as mentioned here).
Howdy

Paul also has found that a preamp can be advantageous at times despite his misgivings about extra connections and extra circuitry.

My point of view is why should we expect the function of, say, a $3000 preamp in a $3000 device for free?

I am more than confident you won’t hear a difference (besides volume) between 100 and 99 on the volume control when using the DS. Also the DS provides an analog 20dB attenuator for people with more sensitive systems (those that never would turn their volume controls up past 60.)

I’m not convinced that it’s only the volume control that potentially changes the sound. For example the PWD and a preamp may have different capabilities in driving a capacitive load.

In any case the output stage of the DS is considerably different than that of the PWD. I wouldn’t hazard a guess whether a preamp would be an improvement or not in a given system. But if it is different it won’t be because of the volume control.

-Ted


#10

@adminpaul Hi Mr McGowan, if possible and if U have time, what were the times that U found using an external preamp useful?

I am not an electic & electronic engineer, but the preamps used to play a role when the sources such as turntables didn’t have the ability to output enough current for to drive the power amps. But now all sources almost produce enough currents (maybe for an ordinary user such as me the relationship between the sources output low impedance and the power amps high input impedence issues are not that clear) so ideally the best preamp should no preamp at all right now.

The assumption I hold onto is that if one likes a preamp at all, then they love it according to their audio preferences and those preferences don’t necessarily have to steer to high fidelity sound production… So in such a case we are actually satisfying ourselves (U can clearly say that that is the soul purpose of the industry and I have deep respect for that :)) but the camp which holds on the pure musical loyalty regarding production to the original recording conditions would not need at all a preamp I assume given the fact that the active circuitry and all extras don’t produce an advantage over the volüme control of the DAC. Is this true for the second category of people looking for that kind of sound production?

If volüme adjusting and input switching is not the single soul ability of a preamp then what more does it offer over the DAC’s preamp abilities?

Sorry for taking your time but I think there are lots of people like me WHO are trying to find the right way to tüne their systems? Do we just let go the loaylty part and stick to our subjective satisfactions or should we have more objective criterias? Thanks alot before hand,


#11

@alpyoruk - I understand your desire for information but you are asking for sweeping generalizations that may not have a concrete or useful answer. Almost any component added to a system will color the sound in some way (how’s that for a sweeping gen?) so if purity is what you’re after then go straight into the amp. Just do yourself a favor and make sure that you are enjoying your chosen path. Don’t let the quest for a theoretical ideal lead you to a point where you don’t like the result. Trust your ears!1_gif

OMG…when did I become an “PS Expert”??? toilet-2_gif 24_gif


#12

@wglenn thanks for Ur answer and congratulations for you PS Expert level :))

My question is especially related with pre amps. I do lots of tests regarding components tests including cables, plugs, spikes, components and etc… What I would like to do is that I don’t want end up building a system which colors much the original recording data available on the CD so I do prefer the smallest signal path at all, actually this is one reason why I purchased PWD DAC MK2 at first hand to get rid of a longer sound chain including the preamp (assuming it is an out of date component for ones WHO are looking for faithfullness to the data on my source).

Don’t get me wrong me and my girl friend both prefer the sound with the preamp :)) but I suspect its faithfullness, ask Audio Research and they will always tell that a preamp is necessary cause they make good Money out of it. I listened the REF 5’s and everything was more dramatic with that pre however faithfullness…

Making it more concrete, when I add the pre to my system, the sound deviates from what I hear when I am listening through Stax headphone tube amps and 7 series Stax Electrostatic headphones which I think would much more represent the data on the source much better than a hi-fi system due to the fact that its drivers mass and electrostatic structure is much more faster and would much mofre faithfully reproduce what is available on my redbooks, and HD media stuff (please correct me if I am wrong at all, don’t get me wrong… just trying to benefit from U experienced people whom I respect a lot in this forum and have the chance to discuss things).

Without the pre, the sound from my system is much more like the one in Stax actually very like. That’s why I suspect the pre and its colorations.

My topic doesn’t aim to generalize and move further than the preamps effect.


#13

So why not just enjoy the music?


#14

Congrats on the promotion Will. I think. clapping_gifparty_gifdancing-009_gif


#15
wglenn said

OMG…when did I become an “PS Expert”???


77_gif

#16

@alpyoruk - Sorry, those little guys being flushed were supposed to be at the end of my message. No disrespect intended!

PS Expert is WAY beyond my pay grade…

Maybe it should read, “BS Expert”4_gif


#17
wglenn said

PS Expert is WAY beyond my pay grade…


You are getting paid?

#18

Ted does alright, but if you really want answers, @wglenn (the PS Expert) is your man! drinking-39_gif


#19
alpyoruk said @adminpaul Hi Mr McGowan, if possible and if U have time, what were the times that U found using an external preamp useful?

I am not an electic & electronic engineer, but the preamps used to play a role when the sources such as turntables didn’t have the ability to output enough current for to drive the power amps. But now all sources almost produce enough currents (maybe for an ordinary user such as me the relationship between the sources output low impedance and the power amps high input impedence issues are not that clear) so ideally the best preamp should no preamp at all right now.

The assumption I hold onto is that if one likes a preamp at all, then they love it according to their audio preferences and those preferences don’t necessarily have to steer to high fidelity sound production… So in such a case we are actually satisfying ourselves (U can clearly say that that is the soul purpose of the industry and I have deep respect for that :)) but the camp which holds on the pure musical loyalty regarding production to the original recording conditions would not need at all a preamp I assume given the fact that the active circuitry and all extras don’t produce an advantage over the volüme control of the DAC. Is this true for the second category of people looking for that kind of sound production?

If volüme adjusting and input switching is not the single soul ability of a preamp then what more does it offer over the DAC’s preamp abilities?

Sorry for taking your time but I think there are lots of people like me WHO are trying to find the right way to tüne their systems? Do we just let go the loaylty part and stick to our subjective satisfactions or should we have more objective criterias? Thanks alot before hand,


It’s a really good question and as our newly anointed PS Expert added, a tough one to make broad generalizations about.

There are many that believe a preamp always makes for better sound, with instruments sounding more like their personas, voices sounding more natural and so on. I have heard these comparisons and on many systems they are indeed correct in their assessments - they do sound better with the preamp in the mix.

And much depends on the type of preamp as well. Most I know that believe preamps add to the overall musicality of the system seem to have a tube preamp. I have a tube preamp.

But then there is the other side to this Gordion knot. The DAC, straight into the power amp has an openness and aliveness to the sound that is uncanny and unmatched when going through the preamp. It sounds closer to the source, yet I am not always convinced it sounds as musically accurate. Yet I vacillate. Just a few days ago I swapped out of the preamp and enjoyed an entirely new approach to the music I hadn’t enjoyed before.

I know this rambling isn’t much help but the bottom line still remains: we must make our own decision based on our own listening patterns and system choices.

As I mentioned earlier, whenever I travel to show off DirectStream I never use a preamp. I know that displaying the differences in what people are used to hearing through a DAC are amplified by not having the preamp in the mix - and believe me, if I spend the time to travel somewhere to show off our products I want them in the best light. And if that meant a preamp, so be it.

But in my main listening room there is a preamp and I have the same goal. Go figure.


#20

Gordon, save me! Our forum is doomed with that moniker attached to my name. All credibility will be lost! toilet-2_giffacepalm-smiley-emoticon_gif

http://youtu.be/YgGvd1UPZ88?t=30s