I respectfully disagree.
How can a wire do impedance matching? Impedance matching is one of the 3 critical functions of a pre-amp.
I haven’t seen a single high-end 2ch installation that didn’t use a pre-amp. In my circle of audio-tragics not one person uses a DAC-pre. They all have a DAC + dedicated pre-amp. The reason for that should be self-evident.
I have tried using a stand alone DAC as a preamp, and I found it sounded better with an actual preamp, or integrated amp in the chain.
You get what you pay for…a proper pre-amp costs 2+ times the cost of a DS DAC. In the “stack” of components made by a manufacturer, eg disc spinner, DAC, pre-amp, etc the pre-amp is almost always the most expensive piece of the whole set.
I have tried the DAC direct to amp using the DAC’s digital volume control with three different DAC’s from PSA, W4S and the OPPO Sonica and in each instance even a basic “passive” preamp like the W4S STP-SE improved the sound. The only DAC I have found that was different was the Nuprime DAC-10 which is in fact a fully balanced preamp and DAC circuit in the same chassis. I have multiples of each in house so I can try it both ways and DAC alone has never won out. Plus what does this DAC direct vs preamp argument do to help the OP or answer his questions?
My preamp only cost me $4k and it’s proper enough for my system.
W4S STP SE Stage 2 here. Great preamp.
I just have the basic since 2013 and I keep it around as it is like an open window and a stone cold bargain. Maybe one day I will send mine back to EJ for the upgrade.
I traded my STI-500 in for a new STP-SE2. I am running it to a W4S MC7x250 I bought back in 2011.
EJ is really good to work with. His products are well designed and durable.
I agree EJ is one of the good guys who makes quality gear for reasonable prices.
I originally wrote $5k…then I remembered that BHK was more than $5k so I changed the title but forgot to change the text in the body. I have some trade ins, so presumably I could get the bhk around or less than $5k. Sorry for the confusion.
I’ve read numerous posts about the pre-amp versus no preamp discussions. For the sake of this post and my system, the DAC is going to run thru a preamp.
I also saw a Ted Smith post where he said connecting balanced to the DSD was one of the most cost effective enhancements one could make.
In that case, it will be $5k well spent. I hope you get a good trade-in deal.
I am in love with my Decware ZTPRE, set up with three balanced inputs. I didn’t think I preferred the DSD with a pre until I got this, now I won’t listen to it directly. . . .
It’s the preamp that is most invisible that I’ve ever heard. (I’ve not heard the BHK). It adds goodness but nothing else is how I perceive it.
I went quite a long time just using the DSD Sr volume control and I was happy; I actually preferred it over an old Cary pre I had. But then I went for a BHK and the difference is worth the money. I actually went back and forth on a rainy day and the BHK is better in every way. Plus you can alter the tone by rolling two tubes.
I also have on long term loan from a friend a Pass Labs XP-20. Oh man, how can solid state sound so good?
(Such problems we have)
Yo, Broderick: as I stated “Paul himself was of this opinion for many years.” I can read too, and read his more recent opinion. He didn’t change that opinion until the BHK came along, and it was one of the best available that it took to change his mind…
As to impedance matching, it may or may not be an issue. The DSD works well with many amps. As I stated, “The answer is, at the least, completely system dependent…”
My pre-owned Jadis DA60 integrated (class A single ended) offered the opportunity to bypass the preamp but always sounded better with pre in use. Moved over to Audio Research last year. Started running direct connecting the DS to the AR ref 75 SE poweramp (XLR balanced), at first hearing SQ wise i was happy. However putting the AR ref 6 pre in the chain took it to a complete other level, no doubt about that.
Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2 review. Review completed last month.
The review was part of my purchasing decision.
Thx to everyone for the replies and recs. Looks like I’ve got some homework to do. I do have a trace amount of tuberoller in my blood so that is something I’m considering as I weigh options as well.
Really digging this forum from both an informational and functional perspective compared to another popular audio forum that shall go unnamed.
I have the BHK and DS. Highly recommend but the reason for my post though is; don’t discount the BHK headphone amp in the preamp. Bascom has created a few great ones in his day, and this one comes along for ‘free’.