Best volume settings for BHK preamp and DS DAC

I have a DS Mk2 feeding a BHK preamp. With the Mk1, there was a consensus that many (not all) users got the best SQ with the DAC set to a volume of about 85. Is there any similar consensus for the Mk2?

Right now I’m running the Mk2 at 85, a holdover from the Mk1. I only use the lower half of the preamp’s volume range. I hardly ever get it to the halfway mark, usually somewhat less. Does the preamp sound better if you run it at a higher gain?

I have just made a cable change. As soon as this settles in, I will experiment with turning down the DAC volume and running the preamp higher. But in the meantime I’m curious about what other people’s experience has been.

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I’ll be darned if I can tell. After reading about this on the forum, I’ve tried various combinations. One day I reach a particular conclusion, but then it sounds better another way the next day day. This may say more about my subjectivity than anything else. FWIW, I settled on the DS DAC at 80, and the BHK pre somewhere between 25 and 40, depending on the recording. I think my system sounds better when it has been on for several hours — not necessarily playing anything, but turned on. Search me.


It should make no difference with the Mk II, or so we have been told. I removed my preamp as my new amp has a preamp section, essentially an integrated 300B amp, and usually have the Mk II at 90 to 100.

In my system the BHK Pre sounds best after the second click. So I set my BHK Pre to 53 and adjust the volume on my MKII to taste. I did the same thing when I owned the MKI.


I have a pretty refined listening ears that can tell pretty minute difference. I was never able to tell the difference in 100 vs. 92 vs. what ever volume recommendation on my modded DSD MK1. I now set it at 100 fixed and my BHK control the volume. That way, the noise floor is the low on the DAC and BHK Premap also doesn’t have to up the gain (more tube hiss). My BHK volume is usually around 40. I am sure MK2 will perform similarly.

Good reasons for that, brumtech.
I have the BHK Pre and the DS Mk2 into a BHK250 and have had the ‘what-volume-on-which’ question. I find that that no matter the input, the BHK Pre sounds just a bit better at volume 53 and above……so, I end up setting the DS2 volume at about 50-60, especially since the Mk2 is reputed to have no negative effects by setting it’s volume down.
The reason the BHK sounds better at 53 and above is that the BHK’s volume control design has lower output impedance at 53+ and that raises the upper bandwiidth filter limit at 53+……and, even if we cannot nominally hear that higher upper frequency……the higher cuttoff seems to open up the musical experience.


I noticed that BHK volume above 35 sounded better than the lower volume, so I set MK2 at 70 so the pre is always above vol. 35.

On the other hand, I agree that there is no difference in SQ no matter what volume was set on MK2. I will try BHK Pre at 53 and adjust MK2 volume accordingly to see if I like it better.

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Good plan, dchang……set everything up and change the BHK Pre from 52 to 53……bet you hear something other than just a .5dB increase.


After one day with BHK set at volume 53, and I am adjusting MK2 volume only. I like it a lot. MK2 volume adjustment may not matter, but BHK pre surely does.

With pre at 53, I hear more tube magic. But, there is something else too. The treble sounds fuller with more energy, and it sounds even smoother than before. Not only that, it seems my amps injected more power into the system. Suddenly the music is more weighted, and more “lifelike” is a good word for it.

It seems my LHY SW-6 switch order screwed up. It only just left China, and I may not see it for at least another week. What I received are two sets of slicone/alum. footers. I placed a set under the platform (to replace Sorbothne Duro70 rings) under MK2 and one set under the platform of the streamer; everyting tighten up more. This is yet another improvement that I quite enjoyed too.


I keep my MK II DAC on 80 and adjust the volume of the BHK pre accordingly. Some albums sound fine at 50 and others I might have to go up to 90 to get a volume level sufficient for the music being played.

Wow, I’ve been schooled again. Reading your post, I put on some quite acoustic music that might respond well to tube, and lowered my DAC volume, and pushed the BHK volume to 54 (strangely even number volumes are quieter than the odd ones). You are absolutely right. All the tube magic came alive and I am hearing harmonics I had not heard from these songs. Thanks for posting this. More listening to do tonight. :slight_smile:


I think this sums it up pretty nicely for my system, having moved from fixed volume via the DS2 @ 75 to variable at the DS2 so it sits comfortably with whatever it takes for the BHK to sing in the mid 50s :slight_smile:

Thanks @dchang05 and everyone else for your tips from the experimentation!

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I’ve experienced that also. I can see why a certain amount of warmup would be helpful (maybe an hour or so) – but beyond that??

Thanks to everyone who replied (and my apologies for taking so long to get back to this thread). On the rare occasions when I have turned my BHK pre higher than usual (probably above 53, based on comments here), I noticed it seemed different somehow. But I never pursued this. Looks like it will be well worth experimenting with a lower DAC volume as soon as my new HDMI cable gets some hours on it.

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I always run my DAC at 100 as I feel I lose attack, even if I use 53 on my Pre at a lower volume on my DAC. Just my findings

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Absolutely go for it! If it works in your system great, if not, nothing lost :slight_smile:

Now I know everyone loves music here but I also found this change was great for movie night (via optical to the DS2). Blams, booms and clear dialogue…

You’re right, It doesn’t seem logical. There have been various discussions about this on the forum (which I find somewhat difficult to search effectively). But as I recall the consensus of those discussions was that a long warmup — hours — works best. My system is on most of the day, with the displays turned off.

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The PST warmup is interesting by itself. My system sounds louder after 5 minutes of play when using PST. With Lumin U2 streamer there is no change in loudness.

The system sounds great after 30 minutes, but will continue to improve for the next hour.

My old system was doing the same thing so it could be that my brain needed that much time to reach optimal state, or my alcohol was getting better.

I’m settling on BHK pre at 53, and 54. Either one sounds better than lower volume with or without alcohol.

Over the weekend I finally had time to experiment with volume settings on my DS Mk2 and my BHK pre. My system definitely sounds better with the DAC volume lower and the preamp higher – it sings more, as someone said. :innocent: I’d encourage anyone who has not played with these settings yet to try it.


Nice, what have you set your MKll at?
I have been at 100 MKll fixed.