BHK preamp volume at 53 and above sound better?

Couple things I’ve noticed with the volume settings on the BHK preamp. There seems to be a bigger jump in loudness going from 52 to 53, and above, then before you reach 53. Also, and maybe this is just my imagination, there seems to be a small difference in sound quality as well, once you reach 53. Everything seems to pop more at 53 and above. Subtle sounds that you can barely hear below 53, come to life, once the volume is set above 52.

Anyone else notice this phenomena?

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I have noticed this also.
With my previous amp (XA30.8) I could never get the volume that high as 40 was plenty loud.
Since changing to a tube amp I never usually fall below 53 but when I do the sound does seem somewhat duller.


It’s discussed in the BHK Preamp threads. There’s a relay click at 53 and after this setting, Paul has indicated a preference for the output. The answer is yes it sounds better. My problem is getting my amps to that point. It’s OK with my tube ARC amp but my BHK 300’s have too much gain.


Because my speakers are 93 db efficient, I hardly ever go over 53 on the preamp, when the DAC volume is set to 93. I’ve now lowered the DAC volume to 83, in order to keep my preamp above 53.

I too have a problem with my DSD I prefer it over 92 and I end up with too much gain. I’m using XLR all around so that doesn’t help.

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I know what I am about to say may come off as a bit nuts, but try setting the DS Sr. DAC’s volume at 92 and optimize the preamplifier volume leaving the DS Sr. at 92.

I recall reading 92 as a setting recommendation from Ted Smith somewhere, and darned if I don’t find it to be more or less optimal. The power of suggestion…?

Of course, your preference may vary (I don’t have a PSA preamp., by the way), but it certainly would not hurt to try.

Just a suggestion…


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So ideally we’d like to keep the DAC volume above 92 and the preamp volume above 52, but that doesn’t work for everyone, depending on the efficiency of the speakers and the amp they’re using. Overall I think I prefer lowering the DAC volume, in order to keep the preamp volume above 52.

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Doesn’t sound nuts at all because that’s what I’ve been doing. I followed Ted’s suggestion, and set the DAC volume at 92 to 93, then adjusted the preamp accordingly. I don’t think there’s a huge difference, but I now prefer lowering the DAC volume, in order to keep the BHK preamp above 52.

I think micro details are a little easier to hear, and the overall presentation is a little more lively.


Also, depending on the recording, sometimes I can have the DAC volume at 92 and the preamp above 52, but that’s not the case most of the time. Most recordings are way too loud when the DAC and preamp are set to those volumes.

Hi @Gary_M. Thanks for the tips. For me, it was a “fasten your seat belts… the plane is about to take off” with the BHK at volume 53 and the Directstream at volume 83. Much greater dynamics, but household unfriendly loud. :roll_eyes: I ended up turning Directstream’s volume down to 56 to get to roughly the same volume output I had before.

I’ve reverted to fixing the Directstream volume at 92 and using the BHK for volume control. I’m thinking the BHK is the pre in my system and it seems sort of self-defeating to fix its volume so another unit can then control its volume.

But I certainly enjoyed the ride!

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I would factor in both sensitivity & impedance of speakers.

It does feel ironic to have an excellent preamp and then using another piece of gear to control the volume.

The good thing is you have options. :slight_smile:


That’s not what I’m doing. I’m just making sure the preamp’s volume stays above 52, by lowering the DAC’s volume, but I’m still mostly using the preamp to control the volume.

I was responding to @Interested 's comment.

Yes, I realize that, but you were agreeing with interested, who I thought was suggesting, and perhaps mistakingly so, that I was no longer using the preamp’s volume control. So instead of responding to both, I responded to you.

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I like to switch during a listening session from analog (SPP) to digital CD (DS Sr DAC). So the volume over 52 can be compensated by DAC while playing vinyl it sounds too high. Even with low gain (470 ohm load MC cartridge).

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Apologies for any misunderstandings! I was writing about how I approached this. I even checked the manual on could I lock the BHK’s volume (yes, it seems possible), but then it was, did I want to? etc.

In the end I thought, no, I’ll stick to fixing the Directstream’s volume and leaving the BHK as variable.

Another thing that came into the mix for me was the lovely rotary dial on the BHK. Volume up, volume down, easy as could be…

Have to say, I wasn’t looking forward saying to the family, err, the dial doesn’t do anything anymore, if you’d like to change volume it’s the left side volume button on the remote, but not the volume button on the right!

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Thanks for the clarification.

With a 250, listening at a reasonable, not jamming, Melody Gardot volume, I have my DS on 50 and the BHK Pre at 55.

If I run the DS at 93, the Pre is 30 to get the same volume.

Do I hear a difference? I think I like 50/55. The mids seem more fleshed out.

BHK users, what tubes are you using? I am currently running a set of Siemens 7308’s.


It would be awesome to have @BHK @tedsmith and @Paul weigh-in with their thoughts.

We have advise that the DS sounds best at 93, the BHK Pre above 53, yet for so many that combination is far to loud. Especially in combination with 250’s or 1200’s.

We all want the best sound possible and that alone is very subjective. In this example there’s clearly trade-off’s. My question is where’s the sweet spot within the trade-off?