Digital or Analog Volume in preamplifier

Just received an opinion.
Is it logical?

**Digital volume control throws bits away when volume is lowered.
Wile Analog volume control sound is more “open” at much lower volume”

A good digital volume control does not throw bits away.


Thank you very much.
Very appreciated.

I think it’s accepted that a digital volume control loses resolution at lower volume settings.

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Thanks all.
Now I’m confused.
I’m considering adding a pre amp to an A/V Processor.
The processor with a Digital volume control.
The pre amp with analog….

Personally, I would avoid a digital volume control. Preamps deal with delicate low level signals and it’s easy to do irreversible harm. Volume controls are key to a preamps sound. Unless the design recognizes the potential for harm and deals with it the risks just aren’t worth it. Just my opinion.

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The volume control on the Mk II is an excellent one, not to be feared.


No, this is untrue. Many years ago digital volume control was crude and did work by throwing away data. Modern digital volume controls shift data and none is lost.

E. g., there are a good number of posts in this forum explaining how the MK1 and MK2 do not throw away data.


Like most questions in life and audio, the answer to the question is, “it depends”.

The pluses and minuses of “analogue” and “digital” volume control systems are dependent upon the design and parts employed.


I’d like to add McIntosh C53 pre amp ( analog volume control) to the McIntosh MX123 A/V Processor for Stereo only.
These will connected to McIntosh MC 255 power amp

I wouldn’t take ‘Modern digital volume controls shift data and none is lost.’ as gospel. So much depends on the implementation details of the piece being considered. The fact the PSA implementation of the volume control in the Mk1 and Mk2 is lossless is nice to know but has no relevance to any other piece from any other manufacturer.

To wit: if there is any question about loss of resolution of a digital volume control for a specific piece, consult directly with the manufacturer. There is no point in guessing. If the manufacturer isn’t crystal clear with the answer, move on to another brand and model of component.


Listen, I’m certainly on expert on these matters but I think we are not necessarily talking about the same thing. A DAC operates in the digital domain and outputs an analog signal. A preamp operates in the analog domain, at least in the traditional sense of a preamp. Unnecessarily going back and forth is to be avoided.

A fair point.

The below ramblings brought to you by sleep deprivation, hopefully it is not drivel :slight_smile:



There are advantages and disadvantages to both digital and analogue volume manipulation.

If you want to stay digital right up to the power amps using as little as possible analogue active circuitry in between (remember, analogue active circuitry will always always add distortion*) then a good implementation of digital volume is your best bet (many ways of doing it, but a lot of DACs / DAC chips seem to scale a (usually max) 24 bit digital stream in 32 bit float before dithering to the max resolution of the actual converter bit (usually back to 24 bit). This will have no impact at least for the first 40 odd dB of attenuation, just lots of maths. Ted’s DAC goes much further than this i.e. does a much more precision job of it and doesn’t lose resolution - it is described on this forum elsewhere. This can be compelling to an audio purist (minimum (analogue) signal path).

Of course in this scenario any analogue sources will have to be converted to digital and fed as another “digital” source to your DAC (e.g. in my case a turntable). Is this two pointless conversions? Not if you don’t have or want an analogue preamp, and especially not if you like playing with an ADC.

It also means you can do room / speaker eq or DSP or whatever if that’s your thang, or digital crossover and separate power amps for individual speaker drivers in the digital domain, thereby avoiding an ADC/DAC in any later room / eq / x-over processor, and allows it to be used with all sources (including those analogue ones you convert to digital). This too is a compelling scenario for a purist.

Analogue volume controls also have limitations, in many cases big ones, and will lose resolution / detail to some extent or another whether passive or active, and this may be worse than any low level losses from a digital volume.

About the only time an analogue preamp makes sense to me is if all or most of your sources are analogue, and you don’t want to do any room processing etc. or if you have tape machines, or like analogue signal routing for its own sake (and hey I get that!) or have an old fashioned analogue eq (and there are some nice ones around for sure).



* it may not be much, and it may be “desirable” distortion but it is added nonetheless.

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Well said

Thanks for the reply.
As said by me , My wish is to add a pre amp to an A/V Processor.
The processor with a Digital volume control.
The pre amp with analog….

As the preamp will connected as passthru option.
The pre amp is expensive one.
I want to more enjoy stereo via a dedicated stereo device rather then an A/V processor in stereo mode.

Is it logic ? will I benefit a better stereo sound ?


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I gave up trying to integrate a surround processor with a music system years ago. I just use a surround receiver in a completely separate system and be done with it, even if it’s in the same room. But more than one way to skin a cat for sure. Interested in hearing how it all works out.


Thank you.
Any important reason for that ?
Is a separate stereo system much better ?

I can’t afford separate because of space problems

I started with two separate systems in separate rooms. When I put them in the same room I tried to integrate them with the same speaker for the music system and surround system front left and rights. In the end seeing that I already had the two different pairs of speakers I keep them powered and controlled separately as it just made it simpler for my wife to watch movies dealing with just powering up the receiver. Downside is speaker clutter but probably worth it as this is a dedicated listening room.


It depends on the processor and it depends on the preamplifier. :slight_smile:

I believe you can do it with some planning and careful selection of components.

FWIW, my system does double duty (2.1/7.1). My Pre/Pro (Anthem AVM 50v) has a “competitive” stereo analogue input and the settings flexibility to allow me to listen to my primary stereo source (DS Sr. DAC) and a myriad of AV sources via digital and HDMI connections.

With Anthem Room Correction (ARC) my stereo and 7.1 listening is very, very good.

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