Do all passive preamps sound the same?

I’ve been running a Schiit Freya + for a few years now. I bought it because of the ability to use its three operating modes to varying sonic signatures. I like the passive mode due to its transparency and neutrality best. I’ve always believed that a passive design should be neutral by default.
This review presents an idea concerning passive preamps that I’ve never heard of before. He reviews a brand that contends that the sound changes depending on the design of the resistors used in the stepped attenuator. They even offer the option to order different ones depending on the sound signature you are after. Interesting.


Having a Wyred4Sound STP SE Stage 2…Is very transparent dynamic, not thin
or shrill. It is both passive and then active beyond a certain level of gain on volume

Mine sounds wonderful…

While I haven’t owned or hear other passive preamps.

It seems I have read that passives can’t deliver a punch or do low bass…
Certainly not the case with my Stage 2…

Hope this helps some.

Best wishes

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Just because it uses passive parts does not make it neutral.

Looks a lot like my Hattor passive pre. w/3-level active gain option…right down to the remote…*

Hmmm… :thinking:

Neat kit.

(Not my pre but close enough for making the comparison.)

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Which preamp is this?

Best wishes

I wouldn’t say they sound the same. The volume control does impact the sound. I would say they all have similar traits however, exceedingly transparent (probably due to low noise floor) and requires a bit more work matching with source components, amplification and speakers. Low output source, with a demanding amp and low sensitivity speakers will sound dull and lifeless. Decent output components, combined with a relatively simple amp and high efficiency speakers can get you close to audio nirvana

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Hattor and Khozmo are the same company. Khozmo is the brand name for their volume attenuators and Hattor was set up later to make full function preamps using them. They latter ventured into amps and an integrated based on nCore modules.

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I would say that a good rule of thumb is that when a designer makes a perfect preamp, amp, whatever, then they’ll all sound the same. Until then the answer has to be no.

Well, that makes sense.


Those Hattor preamps with the active module are supposed to be pretty special sounding as is David’s W4S STP-SE Stage 2. I own the base STP-SE and it’s a pretty great preamp itself. I keep it around as the backup in case of any issues with the tube preamps.

I have never had the chance to use mine in the big rig. Its relegated to my office system for now where it performs very nicely.

The descriptor that stands out to my mind is “quiet”.

Whether running in passive mode or at any one of the three active/gain levels, the preamp is really, really quiet. I have it hooked up between a qol Signal Completion Stage and an Anthem MCA 225 (MK I) amplifier. My primary source is a Jolida tube DAC which serves up the occasional SACD or CD spun on an old Denon Universal Player or streaming from a bluMe HD Bluetooth Music Receiver I use to access Sirius Satellite Radio and Qobuz and Tidal subscriptions.

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I gotta tell you that my Passive-Aggressive preamp has it’s moments. I have never tried a Passive Pre before. I haven’t been in the presence of too many of them. What do you use as a source? Is this a main system or side system piece? I recently purchased my first ever tube integrated. It isn’t an earth changing sound to me. But I have always had a thing for the concept of a “straight wire with gain”. A Passive Pre sounds like a straight wire with no gain kinda thing.

But my first ever radio was a crystal and cat whisker radio. It is odd it made sound. When I learned about the diode and tuning coil options I was very impressed. It would be less than 58 years before an $8K power cable seemed attractive.

Office - at work System

The Auris also feeds the Jolida.

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Do you use the DAC to control volume and the Passive Pre for switching?

Years ago I used the volume control on my Benchmark DAC. It sounded OK. When I added the Freya preamp and used its stepped attenuator instead the sound made a huge jump in quality. It opened my eyes to the critical importance of the volume control in a system.
I believe the overriding issue with volume controls in DACs are how they are implemented. No digital based volume controls please.


Fully agreed.

The Jolida DAC is a really neat piece of kit. I set the volume on the DAC at a supposedly nominal level and use the input selection options on the DAC to choose its input. Optical output/glass cable connecting the Auris to the DAC and a digital coax cable connecting the Denon universal disc spinner to the DAC.

RCA cables from the DAC (I kind of wish it was a balanced design, but its not) go to the qol and XLR cables run from the qol to the Hattor pre. I have settled on a nominal setting for the volume on my iPhone as well for streaming wirelessly (Bluetooth) to the Auris.

I use the Hattor volume control (the remote is really handy and well-thought out functionally) to fine tune the volume, including selecting passive and one of three active modes.

Hope this is clear and helpful information,


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