In the past, I have experimented with a few pre-amplifiers in my system, including some highly regarded passive, tube and SS ones. The clear winner for my system so far was a passive pre-amplifier, a ~$1K, with upgraded parts including a $400 P&G volume pot.
A few days ago, I decided to try and bypass everything, and hooked up the DS DAC directly to my amp. The result was such a mind-blowing improvement in all aspects of sound, that I now seriously question how can adding anything in the signal path improve things.
I started a thread on Audiogon in which one of your dealers mentioned that Paul McGowan said that the new BHK pre-amp will sound better than hooking up the DS direct to amp.
Since I will be using the same output from the DSD, I would like to understand how come adding an active component, more cables, RCA connectors, solder points, etc to the signal path can make things ‘better’, in the true “High Fidelity” sense.
The only thing I can think of is matching gain / impedance, but if that is not an issue with my setup, why would I want to add anything in between?
Thanks for your thoughts.
Thanks Ami and it’s a great question. In my experience, most preamps get in the way of the music and DirectStream direct into the amp is by far the preferred method. I’ve done this and preached this for years.
But it has been pointed out to me that the addition of SOME preamps, very few of them, actually improves the sound - like the Aesthetix Calypso, like the BHK Signature. The opinions on why this might be true run the gamut. I can’t say I fully understand it. Heck, I can’t say I even partially understand it, though I have some ideas.
My friend Arnie puts forth the notion that despite DirectStream’s bit perfect volume control, it still sounds different when used as a level adjust - a claim I have never verified and up until the discovery of a few preamp’s that made such a wonderful improvement, I can’t say I would have ever even given it a second thought. To be honest, I can’t hear the difference on DS when the level’s changed, at least in the top registers of its range. But, it’s a theory.
Still others suggest some DACs benefit from short interconnects - and if the preamp’s transparent enough, its active addition is less harmful than the added length of cable usually needed - or the interaction of the cable and DAC - though one can sure poke a bunch of logic holes in that argument. A preamp’s input looks remarkable identical to an amp’s input.
Truth is, I don’t know. What I do know is what I have said. DirectStream into the power amplifier directly is always preferred - unless you have one of a very small handful of preamps.