DS SR DAC wired direct to Amp

Hello all,
Quick question about DS SR DAC that I will initially be using with no preamplifier. I have the option of wiring it direct to the amp (I have a Rega Elicit-R amp). This is a new DS SR DAC …not even broken in yet. But just wondering if wiring direct is a smart (or dumb) thing to do. I will try it to see if it sounds any different from a regular line-in …but it seems a little scary to think of accidentally pushing the DAC volume up to 100…and then accidentally switching to the amp “direct in” input. Yikes I think I smell something burning. Here is an excerpt from the Elicit-R manual for the record “Direct Input - This input is routed directly to the power amplifier input with no volume control. This input can also be used with an external preamplifier if so desired. The sensitivity is 760mV” Thanks as always for your thoughts!

You can set a maximum output for the DSD which will be a nice safeguard.

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Thanks for your response lonson. You must be referring to that fixed output setting in DSD setup. I just got the DS DAC today and was trying to get some output from it by going into a regular line in on the Elicit-R amp. The DAC doesn’t seem to be driving the amp at all on Line 2. I have tried with optical linkage coming from CD player…and also with USB from PC. So far no luck getting any audio output. I can use the “direct input” port on the Elicit-R (of course after turning the DAC output way down). I thought for sure that the DAC’s analog outputs would be enough to drive a regular Line In port on the amp …but so far nothing from either the optical feed or USB.

BTW I am also in contact with PS Audio sales via email. Waiting for their advice.

I think I’m on the phone with you right now :slight_smile: good timing!

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Thank you James! As you know I am up and running now thanks to you. I have decided I am going to stay away from wiring the DS DAC direct to the amp. It just seems safer. However if anyone makes a good argument for doing that I will give it a try. The DS DAC is now officially in my break in period.

BTW to anyone reading this thread I didn’t have any output from my amp/speakers because I was confused between the indication in the DS DAC setup screen for “max volume”. That indication was set to 100 out of the box …but it is really like a master limiter “umbrella” setting. The variable volumes for each of your different input sources are located at the bottom of each input source screen. This is my first “real” DAC …so learning as I go (I think I had fake DAC’s before this one).

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Mr. Miller gave me permission to toss him under the bus, but it does always help to turn it up! :wink:

Yes I can attest to James’ findings. So be forewarned, if in fact you do not turn the volume up then you too could realize disappointing results.


Firstly, welcome to the DS club :+1:
From what I’ve read in this forum and Paul’s Posts, and heard in the Ask Paul videos, I think it really comes down to how it fits into your system (synergy). I tried both but ended up going through my preamp because I think it sounds better. I have a theory why too. I’ve observed that the people who go direct do a lot of fiddling with the DS output levels to get the best sound. Because my pre and main amps are from the same maker, I figure that they have done all the level-matching work for me so I run the DS at the 100 level into the pre. That seems to be the best sound for my system.

Direct in from the DirectStream was, for the longest time, the only way I recommended people listen to it. Its volume control loses no resolution and is an excellent choice into the amp. I have since been shown that the addition of a preamplifier of a certain
quality can take the sound a step further if that preamp is of a quality like the BHK Signature (among a few others).

So, in general, I would recommend going directly in and go with balanced if your device has that capability. It’ll sound wonderful. I am not sure you can accidentally push the volume up as you fear, since the volume ramps rather slowly.

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For several years, I had my Directstream wired directly from the balanced outs into the amps of active ATCs and it worked and sounded fine. I controlled the volume from the DS’s remote. However counterintuitively, like Paul, I’ve been told without exception by developers and users alike that a good preamp enhances the sound of the dac. So that’s what I’ll find out next week when my DS returns for a visit, or a stay.

IMO exactly what’s written here is true (even in case a little revealingness should get lost with a preamp):


I used DirectStream direct to the BHK250 in an all digital system for years and refused to believe that adding a pre-amp would sound better. Lots of people on this forum are convinced that it does. Earlier this year I purchased a BHK Pre and the rest is history. THEY WERE RIGHT!!!

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I’ve done both. I have a modded Cary slp98p pre and while it was getting modded/fixed I had my DS hooked direct to my amp.
I’ll call it a cleaner sound or more detail. However the Cary brought more body /mid warmth. Highs were more fluid. Bass was better.

Saying that - I could have lived happily ever after direct. I listened that way for months prior to getting my pre back. In fact when I got the DS - the pre was out.

Ain’t it the truth! I fought it like poison for years too, but then…

One might guess that the “improvements” from a preamp are as much a factor of the amp and its interactions as with the the DSD, with amplifier dynamic and frequency-sensitive static impedance being significant issues.


…and possibly a little audio “sweetening” a.k.a. “harmonic synthesis” or, in some peoples’ books, distortion (and nowt wrong with that)


If you are using a Rega power amp, it is unlikely you would be getting a BHK pre since it is quite a mismatch and you would not be getting the full potential of the BHK pre. In other words, the Rega would be compromising the sound of the BHK pre. And also if you can afford it. Anything less than a BHK pre is not worth your trouble and would compromise the sound. With the BHK pre, it will sound better, but not nearly as good as if you also get a BHK power amp to match. When you are able to afford it, make sure you use the balance connections as I found that balance sounds considerably better than single ended. For now I would just run the DAC straight in the power amp and be happy. That’s how I started and I was very satisfied back then.

I have DS SR connected via balanced output directly to a Luxman M-700u stereo amp. It sounds fantastic. I have a BHK Preamp in the mail because so many have reported that it improves the sounds quality. I’m excited to find out for myself.