DSD into Power Amp directly (KT120)

My rig has been always DSD Sr into integrated valve amp, recently there is a good option of KT120 Power Amp (Trafomatic) I wanna hands-on, but I only read it somewhere here DSD to power amp. Would be nice if you give some advise and opinion please? Even better if you have direct knowledge of Trafomatic? Or a pre amp is still way better than just power amp?

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I don’t have any direct experience with this particular amp but I do have some with preamps and amps or direct from the DAC. I find that depending on the preamp, you’re better going through one if it is of excellent sound quality. For years I went directly from our DSD Sr. into our amp but then got convinced going through the BHK preamp sounded so much better. Indeed, a lot better!


Depends on the amp, preamp and speakers, IME…

I know it is not particularly insightful/original to say so, but you really need to listen to various combinations in your room with your kit to see what you prefer.

In my case, I just can’t live without my Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software. So I prefer to use my AVM pre/pro rather than DSD direct to the amps.

I will say this, but for the superior low frequency integration and snap provided with ARC, the DS sounded awfully good directly feeding my 500wpc Class A/AB mono block amps.

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So, you are running the analog outputs from the DSD into your preamp, which then applies the ARC? Doesn’t that do AD conversion, apply the DSP, and then DA conversion? If so, doesn’t that negate any advantage of using the DSD? I guess the DSD could extract information that might not otherwise be in the analog signal for ARC to process. That’s another thing I like about Roon: the DSP is upstream of my DSD, so nothing messes with the music after it is converted to analog–with the exception of using ARC in my Martin Log ESL13a speakers. But I believe that is only processing the bass signal and not the rest.

Just trying to understand, not to criticize.

Absolutely not.

I have benefited from every DS firmware update along the lines of what most users report.

ARC is not acting as a DAC in the same way the DS does.

Think of ARC in terms of room correction/bass management and the DS in terms of digital to analog conversion.

The DS works it’s magic first. The Anthem does it’s thing with the dedicated analog channel second.

Other Anthem/ARC users have reported similar results.


Correct. But it is worth noting the Anthem AVM 50v 2 has a dedicated XLR analog 2-channel input that can be programmed such that ARC only deals with the stereo feed and/or 2.1 processing/bass management. (Signal path is DS XLR out to the Anthem stereo XLR inputs and Anthem stereo XLR out to my mono amps.)

@Paul I wouldn’t have believed it either. I ran the DSSr. directly into a pair of M700’s for many months and was quite happy. Then I got a BAT VK50-SE instead of the BHK Preamp. I need the extra XLR outs (both fixed and variable). More Holographic soundstage and imaging for sure. Also a more relaxed 'easy on the ears" audio quality. Sunlight takes that even further.

I really enjoyed your latest Video once again explaining to viewers about what coming from behind the Speakers is critical to the illusion of stereo in the your room.

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Thanks! Yes, it is amazing how a really excellent preamplifier can bring holographic imaging to the system. It seems like more in the signal path would not be a good thing and, typically, that is true. In the case of the preamp, not so much.

Do be careful though. Not any preamp will do. Most, in fact, make it worse.

I previously was never impressed by DACs direct to amps, not even my Cambridge CXN V2 but wow this PWD MK1 I’m borrowing just blows away any preamp I’ve tried. I’ve currently been using the Anthem MRX740 as a preamp and previously the Emotiva TA100 but running the PWD direct into my Emotiva A300 amp with my Klipsch Fortes is just bliss.

Realism, bass, speed, vibrancy, everything is better.
Even with the Anthem ARC which I thought was fantastic, the PWD direct is just better.

Previously I was having clipping issues when running the PWD into a preamp with the PWD set to 100.
Lowering the PWD just made it lacking even tho the clipping stopped.

Took the preamp out and run the PWD around 30 to 40 volume level and its clear as glass, no clipping or gain.

@Paul would you think the Stellar gain cell replacing the PWD MK1 I’m borrowing would be an improvement? I may buy one once I give the PWD back as it’s priced very well

Cheers lads.

I do think the SGCD would be an improvement overall from the PWD directly into an amplifier, yes. Technologies have really gotten better in the intervening years.

There is talk of with the new updates it may sound better to plug DS directly into power amp, so I tried it. No way!! It sounds pretty dismal direct. The substance and presence is diminished and the sound space collapsed. Sounds rather flatter. The bloom is gone. It sounds much better with the preamp I’m afraid.
The preamp I am using is the Esoteric C-02 and power amp is the Esoteric A-02.

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I have an inkling; just a hunch that is, that your preamp’s pedigree* might have something to do with your preference.


*A gorgeous piece of kit.


You are right, it depends on the quality of the preamp. My brother uses the Conrad Johnson GAT with similar results. You probably have to go with at least a BHK pre to be worth the trouble.

Oh. That is a pretty sweet pre. I have a cary slp 98p that is modded and direct coupled. I am going to throw it back in to see if I am imagining things I’ve done this before and liked the pre in better. With sunlight things seem closer. I’ll let you know.

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I have tried many preamps with the DS and the DS is so transparent that it shows what each preamp sounds like. The better the preamp, the better the sound. There seems to be no limit how good the DS can sound depending on how good the preamp is. But the preamp has to be better than the DS to sound better. Now with the upgrades on the DS, the preamp you use before may not sound as good as the DS, so some find it better sounding plugging it straight to the power amp instead. Now you might need an even better preamp than before to make it sound better. Does that make any sense?


Yes, perfectly.


Yes Esoteric C-2 does make sense :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:
BHK also makes sense.
A system sounds as good as its weakest ingredient (I did not use component on purpose)

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Does anyone have issues with popping and clicking when the PWD changes between tracks and inputs when it’d connecting directly to a power amp?

@Paul is this common or possibly a fault?

Thanks guys

Are the files of the same resolution or changing as well?

Clicking or a similar noise between tracks if the resolution changes is not uncommon in DACs and I would never change inputs with your setup without turning the volume all the way down or muting. That is just looking for a problem.