It's time to confess

“Father, it’s been 50 years since my last confession…” As a youth, I confessed the typical things a youth in his prime confesses. As an older adult, it’s not about forgiveness but about enlightenment when long-held beliefs are proven wrong.

Like many audiophiles I believed that unless a preamp’s switching or gain functionally was needed, the only good preamp is no preamp at all. When asked for feedback, many here said “Let your ears do the talking.” It was sage advice.

A restless soul, while waiting for my backordered BHK Signature I dipped my toes in holy waters. First came out of mothballs an old passive Sonic Euphoria, a state-of-the-art preamp in its day.

The SQ improved in all the ways preamp proponents here said it would. I thought it a miracle.

The unit has more internal wiring than anyone would care to count but no boards, tubes or transistors. Yet, the sound improved. Preamps are no longer a faith-based acquisition. Not entirely, anyway. Last I heard, Bascom still doesn’t know why the SQ gets better.

While still waiting for the BHK Holy Grail, I tried some Schiit in the form of a Freya S, a solid-state unit with balanced inputs and outputs and a remote, things my passive Sonic Euphoria lacked. The result was more of all the good schiit we cherish. So far, 2 out of 2.

While still waiting for the Grail, I ordered a Freya +, which adds tubes to the S model and has gotten widespread raves. The + is also on backorder. I guess tubes are indeed being born again. We’ll see how the Freya + stacks up against the BHK once both are in the confessional. Will it, based on price, sound six times better? I’d be ecstatic with a 2-3 times improvement.

I have two systems, one in my home office and one in the living room. God only knows which 2 out of the 3 preamps will make it to audio heaven and purgatory. I do know how grateful I am for a modest inheritance from a relative.

I could have spent the money on home improvements but that line has already been crossed. For anyone wanting to justify audio purchases, simply reclassify them as essential home improvements. It might just work with the home budget committee.

I am also grateful for the gentle push from forum members. I’d rather be pointed in the right direction than do penance. Doubt can be crippling, but with advice from audiophiles and modern return policies there’s no reason to be handicapped.

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Entertainingly put ; )

It can be argued that the more “faith-based” end of this false dichotomy is straight wire with gain, which it seems to me is the underlying philosophy of the anti-preamp brigade. Very often adherents simply Believe - in the absence of experience - due to the beautiful simplicity and assumed scientific unassailablity of less being more.

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It’s not being anti-preamp, it being anti-distortion and anti-spending-money-on-things-that-are-not-necessary.

Not having a pre-amp must be lower distortion than having one.

If you like the distortion that a preamp gives you, that is another matter, but entirely subjective.

I’ve recently spent the cost of a BHK preamp on home improvements - building a new deck - 40m2 of concrete, screed and polished granite tiles. It looks great and is a lot better than the wooden deck that it replaced. Would I swap that for a preamp?

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Start collecting 6SN7s now!
(the Freya+ stock (JJ) tubes may or may not be to your liking)

Edit: Also, your Freya is now a collectors item. In May of 2019 Schiit released 4 different pre-amps in what they called a “Thunderdome” (https://www.schiit.com/about/news/preamp-thunderdome). The Freya+ won and the Freya was no more when they ran out of stock which, I believe, happened this week. And, Tubes won the Thunderdome to no ones surprise here.

Drastically improving the S/N is not faith based. :slight_smile:

If you are comparing between running a DAC directly into your amps vs an analog preamp, the latter will have a better signal to noise ratio.

The reason being is that with a DAC’s volume control you are adjusting the output level relative to the noise floor, thus changing the S/N. An active preamp will attenuate the full scale signal, which includes the noise floor, so that the S/N ratio coming out of the DAC is intact.

If you’re comparing against a passive preamp, it could be due to the high output impedance of the passive interacting with the cable and component input capacitance. This can drastically lower the system’s bandwidth, and who knows the linearity of this capacitance and what its doing at RF.

It also can do with a tonal requirement. Perhaps your system was tonally unbalanced and the preamp was synergistic with the rest of your system. Sometimes cumulative harmonic profiles from all the components combined are actually different than if you were to look at each one separately. Adding another in can change this and throw things back in line, tonally speaking.

Just a few thoughts but I’m on the preamp train, obviously. :laughing:

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Maybe audio equipment designers should swear an equivalent of a hippocratic oath: Believe in science and, if you can’t do good, at least do no harm.

It’s just really hard to know what does good and what does harm in the context of sound systems. Any universality goes quickly out of the window. I’m a computer scientist so the only trick I know is to switch them off and on again.

Listening to music can only ever be a subjective experience.

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So there is an explanation, actually many, why inserting a preamp in the chain improves SQ. My chain is a P15 powering a PC and a PSA DSD DAC into a BHK 250 out to Focal 1038be speakers.

Your explanations make total sense. They sound complicated because there are so many variables that can be involved, as well as configurations.

Perhaps what you said helps me to understand why inserting the passive Sonic Euphoria, having only single ended connections, did not eliminate the hiss from the DSD DAC, even with the attenuator on.

On the other hand, inserting the Freya S, with the DSD DAC at unity gain, no attenuator engaged, and the Freya S at 4x gain and volume at Noon, yielded concert levels without a hint of hiss. That is, until its volume went past 3pm, which would have likely blown my beloved Focals with a signal.

Besides SQ, I can’t wait to see what the Freya + and BHK Signature preamps do to the hiss. If I understand your explanation I would expect no hiss. However, these are tube units and I don’t know what influence the tubes would exert.

Meantime, I’m thoroughly and subjectively enjoying what the Freya S is doing to my SQ. I may have had to run after the preamp train to catch it, but once on board I’m working my way up to the first class section.

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For some, for others it is also an objective intellectual experience.

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You must be referring to listening to Sound ; )

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Even if or when it’s subjective, we don’t exist in isolation so the subjectivity is influenced by a large number of context dependant variables. Subjectivity is non-universal and also unpredictable - even at an individual level. Ergo, we can only aim at quality that can be measured and quantified.

Darren’s explanation of S/N helps to dispel the notion that a preamp only makes the system sound better due to the added distortion of the preamp.

Ted has stated that the DS DAC’s noise floor is constant, and that lowering the DS DAC’s volume decreases the signal (but the noise floor is not attenuated), and therefore the S/N ratio is impacted - i.e., lower signal to noise ratio is “not good.” A good preamp - take the BHK Signature pre - attenuates both the signal and noise (like Mr. Myers stated), so the S/N (ratio) is constant regardless of volume setting (unlike the DS DAC).
It makes sense that leaving the DS DAC volume fixed at 100, and using the BHK pre to control the volume results in better - or at least more optimal - S/N.

A new concrete/granite patio is indeed a good thing though!

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Not just listening to sound, lstening to music.

For many of us, listening to music is as much intellectual and thought based as it is emotional. YMMV

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Intellect and thought. How are those not subjective? IF you get enough people to agree with you?

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I can certainly attest to the sound quality of the Freya+. I’m running a pair of Schiit Aegir amps along with it and a Bifrost 2 DAC, all balanced.

The Freya+ both in passive and buffered mode, the system is dead silent. Zero hiss whatsoever. And that was also when I was using a pair of Klipsch Heresy III’s and my ears right in front of the tweeters. If there was any hiss to be had, you’d definitely hear it with the Heresy’s.

When you activate the tubes on the Freya+, there is the tiniest bit of hiss added, but doubt it would be noticeable on your Focal’s. And keep in mind, different tubes will have different amount of hiss. Some are just noisier than others. I have found this to be quite minimal between tubes.

I’m 100% certain you’ll be completely happy with the Freya+. Though when the BHK shows up, the Freya+ will most likely end up in your office system, which stands to reason. As much as I love the Freya+ (had the Stellar GCD and M700 right before getting this Schiit), and to my ears it easily outperformed the GCD, I know for a fact it doesn’t stand a chance against the BHK.

Sigh.

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Feel that, man. :facepunch:t2:

Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like I have a lot to look forward to.

People like the BHK pre for the noise-shaping that it does. S/N issues may be relevant if you have a hiss/noise issue, which is reported by some PSA users. I have an integrated unit and no hiss/noise issues at all. So if the problem is noise, perhaps the answer is to replace the component causing the noise rather than a device to fix it.

If people like a product that shares the sound, then that’s great. Loudspeakers affect the presentation quite fundamentally. There’s no need to justify it, just recognise it for what it is.

I prefer my patio to a pre-amp, and so does the wife.

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The patio certainly looks very nice and well engineered. How would you characterise the sound of it?

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