Preamplifier needed?

Paul argued this at length in his Posts when he brought out the pre-amp. If it changes the sound for the better, then great. Consumer audio is only a trick, so there is no real objective sonic truth. You only have to go to a live acoustic or vocal performance to realise that. So having read loads of Paul’s posts, he’s convinced me that coloration is a good thing because if it makes people happy and the music sounds more realistic to them, then the trick is working better and money has been well spent.

What cannot be correct is the idea that a pre-amp can add anything to the incoming signal.

It’s more a matter of what you think a pre-amp is. I’ve always thought of it as a switch box with attenuation. The only one I ever owned was totally passive, no power on the signal path, and the only components on the signal path were a couple of resistors. A gain stage is like any other amplifier potentially going to colour the sound.

If the BHK pre-amp is “improving” the sound, what is it doing and was that the plan when it was designed? That would be an objective assessment.

If a user just likes what it does, then great. For my part, I’ve always been happy with one stage of amplification and see no point in adding another for no good reason.


Like I said you’re better off with that opinion anyway. I sometimes envy people who think like you as I just parted with another 3K for no good reason. I think I’m happy but now I’m not 100% sure…

Thanks everyone for your imputs, very kind of you. The take-home message seems to be: Find out yourself by comparing different chains (with or without pre-amp). The problem here in Switzerland, where I live, is that dealers normally don’t lend equipment for trial. It doesn’t help much to compare chains at the dealer’s, first, because the room characteristics there are completely different from my own music room, and, secondly, because they only have a restricted range of brands.

Only last week I accidentally stumbled on PS Audio (when trying to figure out what DSD was and coming across a Youtube video presentation by Ted Smith). Not many people know PS Audio in Switzerland. For the last 33 years I’ve had the same set-up (and was happy with it): Accuphase C-200L and D-300L, Dynaudio Compound 5 loudspeakers, Monster cables and, from about 1996, a Marantz CD-16, the player being the only component I had to replace in the course of time. So much for longevity. But now I think the time has come to buy my third and (hopefully) last audio reproduction system in my life to get the best out of my approx. 4000 CDs, while at the same time venturing into the realm of hi-res audio. This is why I’m grateful for advice and help.

Greetings from Zurich to Bolder & the rest of the world!

You’re not alone. I’ve just bought some Townshend isolation devices as I have a very springy floor. Can’t walk around when records playing. Not tried them, but most people are very sceptical and then they find they work. Here’s hoping …

Well the good news is that without a CH distributor, you could get a fully guaranteed PS Audio CD transport from the UK distributor half price.
As for speakers, you have Boeninke down the road in Basel, which have received very high praise, are selling very well in the UK and are very attractive.
Getting a pre-amp might involve a long drive into Germany, and a loan unit?

Herbert, please keep us apprised as to what you do.

Thanks for the tipp. There IS a Swiss distributor, but PS Audio seems not yet to be known well among audiophiles (or dealers?). I prefer to buy things in Switzerland so as not to have any hassles with import duties, tax, warranty, service etc.

My soundstage is extremely wide, Much wider than the listening room itself. The depth and height are incredible. As Ted said some systems that use long interconnects can benefit from the use of a preamp. I want to hear exactly what is being produced by the DAC and prefer not to enhance it artificially with a tube or other methods. To each his own. as long as we qualify that is our choice in our system.

Okay, now we getting to the point where you lose credibility. The only way the soundstage can be wider than the speakers is if their are reflections off of room surfaces. This effect is not complete because they are just reflections. It is impossible for the soundstage to be wider than the room.

No, in a good room the apparent soundstage can extend beyond the physical walls. The depth of the soundstage can also extend beyond the back of the room.

The latter is often something new listeners notice with my main system. The sound begins behind the speakers and goes back from there.

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Years ago I was running an Accuphase cd player directly into Airtight tube amp, and I thought it sounded incredible, and that’s after trying numerous preamps in the chain. Then one day the dealer wanted me to take home a 20K accuphase preamp and try it out. I told him I would give it a shot but there’s no way I ever spend that much money on a preamp. Well the preamp completely transform the system in every possible way. No I didn’t buy the preamp, but that was the first time I ever experienced a preamp actually enhancing every facet of the sound, but at an enormous cost. So from that point on I was open to the idea that a good preamp can actually improve the sound, and at some point would like to try it BHK signature preamp in my system.

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No. Physics says it is impossible for the soundstage to be wider than the walls…even in a “good room”. Reflections are what give you a chance of having a soundstage wider than the speakers. Reflections off the side walls are bounded by the width of those walls.

I disagree. My soundstage is wider than the side walls and I have Real Traps RFZ panels placed on those walls to tame the first reflection point. In fact the existing soundstage increased in width after adding those panels.


I beg to differ. i have heard many appropriately set up systems produce a soundstage wider that the physical dimensions of the room. It does not involve reflections. It is your brain that builds the image from the stereo presentation. My room is well controlled and I have no issues with early reflections. Maybe you have not experienced that yet but it is a very real thing. My sound field not only creates the image but the space of the venue. I have people tell me that I must have other speakers hidden as they hear information from the rear. No need to attach anyone’s credibility.


Yes the Soundstage does go way deeper than the wall behind the speakers. This is another comment I get about the drum set being out in my yard.

Here we go with physics! This is why some people cannot enjoy their systems they are too busy measuring and considering physics than listening to what their ears and brains tell them. I reiterate that soundstage is NOT a product of reflections but the image created by you brain. the better matched your system is and proper speaker placement make this happen. If you are not getting this in your system you are missing out.

Is that the same as having a cat and thinking it’s in the room and outside the room at the same time?

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p.s. Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty knocking about what with imaginary sound stages and magical pre-amps, I thought perhaps Herbert could get in Einstein’s Zurich lift (elevator) for a bit of inspiration, after all the old boy (OK, he was in his 20s at the time) was living in Herbert’s home town of Zurich at that time. Unfortunately the said lift was in Einstein’s imagination, much like the perceived benefits of pre-amps.

I always thought Einstein, whose love of music was equal or greater than his love of science, wisely chose solving the secrets of the universe over audio as it was an easier nut to crack.

Okay. let’s assume we are in a room where there are no reflections. How is the stereo image created by the two speakers? Each speaker is fed various sounds at various sound levels. If the sound is supposed to be dead center in the room, the sound is played at the same sound level to both speakers. If the sound is supposed to be on the far left, the sound level is high at the left speaker and low or zero at the right speaker.

If the sound is coming out of the left speaker only and there are no reflections, the sound will only be as far left as the left speaker. If any of that sound is played at the right speaker, that sound will move in the room toward the right speaker. The louder that sound is played in the right speaker, the more it move right.

Unless you are playing phase tricks which are not normally done with stereo tracks, how can the sound extend to the right or left of the speakers, much less out side the walls of the room, in a room with no reflections?

Listening to a stereo recording is similar to viewing a 3 D movie. When each ear or each eye receives it’s stimuli the brain gets involved in the process. You hit on it when you mentioned phase. Even a binaural recording has ample phase information for the brain to play images in a 3 D plane. It is not necessary to artificially manipulate the signal for this to occur. Of course the sound in an anechoic chamber would be unenjoyable. The important thing when trying to reproduce a soundstage is that early reflections are controlled as those reflections are the ones that would cause the ear and than the brain to get confusing information blurring the perceived image. Only early stereo recordings like the Beatles music placed voices or instruments so they came from one speaker or the other. Modern minimal miked recordings can record enough of the spacial information to allow our brains to reconstruct the venue of a given performance and not just the performance. Some non audiophile listeners have said to me it sounds like we are in the hall where the event originally occurred. They did not say that it sounds like the musicians are in the room with us.