PS Audio Signature preamp volume setting

I am a new and happy PS Audio customer. I am puzzling over something however. I have a Signature preamp and BHK 250 amp with very driveable Spendor D9s. The volume range on the preamp is 0-100 and I’m wondering if it’s normal to have to turn it up to 70 to get considerable volume, but one over which two people could still talk. It seems like a very high setting, as though it should be nearly pain inducing - but is far from it. Is this normal?

What is your source that feeds the BHK preamp and does it have a volume control? I suspect it’s set quite low.

The Spendor D9 is relatively sensitive at 90dB rated. It should play plenty loud with the BHK setup.

From one of Paul McGowan’s daily posts. You can Google Paul’s Post on BHK volume level for more info.

Is your connection between the two BHK pieces SE or XLR? As that setting is more likely with a SE connection it is still very high for a “normal” level. Make sure your DAC or Streamer or both are a full output and if with Analog you need a bit more gain from the phono preamp.

Thank you both. I use XLRs and the volume oddity affects DAC => preamp => amp as well as phono stage => preamp => amp. The common denominators are XLRs, pre and amp. It’s a real head scratcher for me.

Let me ask those of you who have a Signature/250 as your preamp/amp. What volume level do you consider normal and what volume level do you consider loud?

For me it is between 25-35 with speakers a bit over 90 db. It is a bit higher with the phono preamp but not a lot.

My speakers are rated at 86 dB and 4 Ohms, but actually do 84dB. Using then M700 (600 watts into 4 Ohms) I usually set BHK pre volume between 35 and 40, same thing for GCD before it. DS DAC volume is set to 92 for best sound quality as suggested by Ted.


Serhan -

By Ted do you mean Ted Smith? I take it that you’re running your DAC through your preamp, as I am. My default setting was and still is set to 45, and I intend to play around with it.

Hi @jimkiely1960
Ted Smith noted that DS DAC users reported it sounds best when its volume is set between 88 and 94. Ted noted that 92 is good. This was in a discussion about technology used to manage volume in Lumin.

Yes, as noted in my message, DS DAC feeds the BHK preamp, and before that the GCD preamp which is stowed away since the purchase of the BHK pre.

Similar set up here. DSD :arrow_right:BHKPre :arrow_right:BHK250 :arrow_right:Spendor Classic SP100R2 speakers (89dB).

Sources are DMP and Aurlaic G1 streamer. DSD set to 94.

BHKPre level starts at 34 for most listening. Usually settle between 32 and 40. To crank it out occasionally would be 60 or so. Have never had it above 80.

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Thank you, brother. I really appreciate your input. This is confusing to me as some people say keep the DAC low and the preamp high; others say just the opposite. I’ll take your advice as a starting point and tailor it to my ears. My Luxman phono pre-amp will be another project altogether.

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Try both and run whichever you prefer

It’s not right or wrong

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You’re welcome. Both Luxman ES 250 and EQ 500 are wonderful devices, but some tweaking by ear is involved with the 500. Analogue tweaks are a joy.

I run both the BHK pre and 250 in my setup and my speakers are about 89dB. 70 on the pre would be ear splitting if I’m feeding it a line level source. I consider 35-38 to be great listening levels for most genres and 45-48 if I’m listening to classical. I keep my DAC at full volume so it is feeding the pre a line level signal. Balanced all of the way through. My guess is that your sources are a bit low.


Try 53 or slightly more on the BHK and control volume with the DS and let me know what you think of the sound. I find it’s more dynamic and slightly fuller. I think the BHK adds more tube influence at the last most stage of amplification with the lowest noise. The DS is so low noise and lossless at any volume I realize no improvement by running it at 100.

The finer volume control on the DS is also an added benefit, for me.

My speakers are more like 84dB though so you may not like it as much as I do. I also have ~10dB headroom in the digital chain to avoid clipping as I use convolution.

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Jim, have you tried backing the DS DAC volume down to 86 or so as Paul McGowan recommended? Paul did a daily post on your exact question which is why I made the original suggestion.

I too had 90 dB speakers, a DS DAC, BHK Preamp and a BHK 250 utilizing XLR cables. 40 to 55 was my aweetapot for moderate to loud. Your room size matters too though.

@jimkiely1960 Those of us with the DSD>BHK-Pre>Amp chain have experimented with optimum volume settings for some time and the positive takeaway is that with your source set to maximum vol, and your DSD dac set at 92 (per Ted) and BHK-Pre set at 50, you are free to use the fantastic BHK-Pre Remote control to surf the volume of either or both the Dac and the Pre adjusting it per the genre or track you are listening to. As per James, different sources or different tracks require change in vol. I find this feature of balancing volume to be essential during critical listening and the rare social event where one file plays louder or softer than the next. I set the BHK-Pre to 55 and surf the DSD volume on the remote from 35 - 95 depending on the track, listening session or time of day… just a great option.

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My system is DSD->BHK PRE->BHK300’s I recently bought new speakers and I went back to revisit my Volume settings after having my curiosity tweaked by this thread. I wanted to get the BHK PRE above the 53 where you can hear a relay click and I think Paul agreed that over 53 was ideal. This necessitated a DSD setting of 43. I noticed an immediate benefit at these settings.

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