To pre or not to pre

With the introduction of the MK2, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the “do I really need my BHK preamp” question. I had a MK1 and BHK pre for many years, happily. But, I always thought it counterintuitive that more in the signal path would be better. With the additional gain, lower noise floor and increased resolution of the MK2, I thought the gap would narrow or I could even lessen the chain.
It took only the first song to determine that the BHK will stay. Without it, things were lifeless. I still don’t get why but it’s here to stay…for now.

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A good preamp is the heart of any system worth it’s salt…

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I ought to do some research and find out if there’s a name for the phenomenon where people observe something to be true often enough that they start to insist it must always be true without being able to reliably demonstrate why.

Considering the era where a pre-amp was a practical necessity for the sake of gain control and impedance matching at the very least, with source selection coming in a close second, the argument that it was the “heart” of the system is easy to accept. But with modern DACs I have zero need for analog gain control or source selection and on the face of it there should be no problem with impedance into my big solid state amp. We should be challenging the idea that a pre-amp is a necessary component in the chain and if we find we still prefer the sound with one in the system we should be looking for the reason why… so that we might potentially build DACs which get around that limitation.

Still, I reluctantly still have a pre-amp between my DS Sr and power amp. It’s a trade-off: in some ways the sound is noticeably degraded but the overall experience is that bit more sonically comfortable than when I go without. If I ever get a MkII I will absolutely be giving it a go direct into the power amp.

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I actually have my phono preamp plugged into my silly external processor/DAC/12 more things. That’s just wrong.

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Although it just seems to have died, I’ve had my NuWave phono converter feeding my DS Mk1 via I2S and it’s the best sound path for me.

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I ought to do some research and find out if there’s a name for the phenomenon where people observe something to be true often enough that they start to insist it must always be true without being able to reliably demonstrate why.

The reason why for me is…I always let my ears be the arbiter in all things audio…no one else!

We should be challenging the idea that a pre-amp is a necessary component in the chain and if we find we still prefer the sound with one in the system we should be looking for the reason why…

In my case…there is no challenge…with or without a preamp…the sound I prefer is always more musical with a preamp inline!
Also…in my case…My Luxman cd player does not implement any type of a volume/gain control…

but the overall experience is that bit more sonically comfortable than when I go without.

Bingo!!!

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I’m staying with my MKI DS DAC and Transport. Luckily, my ears & wallet are happy with what I have. Even with the end of month generous trade in, it’s beyond my budget for this year.

I’ve recently had Tweeter issues with my Cornwall IV’s which Klipsch is helping me out with. Part of my troubleshooting was with an without the BAT VK50-SE (recently factory overhauled). I found that both Tweeters are dying a slow death using my Stax/Koss Electrostatic as a reference.

Music via the Headphone rig sounded very good as it always did direct out from the DS1. I know that people are swapping out the Transformers but I’m not going there at this time.

With the BAT inserted in the chain, things changed as I expected for the better. Treble extension is sweeter, midrange not as “in your face” via the Electrostatic’s, and even Bass response improved even though the Koss’ are not known foe face melting Bass response (which I always hated - Beats vs Bose, Bose wins in the courtroom and in my ears…LOL).

My BAT Preamp is Camshaft/Heartbeat of my 2 Channel system and my Onkyo PR-SC5530 the Camshaft/Heartbeat of my 7.4.4 Home Theater setup. It’s L & R channels are also fed into my BAT Preamp.

So yeah, you need a Preamp if your budget allows.

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This is one of those questions the is easy to test if you already have your preferred preamp. I was is the “no preamp is the best preamp” camp for a decade. When I reactivated my turntable setup I added a preamp. For my system, adding a preamp paid huge dividends for the digital side. Your mileage may vary.

I hope they can reurrect your NPC. I still use mine to archive records. I feed it with my newly acquired SPP. Love both!

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Yes, I will wait a bit before trying to fix it, will wait til after the MK2 is here and warmed up. . . .

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For those members using a pre with the Mkll, are you setting the dac volume to fixed and if so, what setting? (100?) Thanks.

100 seems to be the go-to setting, used by Ted and many others. By design, the MK2 does not have a sweet spot per se, unlike the Mk1. But, your preamp and ear is the final arbiter, so use what sounds best.

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For me there’s a magic in 92 which was mentioned here as one possible “best” setting.

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I had mentioned the 92 setting as a reference point for the MK1, not MK2, based on Ted’s input, other forum members input, and my own liking with a BHK pre. Just listen and decide for yourself.

Yes, I’m not listening to the Mk2 yet, and missed that that was the ask, but I’ll certainly (if at least from habit) try 92 with the Mk2 when it arrives. It depends on preamp etc. I’m sure but that works really well in my system with the Mk1.

Thanks for the responses.

With a decent or better preamp, that’s almost always the case, yes. Especially with relatively difficult speakers