Understanding volume control directstream bhk pre

Ted, Is this not worse?

Yes a low signal to noise ratio isn’t ideal :slight_smile: Since the nose is fairly white it’s not too intrusive. It’s also quieter than tape noise or vinyl noise so it’s not a problem if your system (with the DS) lets you use the DS comfortably near the top of it’s range. Still multiple people like using the DS with the volume down around 20 to 40 so the lower SNR obviously isn’t a problem for them.

This is one of the reasons I balk when people talk about the DS having a preamp - it doesn’t, it has a volume control which is only a part of a preamp.

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Ted’s done a great job explaining it. For what it’s worth, I keep my DSJ at 100 and adjust the volume with the BHK pre from there. DSJ never changes unless I accidentally hit its volume button.

Not the perfect analogy, but I think may help. Say you’re at a graduation and someone goes up on stage to speak. They’re a little nervous and don’t really know how to speak into the mic and bring their face close enough to it. Inevitably the person doing sound will need to turn up the gain a bit on the mic. There’s inherent ambient noise in the auditorium, and if the gain on the mic is high enough, you’ll be able to hear that noise through the PA system. If the speaker is a loud mouth like me and is speaking at a good volume, the sound guy won’t need to turn up the mic that loud. That ambient noise that is being picked up will be obsolete compared to the speaker.

In this not-perfect analogy, the speaker is the music’s signal from the DAC and the ambient noise is the DAC’s static inherent noise floor.


FWIW, I also set my DS DAC at 100% (fixed) and adjust the BHK Pre according to desired volume. This makes a lot of sense to me as well (I think of it as bypassing the DS volume altogether). If I set my DAC to something lower than 100% I would run out of “steam” when really cranking the tunes via vinyl (have SPP set to medium gain with 0.35mV cart). The BHK is set at around 90 for really letting loose on those LPs with lower signal levels.

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Jamesh in your analogy ( a great one - i now get the concept of gain and noise) what will the bhk pre be ?

Thanks. The BHK pre would be the sound guy playing with the mic’s gain.

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But the mic guy while adjusting the gain is also introducing noise (and gain) - no ?

Sure, but with a decent pre, this noise is irrelevant because it’s so little compared to the signal. Like trying to hear a mosquito in a jet engine. Sure, the mosquito is making noise, but compared to the jet engine, it’s irrelevant.

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Now here is an analogy!

I’m still waiting for my BHK Pre, but I’m excited :hear_no_evil:

Is there a volume sweet spot, as some has mentioned in terms of their preference for the best sound? I guess this applies to both the DAC and Pre. I’ve read that the DAC’s volume is not bit-limiting, and therefore should sound the same at any volume, but I’ve also read that some people prefer it above 90.

I really like when I can have my BHK pre at about 52. That seems to be a really nice spot. It’s not always possible though because 52 is fairly high and some tracks are a little to hot to be played that loud. Certainly something to play around with though.

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Thank you @jamesh! My First Watt F8 (25W) is connected directly to my DAC right now and the volume is often between 80-90 so we’ll see where I end up on the BHK Pre.

Wow! My house would be rocking with the BHK at 52! I found Ted’s tip from the sunlight forum to move the Directstream to 92 made a real difference. Really quietened the system and I’ve locked that in. Perhaps it’s my set up but I rarely get to 40 on the BHK with the Directstream on 92.

I’ve found if I do have the BHK up around 40 for a movie (via toslink) it is at cinema levels… the family was out and came back during an action scene said they thought the house was exploding!

DS and a recent acquired passive pre here.

I previously had the DSj and then after the DS (senior), with the built-in attenuator engaged, directly connected to a power amp.
There was no other way due to DS high noise floor (very disturbing at nocturnal listening levels, but manageable at daytime volumes), and due to system overall gain (without the ATT, at night, I would only listen at about 5 on the DS volume).

But I always felt I was losing something with the ATT engaged, when I turned it off from time to time.

With the move, I now set my DS on fixed magical 92 (with Sunlight) without the ATT and make the necessary adjustments on the passive pre. Outstanding! No more noise issues, a much more precise volume control, and several other aspects improved.

If it wasn’t for the DS noise floor, must certainly I would have kept it direct.

But, from all I’ve experienced, having the DS with the ATT off and volume fixed at 92, unleashes its full potential.

Just my experience.

:grin: I always take something like this as a complement. 52 is quite high and I’m definitely listening pretty darn loud at that point, but I do have a rather large room that I’m filling, so it takes quite a bit to pressurize the whole thing to “reference levels.”

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Can you share the “sunlight forum” link?

I’m certain @Interested meant the Sunlight: Sound Impressions thread.

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@Elk Thank you!

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Thanks @Elk - that’s the one!

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Hi James. Thanks so much for sharing – this thread had me thinking before seeing your message, maybe if the BHK gets even better further up the scale it’s time to unwind the system and explore the >50s. Nice to understand you’re filling up quite a big room!

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