Which one can you not live without, DMP or BHK Preamp


#1

I could have posted in either forum, but thought I might do better in the DSM forum. My dilemma is that I am trying to decide which to purchase next. For budgetary reasons I can only purchase one right now, i.e. my wife had a really nice Christmas ;). So I am curious as to ask those of you who own both, which you feel is the more valuable contributor to their system.

I currently am using the DSD directly into my Classe amps as my preamp has once and for all bitten the dust (long story) and I have no qualms with the sound currently. I have a very good SACD player already but without a preamp I’m left with no SACD playback ability, a minor inconvenience at best because I only have a couple of hundred or so titles on SACD. So the question is, should I purchase the BHK preamp and use my player as SACD source or continue to use my DSD as a preamp and buy the DMP for all non-streamed digital sources. The answer also depends on how much better CDs sound via the DSM the DSD versus streamed ripped files via Bridge II with the DSD I suppose.

I’d like to hear your experiences so far but do realize that for all but beta testers, the DMP is a brand new acquisition and the number who own both will be even smaller. Thanks.


#2

I have both the BHK preamp and the DMP.

I found that Redbook CDs played through the DMP sounded better than the same CDs ripped and played from my NAS via the Bridge II. The difference was not huge, however; I could certainly live with the ripped copies, at least for a while.

Quite a few users (not all) have found that adding the preamp to a DS --> amp setup resulted in an audible improvement, even though it isn’t obvious why adding an additional component would improve rather than degrade the sound. There are threads about this in the BHK amp/preamp forum.

So one way to go would be to audition the preamp. Adding it might give you better sound in general as well as give you access to your SACDs with your current player. You can return the pre if it doesn’t improve your sound.


#3
speeddeacon said I am curious as to ask those of you who own both, which you feel is the more valuable contributor to their system.
Right off the bat, let me state that I don't have the BHK preamp. I also have never previously owned or tested a SACD player. But I would wager (based on my experience with the DMP and experience from before from adding a very good preamp to another sound system) that the DMP would bring the greater benefit to your system. In concert with the DS DAC, its playback of Red Book media is simply extraordinary. And nobody in the beta-testing group who had a SACD player to compare the DMP to claimed the sound quality from their players rivaled it on same SACD recordings.

(Of note, I didn’t use a preamp in my testing of the DMP. Basically, I don’t need one since the dedicated headphone-amplifier in my reference system comes with a sophisticated volume attenuator. And, no, I have never compared volume control from this to that of the DS DAC).


#4

I own both, and my system has been reasonably optimized to make the most advantage of my network, including optical isolation. Before the BHK Preamp in my speaker system, I was running several different DACs [DS, NADAC, Lumin] into my Merrill Veritas amps. I replaced the Veritas with the BHK 300 monoblocks, and added the preamp at the same time. The change was giddiness-inducing [see my unscientific first impressions]. Not small: huge. Which leads me to conclude differently from Rob.

I almost did not move the DMP into the speaker system. I already had an Oppo 105 there for playing [primarily multichannel] discs, but I did move it nonetheless. I had finished testing the DMP in my headphone rigs, decided [of course] to keep it, etc. And file playback over the network is superb. I listened for weeks to the DMP through my primary headphone rig [Stax electrostatics and custom amps]. In that rig, the DAC(s) are fiber-isolated from network/electrical noise, maintained on a separate subnet, with QoS and other network features optimized for the audio segment of the network*. In that environment, when A/B listening between the DMP and the DS/Bridge, with volume adjusted as closely as possible, I had difficulty discerning a consistent difference between the DMP and the Bridge.

So, just from my anecdotal experience, for reasons that elude easy discovery—as others, including Paul, have attested—the insertion of the BHK preamp into my system represented an improvement in SQ [particularly soundstage width and depth]. Makes no sense to me; I was in the “less is better” camp for years, but here I am, with a preamp again, and tube-rolling. Again.

If I had to do it over again, and had to budget it out, since you already have playback capability, I would try the BHK preamp first. It is, IMHO, much more likely to impact your SQ favorably.

P.S. I see you have the Whisper speakers. Almost went that route, but chose the Aeris instead. Recently replaced the Wavelaunch with the Wavelet. Very impressive.

*Although perhaps not the sentiment of some friends of mine over on the AVS forum, I surprisingly find that my eyes/ears are less bothered by the occasional network glitch when watching a movie, than my ears are when listening to audio.


#5
P.S. I see you have the Whisper speakers. Almost went that route, but chose the Aeris instead. Recently replaced the Wavelaunch with the Wavelet. Very impressive.

*Although perhaps not the sentiment of some friends of mine over on the AVS forum, I surprisingly find that my eyes/ears are less bothered by the occasional network glitch when watching a movie, than my ears are when listening to audio.

You essentially have my dream setup, DMP, DSD, BHK Pre and BHK 300 running a Wavelet coupled Aeris. My Whisper are over 10 years old, non-active version, but still tickle my ears. One question I have is about the Legacy Wavelet, so if you don't mind, I've PMed you since this is not the thread for it.

I appreciate your insight regarding the Preamp. That Stax gear should prove to be an effective instrument to discern differences between gear. My Emm Labs is a fantastic SACD player, far superior to my Oppo 83 SE, as it should be for the > $9000 price difference. Since I’m without a preamp at the moment, I use the DS as a DAC for the redbook layer of my SACD and am quite frankly very pleased with the result. I’m really curious about how much more magical the DMP/DS combo may or may not be.


#6
  • 1 to PR’s vote on the preamp first. Will pay dividends regardless of source. You can add DMP after.

#7

I don’t have the BHK preamp, but have a very nice tubed preamp (Decware). I prefer the DS straight in to the amp myself, so think I would go with the DMP as it’s a clear improvement.


#8

Well Kevin at Upscale Audio lived up to his last name, allowing me to avoid the decision altogether. The BHK preamp with Tungsram “Selects” arrives tomorrow and am waiting for the DMP to be drop shipped from Paul and the boys in Boulder. SR Black fuses for these two plus my DSD on order from Cable Company. Looks like it’s going to be a very short winter :slight_smile:


#9

Speeddeacon, you and I are on the same page got the BHK pre the 24th (Tungsrams one the 28th, have not installed yet), DSD Jr to arrive this Friday, just traded my AR LS17SE (BHK sounds better) in on the DMP which wont ship until February (you must have a better contact to get it earlier, Upscale?)


#10

Not necessarily as it is dependent upon PSA to ship and wasn’t given a date yet so it could very well be February for me as well.


#11
speeddeacon said Well Kevin at Upscale Audio lived up to his last name, allowing me to avoid the decision altogether. The BHK preamp with Tungsram "Selects" arrives tomorrow and am waiting for the DMP to be drop shipped from Paul and the boys in Boulder. SR Black fuses for these two plus my DSD on order from Cable Company. Looks like it's going to be a very short winter :)
Props! You will enjoy both, I have no doubt.

#12

Received my tracking number from PSA today, should be here next week.


#13

just a thought as you have already decided on both. i have the DMP but not the BHK preamp due to dollars not being abundant enough. an option might be to purchase the new Stellar Pre/Dac and use it as the preamp. a lot less $$ than the BHK and then down the road get the big boy. have not tried this yet but may do so once they are available.

PS: what are SR black fuses?


#14

Synergistic Research’s Quantum Black fuse.


#15

thank you.


#16

Have both units, letting them break in as I type. I installed the Tungsrams from the get go but want to learn the sound properly before swapping the fuses. I’ll lose my 30 trial but no big deal. Plan to keep them anyway.