Will SQ Improve with BHK PRE

My setup

Qobuz → Roon Nucleus → Sonore SE xxx → Matrix → PS Audio Sr DAC → Krell Amp → Revel Be speakers

Will introducing PS BHK PRE in this chain improve SQ?

PS: I’m not planning to add phono stage to my setup.

BHK amp…or pre…?

BHK pre

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Just thinking you could do a free home trial …see if it works
for you…if not return it…

The PS Audio DSD DAC product page says:

Designer Smith perfected a 100% bit-perfect volume and balance control that’s built into DirectStream, enabling users to control the output level when feeding directly into a power amplifier or preamplifier. The ability to eliminate the preamplifier in the system without any resolution loss is a major benefit to DirectStream’s outstanding musical performance.

Exactly what a pre-amp is meant to do … one of the mysteries of audio.

I did run my DS dac direct to my JC5 power amp…great sound
then through my W4S STP SE Stage 2 preamp…the improvement
in sq was enough for me to keep running it through my preamp.

This I think has been the case for a number of members here…

Best wishes

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It is right there in the name. It pre-amplifies. Not to mention wrangling multiple sources. Even if the additional gain stage isn’t “technically” needed, the added gain and higher quality, more euphonic electronics can have a salubrious effect on the end result.


My thoughts and findings exactly!!

Admit it. You’ve been waiting all day to use the word “salubrious”, haven’t you.


Yes. SQ improved in my setup.


Hi, that’s my experience too.

I’ll wash my mouth out in a bit, but it could be you might not need the BHK pre in 6 months time?

I’m sure the Directstream MkII will blitz the field as a DAC, but could it also clean up as a pre, making the BHK superfluous?

Short answer, yes. I ran the DSD directly into the BHK 250 amp before adding the BHK preamp. The difference in sound quality with the preamp in the chain is huge.


This was discussed in the latest hifi podcast with Darren and Duncan. The DS DAC’s noise floor is fixed, so when using it to attenuate the signal the SN ratio goes down as the volume goes down. Not so with the preamp…

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Hmm. I wonder why in PS Forum, I don’t see a lot of mention to add pre amp to improve HQ. I only see predominant posts talk about pre amp, when phonos stage is present in the chain.

Given MKII argument by @Interested, I’m not clear to move forward or not.

@tedsmith can you please come to rescue here? :face_with_spiral_eyes:

This topic has been discussed extensively in the past.

Here is a link to a number of threads on the topic. click

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It has always been my experience that if you don’t have a preamp now, you will later. There are a few systems where everything is level matched and the DS’s volume is all you need. But if you change your amp(s), your speakers, your room, (your position in the room for that matter), etc. you probably will get a better result with a preamp.

The DS’s volume control is perfect in the sense that it never loses precision, adds distortion or noise. But the quieter the DS’s output is compared to its analog noise floor, the worse signal to noise ratio you have. So, if you never raise the DS’s volume to near the max you are missing some possible resolution. That may or may not be audible in your system. If you can’t get the DS loud enough without a preamp, that’s a pretty obvious problem.

The DS Mk II will indeed not need a preamp in more systems. There are more levels of analog attenuation which will give more usable digital volume range. There will be a quieter analog noise floor. The DS Mk II will have standard analog output levels (4VRMS for balanced and 2VRMS for unbalanced) instead of the DS’s being down about 3dB from standard. The Mk II will also have the ability to get another 6dB on the RCA output connector by running it balanced if needed.

Still my advice is the same: you’ll need a preamp sometime and you’ll wonder why you didn’t get it sooner.

[Edit: Elk types faster than I do :slight_smile: ]


But I typed very little, in contrast to your comprehensive answer. :slight_smile:


I was simply salivating, sir!

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@tedsmith seems to be nocturnal :yum: but as always thanks Ted. Without the clarity you provide… our hobby would have not been this much fun.

Okay I thought of spending on BHK Amp but let me keep my current amp and get pre amp to untangle my source and handle the noise floor problem.

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@badbeef’s probably been reading too much Jane Austen, although nothing wrong with Jane Austen. Salubrious used to be a polite way of describing your chances of dying of Tuberculosis or Cholera.

Some might consider it rude to describe a pre-amplifier as a switch that adds gain, but that’s what it is, and as @karthick says he doesn’t need it for switching, there’s no need for a pre-amp. I doubt he needs it for gain either. He might like it for a bit of salubrious distortion.

Personally, I’ve managed for 40+ years without ever owning an active pre-amp, I only once had a passive one and then for only about 6 months. I have run a PS Audio DAC directly into a power amp, as @karthick does, quite happily.