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Node 2i volume vs preamp

Discussion in 'audio' started by Fretbuzz, Oct 19, 2021.

  1. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    I recently tried removing the (cheap, passive) preamp from the chain and it sounded quite a bit better. More air and extension, quite a surprise. System is now Node 2i > 2Qute > M2 clone (all the 2s! Just realised....anyway)

    So it’s just using the volume on the Node which a) I found sounded no worse than having it set to max output and using the passive attenuation, and b) found, only recently, that you can do by programming an old remote control into the Node (much nicer than using a phone for changing volume and skipping tracks).

    Thing is the passive sounded worse than the Croft pre it replaced (more lively and full with the Croft), and sounds worse than it not being there. Croft now sold so can’t compare it to no pre.

    I think my questions are:

    a. Can a passive ever sound better than it not being there? All else equal.

    b. Have any Bluesound compared using its volume to various preamps, with/without additional DACs? If so which and what results would be interesting to hear.

    c. Or compared to integrated amps for SQ/volume use, some of which will have a passive pre section.
  2. Bronzeage

    Bronzeage pfm Member

    My own experience of using the BlueSound volume control is that it is noticeably worse than via the preamp of my Moon 340i amp. The Moon allows its inputs to go to direct mode, so pretty ease to compare.

    I guess it comes down to the quality of the volume controls in question, certainly not all passive pots sound the same, or preamps in general, and any general preference you might have of passive vs active. Also, the additional interconnects used between the BlueSound and the other components.
    Whizzy and Fretbuzz like this.
  3. htsdgrvs

    htsdgrvs pfm Member

    I have the Node 3 and have upgraded the power supply such that it runs off an external linear power supply. The improvement was not subtle when running analog without a preamp.

    I now run coax output to a Burson Conductor Virtuoso and the improvement is more subtle but definitely there, especially at low volume levels and in bass control.

    I would note, however, that you probably aren’t using the volume control in the Node so much as in the 2Qute.
    Fretbuzz likes this.
  4. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Good points.

    Which power supply upgrade was it please? I've seen them mentioned a few times now and it sounds appealing.

    How would it be the 2Qute volume when it's a fixed level DAC? Did confuse me a bit, using optical output from the node as that should bypass any preamp section, but yet still change volume...
  5. Bronzeage

    Bronzeage pfm Member

    Yes, the 2Qute does not do any preamp duties, maybe some confusion with other Chord dacs that do.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2021
  6. Whizzy

    Whizzy pfm Member

    I don't claim for one minute to be an expert but as I understand it volume can be controlled in two ways, either-

    1) In the digital part of the circuit
    2) In the analogue part of the circuit.

    It would seem many servers and DACs control volume in the digital part of the processing rather than in their analogue output circuit. By reducing volume in this way it can if not perfectly implemented also reduced the resolution and dynamic range of the digital signal due to the reduced bit rate.
    I don't know how that equates to what we actually hear with our own ears but I know companies such as Innuos suggest volume is ideally controlled in the analogue domain in order to give the best sound quality and actually suggest avoiding the digital volume in their own equipment if an analogue alternative is available.

    So I guess it all depends on how your digital gear is designed and/or how good your preamp is.
    Fretbuzz likes this.
  7. htsdgrvs

    htsdgrvs pfm Member

    I used the PD Creative interface board and a Jay’s Audio linear power supply. Very easy, probably a 15 minute job and no soldering.

    Nearly all DACs can implement volume control in the digital domain, essentially by multiplying the signal by a number < 1, thereby lowering the amplitude of the signal output from the DAC. This is not usually an optimal way of doing volume control, and is therefore not preferred, but it’s possible.
    Fretbuzz and Whizzy like this.
  8. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Thanks for the replies.

    It must just be the volume control within the Node (not the 2Qute), surely? Even though it's going out via optical, it's through the Bluesound software that the volume is adjusted...

    Out of interest have you compared coax vs optical output to your DAC, with/without the power supply and PSU upgrade?
  9. htsdgrvs

    htsdgrvs pfm Member

    I tried toslink but it had some dropouts. In fairness, the cable was old and somewhat ragged, so I blame that. I'm happy with coax, but might try USB when bluesound implements it.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2021
    Fretbuzz likes this.

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