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What difference a pre-amp do?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Conan, Nov 14, 2020.

  1. Conan

    Conan Loop digger

    I'm putting together a system that consists of:
    BlueSound Node 2i
    Quad 306
    Spendor S3/5

    As you can see, I do not have a pre-amplifier, but i can connect the Node to the 306 and control the volume 9n the app.

    I have a beresford dac with volume control.
    Would it be enough or do I need a dedicated pre?
  2. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    You don't need a pre no. Beware though of the possibility of a software controlled volume going haywire and giving you full volume.
    booja30, Hcanning and ToTo Man like this.
  3. halvis

    halvis pfm Member

    As well as volume and source selection, it can also amplify the source signal which can add weight, energy etc to the final product. Depends on the source as to whether you want the etc amplification or not I guess.
  4. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    If you decide you do want one, consider a passive preamp. But as you have the Caiman it sounds like you don’t need one unless you run vinyl too. Even then doesn’t the Node 2i have an analogue input?
  5. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    No it doesn't. It may amplify but that has no bearing on anything else.

    Pre amps are a left-over from the days when amplification was required and and all pre amps were expected to have tone controls and a variety of filters. These days with most sources having around 2V output and most power amps needing no more than 1V for full output all that is required is a means of attenuating the input ie a volume control, and a selector of some sort. Most modern integrated amps are simply a power amp with a vol control and selector before it.
    tuga, Garrard 401, Miss Ariel and 4 others like this.
  6. JemHayward

    JemHayward pfm Member

    In my very limited (and therefore probably worthless) experience all a preamp can ever do is make things a little bit worse, depending on how good the preamp is. The 'perfect' preamp will lose nothing, and is then an input selector (if you need one - I don't) and the perfect attenuator. However, I've personally found more sound quality differences between volume control devices than I have things like buffer circuits, ICs vs discrete etc. I was always very 'frightened' by digital control of volume, and have made all sorts, the best analogue one being a shunt stepped attenuator using vishay bulk foil resistors. However, the remote went wrong on that and so I was forced to revert to the digital volume control of my DAC, and before I could even draw a conclusion, my wife commented 'that's a lot better', so the attenuator is in the spares box and we enjoy the simplicity of one less box and a reliable remote. So, yes, preamps, though sexy objects and the visual focus of many a system are essentially redundant in a single source system. I now have one system per source, indeed one building/room per source now!
    Garrard 401 and Miss Ariel like this.
  7. Conan

    Conan Loop digger

    I read on the audiophile man a review of the Topping E30 and Paul Rigby said that the dac is excellent but the pre amp section is not good.
    How is that possible?
  8. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    You do not need a preamp for sound to come out of your speakers.

    However, a preamp may change source material, colour it, alter the balance. You may prefer that. There’s only one way to find out.

    All the above is pretty incontrovertible, I think. Now comes the controversial bits.

    With the preamp, what you hear may be truer to the original recording, I mean the sound the recording engineers wanted ideally, given the effect of your other hifi equipment and the room. The preamp may correct the distorting effects of room and other equipment.

    Furthermore your Quad 306 was designed with a certain sound in mind, a sound made in combination with Quad preamps. So if it’s important to you to create a sort of museum exhibit of Quad’s conception of home music reproduction at the time, you really need one of their active preamps.

    So my suggestion is that you experiment with preamps, especially ones with tons of tone controls to play around with. That means active - you don’t need a passive one. Suck it and see.
  9. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    Pre amps can make a huge difference to sound and soundstage , well worth trying one , tried at least 35 here and all made a big difference to to just using dac
  10. mega lord

    mega lord Centre tapped

    My preamp consists of two resistors per channels soldered together as a potential divider. I couldn't make it any simpler. Can't change the volume though without getting the soldering iron out.
  11. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    Running 2 pre amps currently with jolida dacs. Improved one pre by adding a custom cables dc3 psu, huge lift in seismic bass and performance and weight of sound . I could easily use the superb jolida modwright modded dac as a pre but adding in a decent pre amp is way better.
    Darren likes this.
  12. JemHayward

    JemHayward pfm Member

    A DAC with a knob is, either a DAC with a digital volume control, or, a DAC with fixed output, then an attenuator, then maybe a buffer stage, so, in essence a preamp, just built in.

    If you are a 'bits are just bits' believer, then the only bit of a DAC (assuming it's bit perfect, jitter tolerant, etc...) that can affect the sound is the analogue circuit on the output.

    In the case of Paul Rigby and the Topping E30 he could be right, but he'd need some way of assessing the DAC section without the analogue section and vice versa, which unless the E30 is designed to let you do that would involve some serious dismantling and reverse engineering of the unit, and a lot of electronics skill and knowledge - way beyond the scope of the average reviewer I'd have thought. Otherwise it could be BS, which is sad, but often true.
  13. Nero

    Nero Wiped Clean

  14. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    Well it can... if it’s frequency response is wonky!
    Arkless Electronics likes this.
  15. Curtis

    Curtis pfm Member

    Oh that’s bollox!
    narabdela likes this.
  16. Colin L

    Colin L LOU Attitude Adjuster

    To the OP, in terms of your system a DAC-pre will probably be OK.

    Otherwise, I’m not a fan of digital attenuation which to me ear flattens the sound. I use Roon and both digital attenuation and/or levelling affect SQ. My Auralic DAC has a good passive pre-amp built in which I don’t use.. the system sounds better using a proper active pre-amp.
    hifinutt likes this.
  17. Conan

    Conan Loop digger

    Going back to the Topping E30.
    Can i just add one to the node 2i and quad 306 or would i be better adding a passive pre + Topping E30?
  18. Darren

    Darren All Business

    Its the man's opinion. He may be right, he may well be wrong..... But you don't encourage him to contribute with replies like that. How would you feel? Make a bit of space for difference huh?
    337alant, Nytechy, PhilofCas and 3 others like this.
  19. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I strongly disagree. Failing to recognise the difference between fact and opinion is a very slippery slope. As the founder of the Guardian said, "Comment is free but facts are sacred".
    Darren likes this.
  20. Garrard 401

    Garrard 401 pfm Member

    An active preamp can make a great difference driving long interconnects - try that with a passive!
    337alant, Darren and Cato like this.

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