DAC as pre amp

This post is just a brief for posterity sake in regards to the the significance of a good pre.  As I have stated in other threads over the last few years , when the subject arise,  I occasionally remove my pre from the chain and run my Wadia 321 as the pre.  I always find my way back to my dedicated pre.  I got some Quad Z-4s awhile back and after a recent post regarding the DAC direct question I decided to try again.  This round the improvement was even more dramatic with the dedicated pre and the Quads. My modest system is good enough for my level of listening sophistication.  but If I ever decided to upgrade a component in the future , the pre would be the unit I would explore.   Another member stated that a good pre will ad a "richness" to the sound.  I think that is exactly what I hear.  


I have had the same experience as the OP. In my case I have a somewhat vintage (late 90's) Krell KRC-2 pre. My theory is that the volume control quality likely has something to do with the superior sound in a pre. We do most of our listening at lower volumes where the line level signal is severely attenuated. A good pre and its volume control are optimized to insure that there is no deterioration in the sound at lower levels. A DAC is really a line level component and the volume control is not critical to its function. In fact, many DACs have digital volume controls that reduce the resolution as the volume is lowered.

I recently purchased an Okto Research dac 8 stereo that is surprisingly good when used as a pre into my amp. This wasn’t as much the case with my previous dac. Even though it still presented well enough on its own, doesn’t hold a candle to the Okto overall (whether as dac or dac/pre). Really does boil down to design, quality of output stage and voltage.

I still overall prefer using my SPL Elector before the Okto, which brings more nuance, timbral delicacy/transients and depth of stage to the presentation. Still very curious what a different amp might bring in a direct configuration, however.

I have been very very impressed with the EAR Acute used as the Pre Amp with EAR Power Amplification and the Acute couples extremely well with Sansui Valve Power Amp'.

How this marriage would produce a sonic, especially in relation to the attractiveness, if adopted for other Power Amp's is an unknown to me.

@carlsbad2 - it doesn't necessarily follow that people who have a large sum of money invested in a preamp are blindly biased. Arguably, those are the people who would have the most to gain if they could simply run their dac into their poweramps since they could junk their preamp and use the funds to upgrade their system.



For a couple of years,  I was feeding my PS Audio M700 amps directly from my PS Audio Directstream DAC,  and I thought that the sound was great.  I  began to wonder if and how a good preamp would improve the overall sq of my system.  This was after reading Paul McGowan change of opinion regarding using a good preamp rather than just the dac. So when PS Audio came out with the Stellar Gold Preamp  ( in beta testing) I decided to give it a try.  The improvement was very significant!! Soundstage is deeper,  instruments have better air,  and vocals are much more realistic and natural.  Overall,  the entire sound is more musical and natural.  Much closer to a live performance.  And I found that the improvement applies across all musical genres,  classical,  opera,  jazz,  and rock. BTW,  my speakers are a pair of Legacy Audio Signature SE.