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.  


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. 

I'll suggest adding a good preamp at least once to all setups. If, after trying this, you don't notice any improvement, sticking with the direct connection might be the best choice. However, like myself, if you experience a noticeable improvement, it's unlikely you'll go back.

After integrating Parasound Zpre2 and Zpre3 into my systems, I shifted from the 'No preamp is the best preamp' belief to becoming a preamp believer. What's remarkable is that these enhancements didn't break the bank.

The top ends exhibit more airiness, the mids are fuller, mid-bass has greater extension, and the low-end notes carry more weight. Even the control over pops and plosives is notably better. These sonic improvements transcend simple coloration. Audiophiles often attribute them to 'synergy,' although the specific elements contributing to that synergy remain a mystery to me. I hope that someday, a knowledgeable audiophile might shed some light on this.

While it's possible to manage without a separate preamp if your DAC or streamer has a good preamp section, most DACs/streamers lack this feature.


This is one where I agree with OCD Mikey the HiFi Guy. If you only have one source and your DAC has volume control then why have a Pre Amp other than if you have multiple sources, as I do.All a pre amp is, is a expensive (in some cases) volume control.

I am not real keen on using my Innuoos Sense Application as the volume control through my DAC. I know Jerry @carlsbad2 is using the Chord Dave that technically is a pre-amp and agree his use will have less coloration than say Quicksilver Pre Amp. I respect Jerry and he is one of the smartest people on this forum.

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@carlsbad2 I have a Chord DAVE ...

The Chord DAVE, valued at $14k, should ideally have an exceptional preamp section. Marketed as the 'ultimate DAC, Preamplifier, and Headphone Amplifier,' your experience using the DAC as a preamp should have been undoubtedly positive. However, for individuals without a $14k or luxury budget for a DAC, their experience might differ, as many of us have attested.