For the longest time, I believed that the best preamplifier is no preamplifier.  Eliminating a component from the audio chain would yield less distortion & greater purity.

Recently, I have had reason to re-think my logic on the matter - and I am (I think) changing my mind.  Better said, assuming that the preamplifier in the component you are using (in my case, a DAC) can produce 95% or greater quality sound compared to the preamplifier component, then no preamplifier is the best option.  The 5% represents the (estimated) loss of fidelity in adding another set of interconnects.

That said, most DACs do not have an outstanding preamplifier built in.  I think most have average passive attenuators, and the better DACs have active preamplifiers that are very good - but not as good as a quality preamplifier.

What are your thoughts?




@ghdprentice, absolutely.  I have heard great things about the XP-32, but as usual, there are those that like the REF 6 over the XP-32 and those who love the XP-32 over the REF 6.  One thing that I have learned is that there are no reliable ways to predict how something sounds in your system other than putting it in there.  So unless I spring for an XP-32 just to see which I prefer and sell the other, or my local Wilson dealer gets one in on trade or something, I am probably sticking with the REF 6, although I may experiment with some room treatments or something to see what that does in my tiny (11x11) dedicated listening room!

I'm a fan of less is better, for less distortion, plug a DAC directly to the amp.  No need for anything else.  Get and integrated and your set.  Many people feel.a pre amp is needed, but I feel for its purity, I'll let the amp do the talking. Some people use a amp with a 1st gen ipod.

@webking185 , I understand that it is counterintuitive to think that adding a whole bunch of circuitry into the line between the DAC and amp would sound better, but all I can say is that with my setup, which I don’t think is any slouchy setup, there is a definite and satisfying improvement in all aspects. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but there it is. As @mofojo pointed out, an integrated just has the pre built in with less separation of the components, which I personally think is not as good as isolating the pre and amp. Finally an amp with an iPod? Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should. You can use coat hangers for speaker wire . . . Doesn’t mean that it is a great idea. You might be able to power a small amp with a bicycle. Then you can eliminate any dirty power issues and get exercise at the same time. Doesn’t mean that you should.