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?




I will add that if funds were available to experiment, I would be tempted to try out the Conrad Johnson tube control amplifier in my den. It has gotten rave reviews. I realize I am vacillating here, but this control amplifier intrigues me, and it might tame the at times stringent highs I get with the AVA solid state SET 120. 

I have been a DAC to amp guy for a decade. There does not seem to be any logical explanation as to why a preamp would improve a signal. To the contrary, it seems that adding more circuitry to make the signal pass through would cause it to deteriorate.

So I decided to buy a tube preamp. It caused an amazing improvement. I cannot explain it. My wife noticed it immediately one floor above the system and referred to it as ethereal. It was an immediate improvement. All of my friends agree.




Yes… Logic says no… listening overwhelmingly says yes… the better the preamp the better the sound.

++1 @markalarsen @ghdprentice I had a similar experience recently, and it completely converted me from the ’no preamp is the best preamp’ camp to being a preamp believer. People often attribute it to synergy, but I really wish someone could explain exactly which elements, components or interactions in the gears contribute to better synergy.  Impedance matching is just a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition.