Eliminated my preamp with amazing results

I pulled my preamp out completely. The result's were not subtle. 

For those who stream music only... I was going from my laptop... to my DAC...to my preamp...to my amp. My preamps ONLY function was volume control. Source control not needed.

I started using Audirvana recently which comes with it's own high quality 64 bit volume control that was far better than the potentiometer in my preamp. It dawned on me that I could control volume using Audirvana and plug my DAC directly into the amp and bypass the preamp altogether. (Roon and Jriver also have excellent volume controllers) Note: Audirvana has an app download on a tablet/phone so it acts like a remote control. I'm loving it!

This not only eliminated the preamps volume control but it took out ALL the electronics associated in a preamp including some cables. A FAR more direct route. However, you must use caution and make sure the volume is controlled properly in the software since the amp will be fed wide open volume.

Having experimented with 'passive' preamps in the past (McCormack TLC-1) I thought the sound would possibly lose dynamics and bass response would suffer. WRONG!

The results were...Shocking!! Immediately the extended depth of the image was noticeably deeper. Background darker. The highs are the best I've ever heard. Pristine. The bass was dynamic, tight and most of all 'textured' in a way I never heard before. As I stated earlier the results are NOT subtle! 

This is an experiment that took a few minutes to set up and yielded the best performance improvement of ANY other tweak I've ever tried. Not anything like using a passive preamp.

Equipment used...  Peachtree DAC-itx. 

                               Preamps...McCormack TLC-1 and Melos tube preamp.

                               Amp is McCormack DNA 0.5

Understand that different components will have different interactions with each other. Your results may vary. However, IF you don't like it, it takes just a few minutes to put the preamp back in the system. Nothing to lose and lot's to gain. After hearing this, I will NEVER go back to using a preamp. 

Good luck!




If one carefully assesses impedance and voltage specs and/or any measurements available and how well each piece in the signal chain directly integrates with the others accordingly you might get a clue as to which combo is most likely to sound best, pre-amp or no pre-amp, but even then lots of other factors come into play so again each case is different and you have to directly compare approach a with approach b each time to in fact know which sounds better. What sounds better is also a function of personal preferences so throw that in and all bets are off. What others report with different gear involved is interesting perhaps but really not very useful to predict how each new and different case will turn out.

How are volume controllers in the anaolog signal path (after the DAC) done today? Not anymore a variable resistance (either potentiometer or a multistep switch with descrete, high quality resistors for each step)? 

The RME ADI-FS DAC has a volume control. It is a top-notch digital implementation; I believe the claim that the sound quality is the same no matter how low the volume setting.

  1. I turned my preamp volume to near maximum, then raised the DAC volume control to my desired listening level.
  2. Noted the dB level with a simple sound meter app in an Android device.
  3. Removed the pre-amp and raised the DAC volume to match the dB level.

In my case, I preferred the sound with the Van Alstine Transcendence RB 10 pre-amp.


Not so surprised as the Melos is an old preamp that most likely muted the sound compared to a more up to date preamp.





I'd be most happy to only rely on digital volume/level setting.  So much more accurate, flexible and reliable to process a digital signal (DSP)  compared to analog equivalent.