Is My McIntosh C52 Pre-amp The Weak Link?

I currently stream music, from Qobuz, via an Aurender N10 streamer into a McIntosh C52 pre-amp for D/A conversion, analogue output, into a McIntosh MC312 power amp, driving Magico A5 speakers. SQ IMHO is outstanding/perfect, but, I am an audiophile, so there is no such thing as perfect! Time to upgrade something. It is my opinion the C52 built in DAC is the weak link in the system? Thinking of upgrading the Aurender N10 to an Aurender A20 (streamer with built in DAC) and feed the analogue output into the C52. Your thoughts please, have I correctly identified the weak link in the system?


Another vote for getting an external DAC. If you like the Mac keep it. I personally am not a fan of McIntosh preamps but that is just me as I know many people love them.

I have paired an MSB dac with McIntosh gear and to my ears it sounds good.

Get a proper DAC, but maybe one with a good digital volume control you could get rid of your pre as well.

Once I got my first DAC with a built-in volume control (exasound) I sold my Mcintosh c-38, as the DAC was more neutral. It took a while to get used to it, but once I decided I didn't like the colouring of what the pre did in my system there was no going back. I believe the volume control in my Weiss DAC is better than the exasound was. It has a decent streamer as well. 


I believe the C52 is pre swappable DAC module technology from McIntosh, so the C52’s internal DAC is built in and not able to be changed/upgraded.

I also vote for keeping the C52 (I have a C53 with the internal DA2 and love it) and trying a different DAC if you feel a change is needed.