Preamps can color sound considerably. Surprising?

Had the pleasure of listening to 4 hi end preamplifiers this weekend. And each preamp sounded very nice. But they were different. Each preamplifier has different circuitry and within the frequency spectrum there was more vibrancy in some areas versus other areas. Amplifiers are the same way.

It takes a while to appreciate sound differences between preamplifiers. And then you got the issue of Breakin which further changes the color.

clearly designers are playing around with all the internal circuitry in a manner that hopefully will be appealing. Clearly, these units do not get out of the way when it comes to moving a signal through the box.

I think solid state is more susceptible to coloring versus tubes. Tubes color sound as well.

It's all about marketing different ways to color Music. This isn't necessarily bad but it's never really talked about this way.





both are relatively rare cases and the majority of pres between attenuated dacs and power amps add distortion and little else

Depends on how quiet it is, but at say -40dB, I think that might be 1/100th, so if the output impedance is high, then it becomes 100x higher… flat out it should work a treat though.

Analog components have various nonlinearities that account for their signature contribution, subjectively negative or positive. Designers select from those components for desired effect and based on economics, availability, and personal biases.

Digital components add other considerations like sample rate, bit depth, jitter, latency, and perhaps most importantly, algorithmically - the software. Various codec filter algorithms have audible impacts, and when an encode using one is decided using another, the effects are quite unpredictable. Extended over the entire 'chain' from studio to master to mix to distribution, and finally to your listening room, attributing audible changes to a single item requires extraordinary diligence to eliminate confounding variables, confirmation bias, uncontrolled variables and a bunch more. 'Accuracy' is euphonia. One likes the sound, it agrees with the preconception of what something should sound like and, ipso facto, it becomes correct. Measurements, simplistic by their very nature, provide only the vaguest validation. What measurement, short of tweaking the treble tone control, accounts for the oft-used  'lifting a veil' expression of newfound system clarity. And how many veils are layered over my system in the first place? 

It's all good fun, and fascinating, in a certain way. 

while looking for a preamplifier that doesn't color the sound, I ended up with a passive solution - Big Hattor dual mono

The preamp is the heart of my system. I use a DAC with perfect measurements and class D amplifiers, on a multi-amped fully horn loaded system.

The amps by themselves sound a bit sterile, and the DAC while very good for the money doesn't add much "flesh" to the bones. The active crossover can be considered as transparent as can be.

My (vintage) preamp, on the other hand, is wonderful. It's a rather unknown model (Korn&Macway SP100) built like a high end device, and I recapped it using NOS Roederstein Gold caps in the PSU and Elna SilmicII everywhere else. It is majorly responsible for the musicality of the system. I've tried without preamp, I've tried other preamps, I keep coming back to it for its precise yet lush presentation. It's like it's holding everything together. Take it out, and the magic is gone!