Thinking Out Loud

I have been interested in checking out the “tube sound” for some time and just bought a Schiit Freya+ to pair with my SS amp.  The Freya+ replaces, or compliments, a Parasound P5 preamp I have been using.  I don’t know whether to just set aside the Parasound pre and go with the Freya+, as I don’t know how to incorporate both into my system so I could just switch between them.

A bigger issue surfaced when I realized the Freya+ doesn’t have a dac, not even for phono use.  So it wasn’t as simple as getting the Freya+ and dropping it into the system, I now need to supply a dac for at least the phono.  I had previously purchased a Audiolab CD transport, which lacks a built-in dac.  To remedy that, I bought a Pro-ject Dac Box 2 that I was just using with the Audiolab via the RCA-type connection.  I know this dac has other connections, but I’m not sure if I can connect it to the Freya+ using the other connections.  The Pro-ject has no power off button, so I have been plugging and unplugging it each time I play a CD.  Now I would have to do that each time I want to play vinyl — a bit annoying.

I think my problem is that I approached things piecemeal, adding/substituting gear without realizing up front the problems in doing that.  Do I just switch to the Freya+ full-time or is there a good way to incorporate both preamps?  Do I try to use the Pro-ject dac with available connections, or do I retire the Pro-Ject and buy a more full-featured dac equipped to handle multiple devices easily?
A bigger issue surfaced when I realized the Freya+ doesn’t have a dac, not even for phono use.
Why would you need a DAC for phono?
I would leave the Pro-Ject DAC on all the time. That's probably why the manufacturer didn't put a power switch on it. Some electronics benefit from being left on,so they are always "warmed" up. 
Let’s start at the beginning:

For digital playback-> Streamer -> DAC -> Preamp ->amp-> speakers
For analog playback-> turntable-> phono stage -> Preamp-> amp -> speakers

The preamp connects the two sources… it is a switch box in addition to adding volume control and crafting the sound you will hear (why tubes are a really good choice here).

You can get a preamp that has a Phonostage in it for analog playback.
You can get a Streamer with a DAC.

For that mater you can get all sorts of combo functions. But for folks interested in good sound, they are generally separate boxes.

Also a good separate streamer is as important as is a good turntable. PCs can do the job, but not well once the rest of your components get better.

To build a good system, the best way to get there is to purchase as high a level component as you can afford. Using two inexpensive components seldom furthers your system. Trading up, it usually means getting rid of the old thing. So, perhaps you can trad in the Parasound for a phonostage.

A good Phonostage is costly but worth the investment. I have never heard a good one for less than a couple thousand. So, think buying used.

Go back to the Parasound P5. Send the Freya BACK. Save a little bit more money. There is a whole lot better place to start. I really don't even see the move as sideways, it was a step DOWN..

Luxman, Mac. For valves with tone control. C(XXXX) Mac have built in DACs

Cary, VTL are line stage with pretty good onboard phono stage if you need that..

A valve phono preamp could be a great place to start too, then a tube preamp, or a combo like Mac with phono stage, DAC and valves.

Stay out of trouble, don't get out of trouble..

Happy hunting..

DAC Digital to Analog
ADC Analog to Digital

I haven't heard the Freya line stage.  It receives consistent praise on this forum (Subjective I realize).  Is it really a step downward in sound quality  from the Parasound P5?
Yes, you will need a DAC for the Audiolab transport. As you don't mention having a turntable, I don't see need for phono input. 

Schiit Audio makes several DACs and a phonostage.

I also questioned wether the Freya+ would be a step down in sound quality from the P5. Being a tube (6SN7) based line level pre likely presents a different sonic character.  

What @mesch said ^^^

You want to get a taste of the tube sound. The Freya is a great starting point (based on the love by our members). 
For digital, you plug the transport into the Pro-ject Dac Box 2 using coax digital RCA. Then analogue RCA outputs into the Freya+.

You mentioned vinyl, but it sounds like you have an all digital system. 
You're all set to play CDs.

Yes.The Freya would replace the Parasound P5.
Audiolab to the Pro-ject then Pro-ject to the amp.If you want to add a phono stage it would also plug into the Freya. Leave the Pro-ject plugged in all of the time. No need to keep unplugging.
I can say this about Schiit customer service. It's one of the quickest and most courteous, customer friendly company I've EVER dealt with. No question ask, no silly BS return policy.. You are the customer..

I liked the feel of the Freya+ it has weight.. Looks nice, BUT mine had an issue out of the box.. I called and I had to STOP the replacement. The customer service was that fast, 12 hours or less. I played with one for 6 weeks, then bought one AND it super heated. I think it was a bad valve, to tell the truth. BUT the volume would stick, 1/2 the time if I used the valve section.

6SN7s aren't what they are made out to be.. LOL. Great 6SN7s ain't cheap and really not that good of a valve..

12XXX is a better valve for me.. 6SN7 is a Cary thing...Making a CHEAP plentiful valves work, why not? NOW there are a few manufactures..

I have a P5 and a Zpre 3. I used the P5 with an EAR phono section.. 400.00 or so.. A Puffin is a great pairing with the P5 also.. If you want it all at a pretty low price..

I was confused when I posted about needing dac to play vinyl. I have a Denon DP-300f turntable and a number of records that I do play. The Denon has a switch that it calls an “equalizer” that is turned off when the TT is plugged into the preamp phono section and turned on when plugged into any of the other inputs. From what I have read, the on-board equalizer is not that good and it is best to use the preamp phono stage. This equalizer is what I erroneously called the “dac”.  But as the equalizer is not good and the Schiit doesn’t come with a phono input, that was why I was wondering if I need something in between the TT and the Schiit.

I don’t have any complaints about the P5, but I read (here and elsewhere) that it has the older Burr Brown dac chip which is considered inferior to the ESS Sabre chip found in the P6 and others.  I thought the Freya+ might be a step up too (?).  
Hey I just wanted to switch things up — you know how that is!  😉
@oldhvymec, @jtcf, I have a Parasound zphono usb that I’m not using. THAT could be the phono stage to use into the Freya?  😳
Buy a decent dac like the Denafrips , or AudioGD for around 
$800 forDenafrips , my friend has the very good Topping 70SE For sale  They make a great product for-the money . The Dreya is a very good preamp for the money . Apos audio has several lower cost dacs if you need a low cost dac to hold you over. 
"...I really don't even see the move as sideways, it was a step DOWN...."

If you want tubes get a good tube preamp. Sideways moves are always disappointing. 
If one uses a DAC for phono, it becomes faux-no. Well, actually it doesn’t have to be. Instead of all that gear, consider the Devialet Expert Pro, which includes;
- superb phone stage that indeed takes the analogue signal and converts to digital.
- world class DAC
- Pre-out if one chooses to utilize the unit as a DAC only and send that signal to an outboard amp
- Very versitile for use with subs, including high pass filters, low pass filters, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order crossover options, and prcision signal delay to compensate for sub placement, plus the amp will drive two stereo subs at 250watts rms each
- Coax, toslink, SPDIF XLR, configurable digital in or out
- plug ‘n play versatility with Airplay, USB, Line 1 and Line 2 in
- great adaptability with numerous optional configurations
- an amp powerful enough to drive about any speaker with tremendous grip yet delicate refinement

All this is academic if the unit did not sound wonderful. It does sound truely wonderful. Voices sound spectacular. It is, along with VERY few dacs and pre-amp / amplifiers without distortion of any kind offering a glass clear window onto the music. Throws a very wide and deep soundstage. In fact the soundstage sounds unlike any other amp I have heard, perhaps being close to the higher end Levinson amps. The impression is of sitting at the farside of a large wide deep field with the music playing wide across and deep back at the far side of that field. It is very addictive.

if you can, listen to one at your dealer.

A good Phonostage is costly but worth the investment. I have never heard a good one for less than a couple thousand. So, think 
buying used.

You don’t get out much, do you?

@chorus, My listening room is 14’ x 19’, knotty pine paneled with brick fireplace.  Gear is against one of the short walls with frequent foot traffic passing right in front.  Haven’t used any room treatments but I have a large upholstered sectional that dominates room and I think would reduce reflections.  Not an ideal arrangement but it’s what I have.  The only room option I have is the front room, 17’ square, but the front door is right there and I don’t want anyone coming to door to see my gear.

I mostly listen low-to-moderate sound level and variety of music but mostly older rock/old country/blues — not against modern music if its good but most is not my taste.  My speakers are a pair of Martin-Logan XT60’s and two SVS SB 2000 subs.  I try to go bang-for-the-buck on gear, so I try to avoid spend thousands on any one piece.  Probably have $8500 in what I have, including the Freya+.
I have yet to experiment with adding the Freya to my system,  Will try some combinations and see what pleases.  Thank you for all your suggestions. 
You need a phono stage to pair up with your pre amp, not a “DAC,” for vinyl.  I believe that vintage 6SN7 tubes (Sylvania/Upscale) are the way to go for both pre amps and phono stages.  I have an Audio Electronic Supply (Cary) phono stage and a Vacuum Tube Audio SP14 preamp.
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You picked a good product to have fun with. The P5 and the Shiit Freya are both preamplifiers. So they sort of do the same thing at opposite ends of the spectrum and the Parasound P5 is like a Swiss Army knife. You can use both together with your other pieces. Your Parasound has a Home Theater Bypass input. Plug a set of LR RCA cables into the RCA (SE) Preout of the Freya then the other end into the Bypass RCA inputs in the Parasound. Take the Project DAC and plug the RCA out to Input 3 on the back of the Schiit  Freya. Take the Audiolab and plug the (RCA) Coax out into the Project DAC. Take the Audiolab again and plug output toslink (Fiber optic) into the toslink 1 input of the Parasound DAC. For now put the equalizer switch (ON)  the Denon 300F turn table. Plug the Denon RCA cables into the 4th input on the Schiit Freya. A better option would be to buy a Schiit Mani Phono preamp. $129 plus shipping. you can turn the switch on the Denon to (OFF) and plug it into the phono input on the Parasound 5 which might yield better sound now. Always connect the turntable ground wire.  You can test that. Once you get the Schiit Mani you will also need another set of RCA (LR) cables to hook it up. Again, Make sure the switch on you Denon is set to (OFF). Plug the Denon turntable RCA cable into the (IN) input on the Schiit MANI and with the regular Left and Right RCA cables you have to connect one end to the Schiit MANI outputs to either the Schiit Freya 4th input (RCA) or the Parasound 4th RCA input. NOT THE RCA PHONO INPUT! I am picking the 4th RCA input to make it easy to remember your Denon will be on the fourth input. 
When you want to listen to the Schiit Freya push the Bypass button on the Parasound. When you want to listen to the Parasound push the bypass button again to turn off bypass
To  listen to the Audiolab transport on the Parasound push the Toslink 1 button on the Parasound. Make sure the bypass button is off.  To listen to the Audiolab on the Freya using the Project DAC select the COAX input on the project DAC and the #3 input on the Schiit Freya and make sure the bypass button is selected (ON) the Parasound. When you want to listen to a record for now push the Phono button on the Parasound.  Unless you hooked it up to the Freya then you will need to push the bypass button on the Parasound, select the 4th input button on the Freya. When you get the Schiit Mani the first thing you will do is turn the equalizer switch to (OFF) then hook it up to the preamp as described above. 
Now if you play the turntable through the Freya using the Schiit Mani make sure the Bypass button is on the Parasound is selected. Select the 4th RCA input and spin vinyl. If you hooked the Schiit MANI up to the Parasound make sure the Bypass button is off. Select the 4th RCA input on the Parasound and spin vinyl. I know this was long, but you asked if it could be done. The answer is yes. 
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@ozzy62, my amp is Parasound A21.

I think I will print out the instructions here so I can follow them as needed.  Thanks again for your input.  
@hshifi , why use both Toslink and SPDIF?
And why would he need both preamps? The Parasound Zphono-USB phono preamplifier can be used for vinyl.

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“I think my problem is that I approached things piecemeal, adding/substituting gear without realizing up front the problems in doing that.”

Exactomundo 😎
Today I hooked the Freya+ into my system.  It was a pain in ass just getting everything apart.  I see photos of others’ systems here and the cables are so neat — mine looks like a mass of spaghetti tied into a Gordian knot!  I ended up disassembling everything, wires and all.  Getting it back together wasn’t much easier and it looks very jumbled.  I will figure out the aesthetics later.

I must say — it was worth it.  The Freya+ brings the sound out more, especially the higher sounds.  I was expecting a “mellow” sound, as that is what everyone talks about with tubes, but it was the highs that were pronounced.  The bass was subdued and really needed my subs on to give some balance.  Still, the sound is a bit bright.  I haven’t yet hooked up the Parasound zphono to use as phone pre but that will be next.  
OP congratulations. It is always great to get a new piece of equipment.

The reputation for “mellow” sound comes from tube implementations of long ago where they tended to be rolled off at the top but with huge midrange bloom. Modern implementations tend to be very well balanced but still with a midrange bloom.
Some of your first impression may come from the unit not being broken in. Tubes tend to sound a bit trebly for the first ten or fifteen hours. The unit should mellow a bit and the bass may tighten a bit in the first hundred or so hours. The more expensive the unit the usually the more obvious are the changes. But give it 100 hours or more before solidifying your conclusions.
Good advice. The capacitors and internals need breakin time and of course the tubes. 
The highs may be harsh or unrefined during breakin, and it's very possible you may get more bass extension. 

And congratulations.
Hooked up TT through zphono and into Freya+.  Had to turn on the rumble filter on the zphono with the Freya in solid state mode, but didn’t need it for tube mode.  Again, I most notice the high sounds with the tubes and not the warm mellowness others spoke of.  Still, it sounds good.
What kind of TT are you using… if there is rumble that points to a big problem problem with the TT. There sound be no noise at any frequency.

Also, if you really want the warm tubey sound a tube amplifier (one known to be tubey) will also be required.
Hello Lowrider57,
The OP asked if he could use both preamps. The answer is yes. To answer your question per my very long directions which I apologize for but I have to be detailed so mistakes are not made. One to the Project DAC and one to the Parasound DAC. This way the OP could have both hooked up to have their cake and eat it too. It was a way to do a fast A/B comparison between the two preamps. If you hook up a preamp with a volume pot into another preamp with a volume pot you can get a lot of distortion. By using the bypass feature on the Parasound you are bypassing the pot on the Parasound so no distortion. This is from my home theater expertise. I use this scenario to play my Marantz surround processor through my two channel system so I can use my really good amp and speakers for home theater. A lot of preamps and integrated amps have this feature. Your basically using a special input to run your home theater as a source into your two channel system. Hegel, Emotiva, Parasound, and Ayre and probably many more have this feature. I will be going to Ayre KX-5 preamp and VX-5 amp because I love the sound and it has this feature. I even upgraded my subs to the JL Audio F110 x2 plus the CR1 crossover so I can have one of the best subs for music and movies. Plus, When you correctly crossover your speakers and subs the sound is unbelievable. Basically I answered the OPS question and gave detailed instructions on how to do it without damaging any of their equipment. 

@ghdprentice, my TT is a Denon DP-300f.  I bought an inexpensive turntable because I had been away from that medium for a long time and had memories of noisy, popping play.  Of course, back then my idea of record cleaning was a swipe with a Discwasher brush.  Back then, my care of records was really bad, with records left out of their sleeves, hit with drops of beer, soda or food, and a lot of dust.  I have since bought a Spin Clean and now a Record Doctor and the vinyl sounds much better than I remembered.  Maybe one day I will upgrade the TT but for now it is what I have.  

@hshifi, Thank you for your detailed instructions.  I have Morrow cables on order and will work on connections more when those arrive.  
Bob, after the break-in period you should explore using different tubes if the sound is not to your liking. Tubes have different sonic characteristics based on manufacturer and tube type.

Do you know what brand your stock tubes are?

@bob540.  Sounds like that TT is the source of noise. I understand where you are at.

Understand your history. Mine was similar until I started upgrading my turntable… admittedly a long time ago. But the albums that were warn and dirty from my teen years sounded better and better as I upgraded my turntable, then got a cleaning machine, then upgraded my table. It is incredible how much a good turntable eliminates noise, and improves the sound. Part of it is I believe good cartridges run deeper in the groove than do really cheap ones. So, the dirty, warn albums of my youth now sound spectacular. The cleaning machine has removed all the dirt and pops, the turntable reproduces no surface noise, and the cartridge has increased the sound quality manifold. If the album is scratched… we’ll there is nothing that can be done. But otherwise those albums could have a complete new life ahead of them.
Also, often old albums can have better recorded original mix / pressing and actually sound better than later releases.
@lowrider57, The tubes are those that came with the Freya+ . . JJ tubes, made in Slovakia (same country my Pro-Ject was manufactured in).  The tubes are said to be good ones and less expensive than the Tung Sol tubes people really like. 
JJ may be of good quality for stock tubes, but there are many 6SN7s with better sonics.

This dealer has good info on different manufacturers and the sonic signature of tubes.

These are NOS tubes ( New Old Stock), known for very good consistent SQ and build quality.

New production tubes are available as well. I’ve tried some, but prefer NOS.
There are comments about tubes for Freya in the archive link I posted.

Follow-up:  Giving the tubes time to settle in, the sound has become more full and not dominated so much by the highs.  I think I like this!

Haven't bought any other tubes yet, but I think I will try some Tung-Sols.  All the ads I have seen are limited to matched pairs, but there are four tubes.  I’m guessing that since each pair is devoted to a different function, I just need the two tubes devoted to that function to be matched, not all four, right?
A pair at a time is fine OP. One left one right.

When and if you swap valves (tubes) keep an eye out for the first few hours up to 24 hours.

Shipping tubes is never a good thing, being aware for the first few hours is always a good idea.. Red Plating or flame out.. (inside the tube).

@oldhvymec, I read about the red plating and flame out tubes, which seemed to be a premium feature. Worth the money, eh?  And if I get a pair of matched tubes (instead of two matched pairs to replace all), I should put one new tube on one function and the other tube on the other function, instead of having the matched tubes together on one function (I think one function is input and the other function is output)?