Thoughts on the Signal Path

There are those who stick to the notion -- no matter what -- that adding length to the signal path must be a negative for SQ, ipso facto. I am wondering about this in light of the fact that so many people say that using a preamp improves the sound of their system.

Your thoughts on the signal path?
Sabai, preamp often helps with impedance matching, but it is also a matter of personal preference. How do you define sound quality? Is it transparency? That wouldn't be improved by adding additional elements in the chain. I see sound quality as a personal preference. Some people like warmth other like transparency. My wife doesn't like strong pronounced bass while many are searching for it. I like transparency, microdetail and midrange is very important to me, but I've read opinion that sound had too much resolution (looking for mushy sound?). Person was asking how to make sound warmer and less! detailed (I told him to put blankets over the speakers). Many people select tube preamp to add warmth to otherwise neutral amplifier. No right or wrong here.
Going live unamplified concert is another way to totally eliminate signal path.
The length of the signal path doesn't seem to account for everyones preference as you said. I am one who likes his small but active preamp.
I also have trouble with idea of some sacred purity of concert music. Czarivey was careful to say unamplified music. In any other case where sound reinforcement, mixing boards and amplified instruments are used the signal path is long and far from pure. How long is the signal path in the vast majority of cases, before it gets to you? I suppose you can argue that your system shouldn't make it any worse but I like my equipment.
I'm one of those who never found the ideal pre/amp combo. I was never happy. My Morrison ELAD which is considered by many critics to be as good as any preamp available and which is pure bare bones, dual mono, separate power supply, low gain as you can get seems to me on an intellectual level ideal. And I could live with it rather well. But my hk990 integrated surpasses it. Nothing is separate and it's all hardwired and solenoid switched together, and it changed my thinking. It defies the purist notion of separates that I previous held.
I have a tube amp and a tube preamp. When I run the system without the preamp the sound is awful. For others this may not be the case. I don't think that the length of the signal path has anything to do with sound quality. Some folks swear by a short signal path. They might change their mind if they A/B-ed systems where adding a preamp clearly improves the sound quality.
LEngth/complexity of signal path alone means nothing. I wouldn't spend any time worrying about it. Its the quality of what comes in and what is done with it along the way to its destination (in conjunction with the destination itself) that matters. You know all the complicated stuff. There is an easy way out called an integrated amp. Someone takes care of all the complex stuff for you and you get to just enjoy the music. There are some really good ones out there these days I read. Some with built in DAC, phono and tuners even. Let smart guys who know what's important and what is not design and handle this stuff. I'm probably not smart enough to do it any better anyway.
You can match gear well and do well without an active pre-amp if you know what your doing but I think it gets harder to get the same sound out that you want from multiple different sounding sources without one. Active pre-amps are the great equalizers....literally!
Forgot to include that the pre in the hk990 integrated is active. Agree. I don't think I'd be ultimately happy with a passive line stage and that if you use one you have to know what you're doing which includes using an amp with the right sensitivity.
You would think.

Might wreck havoc on phase coherence as well.

At least if really long.

Purist's want to keep everything short and simple. Of course how often are purists right when it comes to the big picture? Synthesis is usually more effective when done well. if its too pure, you are probably missing something.
You don't have to answer that, Mapman. I'll call it alzheimers. So then it's a tie between synthesis and shortest possible signal path. I could go for that.
A tie between synthesis and shortest possible signal path would be a form of synthesis itself so I will buy that one as well.


I agree that the length and complexity of the signal path mean nothing, per se. But in spite of proof to the contrary there are those who steadfastly maintain that any unnecessary lengthening of the signal path must, ipso facto, degrade sound quality. I do not understand holding to this doctrinaire position in light of the fact that A/B testing clearly shows this is a false assertion.