Who is using their DAC as a preamp?

Just curious the results people are hearing using Dac as line stage. Some dacs even have Analog inputs.  
These would be two different animals

A dac with volume ability "generally" has no preamp in it, it has a low output impedance buffer stage, and a "digital domain volume control".
That buffer is usually as good as most solid state preamps output, low impedance and has enough voltage  to send most amps to give full wattage (clipping)

There are one or two dacs with "analog domain volume" just before the output buffer, that have analog inputs and can switched from the dac chip output to these analog inputs, and the output buffer as above could have "extra gain" put on it via it’s feedback and "said" to be a preamp.

Cheers George.
When I was awaiting my new Rogue RP-5 preamp a couple years back, I used my project s2 Dac ( only digital inputs) as my main pre. I was amazed how good it sounded. much better than the Peachtree nova pre I had just sold.

the RP-5, besides all the inputs and features, had just a little more “flavor”. I’m assuming due to the tubes it came with. I really cannot day the Rogue sounds better, just a little different. I did try a SYS passive a while back and felt, with the amp I currently have, that the soundstage narrowed slightly. I also tried the Pro-next again and it sounded nice. 

Since i only need one analog input for my SACD player, I was thinking I could sell the Rogue and go with a Brooklyn Dac+. 99% of my listening is my ripped library, including dad sacd rips, Qobuz and Tidal——all thru Roon

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I've been using a Benchmark Dac 3 as a preamp for 9 months and I'm very satisfied.

It's super transparent, has plenty of gain, and remote control.

The only thing it seems to lack is coloration.
The only thing it seems to lack is coloration.
So true, but many seem to like it (preamp) colouring their source because they "maybe" don’t have the right one (source) yet, so prefer the bandaid fix it instead.

Cheres George
I use my Audio Aero Capitol Reference cdp/DAC direct into a Music Reference RM9 Mk2 amp.   The sound quality is excellent and I don’t miss having a preamp.  I wish I had gone this route years ago.   

Yes +1 pdreher if you like the sound of your source, a lot of money is saved this way, as all preamps have their own colourations, and you need to go through a few before getting the right one you like, why not just do the same with the source and forget the preamp.

Chers George
I was watching a PS Audio video where the owner was saying digital volume controls , like many dacs and PS Aufio preamps have, are better. Paul describes analog volume as a brake in controlling sound vs an accelerator which you find in digital. 

I believe the Myteks give a choice for analog or digital volume output. 
I was watching a PS Audio video where the owner was saying digital volume controls , like many dacs and PS Audio preamps have, are better.

Source digital domain volume controls are the best, but! You need to be careful that if you attenuate too much with them you start to "bit strip", that is you get 14 bit or 12bit music resolution, instead of 16bit. Don't go below 75% of full with them it's said, and you don't run that risk of "bit striping" the music.
If you have to go lower than 75% because it's too loud, then your better off leaving it up full (100%), and using a passive preamp to attenuate to a good loud level, then use the digital volume to change the volume between 100% and 75%.

Cheers George  
My Adcom GDA 700, feeds my Luminous Audio Axiom II, with Walker Mod, 3 in, 2 out ( single ended ), with remote, feeds any number of power amps. I replaced a few excellent preamps with this, soon after I purchased a very high gain power amp ( Nuforce STA 200 ). I am currently using an ADA PF 2501 amp in this configuration, and I never heard this amp before ( meaning, it never sounded this good ). No preamp for me.
I may just take a week and exclusively use my Pro-Ject Dac as a pre and see what I think after a week. 
I am very interested in the use of the Project Prebox S2 as a pre. Please do share your findings. I believe you use it with a Nuforce STA200, correct? 
yes. I used it a couple years ago for about 2 or 3 weeks and was amazed how much better it sounded vs my Nova preamp. I'm getting ready to switch now and I will share my findings. I'm interested to see if I will "miss" my Rogue RP-5 preamp.
Another post about passive. Just try it, and, for a while. Believe me when I say, I had 2 preamps above an RP5 in sq, that colored the sound, held back details and information on my recordings, and unnaturally added balls and oomph to the music. Listen to SRVs " Tin Pan Alley ", a song many believe has been over played, but shows every attribute, and weakness, in a system. 
I boxed up most of my gear in preparation for an upcoming move. In the interim I’m using my Oppo 205 as a preamp. It sounds so good that I may keep using it as a preamp after my move.
I listened to my Project S2 this morning for about an hour or so. The soundstage was just as good as the Rogue. The Project seemed to present a more "pure" signal where the Rogue added a touch of warmth (it is a tube preamp). Bass, mids sound wonderful. High's extend just a little more (maybe because it is solid state). Nothing fatiguing. The tubes on the Rogue have probably 60-70% life left. 
I have been doing this for 10 years or more. I have not owned a pre-amp in a long time. I don’t miss it. 
I had a Benchmark DAC3 and was using that direct into the Benchmark AHB2 amp. It was rather good but had some problems for me at lower volumes. I listen a lot late at night, like right now, and I wanted more granularity in my volume control. 

Benchmark has the new pre-amp listed above that I may consider for the 30 day home trial. I would pair it with the Benchmark DAC3B (without volume control) if I went back to Benchmark gear.

I just found the Benchmark preamp interesting if someone wanted an ultra quiet, active preamp. The volume control seems to be of real high quality as well. 

For late night listening, I currently have a Schiit EQ in the effects/tape loop connection of the Rogue. I just boost the lower frequencies a little...basically I use it as a loudness switch. Since the EQ has "true" bypass, I can just use it in line between dac and amp if I decide to ditch preamp.

how bad a deal can it be when one has two options for volume control and signal development?

it has to be considered a plus.

... a backup.

... another perspective.

... a change of pace, if nothing else.

although its not a deal breaker, I look for that option in what ever DAC I believe I would like to buy next.
I wonder what quality the Mytek dacs have? I have read that the PS Audio pays special attention to their volume controls. 
I've been using the Oppo 205 as a preamp as well, straight to the mcintosh mc275, but am considering putting a ps audio stellar gain cell in between to see if there's an improvement.
For late night listening, I currently have a Schiit EQ (Loki) in the effects/tape loop connection of the Rogue. I just boost the lower frequencies a little...basically I use it as a loudness switch. Since the EQ has "true" bypass, I can just use it in line between dac and amp if I decide to ditch preamp.
An excellent choice for late night low volume listening, and the Schiit Loki at $149 is a bargain, does all what you said and more,   https://www.schiit.com/products/loki   just put it between any of these configurations: 
1: Between source and poweramp (if you have source volume control)
2: Between source and preamp
3: Between your preamp and poweramp.
4: Or in the tape loop on an integrated amp.

Cheers George 

There is a poster on another thread that uses a 1/3rd octave 31 band eq, as his passive device ( it has dual channel gain controls ). He compared it, flat, to 5 K preamps, and says it is superior to his ears. I have the same eq ( and I tried it via his recommendation ), but did not feel it came close to my Luminous unit in sq. However, it bettered some of my cheapie preamps ( RGR, Hitachi, AGI, Citation, GAS, SAE, Dynaco ). I sold my 2 megabuck preamps, which were both bettered by my Luminous unit.
I have been learning a lot about volume controls of late. In my years of having various components, I have never really thought about volume control quality. 

Back to the Mytek. Darko has a review up with a preference of an outboard preamp (BHK Pre-$6000). Darko does state, however,  the Mytek does sound very good job with direct input
Cleaner than the Sys...Ebay item # 253818627052...HiFi version. $40 or less, shipped. About what you would pay to build one. Promise..
It is the only way to go. There is so much fun digital stuff like room control and digital bass management. I send my phono amp to my digital preamp/DAC through a Benchmark ADC. The analog guys are now vomiting. But very few of them have heard digital room control and bass management work. The Best unit out now is the Trinnov Amethyst. The one I use now is a Tact 2.2X. Tact is now defunct but the 2.2X is a jewel. You just have to understand it's idiosyncrasies. Boy does it ever work great. 
Cleaner than the Sys...Ebay item # 253818627052...HiFi version. $40 or less, shipped. About what you would pay to build one. Promise..

Trouble is the minimum 1:10 impedance ratio.
It shows a 100kohm Alps passive!!!! and that will be a problem not for the source but with many poweramps
They should have made it 10kohm, that way all is good, except for <33kohm poweramps, which thank god there are not too many of.

Cheers George
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George, if you look further down on the Douk page of the device, in the specification section, it states that the Alps 27 pot is 50K ohms. I have not taken mine apart, which would be easy, but I am telling you, it sounds quite invisible.
It all over the place, they say 50k input but don’t say which one, which means a 50k pot. Could be the cheap 24mm they have, as you can’t see the value on it.
But the pic if you zoom on the Alps (Blue Velvet) says 100kohm A taper (log) pot and it would be a 100kohm input impedance.

Whatever it is (50k or 100k), 10kohm is the best value to have, as all decent sources can handle 10kohm load (save for a couple of silly tube output ones)

A 10kohm pot has "at worse" 2.5kohm output impedance which is fine for any poweramp with >33kohm or higher input impedance.

Would be nice if you open it and find an Alps 10kohm A-taper (log) Blue Velvet for $40 with box and decent rca’s and free shipping.

Cheers George
George, picture is just a picture. Did you know that Alps never referred to the control as a Blue Velvet. Nowhere on their web site have I found it. If you could find it, please post it. I believe some audiophile engineer, in using it, gave it that name. I am sorry Georgi, but this device is an EXCELLENT passive unit, for cheap, according to my ears, and the dozen or more power amplifiers I have tried with it. The control has a sexy, very high end feel, and the little box is non resonant, and built really well. Enjoy ! MrD.
There is the even better, the Alps "Back Beauty", but they cost a lot more.




I am sorry Georgi, but this device is an EXCELLENT passive unit
As for the sound, I don’t doubt you like it,. and what you get is a bargain, I’m just pointing out the confusion of their ad in what actual value Blue Velvet is used and you get, all values will work as I pointed out, some better than others, because of proper >1:10 impedance matching input and output.

We just have to wait for someone to have a look at what’s inside them.

Cheers George
George, I am sure you meant Black. Do those pictures say Black Beauty anywhere ? I cannot find it. I know about the Black bodied attenuators that Alps made, but they are no longer made, as the " Blue " does the trick. A buddy of mine purchased 4 of them, based on my recommendation of trying one, and he is using 2 per system, 1 for Left and one for right ( single channel only of the passive ), and tells me he hears an improvement in sq vs. using one. I have not been over to hear it, as he is out of state of my location, but, George, what do you think ?
Yes typo "Black Beauty" if you came through Audio 70's/80's you know all about the Alps Black Beauty and Blue Velvet.


As for using a separate pot, same value, for each channel, there is no EE reason that it should be better or worse.
But I get the same thing with owners of two Lightspeed Attenuators, the  Stereo version and the Dual Mono version, they swear the Dual Mono sounds better.
I think it's because they can dial in an exact central stereo image with the left and right level controls, regardless of room/equipment/ music source influences, and this has an slight influence on the sound to them.

Cheers George
I'm now using the Exogal Comet Plus, and have removed the Dehavilland Mercury II preamp from my system. I just prefer how it sounds. Digital has come along way.
George has been saying all along, that with today's digital sources, with the lower impedances and 2 volt outputs, the gain stages of preamps are not necessary. I do concur with these findings. 25 years ago, or more, there were passive units available, or preamps with passive as an option ( I owned most of them; PSAudio, Superphon, Mod Squad, McCormack, and many more ). Passive was ok, but back then I preferred a preamp. It is interesting, that I own my 2 older Dacs, since '95 ( Adcom and AA ), and not until I bought ( for shits and giggles ) my 1st Nuforce STA200 this time in '17, did I realize passive was the way to go. As it turns out ( and I know Georgie is very critical on the impedance matching thing ), every power amp in my " still " collection, sounds better than I ever remember then sounding, without a preamp between the dacs and the amps. I have several tuners, and other sources that are just fabulous through the amps directly. And this cheap Douk Audio piece, is killer, for 40 clams. I am told by many ( people I personally know ), that George's LDR unit is the best there is, and I do not doubt it. Anyone today who prefers a preamp, imo, likes a bit of color, and whatever else the additional gain stage adds, or subtracts, or, their source is simply inadequate to drive an amp. Just my take on things. Still, no right or wrong; just go with what your ears tell you. Sorry for the rant, as my testosterone levels are high this morning / early afternoon ( which is good at almost 65 years of age ). Enjoy ! MrD.
I have a T+A DAC 8 DSD.  It has a fully discrete, analog volume control that even uses a vishay resistor ladder.  My preamp is the Perla Audio Maestro which has both active and passive inputs.  It too has a resistor ladder volume control.

Surprisingly the comparison between the two isn't even close; the Perla Audio preamp just kills the T+A preamp section. 

Better tone, bigger soundstage - especially soundstage HEIGHT.  More air and space around the instruments, more holographic.

How a passive preamp is doing this is a mystery to me, but it is just much better than my DAC and I've discovered it's the heart of my system.  I won't be going to a DAC volume control any time soon.
 We have again further improved the unit’s outstanding pre-amplifier, and incorporated a volume control of fully analogue construction based on High-End Melf resistors. The “State of the Art” output stage is of fully symmetrical design and discrete construction. Its impedance is very low, and it is equipped with symmetrical(XLR) and asymmetrical (RCA) outputs. These features make the DAC 8 DSD more than just a High-End converter: it is also a High-End pre-amplifier of supreme quality.
T+A DAC 8 DSD Different ladder resistors they are Melf not Visay. But it is a full discrete preamp output stage with more than enough output.
It doesn't say anything about the Perla Audio Maestro being anything but a passive preamp. 
It uses power, but that's just for remote receiver and volume control movement duties, it's still a passive looking at the website.

Cheers George 
Georgie, fyi, emcdade is stating, in the last paragraph of his post, that his Perla pre " is a passive " unit. Man, you are always defensive and ready to fight. Relax there fella.
I call it correcting wrongs, "looking for a fight" doubt that very much.
"Relax there fella" Really!!!

My preamp is the Perla Audio Maestro which has both active and passive inputs.
There are no active inputs. What emcdade was stating is simply wrong, and I corrected it.
And please!! don't call me Georgie, that's only reserved for my blonde Russian mini skirted music teacher, when we play "teacher and student" and I've been a bad boy!    

Cheers George


Scroll down on the page...

Seems like they’re claiming that actives are better than passives, noise and distortion-wise that is, and that the fully passive route is just a myth. 

Seems like they’re claiming that actives are better than passives
They must make preamps. And quite a few.


Cheers George
George, you are correct, my friend. He does state in the beginning, that his Perla is both active and passive. Once again, YOU THE MAN ! Enjoy ! MrD.
Audio Aero Capitol Reference.  CD / DAC / active line-stage all in one box.  Reference sound at bargain basement price.

In general I do not like DAC w/ digital volume (which I don't think is the same as passive) like the older Wadia (not sure about their current offerings), Sonos, Helios, Logitech Transporter, DCS.


First of all, Perla's new preamp has both active and passive inputs.  Considering I own it and am not going off an out-dated website, I SHOULD KNOW.

Secondly, Vishay makes melf resistors.

Here's a link:   https://www.vishay.com/resistors-fixed/melf/

It's a type of resistor, not a company.

Thank you so much for the correction though.  You're a true gentleman and scholar.

First of all, Perla’s new preamp has both active and passive inputs.
Considering I own it I SHOULD KNOW.

Please show us a link?
Sorry, you need to look at what the manufacture says you own, it has a cd input and two auxiliary inputs, there are no active inputs.
The only reason it’s powered is because it needs power for the volume control motor and for the remote control receiver circuit and for the blue light on the front.

Secondly as you put it, it’s the T+A Dac 8 that I mentioned about Vishay and Melf. As many manufacturers make Melf resistors as it stands for "Metal Electrode Leadless Face" This had nothing to do with your Perla passive preamp and what resistors are in it.

Cheers George