Hello all. As designers, we only occasionally do audio installations, so we're always looking for great advice. We're now budgeting one for a client, and can either provide the Bricasti M1 DAC feeding the VAC Phi 300.1a amp directly, with no preamp, or have the Bricasti run through the VAC Renaissance MK III preamp and VAC Phi 200 amp. We've heard a couple of these items separately, so know their quality, but were wondering if any of you more experienced out there might have some particular insight. The volume control of the Bricasti does seem better able than many other DACs to fend for itself without a preamp, but any thoughts would be much appreciated. This particular room is small, with Joseph Audio Perspective speakers. Thanks in advance.
Which one sounds better to you. I love VAC components but I like active pre-amps if they sound good or serve a purpose.
Hey there, I use an Audio Research Dac8 directly to mt Vac Phi 300.1. The ARC Dac8 outputs 6.6 volts balanced, more than enough for the Vac.

I use a server with Foobar which has a volume control built in.

John Bent of Bent Audio (thank you John) advised me to use the analogue attenuators on the Vac to pad down the output and use the digital volume in Foobar to do the rest.

I'm told digital volume controls reduce resolution as they attenuate so by using both you use them at their upper most positions where both are used at there best.

I can verify that this is good practice as just an anologe volume contol between Dac and Amplifier can effect dynamics and can be cable dependent, ie the shortest possible cable between attenuator and amplifier is a must.

The Vac Phi 300.1 by having attenuators built in means you can have your cake and eat it too in aplications such as this.

A proper preamp is crucial to creating a realistic soundstage.

Most Dac's with volume controls regulate volume by truncating bits which loses resolution and clarity.

For those dacs that do analog volume regulation, 9 times out of 10 the volume control circuitry and implementation of the output stage will not be close to a real high end preamp.

You can buy an outstanding dac which can easily compete with the Briscati for $3,500.00 the Auralic Vega which we have tested vs most of the $7k-10k dacs, and the Vega stands neck and neck with most of them, and then put the money into a really good line stage.

The Vac gear is excellent I would also take a look at the latest CJ gear which is also fantastic sounding.
Thanks for the great responses. Audiooracle, those are great suggestions, but for this particular application, per the client's wishes, we're using these 2 brands.

Lustformusic, it seems like you've got a great system. Had you ever tried a preamp between your ARC and the VAC before you decided you preferred going direct? Also, does your VAC 300.1 run very hot? Another consideration of ours is determining how much difference in heat there is between that amp and the PHI 200, since the client's listening room is on the small side. Thanks again.

I have a (and love my) VAC 300.1.

I'm looking at new DAC options and Bricasti is on my short list.

What was the final configuration of this system and what were the your ears, and your client's ears?