Bypass preamp, better sound, yet fatiguing?

Does anybody know a good reason why running from the CD player direct into the amp will produce a better, detailed sound (e.g., piano sounds more real, instruments are better separated), but on the other hand, after a while, after an hour or so, the sound becomes fatiguing?

Is there any thing as too much detail?

System consists of Levinson 390s, 380s, VTL MB-450, B&W 802n. Interconnects are Transparent super. Speaker cable is Transparent super bi-cable.

Are the cables not up to it? Room acoustics? B&W tweeter to bright? I don't experience any fatigue, if I listen through the preamp, but the sound is somewhat duller (but better rythmically) than if I go direct. Any suggestions are welcome.
All too often, I find that digital playback equipment is,harsh, bright, revealing, in short, in your face! That's because digital playback is all 0's and 1's, and no matter how much it's "oversampled" the smooth curve of an analogue signal is impossible to reproduce digitally. That's why some DAC and CD player manufacturers used tubed output stages. Going direct from the cd player eliminates some of the signal path, but then makes the signal even more revealing. When the source is of high quality (like a Wadia, e.g.),the result may be acceptably desirable, but as the qualtiy of the digital playback declines, the more "in your face", ruthlessly revealing, and fatiguing, it becomes. Hence, the analogue playback revival, smoother, and less fatiguing. Others may have more to add, as the above is nothing more than my own musing on the subject.
I prefer using a preamp, and I have the option of running direct. Any marginal loss in transparency is completely outweighed by the added body, life and realism a tubed preamp contributes to the mix.
But in Hgabert's case, it's a solid state preamp and one from the same manufacturer as his CDP. In fact, I think ML claims the variable output on the 390s borrows from the 380s. I could see that perhaps he might find the direct connection lacks some oomph, but it seems strange to me that it would be fatiguing without the Levinson pre.
Yup, that's a quandry.

I still believe that even if my preamp was made of concrete I'd prefer the sound of the system with it in the signal chain.

Preamps add some magic despite tubes or sand.
My hunch is you have several issues here;

1. You make no mention of line conditioning. If you were to install proper line conditioners, then not only will your enhanced detail become even more enhanced, pristine, and musical but you will notice that the listener fatigue should go away instantly. Everybody has dirty AC coming in from the street and everybody will benefit from proper line conditioning. Furthermore, if your source is digital, then your digital source is inducing a bi-directional digital noise back into the AC for the other components to pick up. So any line conditioners you were to consider should also be capable of bi-directional filtering.

2. Your ics and scs may be inducing a certain amount of time smear that leads to grainy or hash ear-fatiguing sound in the highs and an ill-defined bass in the bottom end. This is a very common problem among scs and ics but I cannot speak specifically about the Transparent lineup.

3. It sounds as though your preamp is a bit subdued in the detail department and is thus masking not only the detail but also some of the detriments of a system not using proper line conditioning.

I'd guess that lack of proper line conditioning is by far your biggest problem, then your preamp, and possibly your scs and ics.

Furthermore, I'd guess that if you borrowed the appropriate line-conditioners (not all are worth owning), not only will you be enjoying your system's sonics far more, but you'll probably sell your preamp (which would help pay for the line conditioners).

It all depends on system synergy. Try Silent Audio Apollo C (copper) cables directly to your SS amp or SS preamp. They tamed some of the harshness from my system and are very good with SS equipment. My system (as it is now) sounds better directly to my amp. I may experiment with a tube preamp at some time down the road........
Well, it's not the cable. Just tried a Transparent reference MM XLR cable, directly from the player into the VTLs, and it's still "too" detailed (i.e., fatiguing).

Maybe there is an issue with the impedances (i.e., impedances are not well matched without a preamp in the chain). The output from the CD-player is 2.2 volts, so without a preamp, the volume control in the CD-player is probably only attenuating the signal. There is something the preamp does which minimizes distortion, and which appears to give the music more "body". system isn't as hi-end as the one in is any rate...running my source directly into my amp was a let down... increased grain, and lack of image depth were very apparent...just my .02...
I had a Powerplant P-300 for a while, powering the preamp and CD player, but then I installed dedicated outlets (three total; one for each mono block, and one for CD and preamp), and I felt that the sound was more dynamic without the powerplant, so I took it out.

If bi-directional digital noise is an issue, why don't I hear it with the preamp in the chain?

Stehno, what kind of line conditioning are you referring to? Thanks.
I have an Adcom 750 which allows me to listen in a passive mode. My Modwright Sony sounds very good in passive mode but I prefer listening to it with the pre amp active. Sounds more alive,more dynamic. The Sony sounds great in passive mode but I have to really turn it up to get the same sound. I mean no offense but that is a very good pre,it's doing what you paid for it to do.
Now the Impedence between the VTL and Levinson could be an issue though. When I ran my Modified Adcom 555 with my VTL Ultimate pre amp it was not a good match at all. I believe Paul Speltz(anti-cables) makes a transformer or some dodad which configures the best impedence for your system but I think it is run between the amp and speakers.
Hgabert, I need to be careful here as I very recently became a dealer which included becoming a dealer for the Foundation Research passive and dedicated line conditioners.

I should also note that I've been using the Foundation Research line conditioners for almost 5 years now and wrote several reviews here on these products years before I became a dealer.

I could be very specific about the line conditioner you mentioned based on my personal experience at a customer's home (If you email me, I'll provide you the gentleman's email address so you can discuss with him.)

Rather I will simply reiterate my statement in my previous post where I stated, "proper line conditioning."

Your sonics did not improve so much because of the dedicated lines because, like everybody, your AC from the street is going to be just about as dirty as everyone else's AC.

The dedicated lines would no doubt offer your amp greater dynamics and may have helped tame some AC noise generated from inside your home by appliances and dimmers now on other circuits but they do nothing to treat the worst AC noise which comes from the pole outside.

So if the dedicated lines were not the reason for the improvement, then there is still another reason for the improvement you claim.

Don't get me wrong here as I'm not trying to sell you anything. Except perhaps the thought that not all line conditioners are created equally. Line conditioners, like any other component, will run the whole gamut.

There are line conditioners that induce sonic harm, there are those that rob an amplifier of needed current and thus strip away the dynamics, there are those that do little or nothing, there are those that provide any combination thereof, and then there are those that induce no sonic harm at all while providing tremendous musical benefit.

Foundation Research products are the best I know but they certainly not alone in this regard.

Regarding your question about the preamp, like I said in my previous post, my hunch is that your preamp is lacking in the detail department. That's why you hear greater detail when it is removed. At the same time, the preamp is probably also masking the higher noise-floor, digital hash, and lack of properly treated AC at the same time.

My only advise here is keep the dedicated lines as they definitely have their place in a system. But keep experimenting with different line conditioners. You'll know when you've found the right ones for your system.

Isnt there an issue of impedance compatability? the preamps give you more flexibility in that regard.

I had run some McIntosh tube amps direct and didnt like it, as well as an Allen amp to the same result. It just seems like the amp was too loud too soon. So maybe gain matching is an issue also?

And this was running a McIntosh Mc71 tube tuner,,,so no digital nasties.
Usually when it doesn't work well the premap is tube and the power amp SS. But the VTLs probably have a very high input impedence and both the 390S and the 380S have very low output impedences, so there should be no problem.
the preamps in cd player are up to the job as seperates would be
I tried to bypass the pre with SS Mc250 and with a SS CDP, didnt work well..The only time i managed to get great sound that way, was a Mr-71 tuner and MC-40's...that was a good combo.
I thought that there are thousands of people using tube preamps and SS amps...

Maybe I interpreted your original post incorrectly. You stated that without the preamp you are experiencing greater detail.

But is it possible that you are using the term fatiguing when perhaps boring could be more appropriate?

Generally, fatiguing occurs with ears bleeding, overly bright, or beaming, or anything else that causes the ear to dodge certain sounds or frequencies.

Boring is like elevator music where it may seem soothing and pleasing at first but after a time, the lack of dynamics tends to make one fall asleep?

I will have to agree with Hgabert here Stehno, I have the same fatigue "problem" running my DAC direct into the amps.
which you described correctly "ears bleeding, overly bright, or beaming, or anything else that causes the ear to dodge certain sounds or frequencies."

I had some firends "audio buddies" over last night with a tubed preamp which stated exactly the same views, fatigue... saying details shouldnt be at the same volume as main instruments, we added the tube preamp (high quality DIY) and while they loved it, I hated it, all detail was gone the voices were harsh and soundstage was all muddled in the center...well a bigger center image yes, but less everything else...

Impedance matching should not be the question here since my DAC has an output impedance of 50 ohms and my Stepped resistor attenuator has 1k input impedance, the rule states 10 times the output impedance which makes it 500 ohms, to 1k I am at 20 times...

I have tried a lot of tricks because I am getting hooked on this transparency thing...I changed most resistors in my amps to Tantalum which leaves detail and no harshness but takes away the edge...I need at least a little silver on my cables to get the highs I like...the less the better.
I have an Isolation transformer which could run the whole house, for my audio only, 220V to 110V, getting rid of the ground and that helps with harshness...
I will try to Isolate the digital sources also...thanks for the tip!

I found that a very good SS preamp was detailed and dynamic very enjoyable, but the direct option is "HIPNOTIC" just a bunch of music and details surrounding you!!

I am thinking a well implemented buffer stage like Placette active or the First Sound preamps will do the trick!
Anyone heard them?
I am thinking a well implemented buffer stage like Placette active or the First Sound preamps will do the trick!
Anyone heard them?
Jsadurni  (Answers)
I owned a First Sound Presence Deluxe II in a system with an APL Denon 3910, VAC Phi 110/110 and Von Schweikert VR4 Gen III HSE.

The First Sound is very transparent, dynamic, extended and it's quite neutral for a tubed preamp. I preferred running the APL through it than going direct to the VAC amp.
Jsadurni, I wasn't necessarily making a statement in my last post. I was really seeking clarification on his use of the term fatiguing by asking Hgabert a question.

But if we're talking a truly ear-fatiguing sound that can cause the 'ears to bleed', then (assuming the tweeters are of good quality), in my experience the biggest culprit by far is improper or no line conditioning and secondly ics and scs that induce much time-smear causing a digital-like grain or hash in the highs and a bloated, ill-defined bass.

Since you say you are experiencing this ear-bleeding problem, would you care to share what line conditioners, ics, and scs you are using?

Hello Tvad, I guess the First sound with the APL dennon would have been great! Did you have the H attenuator?
May I ask what is your CD source and preamp today?

Hello Stehno, I wasnt trying to make it sound like a statement but it was really describing the sound qualities I am running away from (or trying to!).

I am using Gabriel Gold ics which I find to be "low" on mids, I also tried Blue heavens, Transparent link, Siltech.
I am using either original Cabasse very short scs from my tubed mono amps, or DIY with a bunch of small diameter varnish coated copper cables per run and a pair of Audio Consulting silver wires, probably one too many....
I found longer cables to get in the way, either too bright or too blocked. Short speaker cables sounded right straight away...

I am using as I said an Isolation transformer which runs on two live 110 volts line (220 volts) and turns to 110 live and ground, thus isolating my system from the street ground.
Dedicated power line of course, and Leviton computer grade outlets. 12 awg Varnish coated power cable with pure cotton shield.

Leak TL12.1 Class A 12 watts tube mono amps which have a nice full body into Cabasse Catalane loudspeakers which I find to be faster and more dynamic than my Lowthers DX3...

I would not blame the tweeters for the Fatiguing sound mainly everything is to blame here very clear dynamic mids, punchy bass, and yes extended highs.

Today I made a test of running my system directly from the wall (mainly because of this thread) and the sound was very different, not so agressive or fatiguing but much less transparent.

Any advice is well recieved....thanks!

I am loving my system without preamp....BTW.
Jsadurni, it appears that you like to tweak quite a bit and that's good.

However, from where I sit (in Salem, OR), it's difficult for me to see if you have any serious benchmarks in which to compare your tweaks.

I've heard one very authoritative source state that isolation transformers have their own pitfalls and in general are no match for excellent line conditioners. But I'm out of my league as to the whys and wherefors. The fact that you seemed to experience some positive benefits by plugging straight into the wall would seem to substantiate such claims. The other problem is finding line conditioners worth owning that do not induce their own sonic harm. In my experience the most popular brands actually sound worse than plugging straight into the wall.

As for the ics and scs, I'd highly recommend acquiring some Speltz anti-cables and anti-ics. Speltz' anti-cable speaker cables cost $10 per foot, the anti-ics cost $100 for 1m pair and are the second best cables I've yet heard. Moreover they require essentially only a few hours burn-in time and they come with a 30-day satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

These should give you some good benchmarks for your other cables and they induce little to no time-smear. You probably are aware that some to many ics and scs induce much time smear which in the highs produces a digital-like noise or hash and induce much ear fatigue. Time-smear in the lower bass regions simply make the bass sound wooly, loose, bloated, ill-defined, etc.. Anyway, the Speltz' cables absolutely minimize all of these ill affects and when the anti-cables are elevated at least 1 or 2 inches off the carpet, they will sound even more pristine and with greater speed.

In my experience and almost without exception silver cables/ics without the best line conditioning simply accentuate any fatigue already present. And that's assuming the silver ics/cables offer good sonics to start because there's plenty of poorly designed silver ics just as there are copper.


05-27-06: Jsadurni
Hello Tvad, I guess the First sound with the APL dennon would have been great! Did you have the H attenuator?
May I ask what is your CD source and preamp today?

I did have the H Attenuator, yes.

Source today is Exemplar Denon 3910, and preamp is Lamm LL2 Deluxe with Mullard 12AU7 and Mullard 6922 NOS tubes.
Thanks for your response Stehno, you were right on the spot, I changed speaker cables and things got a lot better I finally decided on the Cabasse original cable which looks like your every day lamp cable but it has diferent color strands (whitish-blackish), I guess its all copper, but it brings out the best on my speakers, I guess they know what they are doing!
10 inches of speaker cable and the Fatigue is gone....

I also returned to my Isolation transformer, when I hooked it back on I could not believe the change, two blankets were taken off each speaker!! It makes the sound of my system.
Going to the wall outlets made my system "undetailed" lost dynamics and extension...?¿?¿?

Thank you Tvad, amazing, I would have gone for the previous set up, but I am sure the new one sounds better then... interesting!

All the best
Thank you Tvad, amazing, I would have gone for the previous set up, but I am sure the new one sounds better then... interesting!
It's not better, but it's less expensive.