Can I connect DAC directly to amp?

I am rebuilding my system into a computer-based system. I'm looking to get a Music Hall DAC. Can I run that directly to an amplifier or will I need a preamp as well?
You will need a DAC with a volume control, otherwise you will get a full signal gain from the DAC output. That may or may not be very soft or very loud or just Okay. Probably not recommended unless you can control the volume with some type of an attenuator.
I have hegel hd11 but as you said full signal to amp,
I would like to control that, I lower amp volume, but I would like too control it before.
My preamp is down for repair,so I ran my system as follows;power
amp/DAC(without volume control)/MF-V-Link/IMac/Audirvana ,with volume
control The results were very good! First time I have heard my poweramp
without the preamp.I was pleasantly surprised that it sounded as good as it did.I
still prefer the sound with the preamp(bass was a tiny bit better without pre). I
like what the tube pre does with the midrange,and I have multiple sources.If you
run straight in,make sure the volume is not maxed before you send music to
If you use JRiver, you can use the volume control in the server running on your PC. The less attenuation you need the better this works. Give it a try. Less sensitive speakers requiring less attenuation at the source would be a plus.

It depends on the DAC - some have gain control and some have passive or active preamps. I used the Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold as a preamp during the 2011 RMAF show, in between the phono (analog) and digital (mac/USB) inputs and the Earo active speakers. I think that it sounded fabulous.

There are other excellent DACs that will allow you to do the same thing.
In general, volume control in the analog domain is considered preferable to volume control done digitally. Less loss of information that way, especially where a lot of attenuation is used.

I just grabbed a DSPeaker Dual Core that has analog volume control with 1 analog, 1 toslink and 1 USB input. But what makes it amazing is the DSP (digital signal processing). Comes with a mic and will automatically calibrate for your room and speakers from 20-500Hz. It also has balance control, a digital parametric EQ and can compensate for timing delays from different speakers & subs to your listening position. Whoa. Kal Rubinson reviewed it in Nov's Stereophile and Robert Greene gave it an award in TAS (review forthcoming). Note though that the controls are via remote only. But pretty damn awesome.
you can connect directly, but there are some issues:

1) if you are not careful, you could blow tweeters or speakers if the digital volume is at max.

2) digital volume, even the best ones impact sound quality if you use too much. -10 dB is a good stopping point. If you are using only digital volume, you will need at least -20 dB.

IME, you are much better off to get a decent transformer passive linestage and use this for volume control rather than an active preamp or only digital volume. Here are some good candidates:

If you read all of the posts in the link, you will see that there are other interesting benefits of the TVC that apply to ANY system.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Edorr gave a good suggestion, that is if you use Jriver. As I understand it, Jriver (ver. 17 and above) processes digital at 64 bit so if you select the Internal Volume option you can reduce volume as much as you want without any impact on the 24 or 16 bit audio signal. I am currently using this option and so far it beats my passive and tube pre.
This thread gave me the idea of trying to connect my computer/DAC directly to my power amp and use the volume control in Amarra. It worked and sounded great. I don't see why doing volume control in the digital domain should degrade sound if it's done at a high enough bit depth. It kind of made me nervous though, and I won't be doing it on a regular basis, as one slip of the volume control or an accidental reset to maximum and it could be all over for the speakers.
get a good passive with steps for volume volumes on DAC are not that good.
a good passive is a transformer-based passive, not resistors.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
are there transformer based that don't break the bank?
If $1500 breaks the bank, then no. Its the transformer quality that makes it great.

They have kits if you can solder. See the links I posted.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
11-05-12: Hew
Edorr gave a good suggestion, that is if you use Jriver. As I understand it, Jriver (ver. 17 and above) processes digital at 64 bit so if you select the Internal Volume option you can reduce volume as much as you want without any impact on the 24 or 16 bit audio signal. I am currently using this option and so far it beats my passive and tube pre.

My findings as well, Hew. I'm using JRiver MC 18 as playback software via its internal digital volume control to great effect. The trick is to output in 24 bit(most modern DAC's can accommodate this bitdepth) regardless of whether one only plays 16 bit files, whereby the 8 extra bits gives you 48dB attenuation headroom until it impacts on the 16 bit material. Though my speakers are fairly efficient(94dB), counter-acted to some degree perhaps by my poweramp's rather low 21dB gain, I never attenuate below -48dB for serious listening and as such, in theory at least, has full resolution left intact for most of my music library.

That's all simplistic numbers, admittedly, but numbers nonetheless that seems to evade many of the critics of digital attenuation where they speak of "loss of resolution." Even if there were borderline limits being crossed(i.e.: the signal being digitally modified compared to its source reference) - again, theoretically - I simply ask this of the ones opposed to digital attenuation: try using your ears exclusively, and not least freed of preconceived notions, before jabbering on about the limits of this solution. Such steadfast criticizing moreover and oftentimes seems to be blatantly unaware of the inherent shortcomings of analogue attenuation in itself, not to speak of what follows with the whole of components that steps into the signal path here + cables, that a capable reference to proper implementation of digital attenuation is hardly at play, so to speak. But of course, this remark also sidesteps what's most important, namely listening with an open mind.

For now I'd even propose that what many hear as "shortcomings" with digital attenuation may in fact equate a lack of coloration, saying more about the added character that comes from analogue attenuation(and all that follows) than any signature of the former. My findings, compared to analogue solutions in general, from using the internal digital volume control in JRiver MC18 is that of a more organic, unrestrained and natural presentation - all of which in my mind even accumulates into a more, yes, analogue sound, though I'd prefer to simply call it more 'natural.'