This seems like deja vu....this seems like deja vu...
Lots of opinions on both sides of this coin, search old threads. The only way to know for sure for your tastes and in your system is to try it both ways. Some seem to believe that a preamp may improve body or dynamics. Then you add passive preamps to the equation...
In my opinion, a digital volume control contradicts an audiophile's goal to conserve all of the source material. I think the digital waveform on the CD/SACD is modified to decrease the volume, "and that ain't right!" I'm sure someone will let me know if I'm wrong about this.
Blkadr, there are not lots of opinions here. You're confusing this with the argument of analog volume controls on CDP's vs the use of preamps.
We're talking digital volume controls here, which -always- lose information at lower volumes. Period.
Thanks for the responses so far. I've searched old threads and found many references, but not one thread specifically devoted to this debate. If you can find one, put a link to it in this thread. Thanks.
I've read that the digital volume control does exactly what you say it does, Bufus. If so, then I don't like it. I can tell you this. For redbook cd I can run the Maverick's digital output into my Birdland Odeon-Ag DAC which has a good old analog volume pot, and the sound is far superior to me. Unfortunately, I can't do this with SACD, so I'm hooked up directly and using the digital volume control.
I am surmising at this point that a pre-amp might do for SACD play what my Odeon-Ag does for redbook...
How about some pre-amp choices? Around the $2500 price point.
So, Lousyreeds1, a pre-amp is the way to go?
This is a little off topic but this is the reason I did not buy the APL modded CD/SACD player. It is volume controlled digitally, Alex called it non decimating if I remember correctly, whereas Dan's Modwright Sony CD/SACD player has a high quality analog volume control. This is the one I bought. It sounds very good IMHO.
Something else to chew on... this is my upstairs system and there is only one source component. Since I don't need the source switching functions of a pre-amp, is there another alternative to the digital volume control besides a pre-amp?
Dolfan,I am glad you are happy.How about the De Havilland
Sorry, jerky of me to shoot something down without answering the question! It doesn't necessarily need to be a preamp- I believe you can simply add an outboard analog volume control. That said, I don't know if there are any quality ones made. And as Blkadr mentioned, you can consider passive v active preamps.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could send SACD through that Birdland??
Funny you should say that, Lousyreeds1. The Birdland DAC even says "24/192/SACD" on the front panel! Birdland was hoping to provide an upgrade path someday, but it's not likely forthcoming.
I would appreciate any information about an audiophile quality analog volume control.
The Dehavilland Verve and Ultra Verve are on my list. Also, the Blue Circle BC 21.1.
I've heard the BC21.1 together with a Sonic Frontiers amp (not sure which one) and thought it sounded great. Whether you'd prefer it over your cdp direct to the amp is a personal perference. In my limited experience with cdps w/volume controls direct to amp, I'd say going direct gives you a more transparent sound, but sound a tad flat with less depth and texture than an active preamp.
disclaimer: I am a Blue Circle dealer, and I love their preamps! :-)
You might consider trying this before going to an active preamp:
$1000 new, can be had here for around $600 used. Easy to re-sell if you don't like it.
We're currently using EVS attenuators, running direct from CDP to amps, and am very glad to run without a preamp. The clarity and transparency are unbeatable. When we get our new APL-modded CDP, we'll run direct again. Unless I'm spending big $$ on a preamp, or need the additional gain for our 4W SET amps, I'm feel much closer to the music without the additional colorations of the preamp. Just my opinion, FWIW.
If you can get by without a remote, you might also consider the Luminous Audio Axiom attenuator. Search the archives for opinions about the Placette or the Luminous ($125 retail).
We're swapping between 4W SET amps and 50W triodes, and definitely don't lack for dynamics with either setup.
All the best,
If you are looking for an inexpensive solution, Creek makes a passive preamp with 2 inputs and remote control. I have no idea how it performs. It is $450 new at Audio Advisor and they have a 30 day money back guarantee. Another inexpensive solution would be a used Adcom GFP-750 passive/active preamp for about $600.
Thanks for your input, everybody. I'm gonna go with the Blue Circle BC21.1. I'll let you know how it sounds.
If you search 'passive' here at a-gon (classified not chat) you will find a couple of passive preamps so cheap they might be fun to play with, the Channel Islands and the Luminous Axiom. Just a thought. By the way Lousyreeds, tfkaudio mentioned that his volume control was digital but his question was not specifically about the pros and cons of digital volume controls but also whether to add a preamp. The thread seemed to morph in that direction. Thanks for being there to correct me anyway.
It seems to me that the digital volume control direct into an amp, in this case, is a little too bright and harsh. I am currently playing through my Birdland Odeon-Ag DAC with far more satisfying results. The drawback, as I have said, is that I can't play SACD in this configuration. I've played SACD's using the digital volume control, but can't stay in the room very long for all the harshness of the sound. If I play the redbook layer through the DAC, I'm happy to listen for hours. I'm hoping that the pre-amp will allow me to get the resolution of the SACD without the harshness.
In my experience, a preamp has always improved the sound - especially dynamics and 3D soundstaging. Give it a try and see! Arthur
As a follow-up, I thought I'd let everyone know that my Blue Circle BC 21.1 pre-amp is in. The sound is way better than the digital volume control on the Music Hall Maverick, and it's not broken in yet.
Great news, congrats! Did you ever dally in adding an outboard volume control?
No, I didn't. I thought, if the the prices for good ones were high enough to put me close to the price range of a good line stage, so why not just get a line stage? Even though I only have one source, I can now add another, if I want.
That's an excellent point. Is it passive or active?
It is incorrect to say that a digital volume control necessarily loses information. One would need to look at exactly how a digital volume control is implemented, but one way would be as a stepped attenuator (pure analog) with the mechanical switch replaced by electronic ones, or digitally actuated relays. Everyone "knows" that a stepped attenuator is better than a pot. The notion that digital volume control is accomplished by dropping bits is plain wrong.
The BC 21.1 is an active pre-amp. It uses two 6922 tubes.
As others have said this is an issue of personal preference. Volume control in the digital domain always results in the loss of resolution, -1-bit/6db below unity gain. You should really consider the sound quality of the outputs on your source when deciding whether you go active or passive preamp. In general I would only go passive if there are discrete circuits on the outputs of the source.
It really depends. I usually get better spacial imaging using a pre-amp, but I get better detail and a more intimate sound going through my CD player with tubed gain.
I guess it depends on the quality of the pre-amp.
Jazzdude..."Volume control in the digital domain always results in the loss of resolution, -1-bit/6db below unity gain." NOT SO! They do not work by dropping (shifting to be exact) bits.
If you had ever actually used a digital volume control you would know that it does not attenuate in 6 dB steps. My PrePro volume control happens to have one dB resolution.
When we purchased our CD player, I asked the manufacturer/modder about information loss as a result of the digital volume control his player uses. If I heard him correctly, I believe that he said that any loss of information would not be audible. Does this reconcile with what you are saying?
Boa2..Although I don't know exactly how your volume control is designed, the manufacturers statement is entirely believable. Of course "audible" can mean anything in the audiophile arena. People who can hear the difference between different jumpers on their biwirable speakers will probably "hear" degradation from your volume control.