All digital system with no need for a preamp here. Using a McIntosh MDA1000 DAC as a pre.
Bel Canto DAC3
PS Audio PerfectWave DAC
There are others depending on your price range.
Yes, that can work. I output my Lavry DA-10 directly to my tube amp. Got rid of the preamp several years ago.
I use a Squeezebox player with the digital out to the DAC. I control the listening volume with the Squeezebox's digital volume control.
One point of caution. This works best if your DAC has a variable volume out of its own. (The Lavry does.) Set the DAC's output so that your loudest source is at your maximum desired volume in the listening room. This does two things. First it allows you to keep your source's digital volume in the top half of its range so that no resolution is lost. Second, in case the digital volume control software burps and accidentally goes to max volume, you'll be loud but won't accidentally overdrive a speaker.
If you're using the DAC's or the power amp's volume control as your main system volume knob, these two items are not an issue.
If your DAC has a fixed output volume and your power amp has a fixed input sensitivity, proceed cautiously, especially if the source, when turned up loud, is capable of overdriving the speakers.
passive preamps or unity gain preamps(such as McCormack TLC) can connect many sources with the same output or even better.
Sure, several DACs have volume controls. If you only have one or two digital sources, no problem. You now have to be aware of the impedance matching between the DAC and amp -- this is non issue with solid state DACs.
i connected my dac directly to my amp to experiment and found the sheer resolution rather astonishing. but since mine does not have a volume control, i was controlling volume digitally from the itunes feed via imac. i ended up acquiring a passive volume control for the other sources fed to the dac.
Generally speaking however, I seem to get the notion this is a cost cutting measure only... and not as much a sonic improvement step.
It is going to be different for sure!
Certinaly other's will argue that point, and the prevailing argument is there is less in the signal path.
Be that as it may, I doubt many owners of the top level preamps are adhering to this line of reasoning.
If you have an outstanding preamp, the question then is, "Why would you want to take it out of the system in the first place?".
Well, I have only one source! or all my sources are digital and connect directly to the DAC. both are viable answers.
If you don't possess a superior preamp, tuner, and/or TT, however, the answer is simpler.
I doubt too many owners of LLam, Thor, VTL, BAT, etc., top tier preamps have offed their preamps solely for some percieved sonic gains by running a DAC directly to their amp (s).
Maybe so if the DAc itself was way way, expensive, and had volume control... BTW, so far Iv'e not seen vol control on those $6K + DACs either.
I've run my BC D3 right into SS and Tube amps with very very good results... but pulling that Thor out of the chain and keeping it out, is a really tuff thing for me to do indefinitely.
For me, it's more a change of pace or examination of the amp itself... like a testing method for some other possible system issues.
From a more purist side of the fence, If you enjoy the sound more by subtraction, then by all means you should go that way.
Practically speaking, selling an outstanding SOTA preamp to keep the adress the same or the llights on for some while longer now, is a consideration too.
But this present tact is for the improvement of the sound, right?
Press on pilgrim... and enjoy!
Thanks all for your comments. In retrospect, I should have indicated what I'm running now. I have a fully modded Cayin TA-30 which I run with the volume full on making it a straight gain path. The pre-amp is a Signature TAD-150 which connects to the TA-30's CD inputs. I have a Squeezebox as one of the inputs to the TAD-150. The Squeezebox's built-in DAC is not anything to write home about and the digital sound is harshing my mellow :) I need a real DAC. So I began to think, wow that's a lot of hardware getting in between the source and the amp.
There is the Peachtree Nova with multiple digital and analog inputs. But it also has an amp built in. Would be nice if there were more pre-amp/dac combo options out there: a single place to manage your sources.
Is that what the new PS Audio PerfectWave DAC is?
Seriously consider Paul's new Tad Predac, it's supposed to be outstanding and betters the old Tadac
I'd like to weigh in here because I've been doing some experimenting lately and I think what I've heard might be helpful. I have owned a Meitner BiDat that has it's own volume regulator and, for years, I have run it directly into various amps via balanced cables. The clarity and articulation are stunning. HOWEVER, I have read few articles about preamps that convinced me to try a tube based preamplifier now that I've upgraded my speakers (Thiel CS3.7's). I was a complete skeptic but a buddy of mine in our local audio society brought over a VTL 5.5 tube preamp and we hooked it up. I was dumbfounded. The sound is more three dimensional, digital edge is reduced and the pacing is, for lack of a better term, more musical. I was dead set against this because now I have to buy a preamp and my budget is stretched. Now, I am sure that there are a whole host of preamps that might not improve your particular set up. I may have lucked out with the VTL. I plan on trying Musical Fidelity and Audio Research before I buy. Anyway, I thought you'd want to hear form a died-in-the-wool-who-needs-a-preamp skeptic like me.
I'd be interested in hearing just how many folks with those top level preamps, dumped them to go straight DAC to amp instead.
Your experiences are my own, although in reverse. nevertheless, I feel likewise. The body texture, and dimensionality all were natily developed, increased, or improved upon by the use of the Thor preamp.
I'd love to exp what things could sound like with your DAC vs. my own. I feel that is the bottleneck in digital only systems always... the DAC.
Even running directly into my tube amps with the BC DAC3, something remains left out IMO.
Albeit... if, as with yourself, you've not experienced it you simply won't know... not knowing isn't all bad either. Very often though, it's way less expensive... which is my point exactly.
Like any other component in the Audio Chain; Preamps or Line Stages do make a difference, good ones may improve the sound, poor ones may worsen the sound, and no Preamp will have no effect on the sound. This could either be good or bad.
Last year, I had a Bel Canto DAC3 hooked directly up to my amps and it sounded very good, so I thought
, until I hooked the DAC up to an old VTL Super Deluxe Preamp and the overall presentation had improved even further. The improvements with the preamp in the loop revealed a deeper soundstage, more realistic presence and midrange, better authority and dynamics, and more involving PRAT.
Then I upgraded my Preamp to the more costly MBL 6010D and connected it to the Bel Canto DAC3 and this time around the results were even better than before. I noticed further improvements in 3-D imaging, tonality, timbre, resolution, decay, transparency, and PRAT with the MBL preamp in the chain, as opposed to just using the Bel Canto DAC3 to drive the Amps directly.
After my experiences, I can no longer imagine not having a high quality preamp in my system.