All the dCS units I have seen employ digital volume controls. If you have one keep in mind that as you reduce the volume, you are also reducing the resolution. That is why its often a good idea to consider a preamp with a good analog volume control. That will not rob you of resolution and you will also get some interconnect cable control from the line stage of the preamp.
I have exactly the same worries as yours. However, some posts (unfortunately I do not find them anymore) and two reviews were quite favorable to a hook up the DCS directly to the power amps. As I do not use my turntable or other non-digital anymore I wouldn't need my preamp anymore, but I'm not sure whether the output of the DCS will work fine with the input of the Lamm.
Martin, I have the Puccinni and had to drive my Ayre MX-R amps directly while my Ayre K5xe was being upgraded for MP. I must tell you that the Puccinni direct to my amps does not hold a candle to the performance I get with my Ayre pre amp. Now I am using SS and you have tube. You may like the direct sound. To my ears the sound was colder and more clinical and I lost the more musical sound I had with the Ayre. The sound direct from the DCS wasn't bad but again IMO it was not nearly as good as with the K5xe.
From what I have read that is a really nice pre amp you have there and I would suggest that you keep it and do your own listening before you sell the ARC. Please give it some time too. Even though your only source is the DCS you may get the best sound letting you ARC drive the Lamn.
I hope this helps.
I don't know if this is of any help to you or not, but my friend used to use an ARC Ref. 3 with his Lamm M2.2s, and the sound is awesome. I recommend that you give it a shot when you get your Lamm amps.
(I say "used to" use, because he just upgraded to the ARC Ref. 5, which is really a slightly more refined Ref. 3, at least to my ears.)
BTW, If you wish to sell your Ref. 3 "dirt cheap", feel free to drop me a line.
(Yeah, this economy has me broke at the moment, or else I would have bought my friends Ref. 3!)
Martin, FWIW we have customers that have the dCS and they own our preamp for the volume control even though they could go direct. I think the 'cold and clinical' comment above was the reason our customers got a preamp. I don't think the preamp warmed things up due to its sound, I think the dCS made things sound colder through poor interconnect cable control and a digital volume control.
I've had the opposite experience.
With my dCS Scarlatti deck, removing my VTL 7.5 preamp and going direct to my Boulder Amp revealed stunning improvement in all areas, most notably dynamics.
The benefits far outweigh any perceptible loss in resolution at low volumes, IMHO.
I would suggest you try it out for yourself before you decide one way or the other.
I agree with Anupmc.
Direct into the amps is the best way forward unless you have some kind of euphonics happening that you cant live without.
My feeling is the Lamm amp on its own will give you enough tube sound. You can switch the output voltage of the DCS to keep the output optimized, so the comments about the digital volume control are just paranoid.
Keep it around -20 and over for proper listening and it will be more than fine. Below that is still fine, but the nervous audiophile in you may start thinking about the bits. But in reality it will be better than most preamps and interconnects whatever you do. Try it I am sure you will be happy. Resolution beyond most digital.
Never underestimate the power of a really good, tubed, preamp.
indeed, but never underestimate world class digital either. A nice suit may not need a warm coat in summer.
I guess the results might also be dependent on the distance and cabling between the Puccini and the Lamm.
In my case, the Scarlatti is two feet away from the Boulder and uses Balanced interconnects. If there are much longer distances involved, and since the Lamms are unbalanced, a Pre-Amp in between for drive might be necessary.
But you won't know until you've tried both ways; though if distances are long, making sure you've got good cables on-hand to try both ways becomes a challenge.
I agree with Anupmc.
Puccini direct outperformed my Ref-3. The Ref-3 added some nice colorations, but when I compared Puccini vs Ref-3 on some piano passages and some old, Baroque instruments (viola da gamba etc), I concluded that those are just well ... colorations.
To my ears Puccini direct was just cloaser to the real thing.
I have bought yesterday the last TAS ... dCS Puccini & clock are on the front page, follows then a 8 full pages article which ends with these words:
Finall,y you really need to hear the Puccini/U-Clock driving a power amplifier directly to fully apreciate its clarity and resolving power. Even the best preamplifiersshave off some detail and diminish the sense of immediacy and transparency that are the Puccini's hallmarks
I have the Pucini & clock, as soon as I have time I will try to hear if there is a difference ;-)
I think Martin has 2 fundamental comparisons to make with the Lamm hybrid monoblocks:
1) DCS Direct vs. ARC Ref 3.
2) The winner of 1 vs. a Lamm preamp.
I will bet a Coke that the Lamm preamp will win.
uinfortunately the Parasound do not play in the same league as your Ayre MX-R. Before getting the Puccini I used a Emmlabs CDSD/DCC2 as my digital source and pre. I always found the sound with my current speakers a bit lean, thats why I added the Ref 3 which added some weight and body to the sound. However, now that I want to change the power amps (the Lamm or a pair of Pass XA 100.5 are on the shortlist) I hope to get a more balanced sound even w/o a pre-amp. I Think your Ayre are just to perfect to need any sonic "adiustment" even if the Ref 3 is said to be a very neutral pre.
I wouldn't describe neither the Parasound nor the Isophon Cassiano D as cold or clinical, however, I feel that I wand a more "involving" sound with a bit more body. I guess that my Parasound just isn't the perfect match to the speakers (though most people told me that the currebnt sound is very well balanced).
That's why I want to change my amplifers to Pass XA or Lamm (I understand that the Lamm will have even more the "involving tube-like sound" however, at the expense of loosing some transparency and trebel resolution towards the Pass).
Last weekend I made some comparisons between running the DCS balanced to the REF3 and then balanced into the Parasound and feeding the Parasounds directly by the DCS (balanced cables have been Straight Wire Crescendo and Virtuoso H).
I was quite astonished about the result: the sound feeding the Parasounds directly by the DCS was even more transparent and "direct". On the other side the sound lost a bit of its midrange warmth and body. However, in my opinion the pros outbalanced the cons.
Completely agree. In my comparison I used the 2V output of the Puccini which worked just fine (at normal listening levels the Puccini's volume control was around -35db and I did not hear any loss of resolution at all).
The lenght between the current pre or in future the DCS and the monos is 10 ft. I think my Straight wire Crscendo should not compromise the sound at all.
Thank you for the information. I also read the reviews in TAS and in 3 or 4 other magazins. All revierws univocally claimed that the Puccini sounded surprisingly good fed directly into the power amps.
I'm looking forward to reading your impressions. What amps are you using?
might be that the Lamm preamp would even better the Ref 3 but unfortunately I'm remote control dependent... ;-)
It all depends on the input impedance of the amps - Lamm are 41 Kohm - it should not be a problem driving them direct with DCS. Although, truly great preamps will give you better dynamics and better transient attack, especially on low listening levels.
I'm with Kyomi_audio on this one. The problem is what defines a 'truly great preamp'. I have a very short list :)
I have been searching for a great preamp for many years. I have yet to find THE one. But while I wait, my DCS plugged direct into the amps is by far the finest of sounds. Loud or soft.
If you fancy rounding your sound or dumbing down your CD collection so that even the bad CDs sound nearly as good as the great ones, then maybe getting bogged down in the preamp dilemma is a way forward. For all others DCS direct in is no slouch. Spend the money you saved on a great cable.
Chadeffect - would you please share with us which preamps among the ones you tried "dumbed your CD collection?"
I agree that a preamp has to be amazing to match the transparency of DCS plugged in direct. However, in our experience, preamps like that do exist - although not too many.....
If you know of a great preamp please tell me. I think my list is even shorter.
I liked the VTL 7.5 very much and a few ARCs including the ref 3, I am trying the ref 5. The SS orpheus pre was good too.
I am afraid most were tube preamps I am accusing of dumbing down.
I found that many tube pres added a form of soundstage depth through that fat/rounded lower mid and bass or lack of control of it.
I know many audiophiles love that and think that is what highend sounds like. I dont want to hear the equipment. I want to hear what the guys in the studio decided on. Not some guy that found he liked rolled off treble or some eq or whatever. I got so bored of tube rolling.
For some music that was fine. But across the board that masking made it difficult for me to enjoy the wide range of musical styles I listen to. Especially when you have the option to hear your source direct. I only have 1 source so it is less of a problem for me.
To name and shame a few would be harsh, but some were the CAT Ultimate ,Audio valve (although great for the money), ARC LS25,LS17, some SS types were Musical fidelity, Levinsons (the no 32 was good). To be honest none could compete with direct in. It is even worse with high sensitivity speakers as any residual noises are laid bare.
Ultimately attenuation is all that is needed if everything else is working well.
I have shortly heard the dCS Puccini driving directly a Rowland 312 ...
yes, more transparent, more details but maybe almost too bright ... ?
I have to make the test on my system
About a year ago, I would have been a big proponent of the concept that direct is best and most pure. I went to great lengths to purchase the best cables, powercords, and isolation to optimize the sound. I too figured that the money saved on a preamp could be spent on other supportive components. Then I tried a preamp...
What is paradoxical about a really good tubed preamp is that there is actually more detail to the music. Here is what I notice:
1) There is a harmonic richness, depth, and texture in the midrange that sounds like music.
2) The sound is more dynamic, energetic, and interesting.
3) Better integration of the frequencies across the spectrum.
4) More information about the venue and staging. Music is more 3-dimensional and palpable.
5) The treble is not rolled, but there is less hardness and glare on top. The upper end has sweetness and air.
6) Digital volume has unacceptable loss of detail and dynamics at moderate to low volumes. I realize this now although I would not have thought it to be true.
7) There is a very, VERY subtle and very natural softening of the note onsets, with a natural decay.
8) There is no compromise to the background silence. I run the Wadia at the highest voltage out to minimize the gain on the preamp.
Now, I don't think any preamp is capable of exceeding digital direct. Also, I believe digital direct can be entirely satisfying. The preamp I am using is incredibly overbuilt at 80 lbs, two chassis, two power cords, and 16 tubes. There are probably a handful of preamps like this. I also tried a passive preamp, but it only degraded the sound. Although I found direct to be quite satisfying before, when I had to take the preamp out of the system two months ago for repairs, I just wasn't very interested in listening anymore.
I am generalizing about the DCS because that is not what I have. Also, horn speakers may be adding something to the sound that brings it closer to live music. My only point is to remain open to the possibility of coming closer to live music. After all, that is what this hobby is about. I think manufacturers like BAT, Joule, Lamm, VAC, Wavac, and Shindo are creating excellent preamps that may be worth a try.
Thanks for the info.
I would agree with most of what you say. I have heard the same effects. Not just with preamps but headphone amps too.
In my case things are a little different probably due to speaker sensitivity. I have effortless dynamics right across the frequency range. The Trio is probably one of the finest speakers for this. Having said that it is ruthless with any changes made to the system.
That glare or maybe rawness you mention with direct in I have tuned out, both with a great DAC, and tweaks like internal fuses, power conditioning, regeneration and cabling.
The sound you describe is what a great limiter or compressor can do in the studio. By softening the peaks just enough, and bringing forward the body of the music. Then the added harmonic distortion can bring a sense of life and euphonics to the system.
I had the Lamm (although with a different speaker and front end). I would like to try the wavac. A friend of mine is the importer.
The pain is cabling as I am all XLRs. I am sure the Wavac is RCAs only.
I would like to hear the BAT in my system. I have a friend who has it but his system always sounds dark and moody to me.
I have heard the VAC renaissance sig, which sounded rich if not a bit slow and soft. It is quite nice. I dont know the Joule or Shindo although they all look single ended.
I fear this is why I am finding it tricky to find what I am looking for. I loved the mind boggling speed and purity of the Halcro DM amps and I also like that special thing ARC can do. I would love to find a product that mixed the 2. I find the DCS has a purity and a hint of warmth with unbelievable resolution.
As I said while I look for that elusive preamp, the direct in is extremely good.
I had a dcs puccini into Lamm M1.2 w/o preamp, and now into Lamm ML2.1 w/o preamp - I also tried it with the L2 and the LL2.1.
Lack of funds prevented me from buying either preamp.
I cannot explain it but to my ears the addition of a lamm preamp made me realize what I was missing the direct route - re rtn's comments above.
I feel that this whole story of driving direct amps with cd players with built in volume controls is more of a marketing ploy in order to entice you to buy a more expensive cd player thinking you wont need a preamp.
Thank you for all the helpful posts here. In the end I decided to buy a pair of Pass XA 100.5 new instead of going with a used Lamm M1.2 (here in Italy the importer asks for a prohibitive price of 29.000 so buying a new pair wasn't really an option). Yesterday I picked up the Pass and plugged them into DCS. I cannot comment on the sound with or without pre as I traded my ARC Referernce 3 for the Pass. I'm already completely happy with the sound (compared to the old setup with ARC Ref3 and Parasound Halo JC1) noticing a big improvement in terms of musical fluidity, texture, coherence and bottom weight (although the Parasound had a more defined, punchy bass). I'm using the 2V output of the DCS and did not recognize any loss of detail at lower listening levels (normally the volume of the DCS is at -25db to -30 db).
However, I'll give it a try with a goob pre like the ARC Ref 5 or the Pass XP 20.
Congratulations. You got a great amp.
If you think it sounds good now, wait for around 200 hours. It should sound noticably better each day.
Mluding - I'm also running Puccini direct to my Pass XA-30.5 now.
FYI - I sold my 3-months old Lamms M1.2 for 14k euro 3 years back ... so the price you mentioned is really VERY high.
Elberoth, the price I mentioned was for a pair of NEW Lamm M 1.2. For the pair of used Lamms I had to pay 11-12k Euro.
It seems that you're changing system quite often. I can still see a very nice ARC Setup in your profil. Does the Pass have enough power to drive the Sophias?
My system profile is not up to date for some time now - I sold all ARC gear I had a while back, and now I'm running dcs Puccini direct to one of the 3 amps I have on hand: Nagra VPA, Dartzeel and Pass XA-30.5.
And yes, XA-30.5 has enough current to drive the Sophias. Bear in mind though, that a) my room is only 14'x19', b) I listen mostly to vocal and chamber music.
I've heard dCS directly to amps with glorious results [ie feeding Wavac, Graaf, Conrad Johnson, Audio Note] and very bad results driving Lamm or some other ss amps.
Basically if you do not use preamp you'll have to pay attention to system balance, cables and everything else.
I spent quite some time to find a preamp which do not harm the signal, not loose speed and sound transparent and if addding a bit of harmonic richness in the end.
And basically a tube-preamp adds space (ambience?) and spatial information which directly you can't have it this way. A ss preamp should be world class to outperform dCS direct.
In general I've found that if you use tube amp dCS direct is the way to go -in most occasions [lamm needs its preamp]
when you use ss amps a near-world class tube preamp cann add the above spatial info and air and not harm the overall sound.
Of course all this with system matching, top cables, good equipment decoupling and speaker-room compatibillity.
In other words there's no free lunch and easy sound; system matching is above all.
For the fun I remember a guy who got amazed how dCS Puccini "killed" his cj preamp, and I was amazed in another system listening dCS Elgar-Verdi-Purcell driving directly Graaf200 and SF Stradivaris there was no need for preamp in those occasions!
On the other hand I also noticed that with dCS gear you can have it both-ways. What I mean is that you can hear jazz, small classical, voices with preamp and Rock, orchestras directly for that immediate slamm and energy (but less 3D).
Elberoth2, I had several amps on my shortlist. One of them was the Dartzeel which is - compared to the US - quite affordable here in Europe (at least compared to the Pass and Lamm); however, which should me very picky with the rest of the system.
What is your experience compared to the Pass XA 30.5?
Kops, after the few hours I could listen to my new Pass fed directly by the Puccini I can already say that its a great match. The combination I highly musical and has considerably more weight and body compared to my old system, which is exactly what I was looking for.
The Parasound in combination with the ARC Ref 3 had a more punchy and defined bass, however, was also a bit too lean for my tast and was extremly transparent and airy. It really depends what one is looking for. With my speakers I find the current setup more balanced and less "clinical". Said that, I still have to say that the Halo JC1 are great amps for the price (...maybe not in Europe at 10.000 ;-)).
tagging onto an old thread but I just took a Levinson 32 preamp out from between my DCS Puccini and Krell Evo 600s...after I switched the output level on the Puccini to 6v I am sold on the direct route...my IMac loaded with 600 CDs is my only source, so no functional need for the preamp either...
the preamp goes on the market this week probably...