Eliminated my preamp with amazing results

I pulled my preamp out completely. The result's were not subtle. 

For those who stream music only... I was going from my laptop... to my DAC...to my preamp...to my amp. My preamps ONLY function was volume control. Source control not needed.

I started using Audirvana recently which comes with it's own high quality 64 bit volume control that was far better than the potentiometer in my preamp. It dawned on me that I could control volume using Audirvana and plug my DAC directly into the amp and bypass the preamp altogether. (Roon and Jriver also have excellent volume controllers) Note: Audirvana has an app download on a tablet/phone so it acts like a remote control. I'm loving it!

This not only eliminated the preamps volume control but it took out ALL the electronics associated in a preamp including some cables. A FAR more direct route. However, you must use caution and make sure the volume is controlled properly in the software since the amp will be fed wide open volume.

Having experimented with 'passive' preamps in the past (McCormack TLC-1) I thought the sound would possibly lose dynamics and bass response would suffer. WRONG!

The results were...Shocking!! Immediately the extended depth of the image was noticeably deeper. Background darker. The highs are the best I've ever heard. Pristine. The bass was dynamic, tight and most of all 'textured' in a way I never heard before. As I stated earlier the results are NOT subtle! 

This is an experiment that took a few minutes to set up and yielded the best performance improvement of ANY other tweak I've ever tried. Not anything like using a passive preamp.

Equipment used...  Peachtree DAC-itx. 

                               Preamps...McCormack TLC-1 and Melos tube preamp.

                               Amp is McCormack DNA 0.5

Understand that different components will have different interactions with each other. Your results may vary. However, IF you don't like it, it takes just a few minutes to put the preamp back in the system. Nothing to lose and lot's to gain. After hearing this, I will NEVER go back to using a preamp. 

Good luck!




I know folks will doubt or grind their teeth at this … I’ve directly connected a SONOS Port to my McIntosh amp(s) and been impressed with clarity and impact. 

I have removed my Pass XP-12 from the chain in my system. Aurender A30 direct to my X260.8’s gives a more detailed and open sound, more air and separation, while not being harsh or fatiguing. The preamp adds more rounded sound, more full or lush sounding but my ears prefer no preamp at this time. I have moved the preamp in and out many times, both with Lumin U1 mini and A15 in the past. The A30 does it better for me . Not sure what a different preamp would do, certainly different but better, I’m not sure. 

I recently had the exact opposite experience. I was using my PS Audio Directstream DAC Mk1 as a preamp,  hooked directly to my PS Audio M700 monoblocks,  feeding a pair of Legacy Audio Signature SE speakers.  After reading several "experts" opinions on preamps or not, ( including Paul McGowan who used to be a no preamp advocate but changed his mind) I  decided to try one.  I  was a beta tester for the new PS Audio Stellar Gold Preamp. I found the improvement in SQ was significant.  Larger soundstage,  both width and depth,  much blacker background,  vocals more natural.  Overall,  just much more realism to the music.  So perhaps it depends on the quality of the preamp,  or perhaps one's sonic preference.  All I know is that after I heard what that preamp did for my system,  there was no way I was sending it back!!

Being there done that. I played my Cary Audio 303/200 CDP directly connected to the Mark Levinson 23.5 via RCA connectors. Used the built-in digital volume control to adjust the volume. At first, music sounded immediate, up front with "better" dynamics, or at least I thought so. However, after listening for 2-3 hours, listening fatigue set in. On a different day, I tried the same exercise, but using VTL TL 2.5 preamp in the chain. This is a tube preamp with 2x12AU7 and 2x12AT7s.

Difference was immediately noticeable. Sound was laid back with much more realistic voices and even better bass! I noticed the soundstage was wider and deeper with the preamp. Without the preamp, music sounded immediate. As a result, the front layer contributed more to the total experience whereas rest of the soundstage contributed less. With the preamp, almost every layer appeared to contribute to the total experience.

I can understand the appeal of immediate impact of the sound without a preamp that gives you a near-field experience or a "headphone" effect even though you are seated outside of the near-field listening area. If this is your cup of tea, then I am very happy for you. But hang on to that preamp for a little bit longer :)


So PC-software-DAC-amp brings up the question: what software/volume control to use to play PC files. I only experiemented to simply find the volume control/software that allows the highest output (amp input not sensitive enough). Didn't consider quality (and haven't concluded yet on easy of use regarding software choice). 

Paul McGowen (PS Audio) got me started on this whole idea. He pointed out how a volume control is a restrictive device. Restricts resolution. Like putting on the brakes in a car. He said you should get the volume knob as high as possible so it does as little damage as possible. He said he likes the volume knob UP around 2 to 3 o'clock position. He said the higher volume position has a "HUGE" impact on the resolution/sound. 

How the heck can you accomplish this volume position? This led me to use the Audirvana software using a 64 bit high quality controller(Roon also). This allowed a higher position on the preamp volume knob BUT now I was using two volume controllers. So now... lets eliminate one. Get rid of the worst and use the best and most simple. 

It's possible that the reason a straight DAC sounds better than a passive preamp is the complete elimination of the restrictive volume control.

I also think people are fooled when they hear a preamp that has a boosted gain. The more dynamic sound is immediately noticeable but at what cost? 

I experimented with a Melos tube preamp that adds 20db of line gain !!! Had a big sound with plenty of dynamics. "A fun sound". "Big and Blowsey" (as per stereophile) Couldn't get the volume knob up past 9 o'clock. Way too loud. Having high resolution music source then restricting the resolution with the volume knob seemed counterproductive. 

FYI... higher end preamps use better quality 'digital volume controllers' or 'stepped attenuators' to deal with this problem.