I think the pre section of the DCC2 compares VERY favorably to most high-end preamps out there. I've heard it against a bunch, including VTL, Hovland, Krell, and several others. That said, I had a chance to compare it against the upcoming DarTZeel preamp out at CES, and, in that case, it was no contest. The DartZeel was clearly the better preamp. But you're talking about an $18,000+ preamp versus a ~$10,000 combo DAC/pre. Against any other preamp, I'd personally take the DCC2; it's that good. Against, the Dart, though, it hits a brick wall. Guess that's why I'm buying the Dart. :)
I have listened extensively to CDSD/DCC2 combo. IMO the DCC2 lacks body compared to the latest dCS Elgar Plus / Verdi La Scala combo, and using the inbuild preamp only makes things worse. I greately prefered a Nagra PL-L tube preamp to DCC2 preamp.
I would go with a HQ preamp by all means.
In my system, I have consistently preferred the sound of my Audionote tubed preamp to the preamp of the DCC2, although the DCC2 is excellent. The soundstage seems to flatten and seems very slightly brighter with the DCC2. Again as someone else has mentioned, it is not a completely fair comparison since the Audionote preamp costs considerably more. I think that the EMMLAB CDSD/ DCC2 sound remarkable.
I'm using the Messenger preamp. A tube preamp is essential to put flesh on the notes. I felt the DCC2 preamp lacks body, but it is neutral, quiet, and smooth. Nothing to sneeze at.
I should be comparing the DCC2 versus the VAC Phi 2.0 later this week (if my Phi 2.0 ever ships).
I am using a VTL 7.5 w. my EMM DAC 6e. In my system the 7.5 makes a huge difference. It is synergistic w. my amps. Prior I was using an active Placette. In my opinion one of hte best preamps there is. The VTL is simply a better match w. my VTL amps. I think it is all system dependant. Whatever preamp you choose, you will need a very good preamp to do better than the built in preamp of the DCC2.
In my system, the DCC2, connected directly to an Atma-Sphere MA-2 was distinctly inferior to the Atma-Sphere MP-1 MkII, which had more body, structure and soundstaging; in comparison, the DCC2 sounded a little bright, thin and clinical, and was, to 2 listeners, a no-contest. Of course, it could be the synergy between 2 Atma-Sphere components, and I kept the MP-1, despite the obvious advantage of having 2 less boxes and a lot more dollars.
the DCC2 is an excellent preamp and 'the best' digital source (partnered with the CDSD) i have heard (equal to my DAC6/CDSD) when used as a stand alone DAC.
that said, in my system i prefer my Placette passive RVC. earlier this spring i had the DCC2 in my system for a month to compare with the Placette and the DAC6. i loved it's versitality and the way it integrated with my vinyl setup.....very slick and well thought out. i thought in my system that it gave up an element of naturalness and immediacy to the Placette and was (only in comparison to the Placette) slightly 'mechanical' sounding. i think part of the problem was that my cables (Valhalla and Opus) are so neutral that they will expose any 'character' of gear.....particularly a ss 'sound'. if i was using a slightly more forgiving cable my perceptions may have been different.
i would rate the DCC2 pre slightly better than my Levinson #32 of a few years back.....which was no slouch.
i agree wholeheartedly with Hooper's perspective on the pending DarTZeel preamp and that is the direction i expect to go too. it was 'killer' at CES.
Personally think even if u end using just DCC2 as a DAC still worth the purchase along with CDSD as your digital front end....then u can starting using it as a preamp too, while experimenting with others to see what u prefer...at least that was my thinking...assuming you are sticking to 2 channel obviously...I currently use the DCC2 as a premap as well in my set up. I have not started top experiment with a sep preamp as of yet as I am very pleased with the DCC2 (transparent, smooth, neutral) and instead exploring upgrading something else (my power amps).
I just wanted to add an observation that I didn't make in my first post. The general feeling, judging by these posts, is that the DCC2 lacks body and texture compared to the best stand-alone preamps, be they tube or SS. In my experience comparing the pre section DCC2 to other preamps, however, I've generally found that the added "body" that some preamps have over the DCC2 comes at the expense of transparency and clarity. Personally, I've not heard a preamp (save the DarTZeel) that has the clarity of the DCC2. That's my experience, FWIW. I guess, like anything else in this hobby, it comes down to personal preference.
Thanks for nailing it HOOPER. That's why I sold my NAGRA PL-L
As a practical matter, the extra $$ spent on a separate preamp must be added to an extra pair of interconnects + an extra power cable. That could really add up. Unless money is no object, those dollars could be deployed on upgrading existing cabling (&/or a better power amplifier) in the system. Just my 2-cents :)
Rgs92 is right. There has to be a demonstrable difference to be worth the extra dollars and space. You can use them for other upgrades or to take your wife to a vacation to thank her for putting up with the ugly EMM gear in the living room (I love the sound but that look...)
Hooper, must dissent from your post. At least with the Messenger, there is an increase in information, clarity, and bass punch.
I have a DAC6 running through a Boulder 2060 and I just recntly added the new ARC Ref3. While I enjoyed the DAC6 as a preamp, in my system (also cabled with Valhalla), I've found that the ARC has a much more musical and less edgy sound.At the same time, it has tremendous detail, resolution and staging . I believe that the combo of the SS Boiulder and the tubed ARC reslly works for me. I also heard the Dart, and it is special, but I need a pre with remote control, so no dart here.
David; as i understand it, the DarT pre WILL have a remote.....at least for volume attenuation.....it will also include a killer phono stage.
as the DAC6 has no preamp.....where you referring to a DCC2 or the Switchman as the emmlabs preamp you used? (i recall you had a Switchman).
btw, how's the new room doing?
I waqs referring to the DAC6/switchman combo.I just bought an Aesthetix Io for phono. I have high hopes for this combo. The room is almost ready. I can move down in a week or so. I'm currently in Northern Wiwconsin for the next week on vacation, so it's working out well. I will post pics when it's completely set up.
Mike--as good as Dartzeel combo may be, it's still not tubes. The solidstate will give you certain things, but not what tubes can accomplish.
I would submit you need tubes either at amp end or preamp.
Gladstone; i like tubes as much as the next guy.....but i don't want a 'tubey' sound.....i want the 'breath of life' that tubes typically bring.....but without colorations that impose their signature.
you did not hear the DarTZeel pre/bi-amp combo at CES.....this was in direct comparison to a known quantity.....the emmlabs Switchman III. the Dart combo did the 'breath of life' thing and then some.
until i hear it in my room i can't make any 'ultimate' statement......but my strong expectations are that it will out-tube tubes.
I think you might be surprised by the clarity of the Messenger, but that's another story. I'll be eager to hear your impressions of the Dartzeel--the battery power supply is a great feature.
Well, I add my bit to the experience base. I prefer the DCC2 through a CAT Ultimate. It adds presence and texture without any coloration. As I am still satisfied with its phono stage, keeping the CAT is a "no-brainer" for me.
I guess what this all means is that each person has his own preference and, thus, his own opinion. Unlike Gladstone, I'm not a "tube" guy, and found the clarity and resolution of the DCC2 a real revelation. I never found it edgy or fatiguing, just eminently revealing. As I said above, one person's "body" is another person's coloration. Just personal preference. Also,I agree with Mike L. After having heard the DarTZeel preamp at CES, I suspect that it will do the tube "thing" as well or better than the best tubes, without the colorations I hear in most tube gear. Just have to wait and see, I guess.
Hooper--must respectfully dissent again. The clarity and resolution of DCC2 is very good, but I found that I got more of it with the Messenger. But I did not like what other tube preamps did to signal, including CAT Ultimate, which I found harsh and unrelenting.
I respect your defense of the Messenger. Never having heard it, I certainly can't, and won't, comment on it. I have heard other tubed units on par (from what I've been told) with the Messenger, though, and IMO the DCC2 delivered more of what I liked than they did. I'd like to hear the Messenger one day, though.
While the CAT might sound a little unrefined with its readily available stock tubes, "harsh and unrelenting" might well be interpretated as "neutral and revealing" depending on one's system context. In this way the CAT is really not dissimilar to the DCC2...only that it adds a bit of "thereness" lacking with the EMM as a preamp. As Mihalis has stated that he is a tube enthusiast, I am pretty certain that he would be more satisfied with a tube preamp in the chain.
Gladstone - WHere di you buy your Messenger?
I use me DCC2 SE with a Levinson 380S preamp. It sounds much, much better with the Levison. No comparison.