HELP: is Monarchy Audio DAC a good idea?

Hi all,

I am a newbie to this WONDERFUL hifi world and am setting up my first/humble HiFi (if I may say so) system right now. I bought a Bryston 3B and PSB Stratus Mini (both used). I do NOT have any PreAmp. I am thinking of using a Monarchy Audio 18B DAC which has volumne control capability so I can completely bypass the idea of preamp. My questions are:

(1) is this 'no preamp' a good idea? (according to Monarchy it is !)
(2) is Monarchy DAC, particularly 18B, good for my system? (I noticed it does NOT user any Burr Brown chips)

Since I only have a SONY DVD player as source, no phono/FM/tape/..., Monarchy sounds to me a very reasonable/economical solution. My intention:

SONY DVD optical output --> Monarchy --> Bryston 3B --> PSB

any input is welcome.

The Monarchy piece would probably warm up and smooth out your Sony DVD and Bryston power amp combo. With the single source that you have, i see no problem with this. My only suggestion is that i would try using the digital coaxial output ( if you dvd has one ) and the optical output to see which you like better. Theory says that coax should be better due to less circuitry involved, but you'll never know what you like better unless you try them both. Sean
Of course the 18B has a preamp built in, and a quite healthy voltage output, if I remember correctly. It's not that you 'bypass the idea of a preamp', but you do save the cost of an extra pair of interconnects. no reason this should not work well.
I have a remote system driven by the 18b output thru 75 feet of mic xlr cable to bel canto pre1 and Rotel 200w/ch. Sound is great.
Yeah...give the DAC a try. Some people prefer the direct sound and some people prefer the sound with a preamp. There's no correct all comes down to personal preference. If you buy the DAC and end up liking it, then by all means...enjoy it. Don't begin comparing it to other CDP options (or preamps) unless you're willing to watch your economical solution turn into a money sinkhole. :-) happens.
Thank you all for the input!

I'm curious: by eliminating Preamp, we are free from potential extra distortion to the music. Therefore direct to power amp should always sounds better, provided same level of equipment is used, i.e.

$1000 DAC --> $1000 amp
$1000 DAC --> $1000 PreAmp ---> $1000 amp.


Thanks again,

Hi Abe,

Yeah...that's the theory, and technically it should be true. Many people have tried that method and prefer it...others prefer the way their music sounds via certain preamps. There are many reasons for that...some technical, and some emotional. It's true that most preamps are going to alter the signal to some extent, even if it is to a small degree, but some people do prefer the way the preamp alters their signal.

There are also many other issues involved. For instance...many CD players have built in volume controls on their variable outputs, but they are often rather cheap. They may do more damage to the sound than a good preamp will. Some people take care of that problem by using passive volume controls, passive preamps, or by purchasing a CD player with a good quality volume control. Other people try passive volume controls and preamps and decide that they prefer the sound of active preamps.

In the end, there really is no right or wrong way to approach it. Everyone has their own preferences, much like every other aspect of audio reproduction. Don't get bogged down by worrying about what is "best". It's much more fun if you worry about whether or not it sounds right to your ears (with your your house). It makes a lot of sense to try the simplest, most economical solution first. If it sounds good to you, then you're done. Good luck! the way...

I hate to bring up another subject, but if you should make sure the output voltage of the Monarchy DAC is compatible with the input sensitivity of your Bryston amplifier. You can do this by checking with Bryston and asking them what their recommendations for minimum/maximum input voltage is (it might even be in your owner's manual). There is another thread listed today that concerns this very subject. If the DAC's output power is too high or too low for your amp, the music will either be way too loud or not loud enough. I figured I'd mention it...just to be safe and help you to avoid some future headaches.
I am currently using the 18B with a meridian 500 transport with excellent results and running it directly to the amp. I would say that the sound is good, however i prefer when I have a preamp hooked up. I am not an expert, but I think the extra amplification of the signal the preamp gives makes it sound better to me. A little deeper, more refined and more dynamic with my preamp.

Keep in mind that this is system dependent and to answer your question: Will the 18B offer great preformance? YES. Will it be better than a high end preamp like a rowland synergy or anything like that? To me, NO. It seems to lose a bit.
I think that what one gains by using an active preamp is dynamic headroom and the potential for "better" loading. Much of this can be negated and bypassed if the output of the DAC or CD player is rated for the same appr voltage that a preamp would produce i.e. way above 2 volts AND the impedances between the DAC and input of the amp are taken into account.

Even though most amps would be roaring with 2 volts fed into them from a normal line level output on a steady state basis, that does not mean that the simultaneous peaks that may last microseconds would be reproduced at full amplitude. That is, if the output of the one box player or dac is limited to 2 volts as a max output level. In other words, the dynamic status of music "may" require higher output than what a standard line level output may be able to provide on a short term basis. Adding an additional gain stage between the DAC and amp and the associated headroom that comes with further amplification ( the active preamp ) may be why things sound more dynamic. The fact that this also alters the impedance that the source sees and adds a "buffer" in terms of the signal that is modulated back to the source from the amp may also come into play. I say this as i've read more than a few statements to the effect of things sounding "cleaner", "more focused", "more resolving", "increased body and weight" etc.. with a preamp hooked up.

Keep in mind that all of this is just an educated guess. I arrived at these conclusions from playing around with a DAC that can provide 4.5 volts rms. This DAC has standard line outs to feed a preamp along with another set of outputs that are fed from a stepped attenuator for direct feed to an amp. I could hear no difference in performance when switching from "direct drive" with the DAC & built in stepped attenuators feeding directly into the amp and when i went to the dac using the outputs that bypassed the stepped attenuators into the preamp and amp. This tells me that the dac had no problems driving the amp and there were no problems with loading. It also tells me that the preamp is extremely faithful to the source and did not contribute or detract from what it was being fed. Both situations made me happy to say the least. I kept the preamp hooked up as the added versatility of multiple inputs was a necessity for me in that system. Sean

Thanks for Phild's response. I never thought of matching input/output issue before! From Platsolos and Sean's reply it looks like Monarchy 18B is ok in terms of directly driving power amps.

OK, I will go with 18B.

Interestingly, Monarchy Audio company is right in the neigherhood of where I work in South San Francisco! I can almost see their building from my office. A couple weeks ago I went to their office and briefly talked to their chief engineer C. C. Poon and auditioned the 18M. Frankly speaking I can't tell it sounds good or bad since my ears are NOT well trained (yet). But the build quality is obviously excellent! I trust all the user reviews and the advices from you guys. (plus it is on sale for $299 new!)

Again, big thanks to Sean, Phild, Platsolos, Tacs, Billhansen !!!!!! You guys are cool.

I would auditon a Monarchy DIP at the same time. I have a monarchy 22 DAC which I drive from the SPDIF output of my Marantz CD67se. The Monarchy DACs do not reclock the input to remove jitter, so when I added the DAC to my CD player there was not much improvement (since the marantz players have quite poor jitter measurements, and the jitter is really the limiting effect on sound quality). However adding the DIP between the CD67 and the 22DAC really improved the clarity and imaging. IF you can do an audition USING YOUR EXISTING DVD player then you might want to try adding the DIP.

As an added bonus the DIP will convert toslink to SPDIF (RCA) to drive the DAC.

Bear in mind that if you audition this (non-reclocking) DAC using an expensive transport then it will likely sound much worse when you take it home and drive with your DVD player due to the jitter on the output of the DVD. The performance gap may be significantly closed by using a DIP. I would strongly suggest auditioning using your DVD player.

I used to be really skeptical of "tweaks" like the DIP, but not any more.

Thanks for the tip. I am still skeptical about this jitter and DIP thing. I am an electrical/computer engineer and haven't been 100% convinced technically yet. Still searching for 'truth' and probable will convert soon :-)

Think about how the waveform output of an D/A convertor will be distorted if the sampling rate is not consistent. Amplitude distortion, phase distortion. I too was skeptical, but after I heard the difference I thought about it a little more and it does make sense.
Also check out
which explains it better than I ever could.
You can not go wrong with CC Poon's products, "high end,low cost". Just audition his 22C DAC with line stage, and order one.

Do you think a DIP will be an over kill for my extremely
humble system:

SONY DVD 5-disc ($180 new from CircuitCity!)
Monarchy Audio 18B (will buy soon)
Bryston 3b Pro ($400 used)
PSB Stratus Mini ($320 used)

I listen to all kinds of music 20%instrumental, 20%rock,
20%classic (if you count Charlotte Church), 30%jazz and

It's hard to say ... your system is good, especially at the price, but not overly resolving (no offense .. you probably realise this). I'd say that you should either demo a DIP before buying, or just buy one here on Agon and worst case resell it and lose the shipping (probably no more than $20 on a small item like this). You'll have little problem reselling if you buy a DIP 24/96, and older DIPs can be found for <$100.
Hi All,

I have a Meridian 518 dejitter device. I have used it with a CAL Alpha and a Meridian 563. The improvements the 518 has on the Alpha is slightly deeper bass and smoother highs. However, with the 563, the soundstage expanded and everything improved big time. I believe there is some synergy going on with the Meridian pieces. Similarly, I suspect the DIP and other Monarchy DACs might have synergy as well. BTW, my transport is the Delta.