improving digital amp sound

Although I find that digital amps have many advantages, I have also found that the sound is somewhat lean and clinical. Has anyone found that matching a digital amp with a tubed preamp restores some musicality to the sound, or is it just a mask?


I had the same issue with digital amps sounding lean and clinical. I purchased a set of Nuforce Ref 9s and had them modded by RAM. after 200 hours break in these amps are far from lean and clinical they sound awesome. I'm now using a tube pre but also have had a solid state and passive with excellent results with the modded Ref 9s.
A tube preamp will restore the pleasant harmonic distortion which the digital amp designer went out of his way to eliminate! Do what you like.
Before giving up on digital amps, give the Rowland 312 a good listen. You may very well discover that all these ICE-based amps are NOT at all alike!
You will find some of my findings about the Rowland 312 at:
I have a Audio Research 300.2 mated with a LS26 and find this a great combination.The ARC pre is anything but tubey,
but it has excellent presence.
Thanks guys. I may try my digital amp with a tube pre. Maybe I am getting a little older but a little distortion sound good. I find as I get a little older I like women with a few more curves (not quite as lean). Maybe the two are connected.
If you have to buy a tubed preamp to try your experiment, I'd suggest not doing so. It's not gonna get you where you want to go. Find some new amps. Digital amps are like Twiggy, or Paris Hilton. No curves. Tube amps are more like women with curves. Ever see a silicon chip? Lots of right angles. Ever see a tube? Curves, curves, curves... :)

BTW, not all digital amps sound the same, and you haven't mentioned which you own.
I have a Mark Levinson SS Pre Amp and Amp. My phono Stage is tubed. BAT Vk 10se. Its the best of both worlds. I tried Aesthetics tubed Pre Amp with SS amp but did not like it.
I have a Bel Canto EVO2.
Try to use a PS audio P300 powerplant. I have tried it with a Nuforce, and made it a darker, nicer sounding piece of amplifier.
Carinaram, the Bel Canto Evo 2 is a very lovely power amp. PSCIALLI uses EVO 2 bridged to mono in a configuration fed by a VTL 6.5 version 2. The rest of the system consists of a ModWright 999 with all the most recent modifications and B&W 803 speakers. The result is stunningly beautiful, tuneful, delicate, detailed and powerful.
I have a Red Wine Audio Signature 30 on the way that i am going to audition.It is a T-chip amp(not familiar with this).It is getting some great reviews so i am going to take it for a test spin since he offers a 30 day money back guarantee.Anybody familiar with this amp.I am assuming T-chip is digital?Ok i let my ignorance show....oops.
I tried a Red Wine Audio Sig 30, it's based on the Tripath chip, last summer. I find it anything but lean and clinical. It's a keeper and I have 5 SET amps. It has a Dact attenuator so you can run a source straight into it or use it as a gain control and put a pre in front of it. I think digital amps have come a long way already. The RWA is battery powered and the thing that really gets me is how quiet the speakers are.
I thank Guido for his characterization of my system. I should add that in the case of the Evo 2, using a pair in mono is a very different experience from using a single one in stereo mode. The dynamics and air open up quite a bit when used as a fully balanced mono pair. As with most other components, system synergy is important. The VTL works out nicely with the Bel Cantos, but I also did some tweaking along the lines of power cords and interconnects. For example, using Cardas Golden Reference as the power cord significantly improves the musicality of the amps over the stock cord.
Doesn't the EVO2 use a switching-mode power supply? IME power supply is even more critical for switching-type amps than conventional A/AB/B amps. That's why the Rowland 3.. series amp is much more expensive than the other ones.
I myself am using a pair of hypex amp modules ( with oversized toroid transformer, they sound wonderful, not as warm as the PassLabs X250.5 which I used to own, but the presence and the detail are more with the hypex module amps.
I have to say that I am using my digital amp with French speakers. French speakers tend to be fast, but a little lean, and a little bright on top, so maybe not the best synergy. I have been auditioning Sonus Faber Cremonas and Dali 800's as possible replacement. I was going to pair them with new Bel Canto monoblocks. I also own a Mccormack amp, and I have to say it is a very warm and pleasant sounding amp.
Ps. The new series of Bel Canto amps do use a switching power supply. The older generations used a traditional toroidal power supply.
like 'any' amp, matching with the proper room and speaker is still going to make the biggest difference.