Is Pre-Amp needed


Is a preamp needed.  I run my oppo 205 direct to an MC275-6 for two channel audio and it sounds good, but am wondering how much better a pre-amp would make it sound. A pre-amp seems necessary for multiple sources, but not for just one source.  Would it just be an extra link in the chain or would it greatly improve the sound? 
lilchris9
It's not "needed" if you like what you are hearing. I was doing the same thing but was not happy with the sound. Adding a pre-amp in my system changed the sound that to my ears was an improvement.
this is an endless debate with no answer other than what you prefer...
Right now my preamp sent for upgrading and I use direct DAC /power amp! It works but a bit dry and raw to my ears, a good preamp adds more taste to the sound and I already miss mine. If you want to have analog setup, preamp is a must for volume control.
A preamp can never make the sound more accurate, it can only degrade (it has its own frequency response, THD, etc.), though the degradation is usually not much of an issue for any good one.

Now, volume control and voltage gain are what many pre-amps can provide that many sources need.

However, the Oppo has been measured and shows its digital linearity (for volume control) is excellent, so no worry about worsening S/N as you decrease the volume; it also has more than enough voltage.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-oppo-udp-205-u...
A preamp can never make the sound more accurate, it can only degrade


This statement is 100% correct. Going direct, has less distortion and colouration, is more transparent and dynamic.
An added preamp preamp, if prefered can only add colourations/distortions as a "band aid fix" for a "source sound" they don’t like.
Get a better source, instead of putting a very expensive bandaid on it. "The best preamp is no preamp."

Cheers George
Re the accuracy debate: interesting comment in Stereophile from one of the writers. He quoted JGH as having said something along the lines of...Accuracy is something all audiophiles say they want, but when they get it they don't like it.
So...maybe using a preamp is less accurate, but it sure sounds better to me.
I will never use a preamp again. 
Based on my limited experience, preamp is most important part after your speakers. You can read all the numbers and statements that logically sounds correct but if you add a good preamplifier, you understand why people use preamps.
p.s)Some DACs equipped with a in built preamp but still I prefer a separate preamp specifically a tube preamp!
Never ever say never. It may be that you’ve not yet heard the right preamp for your system. By right I mean it makes the system sound better to your ears and by better I mean it adds the spice you didn’t know you’re missing.
OPPO degraded using a preamp? OPPO was designed as a bluray player with audio second in mind. Bluray players for music are a big nono IMO.

The preamp will always take the source and modify it according to it’s output. Remember, source is source, preamp and amp takes that source and runs it thru it’s circuitry.
Yes, end result changes. I’ve owned several OPPO’s, it was convenient for .flac files but I always ended up going back to the Simaudio i3 SE and Simaudio CD player for serious listening.
End result: bad recording, bad source does not get better, altho you can change it somewhat.
All volume controls add a sound . Its up to your ears as to what sounds good . Me , I have a Oppo 105 for my bluray and cable tv audio and video . I prefer a volume pot with the 105 , The 105 volume set to 100 % . 
@sthlm78 
 
Based on my limited experience, preamp is most important part after your speakers. 
 
I’d go: 
 
1) Speakers  
2) Placement/positioning 
3) Room treatment 
4) Power amp 
5) Pre-Amp / DAC
I believe the difference between those who like preamplification, vs. those who like passive, is as wide as analog vs digital, or tubes vs. ss. I have made my decision after owning some top tier preamps. My dacs drive my amplifiers beautifully, through passive units, and I simply hear more, of the recordings, then with top tier preamps in the systems. Not much more to talk about. 
A preamp are the “lungs”, the poweramp :”the heart”. Just like that. A good préamp,gives a beautiful signal to the poweramp. It means, it is very important. In a integrated amplifier is off course,the preamp very important.. the big advantage is:much less cabling. You cann't match like you want, because it’s from the same brand.

As Ralph Karsten (atmasphere) has numerous times said here, a preamp-less system can work well IF the source component is up to the task of driving the power amp directly. If the source is NOT up to that task, the system may actually sound better with a pre-amp, as imperfect as it may be, inserted between source and power amp.

What are the requirements for a source component to be up to the task of driving a given power amp? Ralph has more than once listed them; hopefully a search of the Forum will bring up the related threads.

I am very happy with Black Ice Audiio (Jolida) 
FOZ SS-X Sound Stage Expander.

I have never used a preamp, and this piece
is now between a cd player (gain from remote)
and power amp.

You might want to read the threads about it
and a review of the product.  It is sold with a
30 day return.  A win/win.
mrdecibel
I will never use a preamp again.


kalali
Never ever say never. It may be that you’ve not yet heard the right preamp for your system.

Maybe he’s like me and has a source he loves the sound of, and doesn’t need to colour it in any way by adding a preamp? Unless he could get one of those fabled preamps that have no sound and sounds just like a piece of wire, wait a second!! then that would be??? yes!!! like going direct!!!!

bdp24
What are the requirements for a source component to be up to the task of driving a given power amp?
Enough output from the source to get it loud enough for you (which most are).
And a min of 1:10 impedance ratio, for output impedance of the source to the input impedance of the poweramp (which most are).
And if you don't like it, you don't like the sound of your source.

Cheers George
Depends.

Are you doing a lot of digital attenuation at your usual listening level? The MC275 has a lowish gain (varies with the output tap used, the lowest value is from the 4 Ohm tap @ 17dB ) so I think it's a good amp to be run direct.

add something into the signal path and the results are like the optomotrist says, same, better, or worse

its on us if we feel we should introduce a dedicated line stage between the source and amp.

I feel that decision is based on what I hear. usually, I'm looking for naturalness and organics. I also feel if that is not what is going on I should try to achieve it. usually this means adding tubes, IMO.

tube pre amps can alter and or enhance the sound cheaper than a very good solid stae preamp can. usually.

it does not mean one needs more than a single source to chase that goose.

its merely a matter of preffs and certainly just one more choice in this past time..
Post removed 
The coloration of the music customized to your liking is what it’s all about in my opinion. That’s what interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, tube rolling, etc does. With or without a preamp of your choice depending on what sound you like best. No one answer is universal.
lak said " Music customized to your liking ". System synergy. I said this on another thread. : " I believe an audio system, as a whole, should be able to " show forth " the recordings, in such a way, that when you are in your listening seat ( the sweet spot ), you are hearing your favorite artists and musicians, performing at their " finest ", in their chosen acoustic space, and you, are completely engulfed, and entertained, in the experience ". A final studio recording will not have a singer sound like he / she has a cold. They will record it on a day the voice is strong and competent. This is what I meant as " finest ". Imaging, spatial localization, ambience, are all being created by the recording and mastering engineers, as these characteristics are on the recordings. We all choose to hear our recordings with certain likes, wants and desires, whatever ways it gets us there. Passive, is " my way " to get their. Enjoy ! MrD.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=377&v=Dh27E7YKN9s

I guess it depends on your definition. If your DAC/Source has a volume control then you are using a preamp. It may be rudimentary or elaborate but it is nonetheless a preamp. Some Dacs/Sources have exceptional inboard analog preamp circuitry while others may not.

For those that say they prefer the purity of no preamp, they are actually saying that they prefer the sound of THEIR source’s preamp rather than the sound of THEIR source’s preamp run through another outboard preamp.

For those with digital volume controls on their source that they prefer the sound of, they may be truncating the data. In those cases, a source with a digital volume control will typically sound better run at full volume (or the point on the source volume where data is no longer truncated) through a high quality preamp.

I have a $11k retail DAC which has a very nice analog output stage and volume control. It sounds really nice amp direct. It sounds even better through an Audio Research Reference preamp. YMMV.


 THEIR source’s preamp
???  Sorry there's no such thing!
The output buffer in the source is the same if it has a digital domain volume control or not. And only if that volume control goes below 75% of full does it start to "bit strip". 
Many hiend source counter this by have a gain setting for the buffer stage, so then the digital volume control can be used at or above 75%. And if you have one that doesn't have the buffer gain setting or digital volume control the the answer is to leave it at full up and use an external passive volume control.

I have a $11k retail DAC which has a very nice analog output stage and volume control. It sounds really nice amp direct. It sounds even better through an Audio Research Reference preamp. YMMV.
If that's the case then you don't like the sound of your source direct, and need to colour it with the AR preamp's colorations and distortions. 

Cheers George  
George, your absolute assertions are not absolute for all equipment. The ARC preamp provides more of everything, especially the layering of instruments. Put a great preamp in your system and see for yourself. If you dont like it then you have only established one data point, yours, not an absolute.

I'm a single source one input tunable listener all the way. Making any sound I want is pretty easy to do this way and I get to avoid distortion while creating any sound I wish.

Michael Green

I used to own a dual mono TVC which I sold. The new owner claims that it bested a $12k Bespoke TVC. A TVC is a step-down attenuator, is what I understand. So the signal from source is toned down before being sent to the power amp.
I was pretty happy with the TVC for years. But when I replaced this TVC with an active preamp, the system gained musicality and life. There is a certain fullness that makes listening more pleasurable. Bass is rock solid and startling at times. I am amazed by what a great active preamp can bring to your system. And I had avoided an active preamp for 9 years thinking that they would distort or add fuzziness to the original sound from the source. Well, lesson learned!
The ARC preamp provides more of everything, especially the layering of instruments.
It can’t make something from nothing, all it can do is to add colouration/distortion euphonics if you wish to call it that. If it’s not on the recording a preamp cannot make it. There is no voodoo in hifi!

I was pretty happy with the TVC for years. But when I replaced this TVC with an active preamp, the system gained musicality and life.
TVC's are a "transformer based volume control" your lucky that's all you disliked about them.

Cheers George
I started a debate on this forum several years ago about the advantages and disadvantages of a preamp. I even took my preamp out of my system for awhile. I was searching for a clean and pure single, so I thought. Like many have reported here, one thing is certain, the sound of your system will definitely change.

 After sometime listening without a preamp, I went back to a preamp and will never go down that road again.  Preamps add so much to your system, and not having one eliminates much of the sublime beauty of recorded music for me. 
The timing of the discussion couldn't be better for me ,
I've been using a Goldpoint passive preamp for years , 2 inputs one for my Carver SD/A 490t CD player and one for my phono preamp .
The CD player sounds FANTASTIC with the passive pa , it was the reason I explored a passive preamp because it had a volume control and I would connect directly to the amp , a McCormack DNA-250 .
The problem was the "volume control " , I've learned that I like the sound of a stepped resistor over an Alps .

Now my problem , when using a SS SimAudio Moon 110P phono preamp there was less bass than when using the CD player 
( having a CD and record playing and switching back and forth ),
but not less enough to drive me crazy .
Now I have a Tavish Design Adagio and have been tube rolling trying to get the bass gain increased because it is less than the SS .

Yesterday I installed my old Carver CT-7 preamp and boom I had bass to compare with the CD player But being old and with a cheap volume control I lost a lot of detail .
I am back to using the Passive 
and looking into a newer used active Preamp .

So if I only had a CD player like lilchris9 then a passive would be my nirvana , but adding the phono preamp complicates things a bit .





My 2 dacs, in 2 systems, are an Adcom GDA 700, and an Audio Alchemy DDE V 3.0, both having beefed up power supplies, and a few more updates and tweeks. They are excellent in driving my passive units, with no loss of anything. I still own a dozen or so  power amps, and they all work great.
Preamps can be extremely problematic.  A good preamp can be a big game changer.  Audition before purchase if you can....in your home with your gear.  My Sutherland N1 is spectacular.  Single ended bliss!!
I listen to both digital & analog.