Low gain dac!


I am contemplating buying a new dac, the dac I have today has 4.3v output on both balanced and RCA, which makes me only use a small turn on the volume knob on my pre amp, which is a high gain design, volume starts at 6 o’clock and too loud at 8-9!
Any input is appreciated, ladde dac’s or more conventional dac’s doesn’t matter, both designs have my interest.
My system:
Primare Dac30
Supratek Cabernet pre
Belles SA 30 power amp
Graham Audio LS 5/9

Thanks!
gryphongryph
You can put an attenuator between the pre and the amp. 
I don't get it. You know what you want- a DAC with lower output so you can turn the volume knob higher. You think where the volume knob points matters. It does not. But it is for some reason important to you. You know this. So simply buy a lower output DAC. What is the problem?
Sometimes we all make things more complicated than they need to be. Some of us forget this.
https://youtu.be/EVkYaZXCl8U

There are a lot of threads on DAC choice. Do you need balanced output? Any particular input you are most fond of? Do you require MQA, DSD, or some other acronym TBD? What is your budget cap? (because whatever it is, clearly the best DACs cost just a little bit more) And of course, what color should it be?
russ69 - I always heard that an attenuator would degrade the sound, but maybe that is just a tale !

As to millercarbon - I know that where a volume knob is sitting isn’t really important, therefore writing from 6 o’clock to 8-9 o’clock would give you and others a picture of the small adjustments that is useable, in reality it is more between 6 and 7.5 !
As it is more you with a problem, please stay out of this tread, life is too short to answer grumpy people. Please find peace in some other thread, have a nice day.
Why not a DAC with a volume?  My Chord Hugo has a great volume control and sounds awesome.
"...russ69 - I always heard that an attenuator would degrade the sound, but maybe that is just a tale !..."

I have used inexpensive 10 db pads to knock down the hiss on a high gain pre and amp setup with high efficiency loudspeakers.. I could not hear any change in the frequency response. If I had to guess I'd bet they are flat within .1db in the audio band. 
Thanks russ69 that’s good to know.
elevick - I have a fantastic tube pre amp, just would like to have bigger volume range.
cat_doorman - would prefer rca output (single ended), price? $2000-$3000c color? Not so important, but preferably black, input? Usb, and toslink for tv. MQA I am NOT a fan of.
Will check your link 🙂


Check the output impedance of your source against prospective attenuators. From something I once read, I think there are ways to mismatch and lose the highs. Your might have better luck with a passive pre in between for impedance matching. (Schiit Sys $49)

Unless there is something else you don’t like about your DAC, it’s probably worth trying the low cost passive or attenuators first. Not sure where your current DAC lies on the spectrum of what’s available, but if you’re curious about a different sound there are a lot of choices, a lot of comparisons, and browsing is free. 
@gryphongryp,
I had a similar situation years ago of having excess system gain. Anything above 9 o’clock volume control setting was too loud. I used attenuators that were effective and didn’t cause any noticeable sonic degradation. Harrison Labs and Rothwell were both good choices. Fortunately not a problem with my current audio system. 

@cat_doorman is right, in certain cases with some components there can be potential impedance matching issues. I understand your desire to have reasonable volume control range in order to have the ability for finer gradients of the volume control knob. 6 to 7.5 is unnecessarily too limiting/restricted.
Charles



@gryphongryph OP


Wow!! this setup needs a passive pre, if ever one did.

Primare Dac30: 100ohm output impedance, 4.7v output. (it's a good dac)
Belles SA 30 : 100kohm input impedance, and needs only 0.7v in for full output.!!

Just get a Schiit Sys for $49 as cat_doorman said, get far better sound this way, more transparent, less noise, less distortion, better dynamics
Sell the Supratek pocket the money and never look back

Nelson Pass,
"We’ve got lots of gain in our electronics. More gain than some of us need or want. At least 10 db more.
Think of it this way: If you are running your volume control down around 9 o’clock, you are actually throwing away signal level so that a subsequent gain stage can make it back up.
Routinely DIYers opt to make themselves a “passive preamp” - just an input selector and a volume control.
What could be better? Hardly any noise or distortion added by these simple passive parts. No feedback, no worrying about what type of capacitors – just musical perfection.
And yet there are guys out there who don’t care for the result. “It sucks the life out of the music”, is a commonly heard refrain (really - I’m being serious here!). Maybe they are reacting psychologically to the need to turn the volume control up compared to an active preamp."



Cheers George

The Supratek is a high gain preamplifier.  Passive is a viable option for this system. Depends on what sounds best to the OP.
Charles 
Thanks for the advice, but I like the sound of tubes, and just to be clear, my system got so much better when I got the Supratek, will never sell it I suspect, it makes the artists stand in my living room so to speak, my dac is good, but I suspect there are better dac’s out there today, I think the Dac30 is from 2012.
It is not that I don’t find a good listening level either, it just would be nice with a bit more adjustments range, and as I was looking to change my dac I thought it this would be a good place to ask about this, as there maybe was someone that had experience something similar.

Try a $49 Schiit Sys as you can send it back

But at the moment you would have so much distortions/noise because your shunting >90% of the dacs signal down to ground, only then the re-amplify it again noise/distortion and all.
Cheers George
Went on EBay and bought 1 pair of each (Harrison Labs and Rothwell) looking forward to try them out.
I had same problem with a Bruce Moore preamp with Goldpoint step volume control. Each click was to much gain, either to loud or not loud enough. I couldn't go past 8:00 or 8:30. My suggestion may not help but but I'll give it a shot. I had Goldpoint suggest a couple resistors to put on the volume pot and and after I installed them I could go to 1:00. It was a very easy solder job. Maybe you could install a new volume pot with more steps but that may be to drastic. Why is millercarbon so mean?
Essentially the attenuators are resistors that will decrease sound pressure levels.  They come in various values i.e. 4, 6,10 db of reduction even higher values are available . @gryphongryp the Supratek seems to provide a lot of positive attributes in your system. No wonder you want to retain it. Just curious if you've tried a passive in your system for comparison?  
Charles 
What value db attenuators are you trying?
Charles 
If you can find a Muse Two DAC, they're nicely built PCM63-based R2R designs and only have 1.0v output.  They sound nice!
Another option would be to try a passive preamplifier because 4.3volts is more than enough gain to drive almost any amplifier into clipping and it will more than likely sound better than your current preamplifier.
speakermaster
4.3volts is more than enough

Already tried to tell him that, will all the specs posted, (can’t see the forest for the trees) "tube addiction" his poweramp amp only needs 0.7v!!!!!!!!!!! in for full output


Went on EBay and bought 1 pair of each (Harrison Labs and Rothwell) looking forward to try them out.
The amount of gain reduction you’ll need to get with these Rothewell’s, either placed between source and Supratek or between Supratek and amp, are also going to give you impedance matching problems, in the process.

Cheers George
I find it humorous that the OP specifically ask for DAC recommendations, then posted several times he is going to keep his pre regardless (I completely understand that), and the posts keep recommending he delete his pre. Maybe some can't see the question for the trees? Maybe a DAC with a variable out would be a possibility?
Try the wyred for sound 10th anniversary dac. One of the most analog sounding dacs out there according to the reviewers. Beat many more expensive dacs like the COS1 Bricasti, chord, Sim Audio that cost twice as much.
OP has made it clear he really enjoys his Supratek preamp. It’s his system and his taste. So seeking a DAC with lower output voltage is perfectly reasonable. I wouldn’t disregard his preferences by condescendingly calling it "tube addiction". The attenuators may or may not be a concern. Many folks have used them effectively and successfully. He will know soon enough if they’re a solution.
Charles
I find it humorous that the OP specifically ask for DAC recommendations,

I find it humorous that some can’t tell the Primare dac’s (good dac btw) is not the problem, many give those voltages and more, mine gives 8v!!!.
The problem if they bothered to investigate is the massive gain structure Supratek preamps have, known everywhere, good for low output vinyl systems.


I am not a technical person. When I was in email with Mick at Supratek, I told him about my system and sent him a picture of the speck of the amp, he told me they were ideal for each other!!
But still, my system sounds really great, that is not the problem, only more volume control is wished for 😜
If OP wants a new DAC, there are plenty of great ones to choose from. With a high gain pre and an amp with only .74V input sensitivity almost any DAC is going to need severe attenuation. So even a new DAC may not solve the entire problem. Rather than getting rid of a pre the OP obviously  likes, my suggestion was to try additional attenuation between the DAC and the pre. If inline attenuators have impedance issues, an inexpensive passive may be more compatible with the additional advantage of both a wider range and finer graduations of adjustment.

As far as alternate DACs are concerned, if you look at ones with variable output be sure to check how the volume is adjusted. There can be drawbacks with each method depending on the execution, especially at very low volume settings. For fixed output DACs the lowest I know of is 1V for the Chord Qutest. It’s adjustable at startup (1, 2, or 3V). I run mine higher but use a pre with unity gain.
But still, my system sounds really great, that is not the problem, only more volume control is wished for 😜
Ok then get an amp that is 2v input sensitivity not .7v 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ Or get rid of the high gain Supratek!
To clarify, my Supratek is a dual design, was buying a Cabernet with 6SN7 output, but then Mick has designed a dual with 6SN7 and 300B output, on the 300B output I can adjust gain, but unfortunately I like the 6SN7 better for most music, unfortunately Mick never told me that variable gain was only on the 300B output, if so I would probably have asked for the 6SN7 to be variable, nevertheless I am happy with my pre, I have never heard my system as good as this and having heard many far more expensive system on my travels I feel good with the sound quality, I will also experiment with other tubes, especially 300B tubes.
Some dac’s that have interested me are AudioMirror, Doge, Musical Paradise, and the ladder dac’s that have been coming to market the last years.
I guess I am on a journey to get my system to sound as analog as possible while using digital source...
You sent him a  picture of a speck .. 
😉
Thanks for making my morning a smiling one 😄
@millercarbon Why are you so rude to other users on here? I’m new to this group and you seem to be a bit of a trouble maker.

You sent him a picture of a speck .. https://eurostylesmallgoods.com.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Continental-Smoked-Speck-min.jpg




Here is Six Moons thoughts on the Cabernet
Maloney’s preamp philosophy, the Cabernet is a very high-gain device
And if you sent him the sensitivity of your Belles SA 30 at 0.7v for max full clipped output, and Mick said fine?? somethings wrong somewhere, or he thought you had a source with as much output as a crystal set, virtually zero.

Cheers George
@gryphongryph I’m not sure where you are. I’m in the UK and a company called Russ Andrews makes cables with built-in attenuation. I have some of these cables and they are superb. https://www.russandrews.com/what-is-attenuation/
I had the same issue with my headphone amp and DAC. I bought these http://www.rothwellaudioproducts.co.uk/html/attenuators.html and it works very well for me.
@dyson2004 - I am in Faroe Islands ( North Atlantic) 
@georgehifi - yes I think he did not read that thoroughly, or he thought I would mostly use the 300B output where I can turn the gain down!
You guys that get your panties all ruffled by Chuck cracks me up very time.

Being from New England, I can tell you that with his style of sarcasm, Chuck would fit right in.

I would even buy him his first jersey.

Patriots, Redsox, Bruins, Celtics, his choice.
@iseland 😂 happy to make you laugh.
I only noticed it a little later, but was not allowed to edit, English is not my first language so you can be sure there will be a few more 😜
Yes I figured that much.  Myself born and raised in Sweden (the northern west coast ). English not being my native tongue I can certainly relate 😉 .
I agree with GeorgeHiFi. I had a similar problem resulting in tube noise from the preamp. I tried Rothwell attenuators (after the pre), which did help with the noise but the sound lost life. I replaced my BHK preamp with a low gain pre (Benchmark) and life is better than ever. Try the Schiit passive.
A little bit off topic but are you an native islander, I’ve been curious about how it is to live on faroarna ? It’s kind of an isolated place between Scotland and Iceland in in the middle of the ocean..
I’ve used these to step down the voltage of mytek Brooklyn DAC+ :
Jensen JT-6110K-B
https://www.jensen-transformers.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/JT-6110K-B-Data-Sheet.pdf
Gain vs volume, seems all the same.  Whats diff?
Buncha baloney. Stariting with you know who. If you like what you got and just want to mitigate high gain there is only one course of action:
https://www.parts-express.com/Harrison-Labs-12-dB-RCA-Line-Level-Attenuator-Pair-266-244?gclid=Cj0KC...
If you are curious try them before or after the pre. If you hear any difference go with it.
@iseland Yes, I am a native, to live here, wet and windy most of the year, but the summer is wonderful, the living standard is high, same as in Denmark to whom we belong too.
Living so isolated brings some challenges, especially when interested in Hi-Fi, by the way, have been to Stockholm once and a trip from Copenhagen to Ystad to listen to a pair of Harbeth’s 30.1 speakers that I was interested in buying, bought Graham’s instead, but that’s an other story, beautiful places both of them and very friendly people.
We have a ferry that sails all year to Denmark, Iceland and Norway, sometimes Scotland too, but I am too lazy for that, so usually take the plane, that before Corona times use to have several going’s and arrivals every day to the same countries, so 1 or 2 hours one could be in a bigger place if one so wished 😎
I tried Rothwell attenuators (after the pre), which did help with the noise but the sound lost life.
That is what an impedance mismatch will do gryphongryph OP , not dangerous but not great for sound quality either.

Cheers George
Ugh, just buy a cheap musical fidelity v90 dac and be done with it. You are not going to notice much difference, it is a quality dac that sounds as good or better than dacs costing 1k or more. I like vinyl so the MF does it for me. At most I’d spend the money on a jolida "aka" black ice glass dac...read the reviews, an excellent dac for the money and it’s tubed.
Post removed 
You think where the volume knob points matters. It does not.

that is wrong... just plain wrong. You can google around for the technical explanations, but it is a well known fact acknowledged by any competent designer that operating a system with a lot of attenuation is not good.






My rather complex desktop audio system has gain issues. They first emerged when I went from delta-sigma DACs outputting 1.9V to a NOS DAC outputting 2.5V. Gain issues worsened when I went from that NOS to another NOS w/3.0V output. 

There are all kinds of workarounds, and it's true that some volume pots are more linear at the extreme low/high setting than others. But I concluded that too much gain causes problems that are not easy to resolve downstream. I also know that a balanced DAC (which might be desirable for certain technical reasons) is impossible in this system: a DAC output 4.0-4.5V would wreck me.
@herman, 
You are correct.   Another common issue is poor  L/R channel balance when the volume control is  severely restricted to the very low positions.
Charles