I placed my SimAudio 700i amp in bypass mode and used the volume control on the Bricasti M21 DAC to control the volume. The sound is good but NOT light-years better than using the preamp. My ’gut reaction’ is it might not be as clear, and the music does not seem as smooth. So, an hour later, after more listening. when going direct, I felt the music was missing something. The music was not as open or engaging when going direct to my SimAudio amplifier. The music felt more closed in.
I switched back to preamp mode and everything was sounding right. The air and engaging factor were returned. The music sounded much better.
When going direct, the sound was flat, lifeless and without an engaging factor. The additional of the preamp brought things back to normal. I am happy I did this audition so I now know and can forget about it.
For my application, and setup, I believe the preamp is needed to help the music sound natural, clearer, and engaging. My experiment is done, and I am keeping my SimAudio 700i integrated amp. I believe that a preamp makes the music sound better.
I know that other people prefer going direct from a DAC to a power amplifier. Based on my audition, my decision is based on my equipment, my environment and how I listen to music. There is no right or wrong answer since it just depends on the individual. Everyone has a different opinion on going direct to an amp or using a preamp. The answer is it depends on the equipment and the sound you like.
In some cases, it seems, if the DAC and amplifier are from the same company, going direct sounds might sound better. In all cases, an audition is required to make the right decision. I hope this helps.
I have no experience with Lumin equipment.
The Bricasti’s is superb. I have used it with several amps direct and have been pleased with the output. The M3 is also very natural and neutral.
I just had a Lumin T2 on trade here so that is my point of comparison. In the end the volume control is in an app although the app was responsive, it is never going to be as easy as just picking up a remote. I didn’t here any issues or obvious limitations but the test was limited. It was also decidedly brighter than the Bricasti. This is not inherently bad or good, just a fact.
In fairness, I am a Bricasti dealer and not a Lumin dealer. Also, my Lumin experience was limited to the T2 over about a 10 day stretch. I have listened to the M3 a lot.
@jeffreyw which specific Bricasti dac are you referring to? The M21 is Bricasti’s best dac and IMO the most transparent which @hgeifman may have heard what he did. Just a thought but I’ve heard the M3 several times direct and thought it superb. I own the Bricasti M1 and with that being said I too prefer a preamp in my system.
I've no experience with Bricasti, but I have a Lumin T2 (nearly 2 years now). Recently I experimented with the T2 direct to amp (no pre), and much preferred the result. No contest.
Changing the volume with the app (via either the Lumin app or the Tidal app) is a bit inconvenient, so I purchased the Lumin remote control.
Very happy with the sound quality and the convenience.
@rsf507 Either the Bricasti M21 or M3. I know the M3 is killer performance for the price. I'm even contemplating the DCS Bartok, but the reviews vs. Lumin X1 are a toss-up. Lumin seems to be warmer than Bartok.
The Bricasti volume control is analog, which is a good thing. I've run my M3 direct to amps. I thought it sounded very clear but soundstage lost dimension compared to my preamps (BHK Pre with NOS tubes and Luxman c900u). YMMV as I suspect a lot is system-dependent. I've not heard the Lumin, but in my experience, analog volume control is generally better than digital implementations, and a great preamp is better still. What I've learned about preamps is the buffer stage really allows a great preamp to drive the amps and most DACs don't have the capability to drive an amp well without losing something in the process. I am sure it can be done well if designed to, but that is probably the cost of a great preamp added to the DAC either way.
In Bricasti's line, the M21 is basically an M1 SE Delta Sigma DAC plus an R2R Dac. You can switch between them.
The M12 "Source Controller: is an M1 SE Delta Sigma with an amazing analog preamp stage. If you are only looking for the delta-sigma portion of the M21, an M12 could be brilliant and a superb choice for you.
Just thought I would mention that as it is an interesting alternative.
I have gone directly from my Lumin U1 into both my tube amp (el84) and my big Bryston. Very nice detail but both seemed a tad thinner. The Volume control within the Lumin ap is very easy to control from the tablet, but make sure you set your max volume control… because every so often your finger will inadvertently your finger will slip.
I have gone directly from my Lumin U1 into both my tube amp (el84) and my big Bryston. Very nice detail but both seemed a tad thinner. The Volume control within the Lumin ap is very easy to control from the tablet, but make sure you set your max volume control… because every so often your finger will inadvertently slip.
I have just ordered a Lumin T2, with the SBooster and the Lumin Infrared Leedh volume control. I am planning on going direct to my two amps. I went with the remote because they " say " it's great and I didn't want to blow up my speakers! I should have it this week and will try to report my findings.
I'll caveat all of the following by saying while I am a lifelong music lover, I have only recently returned to the earnest pursuit of HiFi equipment. This present HiFi journey started in November of last year when I purchased a Lumin X1 DAC. Once purchased, I tested it going directly into Bricasti M25 and Lumin Amps, with and without a Nagra Classic pre-amp. In both cases, I preferred the preamp in-between. I also tested going into a Pass Labs X150.8, with and without an XP22 preamp. In the case of the Pass Labs, it was closer but I still definitely prefer the preamp. In all three tests, using a preamp added more warmth and richness. The step-up in overall power/volume level with a pre-amp is also better in my opinion. In the end, I settled for the Pass Labs amp and pre-amp. I have not used or listened to a Bricasti DAC, so I cannot provide any help in that aspect.
In general, I like the convenience of using my iPad to control the programming, so I've pretty much settled on using the Lumin app to control volume, as well. Therefore, I set the XP-22 at unity gain (89) and control my listening volume with the Lumin app. I have done some experimenting with using the XP22 to control volume while adjusting the Lumin X1's Max Volume %, Leedh processing on/off, and analog audio output level. Not a rigorous test, but just enough to get an idea of what might be possible. With that brief encounter I didn't find any particular setting that justified not using Leedh processing, setting the XP22 at unity and controlling volume on the Lumin App.
In summary, my opinion is yes to a preamp and yes to controlling volume with the Lumin app for your primary listening room and system.
I think it’s important to consider how you are sourcing your music as well. Are you only playing local digital files or do you have additional input services and/or devices such as a turntable (with or without a separate phono stage), CD, etc.? In my case, I am only interested in my local digital files, hosted on my NAS. I am not streaming from the online services like Spotify or Tidal. However, I also have a Sonos setup which is accessing the same files on my NAS and streaming throughout my house, both indoors and out. On those occasions having the preamp makes it possible to use a Sonos Connect to go into my XP22 and listen via the Sonos or IOS music apps in my main listening room, in sync with the other locations. Again, by having the XP22 set at unity gain, I can control volume in the main room and all rooms with the Sonos volume control. To be clear when using the Sonos, I am not listening through the Lumin X1 in my main room. I’m just saying it was another justification for a preamp in my particular case.
FWIW, my NAS has an aggregated 4GB connection to a Cisco GB switch (52GB backplane) and the Lumin has a 1GB SPF connection to the switch, as well. The Sonos Connect is using WiFi. With only a few exceptions, as one might expect, listening through the Lumin X1 is markedly better vs streaming those same files via Sonos into the same XP22 preamp. There is just no way to sync the two, so if I need multi-room listening and want my main listening room to be in sync, I need to switch inputs on the XP22.
IMHO, there is still no app with a good interface for managing digital files. I think the user interfaces of the Lumin App, Roon, Apple Music App, Sonos App and Limn all are unintuitive, kludgy and frustrating. The Lumin App makes it very difficult to just go to an album directory and play an entire album (A couple months ago you couldn’t do it all. Now, at least you can, but figuring out how to do so is a challenge and clunky). In almost every case, whether sorting by directory, artist or song, it always seems to be tedious to find what you’re looking for and just play it. Once you’ve created a playlist in one app, it’s not usable in any other.
I understand that everyone will have different approaches or opinions on how best to display a library of music. I also understand that lots of people use streaming services in addition to their libraries, but as a former software developer I feel like there should be a better metaphor for allowing one to display and select what they would like to listen to. I could go on, but I’ll spare all of you my rant and end on that note before I go too deep down the rabbit hole. If there is a good discussion thread on streaming app UX, please point me to it. Thanks.
Agree with all those who prefer going through preamp rather than straight DAC to amp. Was forced to go direct for a 2 month period between preamps, and found the direct route lacking bloom. Have not tried with Bricasti, but certainly true of others. Current DAC has no volume control because it would be superfluous & maybe dangerous. But the question is a good one where preamp has been ruled out.
A pre-amp will always be best for volume control. A good pre-amp will open up the soundstage and do all sorts of wonderful things IF you have a good source and DAC. If you don't, a pre-amp will show up all the warts in your front end and make your system sound terrible, just the same as if you put revealing speakers in a lesser system.
I'd think of a digital or similar volume control as a stop gap to get your system up and running while you look for a symbiotic pre-amp, it must match.
To start with the Lumin products have LEEDH volume control. It does not loose very much as you adjust the sound. Also, you can get an optional remote control for some Lumin products. Last is they have a new preamp/ DAC/ Steamer called the P1. It is very close in sound to the Lumin X1 and already has a built in linear power supply. I know the Bricasti M3 is good a good value. What I have seen is some of these good values sometimes are a little to cool sounding for my taste. Since you are also contemplating the DCS Bartok you are into some serious money. You can get a remote but it’s volume on the app is butter smooth anyways because of LEEDH volume control. And if you want the preamp to be able to run analog or use the built in DAC go with the P1. I hope this helped. Call your local dealer and take it for a spin.
we are an authorized lumin and brricasti dealer
the lumin's volume control is far superior it is smooth and ramps up or down easily
the bricasti volume is tap tap tap to work, no rampimg up or down
we feel the m3 plus our 432evo server sounds even better then the T2 but costs abit more
and yes the usb input off the EVO sounds better then the M3’s network card
Dave and Troy
Audio intellect NJ
bricasti lumin 432Evo dealers
Interestingly, I may use your stop-gap advice of DAC/preamp first and then invest in a preamp. Due to budget, I would like to get a killer amp, and DAC then worry about preamp. I only do digital, so I have to address the diminishing return that a preamp will provide vs. the cost of such a unit.
@jeffreyw Yes Jeff that's exactly what I did. Checkout the Musetec 005 Dac it has remote volume control which can be bypassed when you get a Pre.
Regarding power amps there are some killer Threshold (Pass Labs) Class A & A/AB on the used market they are wonderful, I have one.
Well, I got the Lumin T2 home yesterday and set it up to play directly into my two amps. I have the Sbooster standing by ready to be installed. I decided to give the T2 a run on it's own first. I experienced a much better soundstage and separation between the instruments and the vocals. At first the bass was missing. That smash that I love. So, I hooked it up through my preamp and the low end and the smash returned. My speakers have two 12" woofers and plenty of power, so that wasn't the problem. But with the preamp in line there was a slight veil that wasn't there when going direct.
I then removed the preamp and went back to running the T2 back into the amps. Over the course of the long evening, the music got sweeter. I am now at about 20 hours of continuous play and the base and the fullness are appearing. I am going to add the Sbooster and run it in. I am starting to become highly optimistic that running direct is the way to go.
My wife and I went to two local audio stores for reference. We demo'd two different sets of Magnpan 3.7's with subs and for fun a high end setup in the 250k range. I came home and wasn't embarrassed. For the amount of beer money I have spent, I think I, with just a couple of more tweaks, will decide to be very satisfied.
Conclusion. I am going to Sboost it and let it break in and continue to run the Lumin T2 directly into my amps and control volume with the Leedhs volume control.
I am curious if anyone has tried different fuses with the Lumin T2?
I tried M3 direct. It had that raw, detailed sound that I have experienced before without a preamp in other systems. The percussion sounds were heavily emphasized over other sounds, such as the vocals, so I much prefer the edit of the Lamm L1. I did not allow for any burn in, though. I am not sure there is really any substitute for that just-right preamp.
I just installed an Sbooster on my T2. I consider it to be a tweak. A bit of a leap of faith that makes some sense on paper, but am unsure if it'll be worth roughly another 10% investment. I will leave it on for a week or so to let it break-in before I pass judgement. After an hour it certainly hasn't made anything worse ;)
Fuse? When the Sbooster is installed, the Lumin IEC connector/fuse holder is removed. Any fuse you might want to change is within the Sbooster. Not sure I'm ready to start tweaking what is already a tweak.
@nosualc how far down the rabbit hole will you fall?
@nosualc how far down the rabbit hole will you fall?
I suppose, that is indeed the question. Feeling pretty deep already, although once you're in past the swimsuit area, a little deeper into the pool doesn't matter much.
Well every foot past the waistline is about $2000. Once over your head then you're into 401b territory.
@rsf507 sorry, what is 401b? An inward dive pike?
Sorry, that's the best my google-fu could come up with...