Novice requesting preamp options


--Preamp recommendation?--

So I hate to through out such a general question but am really new to higher end audio and hoping to get some guidance.
Recently I've come into some reasonable speakers and an amp.  I want to take this chance to change my listening experience.  Here are the givens so far (and it's not much, the slate is semi clean):
-- A 5 year old "Peter Gunn" modded pair of Magnepan 1.6's
-- A 7 year old Butler TDB 2250 amp
-- A listening room of approx 20' x 24' with 12' ceilings.  The room is too live and needs work.
This is all I currently have.

I'm looking for a preamp recommendation.  My price range is up to $1500-$1600.

I don't have a CD player yet (a good one anyway) so am continuing to keep my eye out.
I initially plan to play CD's but am trying to educate myself on digital ie a quality music server and stand alone DAC as I think this may be an option later on.  ....But I'm finding myself kind of overwhelmed with all the info out there on digital and think it'll be a while before I even understand what questions to ask.
Thanks for your help.
Andrew

andrew-benn
If you don't have plans for multiple sources, and you want to go digital only, you may decide to skip the preamp altogether.  Many fine DACs have the ability to connect directly to a power amp without a preamp.  The PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC Mark II that I use has this capability, though I do not use it this way as I play a lot of vinyl as well. In fact, PS Audio suggests connecting the DAC directly to the power amp for the best results.

as for the challenges of learning about modern digital playback, it's not all that complicated, although there are so many products to choose from that one's head can spin.

here's how I did it.  I used some ripping software to rip my cd library to an uncompressed format on a computer.  I sold all of my CDs to a used music shop!  I put the music on its own dedicated hard disk, which is backed up twice.  I bought a small, used, few year old Mac mini to run the music software.  It sits on the audio shelf next to the dedicated hard disk with the music, and is connected to the PS Audio DAC via high quality but not very expensive USB cable.  The music software I chose is the easiest and most pleasant to use on the market, called Roon.  The computer is always on (has no display connected), and so whenever I want to listen, I turn on my DAC and amplifiers, launch the Roon player app on my phone and control the music from there.  Add a Tidal HiFi subscription to that, which interfaces with Roon, and you have your own collection plus Tidal's library at your fingertips on a smartphone or tablet.

this DAC is in the price range of your preamp budget and its excellent.. If this does not appeal to you, and you want to purchase a preamp first, perhaps some other forum members will be more knowledgeable about your amp, and have better advice than I can give, but I think the high end DAC direct to your power amp is a very attractive option for you.
Check this one out before you will spend higher dollar:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/TACT-Audio-RCS-2-0-Digital-Analog-PreAmp-Tact-Remote-/182129289268?hash=item...

There’s a Berkeley Alpha DAC for sale here now a little over your price range. Very highly regarded DAC and reportedly good as a preamp as well. Might be worth a look as it solves two of your issues. Best of luck.
Thanks for the suggestions.  So it seems from the replies that just using a DAC is a good way to go as it can substitute for a preamp?
I guess the next question is in my price range can I get a DAC that would sound similar to a older, used "conventional" preamp?  And I know there's probably so many different opinions on this that it may be a worthless question.  But as a beginner in all this, it's the question that comes to mind.
Anybody know of any comparison tests done between good DAC's and, say, something like a Shindo preamp?
Thanks
Andrew,

there is is certainly nothing stopping you from getting a preamp, and you may indeed acquire one at some point.  My suggestion is to put the cash into the source, and if that source does not require a preamp, that means you can have more budget freedom for a better source.

I recently read a post from an enthusiast who compared his PS Audio PWD connected directly to his power amp to the more common configuration through his preamp.  Darn it I should have copied the link for you!  His results compared a dozen different demo songs, and in some cases he prefered the conventional setup, while in other cases he preferred the DAC on its own.  No doubt you can find this or similar posts.

With your budget, I do still think you'd be best served with a 2nd hand DAC to handle both duties, the digital and the preamp functions.  I am not so sure if you can realistically look for a DAC that will approximate a particular preamp sound as you asked here.  I certainly may be wrong, but I would focus all on the performance of the DAC itself and see how it goes.  My guess is that you will be very pleased with most DACs that can command a $1500 price on the 2nd hand market. My vote still goes to the PS Audio PWD MkII, biased to be sure because I have one! 

The PWD mk II with bridge mk II allows you some network benefits such as not using a USB cable, and rather connecting with a standard computer network cable, in which case the bridge acts as your player, and a darned good one at that.  

A different approach is to buy a preamp which includes a DAC. This way you'll have a fully functional preamp with multiple inputs plus an onboard DAC unit to play back computer audio or a music server.

The Peachtree Audio novaPre is widely recommended around the forums...
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0613/peachtree_audio_novapre_dac.htm
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Sorry, this Peachtree has been discontinued. But I still believe that a full function preamp/DAC is the way to go.

Something to keep in mind when adding a preamp to your system is  that the gain and impedance specs will need to match your amp.
If this http://www.butleraudio.com/tdb2250.php is the Butler TDB 2250 amp you own, then there would be no problem matching just about any preamp to it.
 
Thanks for the suggestions. So it seems from the replies that just using a DAC is a good way to go as it can substitute for a preamp?
That’s a blanket statement; not all DACs have the features or flexibility of a preamp. A preamp imparts a certain timbre or sonic signature that sets the mood or emotion of a system (many owners desire this). It also acts as a switching device between different sources; i.e., CD, phonostage or TT, tuner.

Anybody know of any comparison tests done between good DAC’s and, say, something like a Shindo preamp?
If you are asking about Shindo components, please realise that they are high-end and costly gear. Much higher than your budget. If you are able to find a used Shindo tube preamp, grab it. It would be the gem in your system.
Rowland Capri

I've tried to use DAC's with volume control in lieu of a dedicated preamp with mixed results - in all cases I preferred the sound with a dedicated preamp.  If you're considering tubes, a ModWright SWL 9.0SE should be within your budget and it a terrific sounding preamp.  Plenty of reviews online.
Thanks again.  I've been reading on the ModWright SWL 9SE you mentioned, many seem to enjoy it.  I'll start looking for a used one for sale and see what I find.
onkyo p-3000r