Passive pre

Has anyone used or heard this preamp ,Schiit SYS for $49,and what are your impressions?Thank you.
Just got one. I've only tried it in one system so far. Seems to work as designed. The source selector is break before make and a push button. The volume knob seems linear and the channel balance seems equal throughout its range. So far it's a great bargain. Most sources have plenty of gain and don't need an active pre amp unless you want to change the character of the sound, I.e., a tubed pre amp.
I've been recommending this passive attenuator as a cheaper alternative to many who want to taste what the sound of passives can give and only spending $49 to sample it.
It uses potentiometer that is the best value at 10kohm.


Just remember 3 things to get the best out of it.

1: Just use a source/s that have output impedances of less than <1000ohms which most are.

2: Use poweramps that are more than >33kohms input impedance. Which most are.

3: Use interconnects to the poweramp that are <2mt and good quality low capacitance, which most are.

If you follow these steps with it, you will sample the magic that a passive attenuator can give.

Read this quote from Nelson Pass.
"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

Have read good things about the dacs.Was thinking of putting together a nice budget system and this preamp seemed like a good place to start.
Passives are a great alternative if you are on a budget. Another way you can go is to get a DAC/CD player with a volume control.
Another great volume control is the Sm Pro - nano patch for around $60 . sold at Guitar Centers .
I have a Mod Squad in my basement that I LOVED with a B&K ST140 that sounded awesome together. In the day, that was a GREAT combo and really worked for much less than most other options....I have an Ayre integrated and they basically use a passive pre in their designs I believe.
For $49 it seems like a no brainer?
And, they have a return policy if you don't like it.
Thanks for reminding me of this product. I just ordered one for a 2nd system. Will get back on my thoughts.
I'm using the SYS passive preamplifier to great effect in my system right now and, let me tell you, it sounds GREAT! I have to admit, though, it does look a little funny, sitting on the shelf, little larger than a deck of cards, above the relatively massive Mark Levinson ML-9 amplifier in my entertainment unit. Still, playing through my Von Schweikert VR-5 HSE speakers, it does an amazing job.
I used mine for the first time yesterday and was impressed. Will probably sell the preamp I bought for my budget high end system. My intent was to put together a system that represents what I would recommend to friends who don’t wish to spend much on an audio system. How to get the most sonic value/$$$. I think the SYS might fit into many such systems.
would tube or solid state amp work best?

[quote]09-23-14: John421
would tube or solid state amp work best?

Anything with an input impedance of higher than 47kohm (the industry standard) which most are.
And an input voltage sensitivity (for full output) of 2v or less which most are.

Cheers George
You really ought to try a TVC: Transformer Volume Control.

Mine's a DJANGO with sought after S&B transformers, as found in the very pricey MUSIC FIRST TVCs from the UK.

Sound quality is absolutely first class and dynamics only suffer if your amp is already struggling to drive your speakers.

As I understand it, part of the magic is that the TVC allows the electrical circuit between the source and the amp to be broken - whilst the signal continues untouched! Apparently, this eliminates any mains grunge that might be sneaking in with your source... However it works, IT REALLY WORKS!

If your current amp and speaker combination is already a great match and you don't need any additional gain... A TVC is the answer!
I second you Sondeknz. TVCs are something that purists must audition. I have been using one for years now.
But again, focus on the "gain" in your source. If you have enough, then you are golden!
I have been using an S and B transformer based Passive Pre and it really sounds clean, transparent and neutral, with my ARC reference 75 Power Amp. I did very briefly compare it with an ARC reference 3 and honestly, the much more expensive ARC was coloured and dull sounding in comparison. Yes, it wasn't a proper prolonged comparison, but the difference was marked. I am sure there are Uber expensive, state of the art, active Pres which might sound more dynamic, but they would be more than double the cost.
I'm continuing to use the Schiit SYS passive preamp and have added a twist: the DAC that I am auditioning -- and buying -- was given a boost by its maker to accommodate the lack of gain in the Schiit. Instead of 110 volts, it's rated at 115 volts. Let me tell you, now it has some definite gain!


Juan C. Ayllon
I'm still using the Schiit SYS passive preamp, but now my system has an added wrinkle. I just added a DAC that had its voltage boosted by the manufacturer to compensate for the lack of gain with the SYS; instead of the standard 110 volts that is used in America, it was boosted to 115 volts.

I was talking with the principal of this company, saying that I liked having a passive preamp, but was entertaining going with an active one to offset the lack of gain. He told me that he'd add voltage so a regular preamp wouldn't be needed.

The result? Definite gain boost!

I'm still happy,

I have to tell you Juan, your statements above of what the manufacturer told you are very confusing.

As most all dacs power supplies are fully regulated, that is, they have voltage regulators for all stages.
So no matter what the mains voltage is doing 110v or 115v in this case, will not vary one iota the voltage seen by the dac circuit. So it will sound the same and have the same gain regardless.

I think you may of misinterpreted what he has said to you, or he told you a furphy.

The only way this "maybe" be true but I doubt it will raise the gain as you've said, is if the dac has an unregulated tube output stage and the 5v extra of mains voltage is making the tube run out of it's comfort zone, but I doubt that as well, as mains can fluctuate even more than 5v (they say 5-10% is normal), which means if it is true then your volume will be up and down like a yoyo while your listening.

Cheers George
Hi George,

I'm no electrician, so I can't really comment on it. That said, the manufacturer is Lampizator and my DAC is the Amber-Plus. Lampizator custom builds their DACs, which are handmade, to the buyer. I believe that includes the power supply setup. Mine is rated at 115 volts (it was clearly marked as such on the plug in outlet for my power cord). Be that as it may volume has not been up and down like a yoyo.

I am planning on writing up a review on it later on this month.

Have a good one,


Hi Juan,
Yes that right if the gain were susceptible to a 5v mains change then it would have fluctuating volume because the mains is never constant.
So the answer is no "because it's regulated" and because of this, 5v difference in mains volume cannot change the gain of the dac.

So as I said " I think you may of misinterpreted what he has said to you, or he told you a furphy."

Cheers George
I have heard many passives, yet none are satisfying for me.
Hi George,

You may be right. Like I said, "I'm not an electrician" (or electric engineer -- or any kind of engineer, for that matter (although my dad is a retired chemical engineer, which is nice)), so "I can't really comment on it." Ergo, I'm not in a place to confirm or refute what you are saying.

I never did know what a "furphy" was until just now. I looked it up on Google and read the following: "A furphy is Australian slang for a rumour, or an erroneous or improbable story, but usually claimed to be absolute fact." I learned something new! Thank you.

Getting back to the other facts I know, it remains that the power outlet plug was literally covered with a strip of masking tape marked, "115 V" and he did say that they can raise the voltage to help offset the lack of gain in the Schiit in a previous conversation. Whether that was a furphy, I don't know.

Now, whatever else he did to the unit to give it gain, he did not feel the need to explain, nor did I feel the need to ask. Bottom line, it works -- it has a robust gain built into it now. It takes roughly a quarter turn of the volume knob on the Schiit SYS passive preamp to get the volume it formerly produced at three-quarters of a turn. I'd say that's pretty good.

Have a good evening,

Would it benefit using my NAD 3020 phono stage into the passive pre to the Hafler DH-220 amp?
"12-02-14: John421
Would it benefit using my NAD 3020 phono stage into the passive pre to the Hafler DH-220 amp?"

It shouldn't be a problem at all. If that's the only phono stage you have, use it. The phono stage is a line level source, so its no different than connecting something like a cd player or tuner.
Was wondering if it could possible better the sound quality or just stick with using the NAD and HAFLER combo?
Hi John,

I'm not familiar with the HAFLER amp -- whether it has an attenuator on it or not (I know several professional amps I had as a mobile DJ came with dual volume control/attenuators). If it does, I cannot see the SYS being of any benefit sonically. If anything, it could be a matter of convenience and having that A/B switch built into it.


No,it has no attenuator.Have a Sony 55es amp that does.
I had the chance to audition 3 other Passive Pre's in my system this week. I thought you might be interested in the results, all be it, of a short audition. As background, I needed to find a cheap Pre 18 months ago, to match my new ARC Ref 75. I stumbled on an E-bay ad from Hungary, for a Music First audio Baby Reference clone, he had had built for him, using the same Trannies as the baby reference. He claimed it was equal to the MFA unit. I was dubious but took a chance and bought it for £900. Well it is pretty darn good, I preferred it to the Arc Ref 3 the dealer demoed the 75 with, when he delivered it.

It is a pretty ugly brute with 2 volume pots, with to few volume gradations. So I thought I would try it against some other passive units, namely

Prometheus 2 box reference
Audio music passive pre amp(one box unit not RT1)
Music First Audio Baby reference

System: streamed music from a NAS into a modified MAC mini
Ayre QB9 Dac
ARC Ref 75
Daedalus audio DA-RMA speakers

music: Lyle Lovett "Joshua judges Ruth" tracks 3/4
Sting Brand New Day track 1
Dvorak "Rusalka" opera with Renee Fleming on Decca, tracks 2 and 3

The results were a bit of a surprise. I will report in the order I demoed the units

1) Prometheus, for some reason, perhaps an impedence mismatch, it was dire. The sound was smeared, screechy with no base.It sounded like it was coming out of an oil drum.

2) Music Audio, very creditable, clean, reasonable dynamics, tonally accurate. Ultimately, it lacked the base quality, macro dynamics and detail of the best. In fact it sounded quieter, but very solid, attractive build quality. In fact it sounded a bit like critics accuse Passives of being, base and dynamics light.

3) Music First Audio Baby Reference, excellent build quality and definitely wins the coconut for best sound. excellent detail and dynamics, a clean neutral, uncoloured sound, with very good deep, well defined base. Any criticism, maybe soundstage width could be a bit better.
I can not think of any active Pre near the price, I would prefer. The ARC Ref 3, had a warm colouration and lacked the last bit of detail, in comparison

4) My MFA Baby reference clone and this was the surprise. Definitely an ugly little thing, with a poor volume control and source selector switch. However I could not detect any difference at all, in comparison to the baby reference, all the same qualities listed above

The moral, well the MFA Baby Reference may be expensive, but it really is as good as the reviews say, which make it a bargain compared with many active Pre Amps, providing it works in your system. The other lesson, maybe it is worth buying the trannies from Stephen and Billington and building your own, or getting a good solder jockey to do it for you. It would need some care I think, with a great many wires to connect to the tranny carefully. I think it could be done for about 1/3 of the price.