I tried a passive preamp with very good results on several amplifiers. The cable runs WERE short, 0.5 meters. A passive I liked a lot, and included a remote was the Creek OBH - 12. Only about $300. To me, one of THE bargains in high end. Minimalist? You bet. I got nice sound out of an NAD 2600A, and a Rogue88. Both of which sounded rich and musical with this combination. I often hear the passive preamp complaints, but I have never used long cable runs, etc.
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Long ago, I made an experiment by connecting my tuner to my poweramp,while using a potentiometer only. This set-up could be regarded as I was using a primitive passive preamp. My conclusion at that time was; the music sounded clearer, more direct, but on the negative side also a slight bit more lean. Well, I have not thought much about passive preamps since then, but now I´m also in the process of upgrading my system, (or more to the truth;I havn´t had a system for four long years, and the last year,I have been building my High-end loudspeakers.) Having considering several pre-/poweramp alternatives(most of them are not so easy to get to listen to), I and my wife auditioned a Norwegian combination called Dynamic Precision,consisting of a passive pre(DPC 7.3) and a poweramp(DPA 6.4). Sound quality was surely amazing, especially given the rudimentary conditions.Our listening took place in a small sleepingroom,the one speaker was placed on a desk, the other on a piano-chair. Some month earlier, me and my wife had listen to a real expencive system,e.g. loudspeakers were Audio Artistry´s Beethoven,but that was not nearly as fun as listen to the Norwegian combination, which used much cheaper loudspeakers. Could any conclusion be made? I´can only write my opinions. If You are lucky, You can create a system where synergy is predominant.It´s not easy to say that active preamplifiers are always best, or worst.You can´t even say that a passive pre always needs short interconnections. Dynamic Precision states that cables up to 10m could be used in conjuntion to the balanced inputs of the company´s poweramplifiers,with minimal loss only. The purpose of real hi-fi can be said to be, to create an illusion of "real" or live music. But different people seem to be differently sensitive to the shortcomings in sound-systems. I will probably buy the Norwegian pre/poweamp combination (costs about $ 5700),that decision is based of the "live" feeling and feeling of joy, that turned up, when listening. There are other passive preamplifier out there, e.g.Placette which have good reports, but if it´s the right thing for You and Your system, I can´t tell! Regards Håkan Ståhl sweden
Since I got way more clarity and the signal was kept very pure my passive had much much more bass and dynamics and sounds louder than my powered classe pre amp sounded. If your going to go with passive you need to have a good one. I recommend what I have, the reference line preeminence 1 series 2. It uses silver wire throughout. It's $1500 but I got mine for $400 used. Don't forget to put a ground wire on it either......Also matching gear is very important. My audio alchemy DAC and theta DAC sound very powerfull with my passive but I tried an EAD dac and I had to turn up the volume much louder and it still didn't have the pushing power of the other two. That's because the output volts was to low. It's like 2 volts but the manual shows you how to up that to 4 by clipping some circiuts, however it was on loan so I couldn't do that. And another reason some people wouldn't like passive is because they would be used to the colored sound of there active preamp which may gloss over flaws in the rest of there system. Passive lets you hear exacly what's going on with your stuff. So if something doesn't sound right then chances are it's something else in your system that needs to be changed out. Anyway you have to find a good combo so don't give up keep trying the improvments are well beyond worth the effort.
If a passive sounds worse in your system, IMHO that's a clue that something else is wrong. With a decent source output stage (not that every CD player, for example, has one), your idea that no preamp is the idea is quite sound. I've used a passive very successfully with a Pass Aleph 3 amp, input impedance an unfriendly 23K ohms, and I'm now driving 10' interconnects with a passive. In each case, my source output stage was good--that's absolutely all it takes. BUT if you're a DIY type at all, DON'T buy a commercial passive unless money is nothing to you. It's SO EASY to make one that's better than almost anything around. Contact me for ideas, websites, and so on, if you're interested.
I have used the GFP-750 and found it to be very sensitive to the combination of source, amp and cables many combinations did sound too dry. Afer a lot of testing with highend tube preamps and the GFP-750, I now use a shunt to ground stepped attenuator on the poweramps. In my experience I would have to disagree with Tom since the associated equipment was top of the line CJ, ARC and Melos amps/preamps driving SC-V's with Theta Progen Va and the new MSB Platinum as the source. I have no explanation but not all combo's work and I found more that didn't than did. That said, if you want a passive preamp to experiment with I would recommend the Adcom. You can always sell it if your combo doesn't work out.
An experiment to try that will indicate if your source puts out enough current to drive the input stage of the amplifier is to connect direct to the amp with nothing in between and begin with source material that is reasonably quiet. This must be done with care for obvious reasons but it should be easy to increase the volume of the material on the CD to the point that it is easily driving your amp to clip. If this happens on quiet to moderate material than you should proceed with the borrowing of a passive preamp. Most sources will not properly drive the inputstage of most amps into clipping properly. Reference line has a "B" version that is balanced. This is probably as good as passive can get and it has a remote to boot. It is likely that unless your amp falls into the big Krell/Levinson catagory, passive is not for you. The improved resolution from removing a full gainstage is addictive(especially if you are removing a poor gain stage). Sadly it is likely that you will find the trade off for the improved highend resolution will cost in bass authority, dynamics, soundstage and most importantly the sense of control that a good active stage imparts to your music. It is a common rule of thumb that the soundstage is a direct result of the size of the preamp powersupply. Passive has no powersupply ... If you can't tell I have taken great pains to go down the road that your contemplating only to find a hole in my pocket book and much wasted time but everyone has to learn for themself in audio. Best of luck on your journey.
Passive properly done trounces any active stage. Actives add gain, then throw it away when the pot is down around 8 or 9 o'clock where they all sound their worst. You are then listening more to the preamp than the music. A tube-buffered and rectified dual mono passive betters every preamp that passes through the system [G&D Ref 1, XLR to Gen. Lens, EVS, Bel Canto, Impact Ventos] with full dynamic capabilites well intact. Buy a PS Audio IV-H or a B&K Pro 5, both under $200, for a taste of active vs. passive in the same box. A cheap test with potentially surprising results. Check tweakaudio.com for one [brilliant] man's considered opinion.
Hi Tomcat55. When I suggested you email me if you like, I forgot that this isn't possible for Audiogon right now. If you want to do it directly, it's [email protected] If you have only one signal source, it's especially worthwhile to go for a passive. The only thing better would be a digital processor that can go "straight in" to a power amp: Wadia, Accuphase, others. That beats even my best passives, even one with Audio Note Japan tantalum resistors. Even passives have parts--switches, connectors, resistors, wire--and there is nothing in a signal path that achieves the old mythical ideal for a power amp of "a straight wire with gain". I run my Accuphase DP-75 straight into my power amp(s), and use a passive only with a phono preamp. You can do better if you have only one line level source.
Thanks guys for the response. Well a Passive seems good when used with caution and good system matching particularly the poweramp that is being driven. One of the amplifiers that I am looking at is the Bel Canto EVo 200.2 Digital Amplifier. I think using a good volume control is key to building a passive preamp. I have heard of Penny and Giles, and Alps, does anyone know which one is best?
I am running the EVS Attenuator on the Bel Canto EVo right now. I am also getting a used First Sound Presence Preamp this week. I'm mainly evaluating an active preamp because the Sony SACD is known to have a poor output stage (I like SACD so I'm not going to replace the Sony) and a needs an active preamp according to some reviewers who have the same set-up as mine. The poor output stage results in the SACD not being able to source current well using a low input impedance preamp (10K on the EVS vs 150K ohms on the First Sound) - I'm told this. I will try to compare the two set-ups and let you know what works better. The EVS with the EVo sounds pretty good already. The debate of active vs passive is always a hard one and is system dependent. I'd much rather speed $225 on the passsive and put the money in music or better power cords.
Hi, I picked a Reference Line Preeminence One passive preamp here on Audiogon back in Jan of this year. Its been a revelation over the past 8months. During this period I've had several other preamps in and out (both tubed and SS, dealer loan and friends), I don't see myself ever going back to active. Reference Line is currently not back in business, they were sold to a gentleman in N. Carolina. When I last spoke with him (Scott) he was working on bringing them back. If this unit ever goes on me and I can't get it fixed I will have to go for a Placette passive or Monolithic, thats how hooked I am on the clarity and detail of passive. The Monolithic btw received an excellent review in Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, you can read it online at their site. My Ref Line One has all internal silver wiring,direct input option, plus volume remote, I paid $700 used, I've seen remoteless units for $500. Anyway, regardless of what unit I compared to the passive in my system they ALL seamed _veiled_, and significantly so. Did I say seemed?, they were veiled compared to the passive. I have detected no loss of dynamics whatsoever, in fact I've been startled by my system as much as ever on music. I also noticed that I could listen at higher levels without worrying about glare or grain ,somehow it seems as if reduced to none existant,compared to before.Conversely the amount of detail and rock solid images at low levels blows me away too. Soundstage as wide as any of the tubed-preamps I auditioned, and as I said no detectable loss of dynamics. A recently purchased VPI turntable, Rotel 971(X-10 buffer) feed the Ref Line passive which feeds a Proceed HPA-2 through a pair of Vandersteen 1C's with 2 2W subs. I'm running 1 meter interconnects all the way around with the exception of a pr of 5 meter interconnects from an AV switcher which feeds one of the Ref line's inputs for HT. Based on my experience with this (my first) passive, I must rave and encourage you to audition (try,whatever) passive. BTW, I've only heard the original VR-4, which blew me away with its imaging,dynamics,soundstaging. If the 2nd generation is as good (I assume it would be), I'm sure you won't be letting them go for a very,very long time.