Wadia 302 Direct to amp or via pre-amp

Wadia recommends that my 302 sounds best when connect to the amp and further recommends that its output be adjusted so that on its output scale of 1 to 100 it output should be in the top third of its range (67 or higher) and if it so regularily fall lower than 50 you should increase the level of its varible output control.

Wadia go on to recommend that when connected to a pre-amp you should run the metered out put level at 99(max) for best performance.

What I can understand, if 99 is the best when using a pre-amp, wouldn't 67+ be a degredation direct into an amp?

If I wanted to do an A/B comparison and assuming that my CDP's meter said 75 wouldn't I get a truer comparison of the quality of the sound by making it the same when I processed it thru a pre-amp.

I'm having a hard time understanding Wadia's position on this. Help......
If you use a preamp, you can use the volume control on the preamp, so therefore it's best to get the Wadia volume control "out of the way" (meaning set to 99 or 100). If you do that and the system volume (out of the speakers) is too loud when your preamp volume control is set to 12 o'clock, then you have to reduce the Wadia's output a little bit using the internal adjustment dip switches -- instructions are available from Wadia as an email attachment if you're in a hurry ;--)

ON THE OTHER HAND if you are going directly into an amp, you need to achieve an average listening level at a Wadia setting of 67 (approximately) so that you have a little bit of up and down volume range. Again, if 67 is too loud (or soft) then you need to adjust the internal switches so that 67 provides a "normal" volume.
Nsgarch, What I don't understand is, assuming for the sake of discussion and clarification, I had a totally neutral pre-amp wouldn't the sound of the 302 be better with its volume control out of the way (or just wide open, perhaps?) than direct into the amp with a substantial reduction in signal strength? Or are they saying that the volume attenuator on any pre-amp is more detrimental to the sound than the attenuator used in the 302? To my way of thinking IF the quality of the pre-amp attenuator was SOTA then you could run the 302 at, say 67 and still get the same quality signal at the amp. I want to maximize the benefits of the Wadia, but I have other sources to consider and I'd prefer not to have to get a seperate amp for the Wadia. BTW, FWIW, I now have it directly connected to an amp and it sounds quite nice, in fact much better than I anticipated when I bought it! :-)

Thanks for your comments.
Newbee -- (first, just a note: "out of the way" and "wide open" are the same thing ;--)

In reading many threads on this subject, the general concensus (not 100% mind you) has been that "through a preamp sounds better" and also, another concensus is that CDPs and DACs sound best when using their balanced outputs (if provided) into balanced inputs (whether on an amp or on a preamp.)

I do use the balanced ouputs on my Wadia 27 DAC, but into balanced inputs on my Levinson 26s preamp. I've never even bothered to try the direct-2-amp hookup because as you said, I too have other sources to consider. And since I've not heard the direct hookup, I don't have to deal with the anxiety of wondering if my preamp hookup sounds best ;--)

I've never had to adjust the internal Wadia dip switches, because at "wide open" (Wadia level 100 on the display,) and with my preamp volume at (the optimum) 12 or 1 o'clock, my CDs sound a little too loud, and so do my LPs and tuner. So all sources are in the same volume range. My preamp doesn't have remote volume control, but at least I can use the mute/volume on the Wadia when necessary.

Wadia would like us to feed all our analog sources into their A/D encoder, then feed that into the DAC or CDP and then directly into the amp. But why the hell would one want to digitize all one's expensive analog sources! -- plus you'd lose several (convenient to use) preamp functions like mono/stereo, tape loop/record out, phase invert, etc.

So for my purposes anyway, I don't see ever eliminating the preamp. If you have a CD-only system, it might make sense. But if I were going to do that, I wouldn't use a CD player. I'd buy a transport and run a long AT&T glass optical cable to the DAC and amp between the speakers affording the absolute shortest ICs and speaker cables ;--)

The volume in a Wadia (at least my 861SE)can be manipulated in two ways:

1) Digital Volume Control (1-100). By setting to 100, you have essentially bypassed the Digital Volume Control. If you use a preamp, you should set the DVC to 100. Do not use 99. In my system, I can hear dramatic differences between 99 and 100.

2) Dip Switches/attenuators. If at the 100 setting the volume is too low or high for a target preamp volume position, set the dip switches inside the cdp to increae or attenuate the signal. This is done in the analog domain so is not as detrimental. If using a preamp, don't use the DVC to adjust the volume.

Running direct vs through a preamp has pro's and con's and there are many Wadia threads that go into this.
Neither o fthe Wadias I have owned have had a 100 volume setting - just 99, so I can't comment on Aoliviero's experience. In my systemthere isn't a significant difference between 98 and 99, or any close volume settings. If you have a 100, though, definitely try it.

If you want to do an A/B comparison of the sound with and without a pre-amp, first set the volume of the Wadia direct into the amps at the desired listening level. It should be over 67, as Wadia says. If not, open the unit and set the dip switches. Then connect your pre-amp and adjust the pre-amp until the volume is the same. Your pre-amp is now set at unity gain, meaning it doesn't change the volume. Once set up, this is the easiest way to swap back and forth. To change the volume, use the volume control on the Wadia. That way, when you swap the preamp in and out, the volume will be the same, whether the pre-amp is in the chain or not. This will give you a good idea of what your pre-amp is doing. I suppose the best way to run the test, though, would be to play the Wadia at full volume when connected to the pre-amp, and adjust volume with the pre, as you would do in real life. The problem with this is that most pre-amps are very difficult to get repeatable volume settings with, so you are likely to be listening slightly louder or softer, which will skew your results.

My experience with preamps is that they degrade resolution, but provide a richer sound. Much is made fo the degradation of resolution when using the Wadia digital volume control, but I don't find this to be the case. Plugging in a pre-amp creates a much more noticable loss of resolution than dropping the volume from 99 to 70 (which you can play with either by having the Wadia plugged into a pre-amp and turning down the Wadia then turning up the preamp, or by listening without a pre amp, then plugging the Wadia into a pre-amp, setting its volume to 99 and adjusting the preamp's volume).
I doubt that there are many who can hear the resolution loss from 100 to 80, or even 70. If you can then you've got the golden ears. Still I would prefer a volume control that functions in the analog domain rather than the digital. What you're saying Newbee makes sense but whether the differences are audible I don't know.