I thought mine sounded pretty good hooked up to a benchmark DAC. I used the volume control on the benchmark.
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That is what I was thinking. Benchmark has a version with a remote volume control, too. Have heard that these units are very revealing, almost to the point of sounding "cold," but that depends on your ears, your music, your speakers, your amp, and your room, so I say go for it!
I have a Halo P3 pre amp and I love it, it has balanced outputs, I don't use them, but I'd like to someday.
Also fitting your bill would be the Emotiva XDA-1, a DAC with remote control and balanced outs. On clearance right now at Emotiva's website, I just noticed.
Quad makes great gear. I have auditioned their new stuff, including the 22L2s, and I was very impressed with the sound. The styling of their gear looks a bit odd to me tho.
I read that the Touch has a very good DAC already; that Emotiva unit I suggested above might only change the sound, not improve it.
I am a big fan of component pre-amps, I think they give the music something more than a digital volume pot attached to a DAC, but YMMV. That is the route I would go, a component pre. For me, a remote is a must-have. There are not all that many decent pre-amps out there for under $1000 that have remotes, look at Parasound and NAD to start. My dream pre is a McCormack right now.
Anything you add will change the sound, whether its an improvement is up to you.
Quad electronics have always had their own look. It's not big and it's not flashy, but it is very good and reasonably priced. One of the best systems I have ever heard was an all Quad system with ESL 63s, Quad amp, Quad preamp and Quad CD player. If Quad electronics is good enough for Quad electrostatic speakers it should be good enough for 12Ls.
The only reason I asked is that several people believe that considering the Touch has a pretty decent dac already, the pre would make a more drastic change than a new dac by finally providing a pure strong signal to the amps while at the same time providing good volume control. What you think of that argument.
I have gotten three recommendation so far that are around my price range:
1. The truth preamp
2. Warpspeed optocoupler
3. Grant Fidelity Dac - II