Who makes the best passive volume control?

my thing is transparency I live most passive pre's more then actives(except the really $$$ ones) but I only listen to one source so a passive volume control might be even better...

in your experience who makes the best one you've heard..
Look into the placette units, they are among the finest passive units available.
There is no best of anything in audio, there are only opinions. Passives come in all prices so I would start looking for one in your price range. There are a couple of passives that sell for over $4,000 I think, the three I hear the most about are the silver rock, placette, bent tvc. There was a couple of shoot outs on these over at AA forum and I think there was one here also, I would do a search on both forums. I think these three can be had for between $1000-$2000 depending on options. Adcom has an active/passive pre-amp that is very good and can be found used at around $750. Creek and E.T. audio have good lower priced models that are good at their price point.
Sorry, that passive should read F.T. audio.
Any of the Reference Line models. Reference Line was the "reference" pre-amp for a number of equipment reviewers because of its neutrality and transparency. Plus the dynamics is incredible.
I've had the Adcom 750 and the Placette remote volume control. Placette is a little better, but the Adcom provides more features and inputs/outputs and for the money is the best deal in audio.
Channel Islands Audio and NHT both make very serviceable passives, at a very reasonable price.
I've been using the Placette Remote Volumne Control
in balanced configuration,I have not look back since.I have had at home some of the so called audio industry reference Pre-Amp's such as CJ,audio research,BAT,CAT.This unit is so much more musical and grain free.By Far the best investment towards great music.
Eantala, i am a committed passive volume control lover. the Placette is the best all-round unit i have found in my system. i recently did a shoot-out of the Bent Silver TX102, the Silver Rock and the Placette. of the three i very slightly preferred the Silver Rock for it's amazing ease and refinement. i am staying with the Placette since it has a remote (which is essential to me) and was close enough to the Silver Rock that the remote tipped the balance. i also did think the Placette was slightly more immediate and had more air and openness.

the Bent unit was not a good impedence match in my particular system so don't take my comments here as a knock on the Bent. also, to be fair the Bent unit is about 1/4th to 1/3rd the cost of a Silver Rock (or even less if you are a DIY'r).

all three of these units would be 'perfect' for some systems.

in general, a resistive-based volume control (the Placette)is more neutral and transparent than a transformer based volume control. the claim of the transformer lovers is that transformers (or autoformers) will 'correct' things......what if i don't like being 'corrected'?

in any case, passives are VERY system dependent. but.....when they are working correctly they will bring you closer to the music.
EVS is making their Ultimate Attenuators again. They're perfect for once source systems. Ric makes them with good parts. They are really nothing but a series of the best vishay resistors, the jacks, and a volume control. Ric is all about transparancy and his stuff is quite good (I own his DAC 2 and a modded transport). You can check them out at www.tweakaudio.com. If I remember right, they're $350-ish.
I think that the best passive volume control is no passive volume control at all.
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I recently noticed that a hi-end tube audio manufacturer in Vancouver made a 100 step IR remote control volume passive pre-amp, model number RV-101, which should be exactly match your requirement. They claim this is all relay switch resistor ladder type with best sound. Only one input and one output. They have a website, just type www.space-tech-lab.com to check it out. The guy run this shop is a real nice one, I have been there several times, he make really good sound tube equipments.
Not being to timid at showing my lack of knowledge; am I to assume a passive has ONLY one volume setting? Also seems I've read the passive doesn't like to drive a single ended 3mt. ic. Is this true?
George, a passive is a volume control. Long interconnects can give you problems as the source must drive the amp with no help from a pre-amp. With some source and amps you would have no problem with 3 meter interconnects. It all depends on many things, speaker used will also have an effect on how it works out. It's a great way to fly when it does work.
I've heard good things about the TDK stepped attenuator $229 from percyaudio.com. Much finer steps than DACT or the standard Goldpoint models.
Tarsando, you got me thinking. I could burn my CD's at -40dB and run direct CDP to power amp. Not even a passive needed.
Audio Consulting Signature series Silver Rock Potentiometer W/C37 laquer option and wooden knobs.
This is an old thread, but having tried many of the passives
mentioned, resistor, tvcs, and avcs, and since product have
evolved, I thought it worth mentioning and perhaps stirring
more discussion from other passive lovers, the very best
volume control I have had in my system is the Lightspeed
Attenuator with one contacts points, light depend resistor
(LDRs), and LEDs for controlling the amount of light. Not only
bettered the Placette, S&B TVC, and the BENT AVC in my system,
but any "preamp" I have had in my system including
some of the finest 5-7k tube line stages. It only has one I/O
and no remote, which might be a deal breaker for some, but to
my ears it is the best volume attenuation device on the market
- for $450 or so.
Try the Luminous Axiom passive preamp. It can be had for about $150 brand new right here on Audiogon. It is very system dependent. Contact them and they build the unit according to your amp and speakers.
Mitch, are you saying the Luminous is the best passive volume control, or just one to try? I did have two "pot/resistor" types from Music Reference and Goldpoint, as well as the Placette RVC - all of which sound very good, especially for the price, though the Placette is not cheap, but I did not like them better than the TVCs and AVCs I used, and at a higher price point. Neverthesless, the Lightspeed Attenuator was superior to the all, to my ears and my system. I don't know of any passive fans that has tried one that has not come to the same conclusion, it is the best passive volume control in passive friendly systems. If you are using the Luminous because you love passives and they work for you, do give the Lightspeed a try, there is nothing quite like it.
The Lightspeed is the best we have tried.

However all passives have certain limitations, and if you exceed those limitations, they will color the sound quite noticeably, and rob you of dynamic impact, regardless of how good they are.

The primary limitation is cable length. By the time the cable is even 6 feet long, the loss of bass and impact is easily heard. At full volume it will not be such a problem, but as you back off on the volume control, it will be very much like operating a sort of tone control that rolls off the bass. This is caused by an interaction between the output impedance of the source, the resistive value of the passive unit at the particular volume control setting, the characteristics of the cable and the input impedance of the amplifier. That's a lot of variables.

It is for this reason that you will see an on-going debate about whether or not active preamps can be more transparent and more dynamic, with greater bandwidth. Some active preamps are much better at this than others! In theory, the active line section should control the cable so that it has no artifact. In practice, this is rare although there are examples (most of them being balanced designs). However, if it does control the cable the passive will not hold a candle to it.
i duno if they are best, but they are certanly very good:
(using them for more then 3 years with various amps)



What about Burson stepped attenuator?

A little OT but how can you tell if an active is controlling the cable in the way you describe? Any good way of measuring this? In something like Stereophile's equipment measurement, any particular that will give agood idea of cable control, degree of cable control or likelihood of cable control?
Marebg, those are one passive approach I have not tried, but
it sure does help to eliminate an IC, for reasons Ralph
alludes to. I would have a bit of an issue with the
ergonomics of the Endlers, but I suspect they sound very,
very good.

That being said, there are several aficionados of passives
that have tried the gauntlet, including Endler, that once
trying the Lightspeed have concluded it is the best sounding
passive of any topology. I do think that Endler-type
Lightspeed would sound the best, but it would be a bit more
complicated to design and that is not the designers way -
though I am sure there would be a market for it - get rid of
the IC, the final frontier:)
Check out Richard Lee audio.
We could do that, but it seems his stuff is just a pot-in-a-
box with a Noble attenuator. If you go that route, I would
look at the Music Reference PiB which uses one of the most
expensive attenuators ever made by Noble, the one used in the
ARC SP6. However, we are trying to identify the best volume
control, so some system context and comparative info would be
useful. I believe that most passives, in the right system,
including Richard Lee, will sound very good compared to most,
not all, active linestages, but if you are looking for the
best, I don't think you can come to any conclusions till you
have heard the Lightspeed Attenuator, for my money, it is the
one to beat - including any resistor, TVC or AVC on the
Thanks for the tip Mitch4t.
I have tried both the Endler's and EVS attenuators favoring the EVS in the end. I still keep them around.

I have always been curious about two other passives that come in balanced versions that I've never tried. One is the Luminous and the other is Reference Line.
Has anyone tried the Myth? I understand that it also uses some sort of LDR:

Anthony, is the difference between the Endler and EVS based on the resistors used, or something else going on? Would love to hear an at the input version the LSA, but it does not seem in the cards, at least not commercially.
A little OT but how can you tell if an active is controlling the cable in the way you describe? Any good way of measuring this? In something like Stereophile's equipment measurement, any particular that will give agood idea of cable control, degree of cable control or likelihood of cable control?

This is easy to answer. Try using a cable that is 100 feet long. Then try a 1 meter cable. Obviously you will hear a difference, and it will also be something that can be measured. As you decrease the volume, you will find that artifacts are easier to measure. It will not matter how good the passive control is- it will matter more that it *is* a passive control.

Now I know that no-one uses 100 foot cables, but this model will allow you to see and hear the issue.

You could also use a very cheap cable and a well-reviewed cable. You might argue that the difference you are hearing is that of the cable, but of course that is the point.