I recently purchased a Wadia 860x and after using it straight into my Amp I decided to sell my Pre. The only downside is unless i use a a to d converter I cannot use other components. but is is worth it.
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Amen! The worst move I have ever made in my twenty-odd years in the high-end is selling my Line Drive by Mod Squad. Was a box with high quality rotary switches and high quality volume control and I have never found any other preamp which has sounded so good. In fact, I am currently searching for something to use to replace what I have. I sold four years ago, thinking I was moving up and have five high-end preamps since. Does anyone out there have a Line Drive for sale in black and primo condition? A Line Drive and a Threshold FET ten/pc phono stage are the best sounding combination I have ever heard and am moving back as soon as I can find the Line Drive.
Agreed! I've been a "passivist" since a humble little $200 Adcom line controller trounced the $2500 ARC LS2 I had. Active line stages are artifacts, throw backs if you will, to the days when there was only phono (however I DO remember one preamp in the 70's that had only a direct path to the volume pot for the tuner and tape inputs).
I've come to the conclusion that for 2 channel home music applications, if you NEED an active line stage there is something WRONG in the system. I also feel that about half of the difference that people hear between analog and digital is due to the people making comparisons by having the CD source plugged into the same preamp that the table is plugged into. The CD source then being veiled by all that active gain crap in the way.
I seriously suggest you look for a Reference Line Preemminance 1, Series II/III or a Preemminance 2. It is the best "passive" preamp I've heard to date. I had the Mod Squad Line Drive Deluxe, then the TLC (slightly better than the Deluxe) and was happy for about a year, absolutely convinced there was no better. Then a local high end shop suggested I take home one of the Reference Line units over the weekend. Hooked it up (LOVE having no power cord or warm-up)qued up the first CD......OH MY! Within the first few seconds I knew this unit was not going to leave and the Deluxe & TLC were for sale. Gone was the slightly thin and forward presentation, present was a meaty big and bouncy acoustic space, ballsy bass and fluid detail. My wife kept telling me to turn it down on dynamic peaks even though voltage measurements told me I was actually running 1/2 db lower at average levels. You can find these units here going for between $500-800 depending on vintage and model.
I have an Audio Research LS2 MkII
I've compared it to an LS5 which is much more musical.
The LS2 has alot of slam but is a little too bright on the top end. Glaring at times.
I just bought an EVS Millenium II dac with a volume attenuator (ultimate attenuators) option on the back so that I can run it direct to the power amp, haven't tried that option yet but the dac did add phenominal low end to the pre amps capabilities.
I do alot of taping to a Nakamichi 3 head, so would like something with tape monitor capability, don't need a phono stage.
is the Reference in that category???
Why yes, it does have a complete tape/tape monitor loop.
It would interesting to compare the DAC's fixed output thru the Reference Line to the DAC's attenuator output. Another passive to passive comparison.
Later Reference Line Models had a direct input feature which was a straight shot thru just the attenuator, thus avoiding the other switches and wiring. Also, a remote volume control was available as an option. Volume only and the remote was kinda clunky but it worked well.
Reference Line stuff is great looking too with mirror polished black anodizing face plates and gold plated handles.
I tried running a Sony XA7ES CD player direct to McCormack DNA-2DX and didn't like it at all. The music was thin, sterile, hyper-detailed, and lacked "body". Switching back to a Sonic Frontiers Line 2 pre-amp restored timbral richness, deep tight bass, body, naturalness, soundstaging, and was in general much more musical. I will admit that the Sony volume control is probably not very high quality. I like active tube pre-amps with high quality SS amps. Cheers. Craig.
I'm surprised that it was't more evenly balanced between those for and those against an active preamp. I reached as high in actives as a CAT SL-1 III with factory-simplified signal path, and found it clearly inferior, for CD play, to a DIY passive involving Holco resistors, Shallco resistors, good connectors and internal wire. If you want to make your own for around $400, let me know thru Member Lookup. You could also check out the DIY section of www.goldpt.com, where Arn Roatcap explains passive options clearly, with a schematic for a maximally complex passive preamp. It's very likely that you could be completely happy with a simpler one.
Seeing that's is all about "balance" in the end (and of course, most people's system, to be critical, are off balance in one way or another), I think there's probably not one solution to every system set-up!!! They all tend to have different requirements/needs depending.
I've heard some systems that seem to do better with passives, or no preamp from the CD out. And I've heard others that absolutely do better with an active preamp (some tube/some solid state).
Usually what you find is that most CD player outs(or other sources) don't seem to make a good enough match in impedance and such with amp/speaker combo's! Some times it works great. Usually, when the passive approach doesn't work, it's either thin and amusical, or dynamics are lacking and a bit weak (more noticable on percussion and rock and such..).
The only way to find out is to try the different approaches, and see how it works in your sytem! I'm currently using a Pass Labs Aleph L passive/active preamp, which works supeb with my solid state friendly Sonus Faber Electa Amator set-up! It's passive all the way to a point on the volume, then goes active...best pre-amp I've had for this system. However, I noticed the same preamp doesn't seem to work as well with my older Thiel speakers/Classe amp combo! The sound was a bit thin, bright, and lacking snap! That combo did best with a tube active preamp for sure!
Anyway, you just gotta try for yourself what works, then you'll know....no free lunch...
The source component that sounds without preamp is THE source component of the high quality with stabilized and well engineered output. In this case you'll need no line stage at all -- pure signal, no feedback(if poweramp has no feedback), best details, open and transparent sound etc... So If you want to find out the "naked" sound of source component ask dealer to plug it to power amp directly when you audition. Phono stages aren't tended to be as stable as DACs/CD-players(unless it goes to BAT P5 or Herron levels...$4..5K) since they're working with much smaller signals and most-likely will need line stage(extra gain and feedback).