The volume control implementation used in audio demands low noise, transperency and minimum reactance.
Remote control volumes usually incorporate motors along certainly with DC to drive the motor that becomes a part of signal path(hm... noisy often if not always) or digital stepped switching and digital switches for the input/output selectors(an extra element in the signal path i.e. noise, distortion etc...).
The Mara's Remote Control Theorem is as follows:
For every remote-controlled (preamp or source) unit there is always non-remote that is much better.
It doesn't mean that AI will sound better than CJ since there are too many variables why you will like one component over the other still...
Well, here's one reason. To provide a remote costs money. If the manufacturer is trying to hit a price point, he can either improve the sonic components, or put in a remote control. So, at a given price, all other things being equal, the non-remote unit will sound better for the money. This is because the manufacturer had to cut out something somewhere else to find the money to include the remote. You guessed it, in the sound quality. In a price-no-object item, you might not have to sacrifice anything but money, and have the remote too. And at current markup structures, if the remote components and control gear cost the manufacturer $100, it will cost you at least $400 for the luxury, or it will cost you $400 worth of sound quality. Will you get up from the chair for better sound? I will. But for many people, convenience is more important than sound. So many manufacturers choose to include these remotes in lower and medium priced gear. In high priced gear, it is less critical, because you are paying the big ticket anyway and you can then have both sound and remote without sacrifice.
Oh, yeah... One more thing:
When buying used equipment remote-controlled gear might to some point be a-bit more marketable than non-remote since it in general drop its price to the point of non-remote gear anywhay...
Thanks for the insightful responses so far. To clarify, I'd be more than willing to pay for the remote, it's just that first it has to be made available by the manufacturer.
I guess in the long run I'll go with what I think is the better match with my system.
Also, I think I'll open a pizza parlor.....of course, pepperoni won't be an option, no matter how much people are willing to pay : ).
Sometimes it's not just economics, it's a compromise or lack thereof. Some are not willing to compromise the sonics, no matter how small, for convenience. From what I can tell, most of the best pre-amps do not have a remote. i.e. Asthetix Callisto, Wyetech Opal, Foundation Research V-6, just to name a few.
Sometimes, it's a philosophy only. The mfg'er's attenuation and sonics are not the best and sometimes far from it, but buy eliminating the remote, they believe they'll appeal to the so-called audio 'purist'.
But if transparency and resolution and a remote are the attributes for your ideal pre-amp, then you should take a look at the Placette passive and active linestage preamps. placetteaudio.com or placette.com. Guy Hammel of Placette incorporates a generic Sony universal remote and to my knowledge has not compromised anything to achieve his performance goals.
I recently owned the Placette Active, and it was an excellent performer. I could hear a musical note just decay forever into the noise-floor, not to mention an added smoothness, continuity, and/or liquidity to the presentation.
However, it did not meet all of what I seek for in a preamp and I don't believe the Placette is for everybody or for every system.
But Placette is among the best at what they promote and do.
It depends on just how much you want to get up for each perceived and therefore needed volume change. A lot of times I miss having my meitner preamp with the wired remote hooked up. I think it was considered the same as not having remote at all, with all the convenience. Its even good wire. May just have connect it.
Aesthetix showed the new remote for the Callisto at CES in January. It may be ordered as an option for new preamps or retrofitted to previous production units.
The remote consists of dual stepper motors and dual ribbed rubber drive belts, turning the dual mono, four deck, balanced, stepped ladder bridge volume controls.
The infrared receiver and power supply unit is in a separate box, keeping the noise away from the main unit. The umbilical cord uses the same multi pin locking connector design as the dual outboard supplies that power this unit.
I don't know the price but suspect it will be as expensive for the remote as many preamps cost.
I was sufficiently impressed that I have ordered this upgrade for my Callisto. I would have kept the Callisto, even if there was never a remote available. Admittedly, I am attracted to ultimate performance with convenience in the same package.
The best "budget" remote preamp I've heard so-far is Audio Synthesis passive remote stepped volume control ~$2.2k new.
Albertporter, would you care to go into a bit of detail about your thoughts on the Callisto?
And did you happen to see a mfg'er named Foundation Research at CES? They have a $6k preamp called the 'V6' that apparently has made quite an impression at shows in the Toronto area. Alas, no remote.
Second, is there a way around this? Creek OBH-10? Others? Would this affect the sound in any way?
Dave to answer your question, that add-on Creek is the surest way to degrade your sonics, & via remote control at that! Not only are you adding the attenuator's sonic signature into the picture, but also the additional pair of interconnects (or two pair if you connect via a tape loop). It's simply not advisable for even reasonable quality equipment, but yes it is certainly possible to add remote that way. Some will use the tape loop path as an everyday function, then switch it out of the signal path for critical listening. But if I'm sitting in the listening chair, that is one of those times when I would most want the remote control function, yet would least want any degradation.
But by buying a higher quality remote controlled preamp you'll not be sacrificing sonic quality. That's one of the things that you're paying for with the big ticket prices. I did just that; no regrets whatsoever. I'll never go back to a non remote unit; these can spoil you real quick.
Stenho, I've owned most of the preamps that are considered "ultimate" and borrowed a good many others. I could list and describe them in a email if you wish.
I am so completely sold on both the Aesthetix Io and Callisto that I have stopped looking to upgrade that part of my system. You would have to know me to realize how radical that is :^).
I did not see the Foundation Research, at least that I can remember. I understand that it is supposed to be good. Same with the new Burmeister preamp. A reviewer (friend) is currently trying several of these in his own system. His reference is the same as mine, the Aesthetix Io and Callisto. He too has been unable to find anything their equal.
Adding quality sounding remote functionality to a preamp adds significant cost and complexity to a design. Still I've come to the recent conclusion that a preamp cannot be considered a serious high end design if it lacks remote control capabilities. My argument centers around having the ability to remotely control channel balance. Minute changes in channel balance can snap soundstaging into focus. On modern pop/rock recordings the channel balance may need adjusting 3 or 4 times per disc. This is best accomplished from the sweet spot via a remote. It's a minor adjustment, but it's comparable to the difference between being in the zone on a speaker's toe-in angle versus nailing it dead-on.
I think of having a good full-function remote as more than just a convenience. It can actually improve the listening experience by permitting correct volume adjustment at the listening position, something hard to judge accurately when you'd otherwise have to closely approach or go behind the speakers to make a change, as I would. Plus having a remote that controls source selection has helped with component and cable auditioning by allowing me to construct test set-ups where I can instantaneously A/B things with the push of a button from the chair. If you are anal about absolute phase, a preamp and remote that allows this parameter to be switched on the fly could be the only way to go, because the difference can be frustratingly obscured when you're walking about or standing in between your speakers.
In the case you're looking at, I actually suspect it's likely AI's small size as a company, as much as anything else, that prevents them from offering both a remote *and* a competitive price on their product, the basic engineering of which was done quite a while ago now. A company that makes and sells a sizably higher volume of production every year like C-J will have a natural edge with such considerations. As far as sound goes, I think enough has been learned about implementing remote control at this point that it is probably not correct to say that, all other considerations being equal, a non-remote preamp will still always sound better than one with a remote, though we obviously pay to have it done right. As a matter of fact, I think that the demand for remote contral has actually prompted advances in the design and implementation of volume-attenuation systems within preamplifiers, away from potentiometers (with or without motors) and coarse stepped-attenuators, toward discrete fixed systems emloying conceptually-simple but complex-in-execution resistive or shunt designs that raise prices, but offer theoretically improved sound quality over their adjustment range.
Ok - I admit that I am biased because I own one, but the Ayre pre-amps(K-1 and K-3) have a remote control option that employs the use of a stepper motor and a drive belt that turns a gear on the volume control shaft. This is a very elegant solution, as it moves the control mechanically without degrading the signal because its totally outside of the signal path.
Great responses all. Appreciate the feedback.
Having turned volume up or down during listening of one piece of music on quiet or loud parts is just another way to compress the signal imho.
I have a non remote BC3 preamp but am considering a CD player with volume control and using one output for remote and the fixed for (I would assume) non compromised listening. Any potential problems with this config?
instead of using the Creek unit purchase a Placette RVC its very transparent and has 120 volume steps.
Estein, even if you acquire remote-volume CD-player you pretty fast realize that using fixed output with your existing non-remote preamp will make much more sence sonically!
Agree with Zaikes... a remote for me is NOT just about convenience, but also about sound quality. You can't adjust volume accurately when you're not in the listening position! Also, different songs require differing volumes sometimes... some are recorded so loud, while others seem relatively soft, even on the same disc.