Those Who Use Preamp with dCS

For those who use preamplifiers with dCS gear, what benefit do you get in terms of sound quality when compared with connecting dCS directly to power amplifier?

If you think of colour saturation with a photograph then my experience has been of increased " sonic saturation" or body plus a greater sense of dynamics and drive.

In 22+ years of using dCS processors I have always tried direct connection from time to time. I have always enjoyed the resulting clarity of the sound but after a couple of days have felt that there is something missing and for sheer musical involvement have then returned to use of a preamp.


I just feel it sounds more like what I am looking for with my pre-amp between the Vivaldi and my amps.

I did several tests also with my own recordings and always preferred the direct output from the DAC (Scarlatti).
My preamplifier was a Cello Palette, and that says a lot.

Thanks Massimo, your comment involves the use of a unique and fascinating component.

For readers who do not know of the Cello Palette it was one of the finest preamps of its day (1990s) and combined an active preamplfier with a form of parametric equalizer - a bank of tone controls.

One thing that does come to mind given a comparison of preamp v. direct connection with this combination is that the Palette had only single ended inputs . So Scarlatti would have been connected using its RCA outputs. It is feasible that direct connection may have used Scarlatti’s balanced out. In all generations of dCS DACs balanced out does offer somewhat better sound which may explain or have influenced the preference. Further if the equalizer function was engaged then even with each control set to “flat” small frequency deviations remained according to the measurement section in Stereophile’s review of the time.

However, even given those small caveats, an interesting view.

For quite a while I swapped between direct connection of Network Bridge, Delius and Purcell into Boulder 850M amps and via a Mark Levinson 380S pre amp. This was using balanced cables throughout.

I preferred the sound of the direct connection, which I thought was slightly clearer.

I sold the Levinson to fund my Rossini which is a direct connection to the Boulders - couldn’t be happier

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Asking something controversial, not to provoke, but to elicit other opinions and learn:

If the functions of a pre-amp are to provide input selection and volume control, and you only want one input (Rossini) and such input (Rossini) provides volume control, why spend money on a pre-amp?

(Haters, please hold your fire!)

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Fair comment. I have also tried every now and then using the Bartok to drive my Pass 30.8. I have also tried using my Benchmarkmedia DAC3HGC likewise. I always seem to return to my Pass XP22 pre. I find the pre adds something, not sure what but something which makes it sound better. Perhaps distortion for all we know, but really do not care. The fun is giving this no-pre a shot every now and then. It is a fun hobby anyway. :slight_smile:

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Given that rhetorical question no reason to spend at all. However, as I often say, audio is not a laboratory experiment it is musical entertainment at home. In that sense we can find that just having accuracy may turn out to be less entertaining. We are humans and have imagination, memory and a non-linear transfer function for our hearing all of which makes our experience somewhat unpredictable and difficult to codify.

As you can see from the responses of pre-amp users we just tend to prefer the use of one.


Does anyone have any comment on the Leedh digital volume system and its possible implementation in dCS gear?