To preamp or not to preamp

Are those with Bartoks and Pre & Power Amps now using Bartok as the Pre? The reason I ask is that when I had Dave & M scaler I think that the Dave sounded better being fed through my Macintosh 2300 tube pre. From a quick test with Bartok straight into Macintosh 462 Power I believe it sounds better without the Macintosh Pre. I’d be interested to know other people experiences. Also can anyone recommend a decent ethernet? I bought and AQ but can hardly tell any difference between that and a £10 one from Amazon.

Hi Richard,

Your questions have been dealt with numerous times on this community. Maybe you would like to read first, and if you then still have questions, please let us know.

1 Like

If you can get away without a pre amp then i would.
Most will only colour it in some way, obviously you may prefer the coloured sound, but if you want to really hear what the dCS dac can do, go direct.


I’ve commented elsewhere that I’m using my Bartok direct into a Byrston 3B3 with excellent results. Since i’m in a small room and don’t listen very loudly, I can get away with running the .2V or the .6V out of the Bartok and keeping the volume between -10 and 0dB. Subjectively I find the sound to be clearer and more focused and more dynamic. Objectively, the Bartok as a digital pre is far quieter than my pre amp (reduced hiss and hum coming from the speakers at idle)


I have tried bypassing a preamp with the Bartok and previously with other components and I always return to using a preamp.

For me, the preamps adds body and weight and drive that rounds out a generally thinner presentation sans preamp.

Sans preamp there is more clarity and detail. But on the whole I prefer with preamp.

YMMV. Experiment!


Same here with and without the Chord preamp to my Rossini. Much preferred with the preamp in place.

1 Like

I have the Bryston 4B3, and I’m a bit surprised you are able to use such a low output from your Bartok. Do you have super efficient speakers? If your Bryston is more or less like mine - they are of the same ‘cubed’ generation so one would think so - then the lower input sensitivity setting is apparently the one to go for: there is lower noise than with the high gain setting. This is the opposite of the dCS units, for which higher output is lower noise. I do have some fond memories of a direct connection to a power amp, but the use of headphones as well as speakers makes this arrangement problematic for me.

As you have probably gathered by now there is no fixed preference to pre v. no pre. Individuals reach their own conclusion. However I am not sure I understand your second question regarding ethernet. Do you mean ethernet streamer? AQ to me means Audioquest so I am puzzled. Perhaps it is ethernet interconnect you are querying? If so there are numerous postings in the archives. However the technically correct answer is simple. Use an unshielded CAT certified cable. Most expensive audiophile cables meet neither of these basic requirements.

Thanks everyone. Some very useful opinions. Yes I did know before writing this that there is no fixed preference. As I said with Dave with was better but I think with Bartok its better without. I think many people still like to discuss and have conversations about their experience. & Yes AQ ethernet cable. I know DCS say a cheap generic is fine but many including dealers still spend more despite this. I know 2 dealers that use QED reference. The reason I asked is I still believe many have differing opinions on this & it’s interesting hearing those & there might be newer people here with some new experiences.

When selecting my system I tried the dCS Vivaldi Apex both direct and via a preamp into ATC actives (for the demo these were SCM 50s, although I finally bought 200s). I much preferred the sound with the preamp which is the CH Precision L1.

1 Like

actually my speakers are not the most efficient - Harbeth SHL5+. I listen in the near to mid field in a space with a low ceiling so at .2v out of the Bartok into the Bryston 3b3 at the lower 23db gain setting, I’m likely outputting a watt or 2 at 0dB! This works for most no classical. for classical I’lll use the .6v which means I’m outputting ~10-15w at 0db. I don’t rock out much!

1 Like


As @Dunc has already mentioned, anything that you put into the signal chain can only serve to add some degree of colouration to the sound that you hear. You can’t add something to the chain to remove a colouration - only to perhaps try to add an inverse colouration.

It may well be that you like the colouration that a piece of kit adds to the mix but in my system taking out the NAC 552 was like pulling a couple of blankets off my speakers (no veils were applicable here), the difference wasn’t at all subtle and I’ve been running without a pre since I got my original work Rossini Player back in Jan 2022…




My naim 552dr completely messed up the sound in comparison to direct to naim 500dr amp.
But also agree, you just need to try for yourself, as everyone is different, plus every system is different with some that can be pushed one to far.
But if you have a natural sounding system then i feel you will really like what going directly brings

Recently bought a Vivaldi Apex dac (lucky me;-). Based on my experience with a PSA Directstream dac I had no doubt about the added value of using a good preamp (Audio Research Ref6 SE).

But after enjoying the Vivaldi for a few weeks I took the plunge and went direct from Vivaldi into Audio Research Ref160S with -to me- shocking results. It turned out to be a significant step up across the entire spectrum; more holographic, air, transparancy, bettered tonal balance, tighter more defined bass…

The ARC Ref6 SE is now for sale, a nice unexpected bonus.


Hi Bill,
In every picture I have found at audio shows or at the dCS factory, dCS runs direct to power amps. (Mostly to D’Agostino, and then to Wilson).

Q E.D.

Because of inertia, I still feed dCS into an integrated amp; however, this situation is temporary.

I use my rossini apex dac direct to my pass xa amp.
I try with preamp, but direct is better for me.
The best preamp is without it.
Less component better risult.



I use my Rossini with a passive preamp and my amps are Pass XA too… like in heaven.


Thanks for above 2 Pass Labs amp users sharing.
By coincident, I just tried connect my Rossini APEX DAC direct to XA-25 for the first time last night, skipped my Holo Spring Serene pre, i was surprised by the sound quality gain.

1 Like

I think it highly depends on the quality of the Pre-amp.

I moved from McIntosh C2300 to McIntosh C12000 preamp (full separation between 2 channels). The entire sound stage changed to a different level altogether—with more air, better depth in the soundstage, more accuracy in instrument placement in 3D stage, and better balance across the frequency range. The tonal quality of instruments also improved big time. The same with vocals—more realistic representation of female artists.

However, if you are not using other source systems (like Vinyl, Cassettes, Reel to Reel, or another Streamer/Dac), you don’t need a preamp.


1 Like

I think that if the source is connect direct to the power amps and you listen really good and after that, you connect a pre and you listen different than before, the pre is not a good pre, that pre make something more over the source and this is not good for me.
I have try : Klimo Parsifal Ref pre, Naim 552 pre, Pass XP22 pre, MC pre.
Maybe the Pass was better for my ear, but all make something more respect Rossini apex connect direct to the power amp.
Sorry for my english , so bad, but i hope that you understand me.
The best pre is without it if the source can work direct with the power amp.

Good music at all my friends.