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12/14/18 at 05:15:04 


       



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To preamp or not to preamp (Read 1087 times)
Melvin
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Posts: 39
To preamp or not to preamp
02/28/18 at 13:41:09
 
I'm just curious what others are doing.

My amp is in quality control now and hopefully it will be in my home soon. I intend on using the SE84UFO sans preamp initially but I can't help but wonder if a preamp would be advantageous. I have an older PS Audio linestage but it's, of course, an SS design. Would this configuration be detrimental? I will experiment if y'all think it's worth it. Thanks guys .. I have so little experience with tubes.

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Bluesound Node 2 • MHDT Lab Pagoda • Decware SE84UFO • Omega Super 3i and DeepHemp 8
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Lon
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Posts: 14933
Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #1 - 02/28/18 at 14:40:11
 
Melvin, I've gone back and forth with preamps over the years with the Zen amps and bigger amps.

The short answer that has hit me after twenty years of Decware use is: a great preamp really helps, especially with the smaller wattage amps. I've used a solid state preamp in the past (a Hafler) and it was an interesting match in many ways. I suspect the PS Audio preamp is a good one and I would definitely experiment with it when you have the Zen.

Tube preamplifiers are perhaps even more interesting a match. There's a reason I have three CSP type preamps from Decware, they're excellent and really work well with the amps.

When I moved up to the Torii amps I felt that a preamp was less necessary--the smaller amps seem to drink up a lot of gain, and have less need of a preamp. But as time went by I realized that for me, in my system, with careful cabling and tube-rolling a great preamp does add aspects of body and heft and detail that are wonderful to experience. And when I moved up to the ZTPRE--wow. All the great aspects of preamps I had before in one package and somehow not experienced as a preamp in ways other preamps had. It's like it's not there, BUT it's adding so much goodness.

I think the key with these amps in input gain. I felt that the ZBIT worked in my system as well as the CSP2+ I had in many ways, getting the gain from the balanced output of my DAC was accomplishing almost as much as the gain from the preamp with its additional tubes and cabling. I was ready to do without a preamp until the ZTPRE came along and changed my mind significantly, definitively.

So I say experiment with the preamp you have in hand, and compare it to the amp direct, and if you like what the PS Audio is adding. . . think about experimenting further with a really good tube preamplifier which may be a step up. . . .
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HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th, CSP3-25th;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10, PowerBases,XStream Statemt spk cb,AC-12 power cds;Mapleshade:SamsonV2+V3;Oppo UDP-205;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;Aurios;MD90-T SE tuner; headphones: Oppo PM-1,Sennheiser HD800
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Melvin
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #2 - 02/28/18 at 19:12:26
 
Great info Lon .. much appreciated. I've been thinking of a tube preamp for a while now and may indeed go down that road in the future. After the amp arrives I will experiment with the gear I currently own. Thank you.
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Bluesound Node 2 • MHDT Lab Pagoda • Decware SE84UFO • Omega Super 3i and DeepHemp 8
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: To preamp or not to preamp
Reply #3 - 03/01/18 at 17:52:54
 
Lon explained it quite fine, and my experience is very much in the same lines.

With my TORII mkII back in the day, I did not need a preamp; it was just a matter of taste.  Actually, adding a preamp made it a bit more complex, more tubes, more volume controls, etc.

In front of my UFO84UFO, I use a Copland tube DAC/Pre and am feeding it quite fine and that combination shines!  No one, including me, can tell that amp is actually 2.3 watts per channel even though I am driving relatively inefficient speakers.

With the TABOO mkIII, I was not happy in general till I added a ZBIT to the signal chain.  After adding the ZBIT, the amp drives the Audeze LCD-2's with much better bass and authority.

My experience with SE34I.2+ is exactly the same.  I used to feed it direct from a DAC with 2.3 V of output, and it was mediocre at best.  When I started feeding it with an iFi micro Tube2 pre/buffer at 7.75 V, things started coming together and the amp started sounding much better.  Also, this is with relatively less efficient speakers.  

With low-powered SETs, amp-speaker matching is always an issue; at least for me.  My experience is when you have a high-output source in front of such amps, part of the difficulty in matching disappears.  IMO and IME...

Cheers,

Alper
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