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No preamp is the way... (Read 8558 times)
Matchstikman
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No preamp is the way...
12/19/16 at 20:24:04
 
For years I used my blue Torii with an original CSP.  It was a great sounding amp.  Then one thing led to another and the blue Torii was relegated to the computer desktop.  The thing was, I didn't want to hook up the CSP, too.  So, I purchased a DAC with a volume control.  Now, it goes from the PC to the DAC to the amp.  Well, it sounds amazing and maybe better than it ever did with the CSP.  The thing is, my blue Torii has not built in volume control.  It is all on.

After this, and Stone's adventures with preamps I've come around to having no preamp is the best way.  But, maybe, not always.  I still have the Van Alstine SS amp and it has no volume control and either needs a DAC with a volume control or a preamp.  The thing here is that I think the right tube preamp will give the Van Alstine the harmonics it needs to bloom.  The CSP does a good job with the Van but I'm thinking a CSP3 may be even better.

Thoughts?
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Lon
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #1 - 12/19/16 at 21:38:08
 
You know I just set up my trusty old CSP2 as a preamp to my Taboo MK III headphone amp. Mark58 mentioned to me that he thought that amp sounded better with a preamp, and he's right. I find that using the CSP2 has made my Denon BDP-A100 universal player sound almost exactly as good as the PWT/PWD Mk 2 (using the PWD Mk2 as a preamp). Pretty cool indeed. . . . I don't know, the CSP3 may be a bit better, but if the CSP is sounding good, it may be just the right thing. It's in hand, paid for!
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Lin
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #2 - 12/19/16 at 22:14:18
 
What is the dac's max volt out?

If it 2 volts or less, the amp may work fine, but you will never get 12 watts out of it.

I don't know what the input sensitivity of the original Torii is, but Steve told me to use a preamp when I had mine (it had dual volume controls).
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DBC
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #3 - 12/19/16 at 23:31:44
 
I've found it depends a lot on your source and speakers. I used my CSP quite a bit with my Klipsch RF-7 speakers. Gave my Zen just a bit more Kick and would round the edges off some material (some Hendricks & Joplin recordings for example).

My Omega Alnico Monitors are capable of producing more "Air / Space / Separation" compared to the Klipsch. With my CSP in the system it Kills some of the "Air / Space / Separation" that makes these speakers so special.

I should also note that the Omega "Air / Space / Separation" qualities makes recordings that could be a bit Harsh on the Klipsch sound wonderful with no pre-amp.
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Matchstikman
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #4 - 12/19/16 at 23:46:17
 
Lin, I don't know the output voltage.  It is loud.  Very loud.  Louder than I need it to be.  There is no real estate on my desk for a preamp at the moment.  So, it is all good for now.
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Lin
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #5 - 12/20/16 at 00:47:21
 
I doubt you are even using a single watt, so all is good. Cool
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will
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #6 - 12/20/16 at 01:18:08
 
I don't know about DACs with volume these days, but they are getting good by all reports, including yours. Question is, does the particular DAC adjust output voltage like the ZDSD and CSP do, and therefore adjust sound qualities? In my room voltage-out can be a pretty big deal, but not for volume, for tuning.

I wonder if you have tried the CSP in your desktop setup, used for sound and gain riding rather than volume.

Though no doubt different with our different systems and rooms, I think I get some of Stone’s conclusions having tried the ZDSD with a CSP3 together here.

With the ZDSD's adjustable output voltage, along with Steve's very transparently tuned output, ZDSD adjustments make a pretty big difference in its sound..a nice tuning tool. Then, aside from how we basically can make the CSP3 a lot of different pres using different tubes, the CSP3 adjusts output voltage also, potentially by quite a lot. Along with its tube volume pot adjustments, and its OTL signal path, it imparts its own sound that also can be pretty varied depending on settings alone.

That said, I found that the ZDSD and the CSP3 individually had relatively narrow setting values for which each sounded their best. And since both loaded up signal power at my favorite settings, increasing the body and clarity at the same time...it was not exactly redundancy...but depending on recordings, the increased signal density from both together could be really nice, or a bit much in my system. I should note that my system already had great signal density though, so it is relatively easy to overdo it.

I also had another challenge. My NOS Tranquility DAC, having been designed/optimized for very natural, complex, and revealing Redbook playback...it allowed me to reach levels of revealing transparency in my system/room that just seemed normal. It was only after loads of time experimenting with the ZDSD, that I realized that the way my system had evolved with the Tranquility, was a little too strong a lens for the Tascam DAC circuit in the ZDSD (at least for my rebook collection). Steve's very real and clean output being so revealing, and my CSP3 set to be very revealing contributed to this. But mostly I think the way my highly tuned computer feeds the Tranquility, and their ability to musically reveal “analog” complexity from Redbook...this made it possible to go deeply into "revealing" over time. For this reason, with all error corrected, uncompressed redbook, the ZDSD in this setting could not overall come up to my Tranquility setup for Redbook.

Whereas, Stone’s DAC quest, for Rebook (in his system/room and with his transport) revealed that the ZDSD was the best of some very well respected DACs he tried. He also found his ZDSD setup better without the CSP3. But in my case, the CSP3 tuned to pull the most from it (not as a volume), the CSP3 supports/improves playback quality as a whole.

This is not to say that one front end is better or worse, but more, that how a DAC or Pre sound is totally dependent on its own qualities, but as much, on how they are tuned in the system with...source, room, system components, cables, power, etc, etc. And here, two adjustable voltage out circuits of Decware quality, can be really good, or can potentially be too much depending how they are tuned, and on the rest of the system/room tuning.

The way I use the CSP3, it is set up first to sound its best. Then the volume is used in a fairly narrow range for gain riding with the amp, as a means to adjust body, clarity, dynamics to make different recording qualities sound better.

Using the CSP3 as a primary system volume gives a family sound, but different sound qualities (ones I personally don’t prefer)...another variable to look at in your question.

If you like the qualities you can get with your CSP, not as a volume, but set for the very best sound you can pull from it in your system/room,  a DAC with transparent volume could be a really good thing with the CSP. This would allow the preamp decision to be more about sound than volume, allowing optimizing the CSP for ultimate sound and gain riding. It would also provide the choice as to whether to use the CSP or not.

Thinking of possibly upgrading to the CSP3. Its sound can be adjusted with two sets of pots, one set for the input tube, and one set for the output tubes, making each tube position and how they integrate together tunable; also you have some good cap choices; and at least as far as we have heard, it is Steve’s latest CSP for sound quality (though I can imagine a CSP4 on the horizon with recent advancements elsewhere...).

Another consideration... I had a stock CSP3 upgraded to Jupiter caps, and the caps used make it a different pre really. This would likely be the case with your CSP, presenting another option.
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Matchstikman
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #7 - 12/20/16 at 03:38:32
 
So, Lin, would you say that the way I'm using the Torii is a waste of that amp?
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Rich
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #8 - 12/20/16 at 03:46:24
 
I'm using a zstage as sort of a pre for my SE84UFO2.  I find for some recordings I reduce the input voltage a little and for others I increase it a little. I like that extra control to make recordings sound their best.
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Lin
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #9 - 12/20/16 at 21:58:19
 
Not at all Match.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #10 - 12/21/16 at 13:50:16
 
Quote:
The way I use the CSP3, it is set up first to sound its best. Then the volume is used in a fairly narrow range for gain riding with the amp, as a means to adjust body, clarity, dynamics to make different recording qualities sound better.



I don't care for preamps myself - every time I use the shortest path possible...DAC to amp - amp with OTL - whatever, the sound is more pure.

But the above quote is also true. A good preamp that has synergy with the amp, just seems to make the music bloom, and adds presence, and punch.

The only problem is, I haven't been able to get that with the ZMA. Granted, I've not tried *everything* out there, including Steve's new preamp - but everything I've put in front of my ZMA, just seems to take it a slight step back from pure...enough that I find it distracting.
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Matchstikman
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #11 - 12/22/16 at 02:14:24
 
I put my original CSP back into the chain and yes, I can really crank up blue, but it also distorts to some degree.  I remove the pre and yeah, it doesn't get as loud but it is so much smoother.  The pre is out for now.

I've got an urge to send blue back to Steve.  He says he can upgrade the caps and clean it up.  I might do that.  At one point this amp was going to be put out to pasture and yet it is still breathing as I write this.

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will
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #12 - 12/22/16 at 22:58:12
 
LR: Quote:
A good preamp that has synergy with the amp, just seems to make the music bloom, and adds presence, and punch.

The only problem is, I haven't been able to get that with the ZMA. Granted, I've not tried *everything* out there, including Steve's new preamp - but everything I've put in front of my ZMA, just seems to take it a slight step back from pure...enough that I find it distracting.


Though I haven't heard the ZMA, I get this based on experience with other Decware amps. Whether to our individual tastes fully, or not...out of the box, they are finely tuned, and especially adding something to the signal path can be tricky when we are "picky." For me, if compelling enough to dig in, most additions seem to require other changes to harmonize the new thing with the system/room. Sometimes a fair bit.

Really...as voiced...I have not gotten anything “stock” from Decware...amps, pre's, speakers, DACs, cables....that I did not find to be at least somewhat “off” my preferred balance...often too "warm/thick" or "forgiving;" not open/spacious enough; not revealing/transparent enough with enough micro information; tending toward too defined, or not defined enough in different parts of the frequency range, etc.

Having been “voiced” in specific environments, and to specific tastes though, how could this be otherwise except by chance.

Within that, I guess I could possibly say: "No Decware I have tried is "pure" enough for me." But I can say stock Decware amps and speakers are transparent enough that they can be adjusted quite a lot toward either more "forgiving," or more "revealing," more “pure,” and with lots of different flavors.

I wonder if I am going for “purity” though, at least in the true sense of the word...more for the captivating musical experience that feels like a pure expression of music in open/revealing spaces. I want more from my recordings than what was put in them with such various skill levels, tastes, and from so many recording studio spaces. This makes quality gain riding worth the effort to me.

Adding a CSP3 unadjusted, or even moderately tuned to fit in, with my preferences, I could easily fall into the no-pre school. But I am always tuning the whole of my system/room (with "no stone unturned") toward a synergistic, realistic and open sound that is still friendly. So for me, tuning is worth it for the qualities the CSP3 can impart, and more, allowing gain riding to refine recordings to be better presented.

But this is me, and I like to do this. I can completely understand not messing with it.
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will
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #13 - 12/22/16 at 23:36:15
 
Match: Quote:
I put my original CSP back into the chain and yes, I can really crank up blue, but it also distorts to some degree.  I remove the pre and yeah, it doesn't get as loud but it is so much smoother.


Sounds like you have a good balance without the CSP. If that "does it" why change!

Thinking of the volume/distortion thing....

It may be because my sources have all been close to 2 volts out, or higher, but I don't recall the Zstage, or the CSP3 doing much (if anything) to increase volume from the Decware amps (up to 25 watt) I've had without distortion. After a point, turning up the CSP3 or Zstage seems to cause the amps to reach distortion lower on the amp's volume scale. I guess the increased signal power from the pre loads the amp circuit more from the beginning, requiring the amp's volume to be lower to avoid pushing the amp too hard, giving distortion.

Also, one tube being weak could cause distortion. And with computer player software and your DAC volume, I suppose either, added to the rest, could possibly contribute to distortions. Here, with EQ in the player software, and my DAC, I have to turn down the software volume to avoid distortion on strong recordings.

Either way, distortion, especially subtle (and harder to identify), it a real buzz killer here. When you say the Blue Torii is so much smoother alone, I wonder about distortion. I have not heard the CSP, but I would say the CSP3 is very smooth if there is no distortion present.

Finally, seems to me we are lucky to have such good choices....to have amps that are really good without pres. And all of our explorations with the Zstage, CSP3, or the new Decware pre, are coming from a very individual set of complexities... a very individual system/room sound. So how these integrate a pre will be pretty different, requiring different tuning if integrating the pre is important.

Looking at the whole, the amazingly varying possibilities of system/room complexities, with different reflections and modes, with different power noise and voltage...with different components, tubes, cables, feet, room treatment, etc, etc...I guess for me, it is hard to conceptually approach: "No preamp is the way..." except individually.
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Matchstikman
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #14 - 12/23/16 at 01:52:24
 
One thing I'd like to add.

I have a USB DAC basically designed for streaming music..  The computer as a transport is okay but a bit on the sterile side.  I went ahead and added an older Pioneer CDP that I had Modwright mod years ago.  To get this to work I purchased an inexpensive SCHIIT passive preamp.  So, the setup now goes from CDP to preamp to blue and I have to say it sounds much better than using the computer as a transport.  This preamp is also a switch box so I can go between computer DAC and CDP with some degree of ease.

The blue uses two 6N1P tubes.  I believe I read here that using a 6N2P could boost the volume.  I also heard from a good source that this tube may add noise to the sound.  So, should I try this?  I might.  I think I can get a couple for not much.

I'm still not tickled pink about it but for now it is okay.  At least I don't have another thing on the desktop to power.  I need less, not more.  The thing is that the desktop setup is basically for times when I work and not really for critical listening.  It has become more of a hassle than was intended.
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will
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Re: No preamp is the way...
Reply #15 - 12/23/16 at 17:08:13
 
Match, if you can further clarify the whole setup, we might be able to help you get to a sound you like better.

So the computer/USB/DAC/Schiit passive pre is the front end set up for streaming?

Is the DAC or Schiit the volume in this case?

And the CDP/Schiit is your favored front end, the Schiit being the volume?

And you are using 6N1Ps in the Blue.
What are the power tubes?

Any idea roughly how many hours of play on the tubes.

Also, what tubes are in the CSP?
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