Preamp + DAC to replace HK 3490? Parasound 2100 + CA DacMagic? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 05-23-2011, 02:28 PM - Thread Starter
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I currently have the following setup:

1. Two digital sources (computer and TV)
2. Harman/Kardon HK-3490 being used as a pre-amp
3. QSC RMX2450 power amp
4. Salk Songtower QWT speakers
5. Old Paradigm PDR-10 subwoofer (to be replaced when funds permit)

I want to replace the HK3490 with a "pure" preamp. I'm quite happy with my current sound quality. I want two things out of the replacement: something physically smaller than the HK3490, and something that uses less power/puts off less heat (it seems that the power amp is still run, even when its not being used; that or the circuits just run hot).

Also: recently my HK3490 started randomly changing the volume on its own. I haven't had a chance yet to try using the reset button, but, even if that fixes it, I've lost confidence in this unit. Plus it puts my speakers at risk, given how powerful the QSC 2450 is.

The thing is, I'm struggling to find an equivalent preamp that doesn't cost over $1k.

Where I'm leaning now is this: Parasound 2100 preamp + Cambridge Audio Dac Magic. I was hoping to get away with only spending about $500 on this replacement, but that doesn't appear to be possible.

What I want in a preamp is as follows:
  • Remote volume control (remote input switching is ideal)
  • Two digital inputs (ideal is if both are optical)
  • Decent output power (what I've read suggests that pro amps like the QSC I have like higher powered inputs)
  • Balanced XLR outputs would be nice (although RCA-to-XLR is acceptable)
  • Physically smaller than HK3490
  • Black face
  • Subwoofer output (or multiple outputs that can be used simultaneously)

I've spent a lot of time looking for such a beast, and nothing seems to exist; certainly not at a $500 price point, and very little options at the $1k price point.

Any suggestions on something I may have overlooked? Or comments on the solution I've proposed?

Thanks!
Matt
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post #2 of 19 Old 05-23-2011, 02:34 PM
 
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http://emotiva.com/xda1.shtm



cheers,

AJ
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post #3 of 19 Old 05-23-2011, 02:55 PM
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Nevermind, I misread your post. If you need digital only the emotiva is a great option.
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post #4 of 19 Old 05-23-2011, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
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I have looked at the Emotiva (on the web anyway). I forgot about it when I made the post!

But I had sort of scratched it off my list due to some concerns with it:
Thoughts?

Edit: Answer to my first question appears to be yes, according to this thread.

That makes the XDA-1 look a lot more appealing, particularly at nearly 1/3 the price of my originally proposed solution.

Edit 2: Another post on the Emotiva forums suggests that the volume issue is resolved. (The issue was: linear vs logarithmic volume control. Original units shipped with linear, generally speaking, logarithmic is probably what most people want. Looks like log is the default now.)

Edit 3: The last item on my list is a non-issue. I now have an XDA-1 and it works perfectly with the QSC RMX2450. More details in my post below.
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post #5 of 19 Old 05-24-2011, 09:37 PM
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So I am in a similar situation except that I have had no issues with my Hk3490. I have been interested in the offerings from Peachtree but had though the Nova too much (cost) for right now. They are now offering the Dac*it. It looks like it will be $449 and is available for pre-orders. It has 3 inputs and unbalanced outputs. I'm not familiar with your equipment, but there is no option for balanced output. I'm not a big poster here so I don't know if I can send links, http://signalpathint.com/index.php/DAC-iT/dacit.html but there it is. Anyway, I'm sort of trying to pick between these two (the emotiva and peachtree) and I thought I might offer that as an alternative
- Jmo

I just realized that this probably won't meet your expectations- it is a bit smaller, not black, no separate RCA, sorry about that.Jason
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post #6 of 19 Old 05-25-2011, 07:53 AM
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Musical Fidelity - V-DAC - Digital to Analog Converter and Parasound - Zpre2 Audio/Video Preamplifier, $700, no XLR and not sure about the subwoofer output.

Other than that, it probably makes sense to spend a lot more and get the Benchmark - DAC-1 PRE (no remote) - or Benchmark - DAC-1 HDR although they do not offer a subwoofer output.

I'm being picky but a "pure" preamp should not have a digital input
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post #7 of 19 Old 05-25-2011, 08:19 AM
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If you're willing to buy used, go to audiogon and buy yourself a standard 2 channel preamp with balanced connections and processor/sub out, then buy a separate stand alone DAC. With a little research, you should be able to find a very nice upgrade from your HK for a combined total of $1k or less. For example, available right now is a Parasound P3 and a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic for $830 combined..
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post #8 of 19 Old 06-01-2011, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

I had some concerns about the Emotiva XDA-1...

First off, I got the Emotiva XDA-1 and have absolutely no problems with the amount of power coming out of either the XLR or RCA outputs (for connecting to my QSC RMX2450 power amp).

I didn't take any measurements, but I believe the Emotiva actually puts out more power, or at least is a better impedance match to the QSC. Here are my observations:
  • When I first got the QSC (and started using the HK3490 as a preamp), I expected an enormous difference in available volume (nearly 4x the wattage). However, whereas we used to run the HK with the integrated power amp around "-30", we maybe averaged around "-35" with the QSC. And that was with the gain on the QSC turned all the way up.
  • The front of the RMX2450 has green "signal" LEDs for each channel. When using the HK3490 as a pre-amp, the LEDs barely lit up, and when they did, they were quite dim.
  • Having replaced the 3490 with the XDA-1, I find that the signal LEDs light up almost constantly, and are significantly brighter.
  • With the XDA-1, I've also turned the gain down on the QSC, to less than half. Even at this point, I have way more volume than I could ever want.

I sent an email to Harman/Kardon technical support, asking what the output voltage and impedance was on the HK3490's preamp outputs. Their reply:

Quote:


The max output voltage is 9V RMS. The output impedance calculates out to approximately 16k. This is pretty high for use as a stand alone pre-am. Almost makes me wonder why we bothered with the removable jumpers. The 16k source impedance would cause a signal attenuation when working into a lower impedance load. If the input impedance of the amp were equal to the pre-out (16k), it would equal 6dB of attenuation. For lower amp input impedances, it would attenuate further and for higher amp input impedances, it would attenuate less. Most power amps have an input impedance of around 100k which shouldn't cause any problems, but it could start causing problems for those which have lower input impedance.

The specifications for the RMX2450 say that the input impedance is "10k ohms unbalanced / 20k ohms balanced".

My understanding is that XLR inputs are usually balanced, and RCA is unbalanced. When using the HK3490 as a preamp, I was using RCA-to-XLR cables, so I'm not sure if that's considered balanced or not.

I'm not sure what the output impedance of the XDA-1 is (although I asked the question on their forums).

Anyway, I have to admit to this being just above my head. But the impression I get from HK's response is that the 3490 wasn't really designed to be used as a standalone preamp.

Also, as a side note: for being a huge conglomerate, Harman/Kardon has nice, personal technical support. I bought my HK3490 off of ebay, which I assume means I have no warranty. Still, I was able to go to their website, send them a question, and get an actual, useful response within 24 hours. I've asked HK other questions about the 3490 before, and received similarly quick, helpful replies.
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post #9 of 19 Old 06-01-2011, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

More details in my post below.

How are you handling crossover between mains and sub?

Everything I say here is my opinion. It is not my employers opinion, it is not my wife's opinion, it is not my neighbors opinion, it is My Opinion.
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post #10 of 19 Old 06-01-2011, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dknightd View Post

How are you handling crossover between mains and sub?

Right now I'm not using the sub. But, when I do, my intent is to just send the full-range signal to the sub, and use the sub's controls for bass management (crossover, gain, etc).

-Matt
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post #11 of 19 Old 06-02-2011, 05:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

Also, as a side note: for being a huge conglomerate, Harman/Kardon has nice, personal technical support. I bought my HK3490 off of ebay, which I assume means I have no warranty. Still, I was able to go to their website, send them a question, and get an actual, useful response within 24 hours. I've asked HK other questions about the 3490 before, and received similarly quick, helpful replies.

I've had similar experiences with them. I had some technical inquiries about some of their pro drivers with their customer service, who were very courteous. The second e-mail in and the actual design engineer was responding. I inquired about some unpublished type data...and the next thing I know, I have the data and the blueprints. Not just the result, but how it was achieved. I was quite taken aback.
After ordering (a trivial $$ amount), I received a follow up phone call from the same lady I had ordered from to see if I had received it and was satisfied. Very unusual for such a large company that I'm sure receives a lot of communication and much, much larger orders.
And no, I don't work for them or sell their products, though (like Amir) I might shill for a couple of their designs one in a while, because I think they are good .

cheers,

AJ
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post #12 of 19 Old 07-08-2011, 02:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

Right now I'm not using the sub. But, when I do, my intent is to just send the full-range signal to the sub, and use the sub's controls for bass management (crossover, gain, etc).

-Matt

what are you using to stop full range from going to your main speakers thank you
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post #13 of 19 Old 07-08-2011, 08:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

[*]Can both outputs be used simultaneously (i.e. the XLR to my power amp and the RCA to my sub)? Honest question, I really don't know. If the answer is "no", it's a deal-breaker.

Thoughts?

I just got a Parasound 2100 myself (looking forward to hooking it up). I plan to use a Beresford Caiman Gatorized as my DAC.

Why would you want the DAC to feed the two devices? That's why you got a 2100, high pass (80 Hz ) to the speakers and a sub out with variable low pass.

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post #14 of 19 Old 07-09-2011, 06:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monsteraudio View Post

what are you using to stop full range from going to your main speakers thank you

Keep in mind I'm not using a sub right now (probably won't buy one for a while; quite happy with the Songtowers by themselves).

I'm sending a full-range signal out of my DAC/pre-amp (Emotiva XDA-1) to my power amp (QSC RMX2450). The power amp actually has a limited high-pass filter: it can either be disabled (i.e. send full-range signal to speakers), or set to 30 Hz or 50 Hz. It's not actually a hard cutoff, but a "rolled off" filter. You can read the manual for details. I have mine set at the 30 Hz filter.

-Matt
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post #15 of 19 Old 07-09-2011, 06:39 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick240 View Post

Why would you want the DAC to feed the two devices? That's why you got a 2100, high pass (80 Hz ) to the speakers and a sub out with variable low pass.

What I originally wanted is a DAC+preamp, which is basically what I now have with the Emotiva XDA-1. If I had a separate DAC and preamp (e.g. DACMagic + 2100), then the preamp would feed two devices as you describe. In other words, don't think of it as a DAC feeding two devices, think of it as a preamp feeding two devices, and that preamp just happens to have a built-in DAC.

Of course, in the case of the XDA-1, the preamp is of somewhat limited functionality, at least in regards to high- and low-pass filters. But that's OK with me: my power amp has a high-pass filter (see my previous post), and (when I get a sub) I'll do bass management via the sub itself.
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post #16 of 19 Old 07-09-2011, 06:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

Keep in mind I'm not using a sub right now (probably won't buy one for a while; quite happy with the Songtowers by themselves).

I'm sending a full-range signal out of my DAC/pre-amp (Emotiva XDA-1) to my power amp (QSC RMX2450). The power amp actually has a limited high-pass filter: it can either be disabled (i.e. send full-range signal to speakers), or set to 30 Hz or 50 Hz. It's not actually a hard cutoff, but a "rolled off" filter. You can read the manual for details. I have mine set at the 30 Hz filter.

-Matt

Thanks Salk speakers are my grail nice set up
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post #17 of 19 Old 07-09-2011, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt_garman View Post

What I originally wanted is a DAC+preamp, which is basically what I now have with the Emotiva XDA-1. If I had a separate DAC and preamp (e.g. DACMagic + 2100), then the preamp would feed two devices as you describe. In other words, don't think of it as a DAC feeding two devices, think of it as a preamp feeding two devices, and that preamp just happens to have a built-in DAC.

Of course, in the case of the XDA-1, the preamp is of somewhat limited functionality, at least in regards to high- and low-pass filters. But that's OK with me: my power amp has a high-pass filter (see my previous post), and (when I get a sub) I'll do bass management via the sub itself.

In my main room I have the 2100 with crossover capabilities (if you go this route all you will need is a Rythmik F12 and you'll have the same setup as Bill Mac with the ST).

In my computer setup I use the Beresford as a DAC/Pre and plan to get a Harrison PFMOD 2W-1 for crossover duties.

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post #18 of 19 Old 10-01-2011, 10:05 PM
 
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Do you think it would be a significant boost in SQ if I added a Parasound 2100 to my existing Marantz AV8003. This would allow me to listen to stereo through the Parasound and utilize my subs. Worthwhile addition?
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post #19 of 19 Old 10-01-2011, 11:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiTechMan View Post

Do you think it would be a significant boost in SQ if I added a Parasound 2100 to my existing Marantz AV8003. This would allow me to listen to stereo through the Parasound and utilize my subs. Worthwhile addition?

No.

I have a Parasound 2100 and I have an older Marantz SR7001 (an AVR not unlike your AV8003 in function and SQ). They function in two different systems, not together. I cannot imagine what the Parasound could bring to the table that the Marantz cannot already handle. The 2100 will not add or take away anything in sound quality; it should be neutral and transparent. In short, there is nothing it can do that your Marantz cannot also do. What's the point?

You still need an amp with either one. I don't understand what you think you'll be adding to your system by introducing the Parasound in the system in which you will keep the Marantz. I'm not trying to discourage you from getting a Parasound 2100 (it's a great stereo preamp for the money). I just don't see why you want to add one to your system in which your Marantz AV8003 is already the processor.
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