Importance of the Pre-amp - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 09:29 AM - Thread Starter
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I am considering purchasing an Olive One when they are released to use a a media renderer.

The Olive One can be incorporated into a system in two ways:
1) using one of the digital outputs to a DAC
2) using pre-outs to an amp

I initially thought of using this with a Peachtree iNova (posts on this in the Peachtree thread), but have been reconsidering this as I don't require the DAC or iPod dock and can save money by going with a separate amp.

The analog output from the Olive is after the pre-amp. I don't know anything about the pre-amp in the Olive One. There's nothing on it in the specs and I'm sure if I ask them they'll tell me it's great.
My assumption is that it's probably not. The DAC appears pretty good, but they have to cut somewhere to keep this somewhat affordable.

So, how important is the pre-amp quality to overall sound quality? If I run the analog signal from a mediocre pre-amp into a higher quality power amp (consider an Emotive UAP200...on a budget), am I going to diminish the SQ? Or is what really matters is the quality of the power amp and speakers?

The Olive One also sends the analog signal through a 3.5mm phono plug and not RCAs. I'm not sure that matters much, but I maybe it does. If so, it pushes me more towards the iNova and just using the Olive One as an interface for my music sources and just sending the digital stream to a separate DAC.

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post #2 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 10:20 AM
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Preamps have nothing really to do with sound. They are quiet and linear enough that they don't affect the sound. Mostly they are switchboxes with enough voltage amplification to drive an amplifier. If the media player can handle that then it should work fine. I don't even see a volume control on it however so I'm not conversant on how it might work as a preamp. In answer to your last question, all that really matters are speakers, subwoofers and room acoustics. Amplifiers are about as trivial as preamplifiers and normally don't affect sound quality either. Is there some reason you are shying away from an AV receiver?
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post #3 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 12:56 PM
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Hi Mag,
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Originally Posted by magconpres View Post

. . . I don't know anything about the pre-amp in the Olive One. There's nothing on it in the specs and I'm sure if I ask them they'll tell me it's great. My assumption is that it's probably not. . .
I would assume that the pre-amp is just fine. You really have to try in order to make a bad pre-amp. The few op-amps it takes for a good pre-amp would cost under $10.
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The DAC appears pretty good, but they have to cut somewhere to keep this somewhat affordable.
To make it affordable, they would just need to cut marketing. The best audio gear of that class would not have more than $50 in electronic components. A multi-channel AVR might have $100 in silicon. The manufacturers spend more on the enclosure and its styling than the electronic components. Most of what you pay goes toward marketing and profit.
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post #4 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 02:45 PM
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Why not get an integrated amplifier, I am a like as direct a path as possible, can't get much more direct than that...

How much power do you need?  One of my favorite amps is the Topping tp60, amazing unit IMO...   When is that Olive one supposed to be released, I see on the site it says "preorder"...


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post #5 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 05:22 PM
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I would say that preamps can do many things with sound.
Just want to remind you a famous Zissou and his tread "Best Sounding Pre/Pros in Different Price Ranges (Mini Reviews and Discussion) ":
http://www.avsforum.com/t/707173/best-sounding-pre-pros-in-different-price-ranges-mini-reviews-and-discussion/4560
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post #6 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 06:37 PM
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I would say that preamps can do many things with sound.
But they generally don't change the sound by themselves. They give the user tools to change the sound to his own satisfaction.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #7 of 19 Old 10-15-2013, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imcloud View Post

Why not get an integrated amplifier, I am a like as direct a path as possible, can't get much more direct than that...
How much power do you need?  One of my favorite amps is the Topping tp60, amazing unit IMO...   When is that Olive one supposed to be released, I see on the site it says "preorder"...
Well, the analog out on the one is a pre-put, so with an integrated I'd be going through two pre-amps.
If I go integrated, I'll go with the iNova.
50 watts should suffice for power, but more is always specimens if it's clean.
One should start shipping in November.
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post #8 of 19 Old 10-16-2013, 01:11 AM
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The high end preamps I owned back in my subjective audiophile days didn't have tone controls. They were just switch boxes with a gain stage and a volume control (and often a phono stage.) I think you have to go back a way to find separate preamps with tone controls. Perhaps they've come back. I don't really know. I found Zissou entertaining and thoroughly wrong and, frankly, unbelievable. If he really bought all those preamps then his audiophilia is completely out of control.
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post #9 of 19 Old 10-17-2013, 08:44 AM
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I a gree 100% with Zissou findings, my own experience would say the same - preamp can change the sound. If for example a person (not talking about Zissou or my self) runs an audio business including audio equipment resale, rent and also is an audophile, he does not need to buy alot of equipment specifically for auditioning, just use what you have for sale and audition it. I think that Zissou had this chance and provided very valuable experience and test impressions to this community.
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post #10 of 19 Old 10-17-2013, 08:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordo32 View Post

I a gree 100% with Zissou findings, my own experience would say the same - preamp can change the sound. If for example a person (not talking about Zissou or my self) runs an audio business including audio equipment resale, rent and also is an audophile, he does not need to buy alot of equipment specifically for auditioning, just use what you have for sale and audition it. I think that Zissou had this chance and provided very valuable experience and test impressions to this community.

However, your experience doesn't include bias controlled listening tests like mine does so it is very much open to question.
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post #11 of 19 Old 10-17-2013, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordo32 View Post

I would say that preamps can do many things with sound.
Just want to remind you a famous Zissou and his tread "Best Sounding Pre/Pros in Different Price Ranges (Mini Reviews and Discussion) ":
http://www.avsforum.com/t/707173/best-sounding-pre-pros-in-different-price-ranges-mini-reviews-and-discussion/4560
Please don't.
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It ain't ignorance causes so much trouble; it's folks knowing so much that ain't so

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post #12 of 19 Old 10-17-2013, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordo32 View Post

I a gree 100% with Zissou findings, my own experience would say the same - preamp can change the sound. If for example a person (not talking about Zissou or my self) runs an audio business including audio equipment resale, rent and also is an audophile, he does not need to buy alot of equipment specifically for auditioning, just use what you have for sale and audition it. I think that Zissou had this chance and provided very valuable experience and test impressions to this community.

You think so? You find "audiophile" hokum like this useful?

"Only a slight high end sharpness and a small truncation in soundstage depth prevents it from scaling even greater heights."

"A very musical and honest sounding piece."

"Errs slightly on the warm side."

"Music was slightly on the sterile side and soundstage depth while fairly deep lacked the ability to hear into the last row of players."

"It puts out the typical big and forward Krell house sound."

"Bass is well controlled and very extended, the mids, voices in particular, allow subtle inflections through that lesser DACs simply miss which allows a much more emotional connection to be made to the music."

"The mids are uncoloured mostly but with a possible SLIGHT nod towards warmth which adds an organic and believable quality to vocals."

"Bass is taut and well controlled but it doesn't quite plumb the depths like a very few others do."

"The soundstage is accurate and of the correct size. We can clearly hear into the last row and all wall reverb cues are present, just as we like it."

I could go down that list line by line and tell you what's absurd about each one of those statements (don't tempt me), but suffice to say they have a few qualities in common:

1. They're not correlated to anything measurable. If a high end is "sharp" or tones are "warm" or bass is especially "extended," then these qualities would be easily measurable. There is zero chance that these kinds of tonal characteristics could elude test gear. Zero.

2. Most of the verbiage is meaningless audiophile-ese. "Organic"? "Musical"? "Sterile"? "Honest sounding"? What are we supposed to do with that information? What in hell does any of that even mean? Do you really think that any two people on earth would listen to a particular preamp and surmise, independent of one another, that it "lacked the ability to hear into the last row of players"? Really? What about, say, the third or fourth row? Did they come through OK?

3. None of these impressions was gathered under blind, controlled conditions. That alone makes them dubious.

I wasn't there, but I know enough about perception bias and the religious mindset to recognize that this stuff was made up and is no value to me or anyone else.
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post #13 of 19 Old 10-17-2013, 06:46 PM
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It makes you wonder whether this fellow actually listened to all those preamps or just wrote a bunch of stuff hoping to become an internet audio guru in they eyes of people like bordo. Or he may be trying to get a job as a reviewer for one of the audiophool magazines. I tend to think he didn't listen to any of them but rather copied statements made by others about different products at different times.
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post #14 of 19 Old 10-18-2013, 04:41 AM
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I have listened to a lot of equipment and IMO nothing changes the sound as much as the speakers you choose.  As for preamps, if I am using a system with one source and don't need the switching I will lean towards an integrated amp, if I need the crossover sunctions, switching and a phono stage,  I will use a preamp...   Do they sound different?  I don't know, I like the end results, and I have never changed a preamp because I didn't like the sound.  I own a few entry level units USP1, Parasound 2100, PRE1 and I have owned a few higher end units {  most I ever spent was $3000} and I no longer own them for one reason or the other, the new "cheaper" units do the same thing IMO, with more options and better looks....   That doesn't make the people that spend more wrong, if you like the sound and its your money, buy what makes you happy.  My brother built a 2.2 system and even after admitting the $80 cables {rca's and speaker cables for a 2.2} sounded the same as the $300 set he ended up with he still bought the $300 set {that was for all the cables needed}, because he liked them, they were big and beefy, colorful, and wrapped in a fabric mesh, they scream "HIGH END"  so if it makes you happy go for it...  nothing wrong with that, whether it makes a difference on a graph or just in your mind, its your money..


HT-Emotiva UMC200 and XPA5, Ascend 340se front stage, 200se surrounds, Dual HSU VTF2's
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post #15 of 19 Old 10-18-2013, 05:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imcloud View Post

I have listened to a lot of equipment and IMO nothing changes the sound as much as the speakers you choose.  As for preamps, if I am using a system with one source and don't need the switching I will lean towards an integrated amp, if I need the crossover sunctions, switching and a phono stage,  I will use a preamp...   Do they sound different?  I don't know, I like the end results, and I have never changed a preamp because I didn't like the sound.  I own a few entry level units USP1, Parasound 2100, PRE1 and I have owned a few higher end units {  most I ever spent was $3000} and I no longer own them for one reason or the other, the new "cheaper" units do the same thing IMO, with more options and better looks....   That doesn't make the people that spend more wrong, if you like the sound and its your money, buy what makes you happy.  My brother built a 2.2 system and even after admitting the $80 cables {rca's and speaker cables for a 2.2} sounded the same as the $300 set he ended up with he still bought the $300 set {that was for all the cables needed}, because he liked them, they were big and beefy, colorful, and wrapped in a fabric mesh, they scream "HIGH END"  so if it makes you happy go for it...  nothing wrong with that, whether it makes a difference on a graph or just in your mind, its your money..

I agree completely. Personally, I have no problem at all with people buying expensive audio components. Heck, I've done it myself. My only problem is with the evangelists who go about telling people about audible differences that exist only in their perception. I realize that most high end audiophiles do not understand hearing bias or care about it. That's why it is important to help newcomers understand it.

The difference is pretty simple. People who buy an expensive watch, for example, understand that it is a status symbol or a piece of jewelry or just something they want to own. They know they aren't buying it for its superior ability to keep time. In audio, people believe that the sonic jewelry performs better because they don't understand their hearing bias and have never tested it. Buying jewelry is fine as long as it is put in its proper perspective. I think it is up to us to help put it there.
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post #16 of 19 Old 10-18-2013, 08:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

It makes you wonder whether this fellow actually listened to all those preamps or just wrote a bunch of stuff hoping to become an internet audio guru in they eyes of people like bordo. Or he may be trying to get a job as a reviewer for one of the audiophool magazines. I tend to think he didn't listen to any of them but rather copied statements made by others about different products at different times.

I can only speculate, but I think it's a case of "wannabe syndrome," which I suppose directly connects to your "internet guru" theory. I think a guy like this reads the "audiophile" magazines and thinks, "Man, I wanna write reviews like that and project myself as a self-anointed authority, then find a place where people take me seriously without questioning anything or holding me accountable."

So a website like this provides his distribution channel. Problem is, some of us do hold him accountable. I didn't read the whole preamp saga, obviously, but if I understand it correctly, he got run off the thread. No compassion here; the marketplace of ideas is a tough arena, especially when you're making stuff up and passing it off as real.

.
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post #17 of 19 Old 10-18-2013, 12:03 PM
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I like the Watch analogy, I own a few expensive watches and never did I buy one because it is known for keeping "great' time, lol...  Very good...

 

Anyway there is nothing wrong with nice things, and nice things are usually expensive..  A good friend of mine wanted a strict music only system for his "sitting" room / library, he has a very nice 5.1 setup in his living room, but until he came to my home and seen my music only systems, he said the thought never crossed his mind, and after listening to my system he was sold, but of course wanted something different...  He loved the idea of the separate subs since he could "feel" the music in my front parlor which is quite large with 20+ft ceilings...

 

So I pointed him in the rite direction for some 30 day demo stuff.  This is where I came across which may some day be my next 2.2.  An emotiva XSP1 with an XPA2, a set of HSU ULS15's, and a pair of Ascend Sierra towers, connected with emotiva xlr cables {subs and amp}, and a pair of choseal cables for the speakers.  He bought a really nice stand from VTI {looks much more expensive than it is with the spikes on every level} and everything he bought was around $7000.  BUT when you listen to it, you can EASILY compare it to the best system you can buy {what ever that is?}.  Even the looks are impressive, the choseal cables are as thick as your thumbs but cost under $100 a pr, the stand looks like the $1500 versions high end shops sell for a couple hundred, the subs sound amazing, and the sierra towers are great values...  I made listening to "high end" music systems a hobby, and of course I compare everything I listen to to my systems and 100% of the time whether I like the system I am listening to more or less than mine I compare the price before anything else, its the first thing I see and the most important factor in a purchase like that...   

 

The 2.2 system I have in my front parlor cost me under $3000 and I love it, I have to listen to it 15 hours a week on average, a pair of Wharfedale evo2-40 towers, wharfedale subs, Emo xda2 dac, xpa2 amp and I plug it into my laptop or ipad for a source, all bought on sale or Bstock with some custom made crossovers {used the have a deq but instead had harrison make me some crossovers and have never been happier}.  But one of the most important factors as to why that system is there is because my wife approved of the look.  I have another 2.2 in my guest suite's parlor and she think s it is a little "tacky" with the gloss black, and would never let me move it to the main living area....   Looks and style have to play a part in the systems you move into your home, the aesthetics are the first impression and it should be satisfying, if the name plate is one of the things that does it for you, then by all means, there is no shortage on high priced gear out there, you can spend what I spend on entire systems on a set of cables....  I have nothing against that, heck, Ill be the first to come over and have a listen...

 

While I personally can not tell the difference between any of the preamps I own sound quality wise, I just don't hear a difference...  BUT I have heard a difference in my older dac's and my newer dacs, not sure if they changed something or what but the newer dacs are awesome even the cheap muse and audioengine models are better than the old $3000 models of years ago...


HT-Emotiva UMC200 and XPA5, Ascend 340se front stage, 200se surrounds, Dual HSU VTF2's
Bedroom music-jolida 202 integrated & Tekton Lores
Formal parlor music- XPA2 & XDA2, Wharfedale Evo2-40's, dual WD sw subs, pure i20
Guest parlor-Parasound 2100 outlaw 2200 monos, csb1 bookshelfs, dual SVS sb12nsd subs
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post #18 of 19 Old 10-18-2013, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

People who buy an expensive watch, for example, understand that it is a status symbol or a piece of jewelry or just something they want to own.
This gave me a chuckle. Earlier this week I watched the movie the Internship where John Goodman is explaining to Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn why they no longer have a job selling expensive watches. Best part of the movie really.
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post #19 of 19 Old 10-19-2013, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordo32 View Post

I agree 100% with Zissou findings,

Seems unwarranted unless you tested the identical same preamps.
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My own experience would say the same - preamp can change the sound.

That has never been the question. It is clearly possible for a preamp to change the sound if it is sufficiently flawed or intentionally colored.
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If for example a person (not talking about Zissou or my self) runs an audio business including audio equipment resale, rent and also is an audiophile, he does not need to buy alot of equipment specifically for auditioning, just use what you have for sale and audition it.

Seems irrelevant. The issue is not how one has experience with a number of preamps, but rather the results of their experience.
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I think that Zissou had this chance and provided very valuable experience and test impressions to this community.

I guess you have not explained how you had experience with enough preamps to have experiences comparable to Zissou.

As others have pointed out, it appears that neither Zissou now you actually did technically reliable investigations to support reaching any conclusions, let alone the far-reaching conclusions that you claim to be justified in presenting.
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