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DAC + Tube Preamp

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Is there much benefit to using a high quality tube preamp with a high quality DAC? Does it improve anything since the DAC is already high quality? I have in my possession several high end solid state DACs that I am testing. I run these Computer USB > DAC > Sherwood w/Trinnov. The sound is pretty awesome, but now I am wanting more. I am looking at a Conrad Johnson Classic Tube Preamp that comes highly rated. Going from the DAC > CJ > Sherwood am I loosing some quality of the CJ by leaving the Sherwood in the chain? The only reason for leaving the Shereood in line is because of the "Neural" setting in Trinnov. This takes 2 channel audio and changes it to quadraphonic and is amazing to listen to. I have really got accustomed to this sound. I know purists would say take as much out of the chain as possible and go strickly 2 channel. My time is limited on making up my mind and there is no way to test this scenario ahead of time to sees how it would sound. If I am going to lose too much benefit of the CJ with the Sherwood, or if adding a tube preamp has limited benefit, then I may need to postpone my purchase until I research this through some more. Opinions?
post #2 of 14
In my view only high end cabling makes less sense than an outboard DAC. I wouldn't spend a nickel on one personally. The DACs in my equipment do the same thing.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
You must have awesome equipment! Congrats!
post #4 of 14
popcorn_zps9bdb80e4.gif
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by islandman2020 View Post

Is there much benefit to using a high quality tube preamp with a high quality DAC?

Bragging rights among people who are overly impressed by things that glow in the dark.

As far as technical performance goes, adding a tube to the signal path is either going to dirty it up a little or a lot.
Quote:
Does it improve anything since the DAC is already high quality?

DACs by themselves can be among the most perfected of all kinds of audio gear. Why try to gild a lilly?
Quote:
I have in my possession several high end solid state DACs that I am testing. I run these Computer USB > DAC > Sherwood w/Trinnov. The sound is pretty awesome, but now I am wanting more.

If you want better sound quality, you know the local litany, right? Speakers, subwoofers, and room acoustics are the answer.
Quote:
I am looking at a Conrad Johnson Classic Tube Preamp that comes highly rated.

I've got one of those.
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Going from the DAC > CJ > Sherwood am I loosing some quality of the CJ by leaving the Sherwood in the chain?

From a measurements viewpoint, probably yes. There is very little active componentry that improves a system because if its gratuitous inclusion.
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The only reason for leaving the Shereood in line is because of the "Neural" setting in Trinnov.

The reason why we call them equalizers is because they have the potential for straightening out bent response curves.
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This takes 2 channel audio and changes it to quadraphonic and is amazing to listen to. I have really got accustomed to this sound. I know purists would say take as much out of the chain as possible and go strickly 2 channel.

Purists run the other way screaming when you show them an equalizer, but since just about every system with transducers in it has uneven frequency response, and equalizers can often improve that, why no?
Quote:
My time is limited on making up my mind and there is no way to test this scenario ahead of time to sees how it would sound.

Why not test it properly when its time comes?
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If I am going to lose too much benefit of the CJ with the Sherwood, or if adding a tube preamp has limited benefit, then I may need to postpone my purchase until I research this through some more. Opinions?

I have my CJ sitting around doing nothing much of the time, because I don't use it to digitize LPs that often. I can't come up with one reason to put it into the main system with my Denon AVR. If someone could come up with a reason that makes sense, that would be another thing. I'm not holding my breath!
Edited by arnyk - 12/7/13 at 7:16am
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post


Bragging rights among people who are overly impressed by things that glow in the dark.


I'm surprised at you Arny - obviously you've never seen $5000 speaker cables resting comfortably on their $1000 cable lifters illuminated by the faint glow of a bunch of 'valves'biggrin.gif
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post


Bragging rights among people who are overly impressed by things that glow in the dark.


I'm surprised at you Arny - obviously you've never seen $5000 speaker cables resting comfortably on their $1000 cable lifters illuminated by the faint glow of a bunch of 'valves'biggrin.gif

Well in 2005 John Atkinson kindly gave me an expenses paid trip to New York to speak with him at HE2005 and I saw all that and more. Unfortunately I also listened to it and wasn't all that impressed with some of it, but other of it sounded about as good as anything I've heard. But. no better.

Around here the hot tip for cable lifters is antique glass telegraph insulators.

post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen arcane View Post

popcorn_zps9bdb80e4.gif

I cannot stop laughing about your post, and I needed the laugh this morning!
post #9 of 14
My whole two channel system is tubes. Some say tubes only add distortion and coloration, I guess it means a little distortion and a possible shift from razor flat response isn't all that important, to me. I have solid state amps as well but for some reason I keep going back to my tube amps. I guess I am not worried about how accurate or not the tube gear is or that the distortion isn't less than .03% My tube power amps are rated at 40 watts .03% distortion. My speakers are an easy to drive 8 ohm load so may be a reason tubes work for me.

My Sony SACD player has a tube output stage and I like better than my Oppo 105. The main downside to tubes is they wear out and need replaced plus throw more heat and less efficient. But nothing wrong with at least trying tube gear for music, after all its your money and ears! I wouldnt let people at forums discourage you if you want to experiment.
post #10 of 14
I use a battery powered Dodd tube preamp, which I really like. The batteries can be annoying (only last so long on one charge), but I can switch back to a home theater mode and use my receiver for music if desired. The Dodd blows away my Denon with room correction (or "pass through"), though.

Using a tube preamp will at least let you try tubes to see whether you like them or not.
post #11 of 14
Your tubes, like any other tubes, do add distortion and coloration. But you like that type of sound reproduction. That is a matter of preference. No reason to worry about it.
post #12 of 14
Around here the hot tip for cable lifters is antique glass telegraph insulators.

[/quote]


looks cool, sounds......... biggrin.gif
post #13 of 14
You don't want to leave the Sherwood in the chain with the CJ for 2-channel listening.

Every preamp will add it's own colorings to the signal to a more or less degree. You need to choose whichever suits your tastes. The important thing to note is that nothing analog will be perfect at passing signal, there will be some degredation. More gear means more degredation. Also to use it's Trinnov will re-digitize and re-decode the signal.

They're not designed to do this unless you use the tape out of the CJ. Else you're likely to have an impedence mismatch resulting in slightly incorrect tonal qualities, usually noticed by exaggerated or rolled off high end.

If you want to use the neural setting, save your money on the CJ.
post #14 of 14
I have a conrad - johnson Classic 2 SE and it is a great preamp !!! It was the most dramatic improvement in sound quality of any upgrade I've ever done. It replaced a McCormack RLD 1 which was pretty good in it's own right. I wanted absolute sound quality and compromised convenience because a few sources had variable outs. Ultimately I picked up a YBA DAC with remote for casual listening. It turned out to be a pretty good dac but I needed more inputs. That led me to the NAD M51 dac. This is one incredible dac, it decodes all of my sources but FM tuner and is easily the best sounding source component I've ever heard.

I play everything through it via it's HDMI inputs, sounds incredible in two channel with movies and concert videos. I play 24/96 and 24/192 files, the 24/48 stereo tracks on BluRay, Pandora , netflix, CD, DVD through it and they all sound great. Be sure you can audition with your associated equipment if you are going to spend that kind of money though.
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