Do I need a separate pre-amp?

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I just listened to John Darko and Vinnie Rossi talk about pre-amps. I’m not at all tech savvy but the gist I got was that even though your DAC has volume control the inclusion of a (good) pre-amp will still make for better SQ.

I’ve had a Croft pre/power amplification in my system for a month or so. Along with the Chord Qutest and just a wired iPad it is a setup that sounds really nice on my speakers (Guru Audio Q60). But now I’ve seen the new Brooklyn Bridge from Mytek.

Here’s my question: is the Brooklyn Bridge enough of a pre-amp (along with its other impressive functionality) to stand alone with a suitable power-amp?

Optimally, someone here have used the either the DAC+ or the Bridge as a pre-amp and can chime with hands-on experience.

Thanks – and sorry for the long spiel…

Answered question

I’m not familiar with your equipment but having a passing understanding of the previous Mytek Brooklyn. So this is my non technical take on what I think you might be asking.  The Mytek Brooklyn was designed to be used as a pre-amp and DAC with an analog phono stage input and headphone amplifier added for good measure, to the point that they also offer a matching power amp. The Brooklyn Bridge (cute name, streamer, bridge…) adds streaming to the Brooklyn’s list of features. So it’s a lot more than simply a DAC with a variable volume output. I’m going to wager that the implementation of the volume control/pre-amp in the Mytek products goes well beyond the convenience volume adjustments in stand alone DACs. How it compares to what you are listening to now I can’t say. For someone looking to get a pre-amp, DAC, phono-stage, headphone amp and streamer in one compact complete package it is a nice piece of gear. If you are a headphone listener you don’t need anything else.

I’m sure this has been discussed before, but the whole idea of using convenience volume controls in source components is somewhat problematic. Consider, as an example, the volume control on the iPad. You want to set the volume on your iPad at 100% volume to get the full line level signal going in to the pre-amp and then on to the power amp. Sure, you can then use the volume on the iPad as a convenience to reduce the volume when you need to answer the phone, etc. But for extended listening you want it to be set to 100% and adjust the listening level volume at the pre-amp.

Since a lot of DACs are equipped with convenience volume adjustments (variable outputs), many with remote controls, and phones and tablets are equipped with volume adjustments, many folks think that “Hey, let’s keep it simple…” and think to run all this straight into a power amp. So they set the phone at 50% and the DAC at 50% and well, if we were still living in an analog world we would know right away that this scenario is pretty much a bad one and in a digital world it may even be worse.

Now the thing is, a poor pre-amp is a poor preamp. Even if it is a separate pre-amp. While common knowledge suggests that separate components will sound better, there are just too many variables today to say that is always the case. There are a lot of great integrated amps out there.  So just saying adding a separate pre-amp is not going to get you better sound. Also, a really great pre-amp is not going to fix the flaws in a weak source component, GIGO, it will reveal them. If I’m on a tight budget and looking to run a DAC straight into a power amp I would look at using an analog passive volume control between the DAC and the power amp and set the DACs variable output at 100%, or better yet use the fixed output of the DAC. Then use the passive volume control to adjust the listening level.

I had an integrated amp/DAC combo that had a great internal DAC, a great power amp, a decent pre-amp section, but the pre-amp section’s volume control was sketchy at best. It didn’t last long in my system.

So yeah, pre-amps, show them your love. They are more than simply volume controls, but they also contain the volume control, which when you think about it is probably the single most important user interface in a HiFi system.

Answered question

Thanks for taking the time to answer in such an elaborate manner. That’s really helpfull.

I was/am worried that the Brooklyn Bridge would be compromised with regards to soundstage and separation. But I guess you’re right that it is more than simply a DAC with volume pot, and great care has been taken in the preamp section. I’ll give a try…

Again, thanks for your answer:-)

Answered question

Good to hear, I was concerned I was over explaining.

As they say, try before you buy…looks like in the US they have a 30 day trial.

Answered question