The preamp debate

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Now that DirectStream's are entering people's systems the setup questions begin: chief among them is direct to the amp or through a preamp? This is not an easy question because it is so system and user dependent.

When I travel to show our products I never carry a preamp. Lugging a DirectStream with me is challenging enough, but the added trouble of hauling my preamp just isn't worth it. And it isn't worth it because there's really little sonic advantage to doing so.

In Music Room One I have a preamp: a tube preamp to be exact. And I vacillate between the euphonics of keeping the preamp in the system and the accuracy and revealing qualities of going directly into the amplifier. Both have their advantages.

On the one hand a preamp, at least in this main system, seems to bring body and a sort of realism to instruments and voices, yet also seems to subtly mask some of what's in the music. Going direct doesn't make me feel like there's any less body, it sounds natural all right, but there's also a certain directness that is bewitching in its hold on the music.

I understand most of us want a simple answer: yes or no to going with or without a preamp. But I can't help with this. Which preamp are we discussing? I have not heard them all. What speakers? What are your tastes?

No, I fear there's no simple answer. But I can tell you this, either way you go you'll enjoy the music immensely.

And that's what matters.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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