Is there a perfect preamp?

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Probably not and certainly since we can see far enough into the future to realize big sweeping changes are ahead for us when it comes to the control and preamplification of the music we really would be remiss in proclaiming that one thing or another is the perfect solution.

What we can do is suggest what’s most likely going to be the near-term solution for control. I predict a transition period of products that will take two and a half courses: DACS with analog preamps inside, analog preamps with DACS inside and a slowly growing category of analog to digital converters. It’ll be a while before the winners are chosen and there are good and bad points to both.

My guess is that DACS with analog volume controls and inputs will be the biggest winners for some time to come and here’s why: analog preamps with DACS inside don’t really hit the acceptance mark. Most of us have an analog preamp and a DAC already and so the idea of selling our analog preamp to get enough funds to afford a new one because it has a DAC built inside doesn’t make a lot of sense for most people thinking about upgrading – yet as our analog sources dwindle the DAC with analog may make more sense. An analog approach with digital inside might be a good idea for first time buyers who are more analog oriented: “I am an analog person but want a good sounding courtesy DAC built in”.

Future PS Audio DACS, for example, will more than likely have an analog input or two added to them and some type of clever switching circuitry that takes the analog volume control in and out of the circuit depending on what you’re listening to: digital volume control if you’re listening to digital and analog volume control if you’re listening to analog. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the analog inputs be a phono stage in manufacturer’s future DACS. These take time to design and are probably several years out. But they are coming.

Lastly I remember reading a review that Michael Fremer did on a digital phono stage that if memory serves correctly – he proclaimed it to be as good as any analog phono preamp he’s heard. That’s quite something from Michael – a diehard analog vinylphobe if ever there was one. So over time you’ll see a growing number on analog to digital converters and once they are accepted, the purely digital preamp can appear and make sense.

It’s an interesting and exciting future we have ahead of us.