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2-channel listening (1 Viewer)


Nov 8, 2008
Real Name
Hi there, I've got a question for all you 2-channel listeners. I was wondering if a pre/pro is necessary if I do not have any intention of using multiple sources (ie. I will only use 1 source). My theoretical setup would be MacbookPro ---> benchmark DAC1 via tos-link ---> dedicated amp via RCA or XLR if available. Secondly, are there any disadvantages to this approach of skipping the preamp?


Alon Goldberg

Jul 10, 2006
Real Name
Alon Goldberg
Hi Warren, for a two-channel setup you won't need a pre/pro, this is typically only used in a surround home theater system. You have several options for building your new 2-channel system.. A stereo receiver, integrated amp, or separates (pre-amp and poweramp).

Seeing as you don't need any video switching, and as you have an outboard DAC (the Benchmark DAC-1 is excellent btw), I'd probably lean towards an integrated amp or separates.

These days I've found integrated amp's can really hold their own against separates many times their price. My first integrated amp was a Krell KAV-400xi, which featured XLR inputs and 400 watts/channel @ 4 ohm. A real powerhouse! It can be found used for under $1,800 on Audigon. I sold this for a Naim Nait 5i integrated amp which better matched my speakers, then moved up to Naim separates. Synergy between your amp and speakers is key (along with a quality source, which you already have).

If this is beyond your budget, there are lots of great integrated amps available from mid-fi brands such as NAD, Rotel, Cambridge Audio, and Arcam.

But before making any recommendations, a few questions to get you started:

1. What are the dimensions of your room?
2. What speakers are you driving?
3. What type of music do you listen to?
4. Are you looking for new or used?
5. Most importantly.. What is your budget?



Bounded In a Nutshell
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Jun 20, 2000
A Mile High
Real Name
I don't think Alon quite understood the question.

The answer is, maybe. You don't necessarily need a pre-amp, but you DO need a volume control, though you probably have that with the computer. Also, there can be impedance and buffering problems when you skip the pre-amp. How do you know? I'm not sure, but here's my experience with it.

Several years ago, I did a similar thing. I was using a Nakamichi CD player which had a variable output that was controllable with the remote. I fed it straight into an Adcom power amp, no pre-amp or switching. It sounded fantastic. I also tried it with a Forte pure class-a amp with the same outstanding results. Later I replaced the Adcom with an Aragon amp, but found the Nakamichi couldn't "drive" the Aragon's input, and ended up with very thin sound. By then, digital surround was arriving, so I wanted a pre-amp anyway and ditched the more direct system.

EDIT: I forgot. There have been (and maybe still are) items like a pre-amp, without the amp. They don't actually amplify the signal, but they buffer it to reduce or eliminate incompatibilities and have a volume control, essentially resulting in what you are looking for (maximum sound quality), with more flexibility. I seem to recall Adcom made at least one of these "passive" pre-amps. Yeah, that is a contradiction in terms, but I don't know what else to call it. Actually, Aragon might have made one.

Chris Tsutsui

Feb 1, 2002
Seems like the pre/pro would be doing the same thing your DAC does.

It's sole function to convert digital signal to analog which would go to the amps. The DAC1 looks like it has a gain control too (though I may be wrong), so it basically is a pre/pro right?

So the macbook is essentially the source outputting the digital signal.

All the DAC1 is missing is video switching, multi-source and a bunch of decoding options a flagship pre/pro will have.

So a new question to ask is maybe what pre/pro's would sound better than a benchmark DAC1? heh

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