• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Do I Need a Better Preamp or Source Selector?

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
I'm a new member of this forum, but I've been reading the posts here for a while. However, I haven't been able to find the right guidance, or perhaps I don't know where to look for what I might need. First, a little background about me. I am an older woman whose husband passed away several years ago. He was really into electronic gadgets and HiFi gear. I've always enjoyed listening to music and appreciated the systems he put together in our home. Unfortunately, some of the components in these systems are starting to fail or I find some of the systems lack more modern features. This is what has led me to watch zillions of YouTube videos on HIFI gear and ultimately to this forum.

In our family room, my husband originally had the following components, all of which are working:
Adcom GTP-500 II - Preamp/Tuner
Adcom GFA-555II - Amplifier
Morantz CD-6005 - CD Player
Revel F-208 - Speakers

To this equipment, I recently added (Christmas present to myself):
Schiit Modi 3 - DAC
Echo Link - Music Streamer

I have started streaming music from Spotify and Amazon with the music from Amazon being in HD. While I really like the convenience and amazing selection of music available for streaming, it just doesn't sound as good as a CD played on this system, even the Ultra HD tracks, regardless of music genre. (The DAC and streamer are connected via Coax and the streamer is connected to the Preamp/Tuner via RCA cables.)

Now for my question or the area in which I need guidance. Should I be looking to get a better DAC or streamer or both? Or should I eliminate the tuner/preamp and get some sort of preamp with a good DAC that also has a streamer? I thought the Bluesound Node would fit that bill until I read the review here and the device is not recommended. Is there something with similar capabilities but with better measurements than the Node that I should consider? Finally, should I be scrapping everything except the speakers and maybe the CD player and get an integrated amp/streamer? What's my budget? I don't really have one but would be willing to save up to get a component that's in keeping with Revel F-208 speakers.

Thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. No one I know has a clue about any of this stuff. Thanks in advance.
 

ctbarker32

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2019
Messages
74
Likes
136
The Node is a very good value and will stream all services known to man. Don't let the overly fussy technocrats derail you and have you miss out on having fun and just enjoying music. Try the analog outputs first from the Node. If you still feel you want better, you can add an external DAC for as little as $100 later.
 

Doodski

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
11,898
Likes
11,636
Location
Canada
Finally, should I be scrapping everything except the speakers and maybe the CD player and get an integrated amp/streamer? What's my budget? I don't really have one but would be willing to save up to get a component that's in keeping with Revel F-208 speakers.
You need parametric equalization (PEQ). It will be the biggest improvement you can make to your system without replacing the speakers which are very good already. It can be integrated into the system via free software or hardware. It can be calibrated by ear or with free PC software and a calibrated microphone that costs ~$79.00
 

DVDdoug

Major Contributor
Joined
May 27, 2021
Messages
1,008
Likes
1,225
While I really like the convenience and amazing selection of music available for streaming, it just doesn't sound as good as a CD played on this system,
That shouldn't be happening unless you are getting "glitches" or dropouts in the digital stream and in that case you wouldn't say "just doesn't sound as good".

By any chance is the streaming source quieter than the CD when you switch between the two? Our brains tend to tell us "louder is better" even when that's the only difference.

This is what has led me to watch zillions of YouTube videos on HIFI gear
That can be "dangerous"! ;) The audiophile/hi-fi community is full on nonsense... They "hear" all kinds of things that normal people can't hear, and that they can't actually hear in a level-matched blind listening test. And, they use all kinds of undefined flowery language to describe the sound instead of using words with real meanings like, noise, distortion, and frequency response. As far as the electronics, noise, distortion, and frequency response are the ONLY things to be concerned with. See Audiophoolery.

With lossy compression (MP3s, etc.) the compression artifacts are more difficult to define, and once you have sound in a room the reflections also affect the sound in in ways that aren't defined by noise, distortion, and frequency response, although frequency response is affected by acoustics.
 

Mtbf

Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
110
Really great to see that you continue the great hobby of your late husband, that you rewarded yourself with some Christmas presents and started using music streaming!! Compliments. As has been said above, the Bluesound Node is great. I have two of them, and gave a few of them to family members as presents the last couple of years. The reason for being “not recommended” here on ASR is primarily the (for whatever reason) lesser performance of the internal DAC of the Bluesound Node.

But what the Bluesound does give you is
1. a good and flexible user interface, from which you get access to a plethora of streaming and internet radio services from just one single app,
2. flawless interactive (even simultaneous) control from all your devices (iOS, Android, Win, Mac),
3. no worries about future software support / compatibility / continuity, because of the regular software updates and a really large user base (my first Bluesound Node is from 2015 and still up to date),
4. support for lossless high-resolution audio up to 24 bits / 192 kHz, and
5. really easy to use multi-room capabilities.

Whether any of this is important to you is up to you to decide. But the internal DAC issue isn’t a problem for you, because you’ve already bought a objectively good “ASR-certified” DAC, so that you can connect the Bluesound to the Shiit Modi 3 via coax or optical, and only use it as a streaming device, as I do myself with my units.

I am a bit puzzled why you shouldn’t be satisfied with the sound quality when streaming music. The only way to find out whether this is something objective and, if so, what could be the cause, is to try to test things in a systematic way.
- Are you sure you’ve chosen the correct settings for the Spotify app? In the upper-right corner of the Spotify app you can tap the “Settings icon”, next tap “Audio Quality”. Be sure to choose “Very high” for Wi-fi streaming
- Spotify to this day remains not-lossless, so you could try a 30-day free trial subscription of Qobuz (my favorite), Deezer, or Tidal, to compare with lossless quality (I have zero experience with Amazon HD)
- Are you sure you stream “wired”, and don’t use Bluetooth for streaming from your device? Because the combination of lossy streaming (Spotify) and lossy Bluetooth isn’t the way to go
- Are you sure there isn’t a suboptimal software volume control involved somewhere in the chain? I‘m completely unfamiliar with the Echo link streamer and don’t know whether this could be a bottleneck in your setup or not. Having checked a few reviews on Amazon, I’ve found you cannot choose a fixed volume level, only variable. Be sure to check then that the volume setting on the Echo link is set at maximum, to exclude that there could be a problem there, and only use the preamp for volume control
- How is the Schiit connected to the preamp? Because this preamp according to the manual only has CD INPUT, TAPE 1 INPUT and VIDEO / TAPE 2 INPUT. All three should be good. You could try another input canal on your preamp for the Schiit (e.g. CD INPUT), to exclude some preamp problem as a possibility (unlikely). But don’t use the PHONO INPUT!
- You could try a Toslink connection between the streamer and the DAC via a $3 optical cable, instead of coax, but that is also unlikely to change things
- The Marantz CD player has both Toslink and coax out. You could connect it to the Schiit via an optical or coax cable and check whether you experience the same perceived reduction in sound quality of your CD player. There shouldn’t be any. You are comparing DAC’s in this way
- Rest assured that your objectively good DAC cannot be the problem, provided it’s not a faulty unit. But that’s highly unlikely, if it works it should be fine. I’ve checked the manual, and I recon you use the provided wall-wart, to assure sufficient power to the unit? There are no settings possible on the Schiit that could influence the sound quality
- I certainly don’t want to push you to the expense of buying yet another new thing, but you could either ask a nearby dealer to try a Bluesound Node at home, to hear if that would be an improvement over the Echo streamer, or you could also buy it from Amazon, so that you will be able to return it within 30 days if you’re not satisfied. The Node comes with all the necessary cables.
 
Last edited:

Mtbf

Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
110
BTW, you’ve stated:
The DAC and streamer are connected via Coax and the streamer is connected to the Preamp/Tuner via RCA cables
Is this correctly stated, or dit you make a typo? It should be Streamer => Coax or optical cable => DAC => RCA cables => Preamp.
 
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
BTW, you’ve stated:
The DAC and streamer are connected via Coax and the streamer is connected to the Preamp/Tuner via RCA cables
Is this correctly stated, or dit you make a typo? It should be Streamer => Coax or optical cable => DAC => RCA cables => Preamp.
Thank you for your replies
That shouldn't be happening unless you are getting "glitches" or dropouts in the digital stream and in that case you wouldn't say "just doesn't sound as good".

By any chance is the streaming source quieter than the CD when you switch between the two? Our brains tend to tell us "louder is better" even when that's the only difference.


That can be "dangerous"! ;) The audiophile/hi-fi community is full on nonsense... They "hear" all kinds of things that normal people can't hear, and that they can't actually hear in a level-matched blind listening test. And, they use all kinds of undefined flowery language to describe the sound instead of using words with real meanings like, noise, distortion, and frequency response. As far as the electronics, noise, distortion, and frequency response are the ONLY things to be concerned with. See Audiophoolery.

With lossy compression (MP3s, etc.) the compression artifacts are more difficult to define, and once you have sound in a room the reflections also affect the sound in in ways that aren't defined by noise, distortion, and frequency response, although frequency response is affected by acoustics.
That shouldn't be happening unless you are getting "glitches" or dropouts in the digital stream and in that case you wouldn't say "just doesn't sound as good".

By any chance is the streaming source quieter than the CD when you switch between the two? Our brains tend to tell us "louder is better" even when that's the only difference.


That can be "dangerous"! ;) The audiophile/hi-fi community is full on nonsense... They "hear" all kinds of things that normal people can't hear, and that they can't actually hear in a level-matched blind listening test. And, they use all kinds of undefined flowery language to describe the sound instead of using words with real meanings like, noise, distortion, and frequency response. As far as the electronics, noise, distortion, and frequency response are the ONLY things to be concerned with. See Audiophoolery.

With lossy compression (MP3s, etc.) the compression artifacts are more difficult to define, and once you have sound in a room the reflections also affect the sound in in ways that aren't defined by noise, distortion, and frequency response, although frequency response is affected by acoustics.

and suggestions. I greatly appreciate it. Yes, it was a typo. I do have the chain connected as you stated: Streamer => Coax cable => DAC => RCA cables => Preamp. I had set streaming quality for Spotify and Amazon Music to the highest quality for both services. I double-checked the connections and streaming quality to be sure I hadn't messed those up. Never hurts to check.

Perhaps I should listen to a track on a CD and then listen to the same track from a streaming service and really be open-minded. Maybe this quality difference I thought I heard was in my head and not my ears. I will also buy an optical cable and try that. Much less expensive than buying new pieces of equipment.

Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.
 
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
That shouldn't be happening unless you are getting "glitches" or dropouts in the digital stream and in that case you wouldn't say "just doesn't sound as good".

By any chance is the streaming source quieter than the CD when you switch between the two? Our brains tend to tell us "louder is better" even when that's the only difference.


That can be "dangerous"! ;) The audiophile/hi-fi community is full on nonsense... They "hear" all kinds of things that normal people can't hear, and that they can't actually hear in a level-matched blind listening test. And, they use all kinds of undefined flowery language to describe the sound instead of using words with real meanings like, noise, distortion, and frequency response. As far as the electronics, noise, distortion, and frequency response are the ONLY things to be concerned with. See Audiophoolery.

With lossy compression (MP3s, etc.) the compression artifacts are more difficult to define, and once you have sound in a room the reflections also affect the sound in in ways that aren't defined by noise, distortion, and frequency response, although frequency response is affected by acoustics.
Thank you for your reply. I will check the loudness. That may be the cause of the difference I perceived.
 
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
You need parametric equalization (PEQ). It will be the biggest improvement you can make to your system without replacing the speakers which are very good already. It can be integrated into the system via free software or hardware. It can be calibrated by ear or with free PC software and a calibrated microphone that costs ~$79.00
Thank you for your suggestion. I'll need to read up on parametric equalization as I'm not at all familiar with PEQ.
 
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
The Adcom gear is good. No sense replacing that stuff. It sounds great, is well made and as you can see it lasted this long and will probably last for awhile yet.
Thank you for your reply. I'm happy to hear positive things about Adcom gear and that it may serve me well for some time.
 

tmtomh

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
1,408
Likes
4,237
Just chiming in to say that your current equipment is already quite nice. I had Adcom power amplifiers and preamp/tuners for many, many years and enjoyed them. Their power amps in particular are built like tanks, and that 555 has gobs of power.

The weakest link in your system in terms of durability and probably in terms of measured performance is the 550 preamp/tuner, mainly because that unit has the most parts/components in it and Adcom preamp/tuners are known to fail before their power amps do (though the preamp/tuners still last a long time and the preamp sections tend to last even longer than the tuner sections).

But if you are hearing no issues - no audible distortion or excessive hiss, no pops or scratchy sounds when changing the volume, switching inputs, etc. - then I'd say it's totally fine.

The only usability question I could see arising is if the Adcom 550 has no remote control, and therefore you have to get up and go to the unit whenever you want to change the volume or input. If that is an issue, then you could replace it with a different preamp. I don't know what your budget is, and I don't know if you want to be able to listen to AM/FM radio, but if you're just looking for a high-quality preamplifier, the Schiit Freya S is unbeatable for the money and comes with a remote:

 
Last edited:
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
The Node is a very good value and will stream all services known to man. Don't let the overly fussy technocrats derail you and have you miss out on having fun and just enjoying music. Try the analog outputs first from the Node. If you still feel you want better, you can add an external DAC for as little as $100 later.
Thank you for your reply. I think I need to read up on the performance differences between the Node and the Echo Link. I have no trouble using the Echo Link so it's a matter of trying to find out if the Node would give me better sound. Maybe I'm watching too many Youtube videos and find myself wanting these new stereo components because the owners/reviewers are so enthusiastic about them.
 
OP
L

Longview

Member
Joined
Mar 4, 2022
Messages
8
Likes
7
Just chiming in to say that your current equipment is already quite nice. I had Adcom power amplifiers and preamp/tuners for many, many years and enjoyed them. Their power amps in particular are built like tanks, and that 555 has gobs of power.

The weakest link in your system in terms of durability and probably in terms of measured performance is the 550 preamp/tuner, mainly because that unit has the most parts/components in it and Adcom preamp/tuners are known to fail before their power amps do (though the preamp/tuners still last a long time and the preamp sections tend to last even longer than the tuner sections).

But if you are hearing no issues - no audible distortion or excessive hiss, no pops or scratchy sounds when changing the volume, switching inputs, etc. - then I'd say it's totally fine.

The only usability question I could see arising is if the Adcom 550 has no remote control, and therefore you have to get up and go to the unit whenever you want to change the volume or input. If that is an issue, then you could replace it with a different preamp. I don't know what your budget is, and I don't know if you want to be able to listen to AM/FM radio, but if you're just looking for a high-quality preamplifier, the Schiit Freya S is unbeatable for the money and comes with a remote:

Thank you so much for your reply. My preamp is the Adcom GTP-500 II and it does have a remote, but I think I had read where the Adcom preamps weren't as good as the amps. We never got decent radio reception on this tuner and frankly, I never think to even listen to the radio anymore. I don't have a turntable in this system, so I just need something that will enable me to switch between the CD player and streaming music and of course, control volume. The GTP-500 II does have tone controls too, although I don't find myself using them. Maybe I should.

I'm going to check out the Schiit Freya S, perhaps this is exactly what I need. Thanks for your suggestion.
 

Doodski

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
11,898
Likes
11,636
Location
Canada
Thank you for your suggestion. I'll need to read up on parametric equalization as I'm not at all familiar with PEQ.
If using a PC then this and this software is good for adding PEQ to the PC. The first software is the PEQ stuff and the second link is a GUI (graphical user interface) for the EQ. Basically install the first one and then after the second one. Then open Peace EQ and voila there is the software open on your desktop. It's very easy to operate and is like bass and treble controls on steroids.
 

Mtbf

Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
110
Perhaps I should listen to a track on a CD and then listen to the same track from a streaming service and really be open-minded.
That’s a very good idea.
We never got decent radio reception on this tuner and frankly, I never think to even listen to the radio anymore.
And that’s a pity, because the world of internet radio is also pretty overwhelming. With the Node you can listen to TuneIn internet radio for free, with which you can listen to an enormous amount of radiostations from all over the world. FM is going to disappear in the years to come anyway.
 
Top Bottom