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Preamplifier suggestion for AHB2 (instead of LA4/HPA4)

firestart3r

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Hello ASR!
I'm new here, if my post is in the wrong forum or is a duplicate of another. Please let me know.

I am looking to upgrade my system starting with the AHB2 amplifier.

At first, I wanted to use my integrated amplifier that has a pretty good DAC (I think :p) and add the power amplifier to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have XLR outputs (Audiolab 6000A has RCA out only).

Hence my question: what preamplifier would you recommend for the AHB2 that is cheaper than the top of class LA4/HPA4 ?
I considered buying the Topping D90 to use the DAC and it's preamp, but I heard the quality of the volume control isn't very good. Is that true?

If so, maybe I could get a cheaper than D90 DAC (ex. SMSL SU-9) and get a "dedicated" good quality preamplifier to use with it?

My requirements are :
- Balanced output to the power amplifier (XLR)
- Able to control the volume with a remote
- Able to see the volume level from my listening position

The Topping Pre90 fits the bill but I'm wondering if there are other options?
Is the Pre90 a good match for the AHB2 ? (considering the input/output impedance, etc.)


Thank you for your help!
 

cany89

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Welcome!
I used RME ADI-2 FS with a bunch of power amps, but not AHB2. I don't know the price difference between D90 and won't advocate if there is any difference in sound quality regarding the DAC section. But DSP capabilities, volume control, etc., are all top-notch. I highly recommend it.

Edit: one thing I use - since I change power amps frequently - is that you can choose the output dB of pre-amp on ADI-2, this makes it very easy to match with power amps.
 

dfuller

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D90 would be a good choice, RME ADI-2 DAC FS would be a good choice...
 

cany89

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off-topic but @dfuller here is a quick question for you since you have both ADI-2 and KH310. How would you add a subwoofer to that system if you would like to? I'm trying to do it without any delay/phase differences. Now connecting a sub through power-amp -> high-level input. But not happy with it.
 

radix

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I recently went through this. I decided on the miniDSP SHD. It has USB, toslink, and spdif coax, AES XLR, and RCA unbalanced. That is all that I needed (turntable + raspberry pi streamer + cd player via spdif). It also gives me DSP room correction. As I was looking for room correction too, I did not want something like a D90SE or RME that went D/A and then A/D back to the DSP the D/A again. I wanted all digital to the DSP.

Once the SHD becomes Roon-certified, I can drop the Raspberry Pi streamer (RoPieee).

My only complaint is the SHD does not have a pre-DSP out, such as if I want to go to a recorder for the turn table. I think if I add a DA-3000 to finally rip at lot of the old vinyl, I would go turntable - da-3000 - shd over AES.

I thought about skipping the TT preamp, but I have an MC and am not certain if a 1:20 SUT alone would be enough for the SHD inputs + biquad EQ. From the specs, it does not look like the SHD has the input gain needed.

If I didn't want the DSP room correction, I would have gone with RME ADI-2 or D90SE plus the Topping Pre90.

Another consideration is I decided to install 19" rack ears in my built-in shelves (which are conveniently 40" wide), so I can do 2x 5U racks. So, buying everything that has nice looking 19" rack options was also appealing.

Marc
 

dfuller

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off-topic but @dfuller here is a quick question for you since you have both ADI-2 and KH310. How would you add a subwoofer to that system if you would like to? I'm trying to do it without any delay/phase differences. Now connecting a sub through power-amp -> high-level input. But not happy with it.
I'm not entirely sure if I'm honest... Maybe do everything line level and maybe add a MiniDSP SHD in between? Hadn't really thought about it.
 
Last edited:

Rottmannash

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Hello ASR!
I'm new here, if my post is in the wrong forum or is a duplicate of another. Please let me know.

I am looking to upgrade my system starting with the AHB2 amplifier.

At first, I wanted to use my integrated amplifier that has a pretty good DAC (I think :p) and add the power amplifier to it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have XLR outputs (Audiolab 6000A has RCA out only).

Hence my question: what preamplifier would you recommend for the AHB2 that is cheaper than the top of class LA4/HPA4 ?
I considered buying the Topping D90 to use the DAC and it's preamp, but I heard the quality of the volume control isn't very good. Is that true?

If so, maybe I could get a cheaper than D90 DAC (ex. SMSL SU-9) and get a "dedicated" good quality preamplifier to use with it?

My requirements are :
- Balanced output to the power amplifier (XLR)
- Able to control the volume with a remote
- Able to see the volume level from my listening position

The Topping Pre90 fits the bill but I'm wondering if there are other options?
Is the Pre90 a good match for the AHB2 ? (considering the input/output impedance, etc.)


Thank you for your help!
Schitt Freya+.
 
OP
F

firestart3r

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D90 would be a good choice, RME ADI-2 DAC FS would be a good choice...
You think D90 has a good enough preamp section to be used with the AHB2 ? I was looking at the Pre90 to have better sound quality...
 

dfuller

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You think D90 has a good enough preamp section to be used with the AHB2 ? I was looking at the Pre90 to have better sound quality...
Absolutely. If you really really want a ton of line level voltage swing, the RME is the better choice as it can be calibrated for 0dBFS=+19dBu (the Pro version can do +24dBu).
 

Gorgonzola

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Oh, right. Thought you meant you could see the volume knob and the tiny black dot on it.
That's what I did -- I works :)

I have fairly crappy eyesight and it's surprising how many preamps have volume knobs with tiny or even no rotation markings at all; or digital readouts that can only be see from 3-4 away at best.
 

Ataraxia

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I recently went through this. I decided on the miniDSP SHD. It has USB, toslink, and spdif coax, AES XLR, and RCA unbalanced. That is all that I needed (turntable + raspberry pi streamer + cd player via spdif). It also gives me DSP room correction. As I was looking for room correction too, I did not want something like a D90SE or RME that went D/A and then A/D back to the DSP the D/A again. I wanted all digital to the DSP.

Once the SHD becomes Roon-certified, I can drop the Raspberry Pi streamer (RoPieee).

My only complaint is the SHD does not have a pre-DSP out, such as if I want to go to a recorder for the turn table. I think if I add a DA-3000 to finally rip at lot of the old vinyl, I would go turntable - da-3000 - shd over AES.

I thought about skipping the TT preamp, but I have an MC and am not certain if a 1:20 SUT alone would be enough for the SHD inputs + biquad EQ. From the specs, it does not look like the SHD has the input gain needed.

If I didn't want the DSP room correction, I would have gone with RME ADI-2 or D90SE plus the Topping Pre90.

Another consideration is I decided to install 19" rack ears in my built-in shelves (which are conveniently 40" wide), so I can do 2x 5U racks. So, buying everything that has nice looking 19" rack options was also appealing.

Marc
Are you using AHB2 with the miniDSP SHD? Have you tried other amplifiers with the SHD?
 

radix

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Are you using AHB2 with the miniDSP SHD? Have you tried other amplifiers with the SHD?

Yes, I am using SHD + 2x AHB2. I also used the SHD + 2x B&O 4500 active speakers + 1x SVS Micro 3000. I think the DIRAC is great, it can help all sorts of speaker / amp / room combos sound pretty good. Personally, I think the room and speakers have the largest impact on sound, compared to most any decent modern amp, dac, etc.

I do not find the SHD streaming to be all that great. It seems to take a fair bit of time for Volumio to come on-line from standby, and it's not a certified roon endpoint yet, so I use a rpi 4 via USB. That works pretty well, but I'm then split between my phone plus SHD remote for controls. Maybe I can put an IR on the RPI and unify the remote.

I'm thinking of getting a more user-friendly peripheral system and using a minidsp ddrc-24 instead. But there really are not many digital preamps -- I'd prefer to not have to go digital-analog-digital-analog-amp (i.e. digital source - analog preamp - ADC to ddrc - DAC from ddrc - amp).

I'd like to have the whole system more user-friendly. As it is right now, it's not very usable by my partner. What does "SPDIF" vs "USB" mean for inputs? What do buttons 1, 2, 3, 4 mean on the remote? How do you know if you pressed the wrong one?

Marc
 

Ataraxia

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Yes, I am using SHD + 2x AHB2. I also used the SHD + 2x B&O 4500 active speakers + 1x SVS Micro 3000. I think the DIRAC is great, it can help all sorts of speaker / amp / room combos sound pretty good. Personally, I think the room and speakers have the largest impact on sound, compared to most any decent modern amp, dac, etc.

I do not find the SHD streaming to be all that great. It seems to take a fair bit of time for Volumio to come on-line from standby, and it's not a certified roon endpoint yet, so I use a rpi 4 via USB. That works pretty well, but I'm then split between my phone plus SHD remote for controls. Maybe I can put an IR on the RPI and unify the remote.

I'm thinking of getting a more user-friendly peripheral system and using a minidsp ddrc-24 instead. But there really are not many digital preamps -- I'd prefer to not have to go digital-analog-digital-analog-amp (i.e. digital source - analog preamp - ADC to ddrc - DAC from ddrc - amp).

I'd like to have the whole system more user-friendly. As it is right now, it's not very usable by my partner. What does "SPDIF" vs "USB" mean for inputs? What do buttons 1, 2, 3, 4 mean on the remote? How do you know if you pressed the wrong one?

Marc
Thanks for the info. I'm looking to get an SHD and trying to figure out what amp to get. I'll currently pair it with KEF R3's or LS50 Metas but want the amp to match well with a future speaker upgrade to KEF Reference 1 or 3.
 

radix

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Thanks for the info. I'm looking to get an SHD and trying to figure out what amp to get. I'll currently pair it with KEF R3's or LS50 Metas but want the amp to match well with a future speaker upgrade to KEF Reference 1 or 3.

I've been very pleased with the sound of the SHD + 2xAHB2 (monos) + F228be. I have a fairly long, tall room and this combo fills it up nicely. The AHB2 is extremely quiet even at high volumes with soft music or on pause. I can get a decent visceral "thump" of bass without a sub, which is what I was shooting for due to room ergonomics. I need to make time to run it through REW measurements now that I've done the DIRAC to see where I'm at.

Marc
 
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