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Topping Pre90 Review (preamplifier)

A Surfer

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If there was something about the analogue out on the Denafrips that was flawed or at least audibly inferior to the Pre90 analogue out sure it could improve the system. saying that I would have to imagine the limiting factor is actually the active speakers themselves as they have amplifiers and are of course the final influencer of what you hear.
 

marcom22

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After reading your reviews and posts ....... I cant keep my money anymore ....... I want it :) If I understood well in my setup:
SMSL SU-9(harmonics fixed) ---> Hypex NC502MP ----> Elac DB-r 62

The Pre90 fits perfect and it will give that extra in good :)
 

marcom22

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One question, how has the volume and SPL changed with this Pre? What I mean is there a difference with the volume compared to an audio chain without PRE and only with DAC and amp? Thanks for everything
 

Veri

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One question, how has the volume and SPL changed with this Pre? What I mean is there a difference with the volume compared to an audio chain without PRE and only with DAC and amp? Thanks for everything
Don't understand your question. A pre is used to adjust volume/SPL.
 

marcom22

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Don't understand your question. A pre is used to adjust volume/SPL.
Sorry @Veri my English is very poor what I mean if there is difference of volume between a DAC with volume (SMSL SU-9) and Hypex nc502mp and a DAC in dac mode (SMSL SU-9) ---> PRE90 with volume control ---> hypex nc502mp?
 

Veri

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Sorry @Veri my English is very poor what I mean if there is difference of volume between a DAC with volume (SMSL SU-9) and Hypex nc502mp and a DAC in dac mode (SMSL SU-9) ---> PRE90 with volume control ---> hypex nc502mp?

A pre can help with input impedance matching of the amp, in case whatever is fed to the pre was not ideal. The Pre90 will give a very easy to handle load to the amp. In "normal" situations, unity gain amplification of the pre-amp and max output of the DAC should have the same volume result though. The pre-amp just makes attenuation much more easy and fine-grained. For anything else you shouldn't *need* a pre-amp! It's all about the experience.. although some here in this thread make claims of better SQ. I'd be sceptical :)

P.S. : the DAC coupled to Pre90 also needs to be good: no transformer or capacitor coupling or you might have problems where the DAC>PRE stage loses maximum output. So what I say above will not be universally true...
 

yyzsb

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I am having a lot of problems pairing the Pre90 with an amp. The gain is usually too much and I do not see a way to adjust this gain on the preamp. My Benchmark AHB2 amps worked fine with the pre90. However, the CODA #8 and the LSA Voyager 350 GAN were way too loud with the pre90. Even with the MUTE volume position I have sound bleeding out.

What amps are people using with this preamp?
 

DHT 845

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I am having a lot of problems pairing the Pre90 with an amp. The gain is usually too much and I do not see a way to adjust this gain on the preamp. My Benchmark AHB2 amps worked fine with the pre90. However, the CODA #8 and the LSA Voyager 350 GAN were way too loud with the pre90. Even with the MUTE volume position I have sound bleeding out.

What amps are people using with this preamp?
I use tube monos with 750mV / 100kOhm input sensitivity / impedance or solid state class AB monos diy project that I do not know the specs. In both cases pre90 works great.
 

DHT 845

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Sometimes brand X amp works best with dedicatade brand X preamp. I checked CODA 07x preamp has max output of 10V, Pre90 has max. output of 50V pp so it is a real "beast" among preamps, maybe that is mismatch with input specs of your amp.
 

yyzsb

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Yes, it seems like a real mismatch between the CODA #8 and also the LS Voyager 350 GAN (now sold). I do have a CODA 07x preamp (getting repaired). I was considering selling it and using the Topping pre90 + Ext90. However, it looks like I will have to dump the Topping gear instead.
 

yyzsb

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:confused:

Pre 90 and AHB2 is the best sound I have yet heard.
pre90 and AHB2 were good but the HPA4 and LA4 with the AHB2 were better. It sounded like there was better component matching with the all BM stack.

Now I am seeing something interesting that I will spend s a bit of time investigating and post back here. My pre90 + CODA #8 is sounding good with good volume range in 2 scenarios. I think I may have some ideas as to what is at fault overall.
 

DHT 845

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pre90 and AHB2 were good but the HPA4 and LA4 with the AHB2 were better. It sounded like there was better component matching with the all BM stack.
Sb. on ASR forum replaced benchmark LA4 preamp for Pre90 (for his AHB2) because he did not heard any difference...
But aside from that, for me there is 1 important conclusion. There should be matched amplifier of highest quality from topping to match Pre90 potential. I know, I repeat myself and it is borring already. Forgive me. But topping monoblocks for pre90 is sth. very desired.
 

yyzsb

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Sandu likely does not hear as well as me ;) . I have an all BM stack now, including speaker cable and XLR's and it sounds better to me than the pre90 + Topping D90SE vs the DAC3B + LA4. So maybe the DAC3B vs D90SE was the difference. I think I got Sandu from Soundnews.net confused with SB (not sure who that is).

I can see the need for the Topping mono blocks. Make them built ideally for the pre90. Like the LA4 is make to work perfectly with the AHB2. I will never be getting rid of my AHB2's but I will be upgrading the CODA #8 to the CODA #16. It was easy to hear the difference in sound. In an hour or so I am going to do some debugging on my pre90 issues.
 

yyzsb

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I did the testing I mentioned before and my initial observations were correct. The Topping and CODA have some mismatch that makes the volume function badly. I thought I saw some variation when I tried the XLR input on the pre90 as opposed to the XLR inputs on the Ext90. However, after some more tests they both have volume issues.

Such a shame because in a very narrow range of volume the pre90 and CODA #8 sound very good. I could live with this pairing if the mismatch issues were resolved.

When I get my CODA 07x preamp back from repair I will sell the Topping pre90 + Ext90. A shame since I wanted to sell the much more expensive CODA 07x to fund an amp upgrade.
 

yyzsb

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Anyone know if the Topping pre90 can be used to input into another preamp. The pre90 does not have a Tape Loop feature so I am thinking this cannot be done.

I have some XLR sources that I was thinking of leveraging the Ext90 to hook up to my 'good' preamp that does not limit the volume.
 

yyzsb

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Likely my final post on this preamp.

I am now playing the preamp connect by RCA to a CD player. The RCA out of the preamp now goes into the CODA #8. The CODA #8 was not good with XLR out from the preamp. However, with RCA there is more ganularity in the volume. So that is good.

What is not good is that I have now turned OFF the preamp and have the amp and CD player running. I can still hear a faint bit of music from the RAAL SR1a headphones that is connected to the CODA #8. Pretty bad.

I was sadly mistaken when I said this pre90 was at the level of the Benchmark HPA4 or LA4. Not close.
 

yyzsb

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When it is turned off should I still hear the source that is still playing? I was a little shocked that this occurred.

I think a well designed unit does not leak the sound even when it is ON and another source is selected. I am sure a well designed pre will NOT leak sound when a source is playing and the pre is turned OFF. The Benchmark preamp does neither.

*******************************************
I was able to make the preamp have more granularity on the volume on streaming only by going into my ROON Core and adding Procedural EQ using the VOLUME setting. I set the Left and Right output to -10dB gain. So I can get this preamp to now work with streaming only. This does not help me with my tuner or CD player but at least streaming is useable.

On my RAAL SR1a headphones, I am using a Convolution filter + Procedural EQ. I think the Convolution also reduces gain by -10dB. I bought this filter from AccurateSound so I am not sure about the gain reduction. If it was reduced then I now have -20dB reduction for my headphone setup. I will make some gain adjustments to my 2 channel speaker setup tomorrow.
 

yyzsb

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Tomorrow is here and I am going through all the sources with my 2 channel speakers, Thiel CS3.7. I moved the CODA #8 to be my headphone amp and moved in a Benchmark AHB2 stereo amp to power the CS3.7. All 4 of my sources now work perfectly with the pre90 + Ext90. I do not need to use the Procedural EQ with streaming for the AHB2.. It all sounds excellent with the proper volume granularity. I have the AHB2 in the low gain setting.

Unfortunately the AHB2 is not my permanent amp for the CS3.7 since it lacks the 2 Ohm power for these speakers. A shame this preamp will not work for me. with the CODA amp.
 
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