I tried both settings of the Chord Dave, the DAC mode and Digital Preamp mode as a source with my NAC552 preamp.
With the Chord Dave set in DAC mode I found the NAC552 volume control range to be way too limited in range (I can barely move it between 7-8 O’clock without seriously high-volume levels)
I then switched the Dave to Digital Preamp mode and based on my understanding that Chord Dave digital volume control implementation would not result in loss of resolution I had the Chord Dave volume set at -12dB… This gave me as close as possible to the 2.5v standard output level of other sources into the NAC.
With that setting, I had better range of volume control motion with the NAC (anything between 7-11 O’clock would usually be ok)
I then heard in one of the PS Audio videos that allowing your preamp as much headroom as possible would be better from a performance/sound quality perspective. So, I tried setting the Chord Dave to around -24dB, this gave me a much more workable range of volume control movement with the NAC (easily reaching 1-2 O’clock without it being too loud.
I am not an expert on this topic, if you ask me, I would rather eliminate circuitry between the source and NAC552, and for that reason I would have preferred to set the Chord Dave in DAC only mode, totally bypassing its digital volume control and giving the NAC552 full control, but this is so loud and so limiting in volume control range that it is not enjoyable…
Keen to hear thoughts of others on this forum that may have experience to share on this topic?
When I had a Naim preamp I always found that dialling down the volume , on Mk1 Hugo, then Dave, sounded a bit better as well as allowing a usable range on the volume pot. It was widely reported here on the forum that this was the case, and while I tend to treat anything you ‘read on the internet’ with a degree of caution, in this case it was certainly true for me.
Whether any improvements came from the DAC or the preamp is hard to say, of course, although I now use a Chord power amp so I’m entirely dependent on the Dave volume control and sounds great.
With a digital preamp stage involved (no matter how good), you should in theory be losing some resolution as you attenuate more. How much and how discernible, would be of course down to each individual system and pair of ears. In my experience with a previous DAC which had a digital preamp on, I thought going more than -20-30dB started to show, I thought, and then becoming more obvious further down. Now I have one with an analogue preamp and it’s quite ok to go to any level (no difference) into my Nait 2.
That’s one theory, and it is no doubt true in some cases, such as the basic ‘convenience’ volume control Naim provide as an option in their current streamers. It certainly isn’t true in the Chord DACs I’ve heard which are very different designs. I can hear no loss of sound quality when digital control is used, either as a digital preamp or into a Naim analogue pre.
I had the same “issue” with my Chord Hugo TT2 and Nac 202: further to the Chord’s customer service suggestion, I use my TT2 in pre-AMP mode with volume set between -15dB and -12dB without any detrimental effects on signal and sound quality.
Thanks for sharing, I never knew this was possible… Perhaps it’s mentioned in the manuals, but I don’t recall seeing it there… Anyway, it does sound cool… I hope it is easy to “undo” and bring things back to factory settings.