Is a preamplifier really necessary with a streamer?

Good Evening All,

I’m aware that there was a posting relatively recently from the owner of an NDX2 asking essentially the same question and it wasn’t really fully answered.

I have an Akurate DS/3 (LP12 Urika II fed into this) currently going into a NAC52 c/w Supercap.

I’m also going to ask the same question - is the pre-amplifier really necessary? What is it bringing to the party exactly? As far as I can see I don’t need any amplification to feed the signal to the SNAXO 3-6 so anything in the path could automatically be considered to not be adding to the overall SQ no matter how good a device it is.

I am going to find a cable that allows me to take the RCA output from the streamer direct to Socket 5 of the Supercap powering the SNAXO 3-6 and listen for myself.

Ultimately I will make my own decision but I am more than willing to listen to considered judgement from people who have actually tried this.



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I think the Akurate DS/3 can be used as a pre-amp, but its digital volume is not very good, you need to go to the level of the Klimax (with Katalyst) to get a performance comparable to the NAC 552.

But of course some prefer the NAC 552 or 252 and others do with the Klimax.

Your findings will be interesting to know.

Several prior threads have discussed this sort of thing but often the ‘control’ factor of the NAC has come up time and time again as being something important, almost magical, in the chain even if you think you’re getting closer to the source omitting a pre.

A part of my thinking is that I could afford a UBG Klimax if I were to sell the Akurate/ NAC52 and Supercap…

Intuitively I can’t see that sticking anything in the signal path that doesn’t need to be there is going to ‘improve’ the SQ. The signal doesn’t NEED processing and it doesn’t NEED amplifying so why put it anywhere near a pre-amplifier?



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I would be very interested to hear what you will find, but as I said, personally I think the Akurate digital volume is a limiting factor and it would impact the SQ.

I have a preamp that can bypass the input selection if you only have one sourcd (like I have).

So my reason is that an analog volume control sound better. Also to get a separate beefier power supply on the output stage to the power amps.

Yes it is, or better still use your ears and decide for yourself. Try using a CDP or streamer directly into a power amp, and then try with a NAC… choose which one sounds significantly better… simple.

fWIW I love my NAC552 between my streamer, tuner, and CDP and my NAP.
I did once try going direct from my streamer to my NAP out of curiosity… really it was very disappointing… it felt like I was listening to my under graduate amplifier design lab sessions at Uni…

In the Naim world at least the amplifier consists of two parts designed to work together, the NAC and NAP.


In the linn world, you can do with Linn Klimax streamer going directly to the Linn Kiimax solo amps or the Klimax twin amp.

Sure, but we are talking Naim… Naim use NACs and NAPs, or there are a few products that combine the NAC and source such as the N-272.

I am sure other manufacturers have their own approach…

Impedance matching and frequency response matching across different sources and attention are just a few of the key functions of the NAC.


There’s a particularly good thread on this topic from last year:

Is the pre-amp a thing of the past?


Thanks for this link - interesting thread. Clearly I am going to have to conduct an experiment.

Now my attention has been drawn to what function the NAC52 is serving in my system I am pre-inclined to think that less must be more. I cannot believe that adding a whole load of electronics between the streamer and SNAXO can possibly add anything, it is far easier to believe that it can only work negatively.

Linn have obviously gone down this route although I accept that doesn’t make them right or Naim wrong.

A pre-amplifier shouldn’t ‘add’ anything, like the old Quad advert a perfect amplifier would be a piece of wire with gain.

I’ve read about ‘drawbacks’ with the Linn digital volume controls (currently deactivated in my streamer) but I guess the only way I’m going to find out is to try it.

I have to say that in an increasingly digital world the route Linn is taking seems logical.



This is it. Pre and Power are two halves of the overall amplifier.

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Respectfully that doesn’t really answer the question.

I have yet to listen to how the system sounds both with and without the NAC52/ Supercap in place, for me that will be the decider rather than a statement that the two parts make a whole.



Of course Richard. However, I’m just underlining Simon’s key point that Naim design their amplifiers to work as a whole, but at their best, split into separate component parts. Compromising or even removing a key part such as the pre-amplifier does come at a performance cost.

But yes, there’s nothing like first hand experience so by all means do try for yourself. Just note that some have tried similar in the past, and I think most have eventually come to the same conclusion that compromising or removing the pre-amp from the Naim amplification chain comes at a cost.


My sense is that it’s not so much a question of “adding” anything to the signal, as it is driving subsequent electronics appropriately. Linn may design their streamers with an output stage able to drive a power amp directly, Naim does not. Or perhaps, Linn makes their power amps so they can be driven with a wider range of sources than Naim. I don’t know. But I do know from experience, that Naim’s streamer does not work into Naim’s power amp directly.

Believe me, I wanted nothing more than to be happy with my NDX2 into my 300DR, but it was quite limited. The more I listened, the more my initial happiness with the setup faded. Particularly with anything large and orchestral, sounded like the music was coming down the end of a long tunnel.

Adding the preamp was a massive difference. So much so, that I spent three grand on doing so. When that preamp had reliability issues, I sold it and the 300DR and got a SN3, rather than go back to streamer into power amp.

Two take aways from that: Naim’s power amps need to be driven with appropriate circuitry (which can’t be found in Naim’s streamers); and the combination of Naim pre and power in a single box (SN3) is much better than a superior power amp (300DR) by itself.



I’m cobbling a cable together from two I have to conduct a trial and have asked Flashback to supply a suitable cable to do a like for like comparison…



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It seems to me that your system is top-notched, I think the weak link is the Linn AK streamer.


Indeed comparatively the Akurate DS/3 is the weak link but I image there would be a great number of people who aspire to owning one.

Going back only 8 months I would have been sceptical of a streamer and Linn’s Sound Optimisation. The demonstration I had at Cymbisois and my direct experience in my own domestic environment has completely transformed my view of this source and SO.

I aspire to owning a Klimax DS…



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That would be the end of the itch. :slight_smile: FYI - I also own a AK DSM (upgraded to Katalyst) and it is used mainly by my wife (for all day-long non-stop background music), because she does not and would not handle LPs, CDs.

You might want to visit the PS Audio web site, Paul Mcgowen felt as you did until he put a good preamp between Dac and power amp. It’s an interesting read