Moved away from my first ever Active SS preamp ..


Well-Known Member
Oct 1, 2020
So.. I thought I would share my recent experiences with linestage/preamps in my main system. I dropped out of the HiFi forum scene for a couple of months. (somehow this didn’t make the news headlines). I was able to focus on listening first and then read research, opinions, reviews.. etc.
For the last 9 months, I was quite content with the Pass XP-22 after upgrading from an in home demo of the XP-12. I was using the Pass XA25 and was the first time I owned a SS preamp and a first for using a amp/preamp combo from the same manufacturer.
Everything sounded really good, never fatiguing or harsh. Others seemed to agree, However I was starting to miss some of the harshness and extremes. When I replaced the XA25 with the SIT3, things changed even more. the SIT3 is lush and forward sounding, Like a SET sound, just with a bit more power and dampening control. I was now becoming aware of the “mechanicalness” of my sound.

One day I removed the XP22 and ran a direct connection from the DAC to the Amplifier. Using jRiver media center softwares 64 bit digital domain volume control which adds zeros to the LSB and allows for no data loss during attenuation as the added padded bits are thrown away To reduce volume Leaving the original signal intact.
Immediately I could hear differences. Music at lower volumes sounded more accurate, bass was more natural sounding , everything was more natural sounding.. Cranking up the volume , the music scaled up nicely. I could tell a layer or two was removed. More of everything was coming through. Especially in the upper frequencies, more lively up top.
I ran into a problem when I went to stream music off the net. The streaming app outputs directly to the DAC, so I have no way to control the volume. much of what I heard here is present in my next attempt at a linestage…

I then placed my passiveTVC (transformer Volume Control) using the Music First TX-102 mk3 transformers in my system. I now had a physical volume selector and other inputs. The transformers can also provide 6db of gain. Passives are more needy when it come to matching impedance loads and cabling. I happen to be fortunate in that my DAC has an output impedance of 75 ohms and amp input impedance of 200K ohms. According the the spec sheet and the experts that’s a good combination.
I’m using a 3 meter shunyata IC from the passive to the amp. No remote control which I do miss.
Sonically.. it’s marvelous! The passive simply gets out of the way of the music. At lower volumes I was surprised at How good the bass was, how distinct and accurate it was. Playing at my normal volume, I found nothing was missing, nothing was added.
Instead of vivid, I hear clarity… relaxed vs forced. Music emerges “naturally” background is Quiet without silence. The soundstage was there , separation of instruments.. but it didn’t draw attention to itself.. Unforced, natural sound.
It’s more of less is more. The SIT3 is a very simple single stage design and a Passive preamp compliments that simplicity.
The Transformers only have 23 taps and the first few volume steps are too far apart. The remaining steps are in 1 db increments which work better for finer adjustments.

So I passed on from the Pass pre and took Nelson’s own advice about passives and keeping things simple..
I can modify my existing TVC to make it into an autoformer by shorting the primaries to the secondary windings. I might give this a go and see for myself. I hate to disrupt the existing passive as it’s quite involved with Soldering and such.
There are other passives out there that have volume controls using autoformers and taps for volume but electronics for the remote. Currently my solution is much simpler except for getting up and down to adjust the volume but I think the trade-off might be worth it. Thanks for reading.


Well-Known Member
Oct 1, 2020
The Django passive preamp Using the S&B TX102 mk3 transformers.
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Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
698 is very interesting to read your experience. I [think] I have had ended up in a similar place. I started with CJ tubes over 20 years ago...preamp and mid-powered amp...ultimately then went in search of higher power tubes...but turned the corner towards Class A solid state instead (Gryphon) for well over 10 years. So CJ pre and Gryphon SS Class A for over 10 years straight.

Then along came Robert Koda...where the preamp is basically designed as a passive pre with just enough oomf (8db gain) to give it some drive power with very high voltage or something. And the Class A amps are designed as single-ended pure Class A with as simple a circuitry with insane attention to detail so as to keep signal:noise at something like 126db at full tilt and despite no negative feedback also with exceedingly low distortion as well.

The purity of what the Robert Koda system has brought has been educational in the best of all ways. My reading of your description and what little I understand about both philosophies/toplogies is that the sound qualities probably share something from the same 'family'. Enjoy and look forward to reading more as you get to know your new setup.
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