To S. Andrea Sundaram,
I enjoyed your article on "What's Wrong with Digital Volume Controls?," and I have some further questions. Last year I switched over to a dedicated SACD player and have been pursuing (classical music) SACDs almost exclusively. As a result, I totally changed my system at the time: got rid of my CD player, preamp, DAC, and amp, and switched to the SACD player feeding an integrated amp. (I have no plans to pursue DSD/high-resolution computer downloads, therefore no plans for a DSD DAC). I've been enjoying the music greatly, but it was such a drastic change all at once that I still have doubts. Do you have any suggestions as to the best way to attenuate volume between the analog outputs of my SACD player and the amp? In other words, what to put in between my SACD player and the speakers for optimal sound? The question gets more complicated if I want to go to multichannel SACD and use digital room correction such as Audyssey or similar. Any thought, suggestions, insights would be much appreciated.
The best solution is to run the output of your SACD player into a power amplifier with a relatively high input impedance and a passive volume control on the front. That arrangement actually describes many modern integrated amplifiers -- maybe yours. A traditional integrated amp -- one with a preamplification stage, followed by the volume control, followed by the power amplification stage -- has exactly the same drawbacks as using a preamp/amp. That said, you may well obtain excellent results with such a system. As you say, going the multichannel route can get far more complicated. I don't like the idea of sacrificing the purity of a DSD signal by using digital room correction on it as that adds an analog-to-digital and then digital-to-analog conversion, which are probably both happening in the PCM domain. Again, though, the practical results matter more than the theoretical considerations, and the benefits of room correction may outweigh the slight loss in resolution from the extra digital conversions. The only way to know is to give it a try. . . . S. Andrea Sundaram