Pre-Amp / DAC - Opinions needed please...


Novice Member
Really in need of some alternative views if possible please guys..


Vandersteen Model 2 speakers
MF Studio T power amp - upgraded a few years ago.
MDAC+ Tidal over USB, and a CD player over digi coax feed this.

I'm generally pleased with the way this sounds - if anything it's lacking a bit of life and sparkle. I prefer the sound of the cheapish Yamaha CD player over the USB from the laptop.

But - my turntable is feeding my Cambridge AV receiver (351R - hifi oriented more than most) through an MF X-LP phono stage.

The Cambridge isn't awful - but I'm missing out on having a decent pre-amp in the chain, and there's no pre-outs on the AVR, so I can't use the power amp.

QED speaker switch lets me change between the MDAC and the AVR.

So...I'd like to sort things out for vinyl by introducing a pre-amp. On the list: Exposure 3010 / Exposure 5010 - love the exposure sound and I think that'll bring the life into the system. Naim looks like it's inconvenient due to the connections, but that would bring some life into the system too.

Even if I fix the output on the MDAC+ - I'm essentially introducing 2 pre-amps to the digital chain because the MDAC. Can this really be a good thing?

ShouId I be considering Linn? I have no experience and obviously listening is a pain - and I'll be looking second hand.

Also - Audiolab pre-amps come up frequently (I obviously wonder why?) and wonder if they'll actually give me that extra life in the system I'm looking for?

Is it possible to buy a "musical / hifi " streamer without a DAC - thereby avoiding the laptop and hopefully getting a decent remote control capability (I'm not about to pay for Roon)

FYI - turntable is Debut 3...and I'd like to upgrade it - but would rather get the amplification sorted first.

Any views / alternative options really appreciated. Unfortunately I don't have two rooms and can't run two systems!


Well-known Member
Sometimes there is something to be said for bunch of component that functionally work well together rather than tying to add best of breed bits that just don't play well with others.

It seems you are essentially building a hybrid AV+Hifi system (where the hifi amp deals with music and provides front amps for the AVR) - maybe you should think about a longer term plan to embrace that and choose components along such a path. I get that you tried to satisfy both worlds with the Cambridge AVR, but it seems that wasnt enough for you.

In your place, I might plan for replacing the AVR with something that is functionality useful rather than attempting to be a hifi as well (as evidently it isn't upto your wishes). The price of the Exposure amps puts them close to the cost of amps with HT bypass functionality intended for use with AVRs. I have no idea of Exposure amps have HT bypass, if they dont, then maybe look for something that does that you like the sound of.

You have a speaker switch for now so you dont need to replace the AVR immediately and if surround is more of a functional rather that pristine quality requirement, then there are many functionally very good AVRs around (in the higher end of the budget ranges ~500UKP) with front pre-outs that also sound very decent for movies, Netflix etc.

Personally, I went it a budget Yamaha AVR (RX-V781) with pre-outs and a good Yamaha HiFi (A-S2100) amp with HT bypass, so perfectly acceptable AV sound (I want the immersion including 5.1.2 atmos, but I dont need high end AV sound as I am mostly watching rather than listening), and with the Hifi amp, I get a really good sounding chain for stereo music including a good phono stage (for my Technics SL1210M5G + Ortofon 2m bronze). As the whole lot integrates nicely due to the remote controlled HT bypass functionally, then it s very convenient to use even for my wife as I have it all easily controllable via a logitech harmony remote.

But even without that, my AVR will switch the Hifi amp on and put it into HT bypass mode with correct input via a 12v trigger signal just from detecting that the TV has been turned on due to its HDMI connection with the TV.

Streaming wise, I use a project S2 digital connected via USB to a Roon core (hosted on an intel I7 NUC - basically the same as a Roon nucleus type device), but that bit could be anything that I find convenient to use and decent enough sounding, but Roon massively wins on that convenience front as I also have that deeply integrated - for eg, I press play in the Roon app, and my Hifi amp will either switch on and select the DAC source, or if TV was on, switch TV off, AVR off, switch inputs on the amp etc. If my wife turns the TV on, then everything switches back to TV mode automatically and pauses Roon.

There is alot to be said for stuff that works well together functionally as well having the critical music parts of the chain handled by something that is great sounding, but also includes the extra bit of functionality to allow for easy AV integration.


Novice Member
Really helpful - thanks Khalzul. You've nailed my approach to surround sound.s. Provided I get a bit of surround for movies I'm happy. . I wont be going down the road of spending big money on an AV receiver again - in my experience the digital switching / relays give up and the units are superceded by new tech and worth repairing. Hence the decision for the rather basic AVR a few years ago.

You're right to mention integration too - my current set up sucks and that doesn't sit well when there's a pair of vandersteens in the living room.

The Exposures have the pass through - and I can be patient about replacing the AVR with something with pre-outs.

Looks like the pre-amp in the DAC is going to end up feeding another pre -although I guess that HT pass through could be used for the DAC OR the AVR....

thanks - some good thoughts that help out.

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