To Doug Schneider,
Is there anything to be gained by having the Eximus DP1 outputting to a separate standalone preamplifier? I currently use an Audio Research valve preamp (LS1) -- pretty old now, but seemingly still very good.
I am quite confused by the proliferation of DACs and their various combinations and would appreciate your advice.
Don't expect DACs to get any simpler in the future -- read my current editorial to find out the direction I think they'll go. If anything, their features will grow and grow.
The disadvantage of keeping the LS1 in your system is that it puts an entire component and an additional set of cables in the signal path, which can increase distortion and reduce resolution and transparency. For an audiophile who wants the purest signal path, that's obviously not a good thing. I'm one of those audiophiles. So whenever I use the DP1, I plug it straight into a power amplifier and live with the fact that I can only hook one single-ended analog component to it, because it has only one analog input (plus six digital inputs). The benefit is that the sound is wonderfully transparent and alive. What's more, the DP1 has single-ended and balanced outputs, whereas your LS1 has only single-ended outputs. If your amp accepts a balanced signal, that could be a convincing enough reason to use the DP1 and put the LS1 aside.
But you might not be able to live with that single-input limitation. I found a picture of the rear panel of your LS1 online and it shows six single-ended analog inputs, plus another labeled Direct, which I assume bypasses the switching. So if you have more than one analog source component and don't want to keep plugging and unplugging them in order to use them all, that might be reason enough to keep the LS1 in your system.
The other thing to consider is how well the DP1 will drive your amplifier, which you'll really have to try to know. (I'm assuming that the LS1 drives your amplifier fine, since you've been using it for so long.) If the DP1 can't drive your amp well, then it's case closed -- the LS1 stays in. But I've used the DP1 with three different amplifiers and it's worked just fine, so I really don't expect it to be an issue (but you never know, which is why I'm bringing it up). Decisions, decisions . . .
If you do decide to run the DP1 into the LS1 (or need to), April Music (the manufacturer) recommends turning the DP1's volume control completely clockwise, which they say removes the control from the signal path and sends full output to the preamplifier. One thing to take note of is that the full output of the DP1 is 3V (with the single-ended outputs), while a typical DAC or CD player is 2V. You might want to check to make sure that 3V doesn't overload the LS1. . . . Doug Schneider