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Help with a pre-amp

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davidc View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 2:31am
I'm about to buy some Genelec active speakers which will be fed from the line out of my Novo headphone amp (what a gem).  My problem is that I'd like a volume control between the Novo and the Genelecs and I think I need a preamp with a volume control for this.  I've scanned the web and there seems to be nothing under £500.  Can anyone here please suggest a pre-amp, or a something, with a volume control that won't hurt the signal or do so much financial damage?  If it could have some XLR outs all the better....
 
Oh - this lack of a volume control is all because I'm not using an integrated amp - all music is from pc and cdp via a Cambridge Audio DACMagic which feeds the Novo.
 
Thanks
 
David
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 3:28am
Hi David and welcome to our little community.

A while ago I thought it could be a good idea to make a small-box-preamp similar in size to the Novo or Solo with limited functions and inputs to keep its price reasonable. Not many takers for such an idea until now?

I wouldn't expect you to hold on for the many months it would take to get it off the floor, so unusually for me I'd suggest you take a look at Mick Creeks little preamp. I forgot what it's called but it's got three inputs and a volume control. As far as I can tell, it doesn't have any gain being a "passive" unit and that may be a drawback perhaps. I think it does have a remote control if that's any use.

Ours, if it ever gets done, would not have a remote, but would have gain and my thought was to give it a balanced output. It is fatal throwing such a suggestion open to colleagues like I did: they come up with lots of suggestions of their own - so many indeed that it would have to grow to a 2U rack case to accomodate the lot, with a big price tag to boot.

I'd be interested in your feedback though and anybody elses because I still feel a simple small preamp with gain (an active preamp) at a price that's sub-£500 would be attractive.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davidc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 5:39am

Graham - thanks.  Thanks too for responding so swiftly.

Yes, I think the Creek preamp may be this one - Creek OBH 22 Passive pre-amp?  It's around £300.  It has a remote which I don't need.  I was staggered by the cost of most of the preamps at Stoneaudio - I don't know if they offer good value for money or not but they certainly were very expensive.  I was really surprised trawling the web that there is no simple, small dedicated desktop box that you can use for controlling the volume of your active speakers.  There just doesn't seem to be such a creature.
 
What I want is basically a Volume control on my desk to use with  my Genelec 8030As.  You get this if you buy the cheapest 2.1 or more computer audio speakers from Logitech or anyone else - the manufacturers don't expect you to control volume from the computer - they give you a standalone control which sometimes has a headphone socket and Line-in in it and sometimes doesn't.  I just want one of those - without the headphone socket - for grown ups.
 
It would be great if it could have ins and outs representing the main ways that people get a sgnal to active speakers.  Maybe analogue and digital ins, and analogue RCA phonos , 6.3mm jacks and XLRs outs (the latter balanced as you are thinking).  But come to think about it I'm not sure if you can turn up the volume on a digital signal.  Don't know about that - maybe scrap the digital in - if that's included the box will need a DAC presumably.
 
What does "Gain" give you?  More current presumably - does that equate to more volume?  But if so how can you have a Volume control in a passive box? 
 
Pricing has to be below the level that you would think "Well, I might as well just go and buy a modest integrated amp and use it's preamp out". 
 
I would rather buy a Novo-like box from you for about £200-250 - and I'm happy to wait - I'll have to use my son's redundant integrated amp in the meanwhile.
 
Oh yes, my son mentioned to me - quite independently - that he liked his Alesis powered monitors except that he had to turn the volume up and down using controls on the speakers.  My case rests.
 
Please make the box.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 6:25am
By gain I mean amplification. It doesn't even have to mean any more than a factor of 1 or 2, but it does need to buffer (give current gain to) the volume control to provide a low impedance drive to the speaker amps. In other words this is an active preamp. A passive preamp is a corruption of words - you rightly say it cannot give volume control - it can only attenuate.

It does not need to be elaborate to deliver an excellent audio performance. With 3 dual op-amps (getting technical here) it could be possible to do the two balanced outs and a "utility" headphone out (not as good as a Novo but still very acceptable).

Rear panel room is cramped but it may take two phono inputs (a total of four phono sockets like the one on the back of a Novo) plus the two XLR balanced outs. A third input could be a 3.5 front panel jack neighbouring on a 3.5 jack for headphones out.

If that won't fit, each balanced out can be done on a "stereo" or Tip-Ring-Sleeve jack like a number of pro-mixers do.

Using the Novo case it could well be possible to do it for £250.

Anyone else interested?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote iamalexis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 9:42pm
have you had a look at the "big knob" made by mackie. i don't think this quite fits the bill as it is more for studio control rooms but i thought it was worth a mention.

http://www.mackie.com/products/bigknob/index.html

i also found this:

http://www.smproaudio.com/produkte/monitor-controller.html

i have no experience of either, although i know a few people who use the "big knob" in their studio and are happy with its performance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davidc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 12:41am
Thanks very much for this steer.  There are one or two runners there.  This is a particularly relevant thread which your link indirectly led me to:
 
 
At least I now know there are some possible boxes out there
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote davidc Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 12:58am
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