Best Desktop IEM Amp, ~$500

Basically, I need a quality preamp for my 3XP, from Gungnir. Schiit sells the Freya S for $599. For that price, I could get a full new amp for my IEMs WITH a preamp built in… So this is what I need:

  • XLR preamp in & out (RCA also would be nice)

  • Excellent sound & performance with IEMs (already have a headphone amp)

  • Preamp volume control (remote=nice)


Thanks! (:

Sp400 only has XLR pre out. Gustard H16 has XLR and RCA.

Real preamp would be the topping pre90.

Budget / more flexibel option: Daisy chain any amp with R2R volume control, like the sabaj A20h.

But why do you need a preamp? The Burson already has volume control, even with remote.

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It doesn’t have volume control in power amp mode(100% @ high/medium/low gain), which I’ve been told sound even better.

You like Pre90 over Freya S?

Didn’t hear any of these, was just throwing in some Ideas.
For my living room where the amp is far away and my DAC has no (reachable) volume control I used a sabaj A10h as a preamp. The A10h actually has pre-outs but only RCA, that’s where my idea with the A20h comes from.

Almost sounds like you don’t hear any difference or it might be so little that it is not worth the lose of volume control. Adding a pre-amp into the chain, even though SP400, A20h, Pre90 measure great, might change the sound, “destroying” the benefit of the power amp mode again.

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Well, someone who uses this exact setup(3XP + power amp mode + preamp vol control) told me about how good this is in the first place =p But yeah, I definitely don’t want to run into buying a good IEM amp with a so-so preamp. :confused:

I originally used a nobsound ns-05p passive preamp because it had volume control and worked as a switch box and it was great. I’ve since upgraded but that thing was pretty decent for the price. Cabling quality will come into play though so that’s worth thinking about and I will say I noticed a decent quality bump when I upgraded to a nicer passive preamp but the quality bump of bypassing the volume stage is very worth it, it’s really a shame that schiit DACs don’t have volume control. I’ve actually been thinking about rewiring and replacing the volume knob in the NS-05p as a silly project to see what kind of quality increase I can get out of it lol.

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Damn right! They should offer an add-on card/upgrade version with remote vol control.

That ns-05p looks like a good starter preamp. TY!

If You go through all of this because the 3XP’s volume adjustment has a bad impact on the sound (which is pretty disappointing for a 1600€ device IMO) don’t you think a Schiit DAC with volume control would suffer from the same problem?

Why is the volume control on the 3XP bad anyway? Are they using bad IC’s for the volume control? At that price point they could at least use some relay volume control. Even a $100 Sabaj A10h has it.

I don’t think anyone said the volume knob did anything bad? But rather, because it has the extra feature of power amp mode, it allows MORE sound improvement VS any given amp without power amp mode.

(I do, however, hate how slow the knob is… so a preamp will also solve that issue for me)

Schiit is just lazy :slight_smile:

Nope think schiit wants to sell their saga and Freya preamps :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve decided to exclusively buy Nobsound hardware, speakers and headphones from now on. A real brand you can trust!

Just my take on the soloist but personally I didn’t find it worthwhile to bypass the volume in favor of a cheap preamp, thought that while it might initially sound more impressive pushing all it’s power, it ended up losing some of the lower level information and intangibles like limited spatial recreation, hampered dynamics (namely micro), etc etc, this was consistent across a few cheap preamps I had tried (both passive and active). I think some of the higher end passive preamps did sound pretty great but then it was more a case of different but not better (but potentially worthwhile). For higher end active preamps I did think it was generally better but then again the preamps I was trying on the soloist far outweighed the cost of the unit itself (and actually good active preamps under 500 are somewhat non existent in the new market imo).

So honestly I’d just stick with the soloist volume control if it doesn’t cause issues for you. If you did want to pick up a preamp without going too high I’d say going for a high quality passive preamp around that 500 buck range (such as one from goldpoint, khozmo, luminous, etc) with quality components could be worthwhile. Also mind the input and output impedance.

It is something you can test for yourself, find a good way to control digital volume from your source and then put it into power amp mode and compare vs using the volume control on the unit itself with maxed digital volume. If you actually have some form of analog volume control on hand also try that of course


True! :slight_smile: The only thing I need my source at 100% for is gaming(when recording), so this is perfectly fine for music/movies/YT/etc. (and I’m sure the SQ is still awesome for games when using a decent preamp for vol)

So you would pass on the Freya S? I have no idea about good preamps, since I’ve never needed/wanted one til now. Passive definitely seems the way to go / what I should get, to maintain signal purity.

I personally would for now. I’d wait until your gumby comes in, and try your own experiments to see what you find more satisfactory

Passive stuff has it’s downsides for sure, but I just think in this price range passives are generally better than active preamps assuming they are matched correctly and have decent quality components

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Welp, 3XP crushes SP400, so I’ll just keep using the 3XP for IEMs and live with some occasional, minute hiss.


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Do you have the super charder? I don’t have sensitive iems but I haven’t noticed any hiss.

Yes, the 3A. I notice hiss in most all(or all) my budget IEMs(KZ), but it’s either silent or barely audible with higher end IEMs(Timeless, FH9, FD7, EJ07, H50, MEST, etc). I hear noise with Zeus, too, pretty sure. I think M40/50x are silent, however. Silent with XS, IIRC.

I can certainly test it again, without the supercharger. I didn’t even bother not using the supercharger with this.

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Yeah I haven’t tried my KZs in forever but I do run mammoths and Euclids pretty often without any extra noise.